Like Father, Like Son
*Like Father, Like Son was written in 1993 as a result of a reader asking me to pen a story that revolves around the reaction of A.J.’s family to the moustache he’s grown while away on vacation. I must extend thanks to Sherry for her suggestion, which came as a result of the moustache the actor, Jameson Parker, was sporting during that time period.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Rick Simon sat in a plastic chair at the San Diego airport. He passed the time while awaiting A.J.’s arrival on American Airlines, by leafing through an outdated issue of Popular Mechanics.
A.J.'s plane was due in any moment from Colorado, where he had spent the past two weeks vacationing with some old college buddies at a ski resort. A good friend of A.J.'s from his high school and college days had settled near Boulder thirteen years prior. A reunion had been talked about for years, but had finally been put together for this winter of 1989. The motivating factor was that everyone involved would turn forty sometime that year. That birthday landmark became the element that finally drew the old friends together.
Rick stood and crossed to the big windows, where he watched A.J.'s plane land, and then taxi to the terminal. He imagined that after spending two weeks in temperatures that had hovered around the freezing mark, A.J. was looking forward to returning to sunny San Diego where today’s high had reached seventy-five.
Rick watched a steady stream of passengers pass by with no signs of his brother. As usual, A.J. would be one of the last to depart from the plane. He always seemed to get cornered by an attractive stewardess, or female business traveler, eager to get to know him better. Although A.J.'s fortieth birthday was approaching in July, Rick knew his brother still had what it took to turn the ladies' heads. The fact that A.J. could pass for twenty-nine yet, didn't hurt either.
Rick looked away from the people drifting by him, and glanced back at the terminal doorway. Sure enough, there was A.J. His back was to Rick as he stood with his carry-on bag slung over his shoulder while talking to a woman wearing high heels and holding a briefcase. Since the woman was facing Rick, he could see she was in her early thirties, and exactly A.J.'s type – an attractive, tall, leggy brunette with shoulder length hair.
The conversation continued a few moments longer, then the pair evidently said their goodbyes. The mystery lady headed off to the left, while A.J. turned and scanned the waiting area.
Rick could see his brother in profile only as he hailed him with a, "A.J.! "Hey, A.J., over here!" and moved away from the windows.
A.J. turned to face Rick. He started to grin, but the grin died when Rick laughed. Although A.J. had guessed the reason behind his brother's merriment, he gathered his dignity as he approached Rick.
"What's so funny?"
"What's with the mustache, little brother? Some old college hazing ritual?"
"No, it’s not an ‘old college hazing ritual’ as you put it. I just got lazy and wasn't shaving, so decided I'd let this grow and see how it looked. I liked it, so I thought I’d keep it for a while."
"Better be careful, kid. Now the ladies will find you as attractive as they find me, and with the big Four-O approaching this summer, I doubt you're up to takin’ what they have to offer."
"Very funny. Actually, I'm more concerned with the fact that people will know we're brothers now. I won't be able to deny we're related any longer, or at least won’t get away with saying you're adopted, and that your mother had multiple personalities while your father was dangerously psychotic."
Rick gave A.J. a playful shove, then put an arm around the man’s shoulders. "Welcome home, little brother. Let's get the rest of your luggage and stop somewhere for dinner. I can fill you in on what's been happening at the office while we eat. And speakin’ of eating, I hope you've got some money left."
"Well, I guess nothing's changed in the two weeks I've been gone, has it."
"Nope, sure hasn't."
As the Simon brothers proceeded toward the baggage area, Rick started laughing again. "I just can't believe my straight-laced younger brother, Andrew Simon, has a mustache."
"Give me a break, Rick. You make it sound like I've grown my hair halfway down my back, gotten my ear pierced, paid for three tattoos, and joined a commune. It's just a mustache. You've had one for twenty-five years for heavens sake.”
"Yeah, I know, but on you, this is gonna take some getting used to. At least you can't pass for twenty-nine any more. You look at least thirty now." Rick paused to let that sink in, then went on with a mischievous glint in his eye. "Especially with those gray hairs it has in it."
"Hey! Those aren't gray; they’re blond. I was out in the sun a lot. They were probably bleached by it."
"A.J., I got news for ya’. The sun's bleachin' all the color right out of that mustache and turning it gray."
Rick found himself to be quite amusing, and after a few moments of additional laughter, that he realized wasn't being shared, finally decided to change the subject. He questioned A.J. about his vacation while they grabbed the blond’s luggage off a carousel, the topic of the new mustache put to rest.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and breezy, with temperatures promising to kiss eighty degrees.
By ten o’clock, A.J. had opened several windows, eaten breakfast, started a load of laundry, and was now sipping coffee while he leafed through the morning paper.
By the time he and Rick had finished dinner the previous evening and Rick had dropped A.J. off at home, it had been after eight. A.J. put his luggage in his bedroom, deciding he was too tired to unpack that evening, and then spent the next hour looking through two weeks worth of mail. When he’d set the mail aside, A.J. called his mother to let her know he was home, and that he’d had an enjoyable trip. Right before they hung up, Cecilia promised to stop by sometime on Sunday morning to spend time with A.J. and hear about his vacation.
A.J. was in the garage putting one load of laundry into the dryer and another in the washer when he heard a knock on the kitchen door.
"A.J.! A.J., where are you?"
"I'm out in the garage, Mom! I'll be right in. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and have a seat!”
Cecilia was standing in front of A.J.’s kitchen sink sipping coffee and looking out of the window, when he entered the family room from the garage.
"Mom. Hi! It's good to see you."
Cecilia turned at the sound of A.J.’s voice. Given his enthusiasm, A.J. didn't notice her smile falter, or the odd look she gave him - almost as if Cecilia was seeing her son for the first time. Or, more accurately stated, it was almost as if Cecilia was seeing someone again for the first time in many years.
A.J. drew his mother into his arms, and kissed her cheek. She stiffened and pulled away before he had barely made contact. A.J. was puzzled and wondered if his mother was having difficulties again as a result of the sexual assault she had suffered two years before.
Cecilia turned her back on A.J. and walked into the living room. "It's good to see you, too. What were you doing in the garage?"
"Some laundry. I want to get everything done before I go to the office tomorrow. Rick will probably have things such a mess that I'll have to work late most of the week just to find my desk.”
A.J. poured himself another cup of coffee and crossed to the living room. As he sat down in his favorite chair, Cecilia moved from where she had been standing in front of the couch, over to the French doors.
With her back to A.J. once again, Cecilia asked, "What else have you got planned for today, sweetheart?"
"Not much. I'm tired. But don't tell Rick that. Last night over dinner he told me I'm getting too old for action packed vacations." A.J. shrugged his shoulders. "Actually, I'm more inclined to think it's jetlag, not old age."
"I'm sure you're right, dear.” Cecilia headed for the kitchen door. “I'd better be going and let you rest."
A.J. got up and intercepted his mother halfway to her destination by laying a hand on her arm. "Mom, you don't need to leave. You just got here."
Cecilia moved out from under her son's hand. She looked up at him, and then just as quickly looked away.
“A.J., you're tired, you've got to work tomorrow, and I know you've got things you need to get done. I have some errands to run, so I'll see you later this week."
"Mom," A.J. protested, "I'm not that tired. I was looking forward to you stopping by today. I planned on you staying for lunch. I was going to throw hamburgers on the grill for us."
"That was nice of you, sweetheart, but I need to leave. I'll see you boys Thursday for our regular dinner date."
"Mom, are you okay?” A.J. asked, as Cecilia opened the kitchen door. “Do you feel all right?"
"Yes, A.J., I'm fine," Cecilia snapped at her son. She took a deep breath and softened her tone. "I've just got some things to get done. I'll see you Thursday."
"Okay, if you say so." A.J. stood in his kitchen doorway and watched Cecilia walk to her car. "Bye, Mom! See you Thursday."
Cecilia waved as she slipped behind the wheel of her Mercedes. A.J. remained where he was until she’d backed the car onto the street, put it in drive, and made a right turn two blocks up.
The detective went back into his house while mulling over his mother's brief visit. As he accomplished the tasks he wanted to get done, A.J. pushed his concerns over his mother’s odd behavior to the back of his mind, and soon forgot all about them.
By Wednesday morning, the Simon and Simon office was back in the orderly fashion A.J. preferred. The blond man would never let on to Rick that, for the most part, he’d found things to be in good shape when he’d walked in on Monday. Other than some unopened mail and unpaid bills that were on his desk, as well as papers left spread across coffee table pertaining to a case Rick was working on, the eldest Simon brother had kept things running smoothly during A.J.'s absence.
The detectives were now seated across from each other at A.J.'s desk, looking through that stack of papers A.J. had encountered on the coffee table. Rick had taken on two cases while A.J. was away. One involved background checks on new employees for a large insurance firm Simon and Simon had a standing contract with, while the other involved an adoption search. This last case was the reason the detectives were huddled over A.J.’s desk.
A man in his mid-thirties had come to see Rick in regards to finding his birth mother. Rick had run into several roadblocks, so now the brothers were brainstorming as to what their next option might be.
A.J. had just glanced at his watch and saw it was eleven-thirty, when the office door opened. The men looked up as their mother entered the room.
The blond smiled. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hey, Mom,” Rick said. “What are you doin’ out our way today?”
Cecilia crossed to the corner of A.J.’s desk and faced Rick. "I had a meeting at the library. Since I was so close, I thought I'd come by and say hello."
“Here,” A.J. stood. “Let me get a chair for you.”
"No, that's okay. I'm not staying long. It looks like you boys are busy."
"We're not that busy," A.J. said. "Besides, it’s about time for lunch. Let us take a few minutes to pick this stuff up and then come with us."
“No, not today. I should get go--”
“Yeah, Mom, come on,” Rick urged. “A.J.'s buying. He lost the bet I made with him that I wouldn't use his house for any parties while he was gone, and that I'd keep the office clean. I think I deserve a big ole’ T-bone with all the trimmings, plus dessert, from the Steak Pit. And since A.J. never said I couldn't bring a date, you've gotta come, too. Everyone will be jealous when I walk in with the prettiest girl in San Diego on my arm."
Cecilia laughed. "Rick, I'm hardly a girl anymore, but all right, you've talked me into it."
A.J. put an arm around his mother's shoulders, only to have her pull away. He pretended not to notice as he looked at his brother.
"That sounds good, only Mom is my date, and it's debatable whether I'm paying for your lunch or not, Rick. This place wasn't that clean when I came back, and I haven't yet determined if one of Rick Simon’s wild fiestas occurred in my house or not. I need enough time to talk to the neighbors and check under the sofa cushions."
Rick and A.J. argued over their bet, and who had one or lost, while they sorted through the papers and put them in some semblance of order.
The three Simons had just headed for the door when the phone rang. A.J. turned back to answer it and an unfamiliar female voice asked for Rick. The blond held the receiver out to his sibling.
“It’s for you.”
The short conversation that followed ended with Rick saying, "Thanks, Nancy. I'll be right over."
"What was that all about?” A.J. asked, as Rick put the receiver back in its cradle. “And who’s Nancy?"
"She's the clerk down at the courthouse that helped me last week when I was looking for records on this adoption search. She's found something she thought I might wanna see, so I'll have to back out of lunch and run over there."
"Can't it wait until we've eaten, Rick?"
"No, Mom, sorry. It can't. Nancy has done a lotta work for me on her own time, and she leaves at one today, so I better get over there."
"Exactly what is this ‘work’ your friend is doing for you going to cost us?"
Rick smirked. "Oh, don't you worry, little brother, I'm payin’ Nancy in my own way."
"Get real, Rick. Any woman whose working day ends at one o'clock in the afternoon either has three little kids at home, or is sixty-five years old."
As Rick passed in front of Cecilia and A.J., he gave his mother a kiss. "Sorry about lunch, Mom."
Rick turned to his brother. "I wouldn't be so quick to make assumptions about Nancy if I were you, A.J. I think you and she will get along real well. She liked your taste in decor."
At A.J.'s puzzled look, Rick added as he headed out of the door, "She thought you threw a terrific party, too."
Rick's high-pitched laugh drifted from the elevator. A.J. put his hands on his hips and turned to his mother.
"Why didn't you drown him at birth?"
Cecilia didn’t reply to her son's question, which was out of character for her. Her children came by their sharp wit honestly. Therefore A.J., feeling uncomfortable but not knowing why, changed the subject.
"Well, Rick's just talked himself out of a lunch, so why don't you pick the place and come as my date instead of his."
"No, that's all right. I'm not that hungry anyway. I'll head home."
"Come on, Mom, you've got to eat lunch. And besides, we haven't had any time together since I got back. I thought you wanted to hear about my vacation. "
"I do, but I'm not hungry, and hadn't planned on tying you boys up today. I only stopped by with the intention of staying a few minutes. I know you have things to do, so I'll be going."
Cecilia moved toward the doorway. "I'll see you tomorrow night. We'll talk then."
"Okay,” A.J. sighed, “if that's the way you want it, but I'd still like to take you to lunch."
When the detective received no reply and could see his mother was determined to leave, A.J. walked to the door and bent to kiss her cheek. He didn’t miss his mother’s slight flinch, but didn’t comment on it, either.
A.J. watched his mother walk to the elevator while thinking over her reaction to the kiss he’d given her. He didn't think she’d flinched when Rick had kissed her a few minutes earlier, but then again, he hadn't paid that much attention.
The blond went back into the office, rather than heading out to get something to eat. He’d lost his appetite between the time his mother had entered the office and left it. A.J. took off his suit jacket and tie, and laid them across the back of his chair. He unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up the sleeves as he sat down on his weight bench. The man spent his lunch hour working-out, while thinking about the puzzling encounters with his mother since his arrival home.
A.J. was sitting at his desk filling out forms for the background checks Rick had been working on, when the office door opened and the lanky detective walked in. The blond looked up from his work.
"I thought your friend left work at one o'clock. It’s after four. Where else did you go?"
"She did leave at one, but she had found some old records on microfiche I wanted to look through. I finally ran across some things about forty-five minutes ago that might help us out. Here's the copies if you wanna take a look at them."
A.J. took the papers Rick handed him. He began leafing through them as Rick sat down in the chair across from him.
"Did you and Mom have a nice lunch?"
"Uh...we never went,” A.J. replied without taking his eyes from the papers he was scanning. “Mom decided to pass on lunch."
"Oh," Rick shrugged his shoulders and let his brother read in silence for a few minutes. When A.J. finally looked up at Rick, the question he asked caught the older man off-guard.
"Rick, did anything happen while I was on vacation?"
“Happen? Like what?”
"To Mom. Did anything happen to Mom?”
"Well, no, not that I'm aware of." Rick's brows knit together under the brim of his cowboy hat. "You wanna tell me what you're talkin’ about here?"
"When I spoke to Mom on the phone Saturday night after I got home, she seemed fine. It was late, so we didn't talk long, but she promised to come over on Sunday to hear about my trip. Then when she did come over she acted...I don't know, on edge, I guess. She stayed about ten minutes making small talk, never asked me about my trip, then left, saying she had errands to run.”
“So? Maybe she did have errands to run.”
"Maybe, but then today, after you left, she said she wasn't hungry and was going home. I tried to talk her into going to lunch anyway, but she wouldn't. I thought she was acting like she did on Sunday - tense and preoccupied."
“I don't know,” Rick said, as he slouched into his chair. “She seemed okay to me today, and I can't think of anything that happened while you were gone. I had dinner at her place both the Thursday nights you were away like we always do, then she stopped by here last Monday and I took her to lunch. She seemed like her old self every time I saw her."
"I guess it's just me then. Maybe I'm reading something into this that's not there."
"Yeah, I think that's all it is," Rick agreed. "Mom probably did have errands to run on Sunday like she said, and you know, now that I think about it, when we first asked her to join us for lunch today, she did say no. She probably wasn't hungry, just like she told you."
Giving it further thought, A.J. put an end to the subject. "I imagine you're right. It's probably nothing."
"We're supposed to go to her place tomorrow night like always, aren't we?"
A.J. nodded his head.
“Well, then, if it will help ease your mind any, I'll pay closer attention and see if I notice anything, but I really think you’re worryin’ for nothing. Maybe she's planning your fortieth birthday party, and that's why she seems so preoccupied."
"Rick, my birthday isn't until July. It's only February. Even our mother doesn’t plan that far ahead.”
Rick's eyes gleamed. "I don't know, A.J. With all the suggestions I gave Mom, it’s going to take her a while to get things together. You know, the belly dancers, the naked girl in the cake, the women in leather with the handcuffs--”
A.J. pointed a stern finger. "Rick, I'm warning you, don't start with me. My birthday is five months away. I don't want to listen to Rick Simon’s inane party plans from now until then."
Seeing the dangerous glint to A.J.'s blue eyes, Rick stopped his teasing. "You about ready to call it a day?"
"You go ahead. I've got some things I want to do here yet. I'm not going home anyway. I have a date for dinner at six o’clock."
"Oh, with a tall, lovely brunette who wears tailored business suits and carries a briefcase?"
"Rick!" A.J. exclaimed, then held his hands out in resignation. "Okay, okay, how did you know?"
"A.J., I haven't been your big brother for thirty-nine years for nothing. I know your type of lady when I see her, and this was definitely an A.J. Simon kind of woman. Did you tell her your age, or am I gonna have to break the news to her that you’re too old for her?"
"Go on,” A.J. jerked a thumb toward the door. “Get out of here and let me finish my work."
"All right,” Rick said as he stood. “You don’t have to tell me twice to call it a day.”
“Don’t I know it.”
Rick was almost to the door when he turned around. "Hey A.J., why don’t you bring your new lady to Mom's tomorrow night? That way we can all meet her.”
“Because I've hardly met this woman myself yet. Except for briefly last night, I haven’t even talked to her since Saturday. If you think I’m going to risk introducing her to my mentally deranged older brother, you're nuts."
Rick laughed as he headed out the door. "I can't wait to meet her A.J. Boy, do I have some stories to tell her. Of course, I can’t be held responsible for my actions, you know. After all, I'm mentally deranged."
A.J. just shook his head after his sibling had departed. Not for the first time, the blond wondered how the gene pool his parents had possessed ever came up with two such different sons.
The detective tried to refocus his concentration on his work, but his mind continued to replay the conversation he and Rick had just had about their mother. Finally giving up on trying to get anything further done, A.J. leaned back in his chair. There was one thought still nagging at the blond man that he’d chosen not to share with Rick. Could their mother’s recent behavior be a reflection of the trauma she had experienced two years ago? A.J. wondered if his mother was having nightmares, or flashbacks, or if she had received an obscene phone call, or some other scare in the last week that had brought the assault to the forefront of her mind. She was acting so similar to how she had those first weeks right after she was attacked - preoccupied and edgy, and the way she reacted to A.J.'s attempts to kiss her were exactly like she had reacted then.
A.J. knew from the counseling sessions he and Rick had attended for family members of rape victims, that this type of behavior was not unusual, and could occur on and off the rest of the victim's life. He also knew that Cecilia had been told that if this was the way she was feeling at times, she should talk about it and explain why, so her loved ones weren't left feeling hurt and confused. Much the way A.J. was feeling now.
A.J. had almost said all this to Rick when they were discussing their mother, but at the last minute had decided not to. Why, he didn't know for certain.
Oh, come on, A.J., the man mentally chastised himself. You do too know why you didn’t mention any of this to Rick.
Cecilia and Rick shared something A.J. never could truly be a part of. Rick's experiences in Vietnam, and then Cecilia's assault, had caused them a great deal of emotional trauma - trauma that required outside professional help. While A.J. had been involved in family counseling sessions in both cases, he didn't know what it was like to be the victim. Something Rick and his mother had in common. A.J. knew that, in some ways, his mother and Rick had grown closer after she was assaulted, and this factor of shared trauma was what he attributed it to.
A.J. knew what it boiled down to was the fact that whenever Rick had a few days he seemed uptight or in foul temper, A.J. always found himself watching his brother closely for signs of problems related to Vietnam. Then he was more often than not ashamed of himself when Rick's mood generally turned out to be from a headache, or lack of sleep, or too much tequila the night before. Now he found himself watching his mother the same way, and looking for signs relating to her past trauma.
This was why the detective hadn’t shared these thoughts with Rick. A.J. hated himself for the way he stereotyped Rick and Cecilia every time they were out of sorts. It was that old stigma attached to people who have sought or required counseling - now they were fragile, and needed to be handled with care.
I hate it when I do that.
Had A.J. ever chosen to share these feeling with his brother or mother, they could have put his mind to rest by telling him that was normal behavior for a person in his position. It was especially normal for that compassionate individual named Andrew Simon. But because A.J. was reluctant to mention his thoughts where this subject was concerned, he didn’t have insight into what assurances his mother and brother would offer.
Shaking off his thoughts, A.J. straightened the papers and returned them to their proper folders.
It’s probably nothing, just like Rick said. Maybe Mom’s working on a project for the library, or for one of the other organizations she volunteers her time for, and just has her mind on other things.
The blond man stood and entered the office’s small bathroom where he kept a clean change of clothing. He exchanged his shirt for one that he’d picked up at the dry cleaners the previous day, put on a different tie, and a freshly cleaned and pressed sport coat. He looked in the mirror while combing his hair, noticing the slight frown that tugged the corners of his mouth downward.
I’d better quit worrying about Mom for tonight. If I pick up Kathleen in this mood, I'm really going to make a great first impression.
The detective left his office five minutes later. He was meeting Kathleen at a restaurant down the block, and didn’t want to be late. After all, as he’d just been reminding himself, first impressions do count.
At one on Friday morning, A.J. was awake and staring up at his bedroom ceiling. As far as the detective was concerned, dinner Thursday evening at his mother’s home didn't go any better than his other encounters with her that week had.
The meal was ready when Rick and A.J. arrived at five-thirty. At Cecilia’s urging, the family sat down at the dining room table. As the food was passed around and plates were filled, small talk ensued about the brothers’ day at work, and Cecilia’s day at a charity event. At that point, A.J. found his mother to be her normal self. Because of that, he began to wonder if he’d read something into Cecilia’s recent actions that weren't there.
However, once dinner was over, A.J. again found himself the recipient of behavior he couldn’t understand. The trio cleared the table and then Rick drifted to the television and turned it on, just like he did every Thursday evening when clean up time arrived. A.J. followed his mother into the kitchen and started stacking dishes in the dishwasher, just like he did every Thursday evening when clean up time arrived.
Cecilia had grabbed the plates from A.J.’s hands. "I'll do that. You go watch T.V. with Rick."
“Mom, I always help you. I don't mind."
"I don't want any help tonight." Cecilia waved a hand in dismissal. "Just go in the living room, please."
“Just go,” Cecilia had ordered. “I’ll be done in a few minutes.”
A.J. shrugged his shoulders and did as he was told. He couldn't recall a time when his mother had chased him out of the kitchen on a Thursday evening. She always seemed to appreciate his presence, even if all he did was lean against the countertop and visit with her. This routine had grown to become A.J.’s and Cecilia's private time together. It generally amounted to only ten or fifteen minutes and then cleanup was done. Nonetheless, it was important to A.J., and up until that Thursday night, he had thought it was important to his mother as well.
Once Cecilia had come out of the kitchen, she had suggested they play cards, so the trio gathered around the dining room table once more. Rick sat at the head of the table, with A.J. seated at his right elbow, and Cecilia at his left.
As the game progressed, A.J. realized that his mother never looked at him. If she had to talk to him during the course of their game, she looked at her cards, or the table, or at some point over his right shoulder. Things seemed to be fine between his mother and Rick. They were enjoying each other's company, but as soon as A.J. became part of the conversation his mother seemed uptight and unwilling to include him in the family bantering.
By the time the brothers called it a night at nine-thirty, A.J. was relieved to be departing his mother's home, which wasn’t a feeling the man was used to experiencing. Rick exited first, giving their mother a hug and kiss, which she returned warmly.
"Thanks for dinner, Mom. It was great, as usual."
As A.J. took his turn at hugging and kissing his mother goodbye, she stiffened in his arms, as she had done every time he had hugged her since he got home from Colorado. A.J. didn't even try to kiss her, deciding it wasn't worth the reaction he knew he'd get.
If A.J. had any doubt left in his mind that something was going on between him and his mother, it left him right then. Cecilia didn't comment on the kiss she didn’t get from her youngest, nor did she try to kiss him. She told him goodbye, then told both of her sons to drive safely.
Although A.J. had been anxious to talk to Rick about the evening, he knew discussing his mother and her strange behavior in her own driveway wasn't the wisest idea. Therefore, he said goodnight to Rick, and the brothers got in their vehicles and went their separate ways. Now unable to sleep, A.J. wished he had called Rick before going to bed. A.J. could use his brother's opinion on the evening, no matter how unorthodox that opinion might sometimes be.
The one and only time in his life A.J. could recall this kind of friction between he and his mother, was when A.J. was twenty-two and had told Cecilia he had decided not to take the bar exam, and not to pursue a career in law. He had never before or since seen his mother so angry with him. After the pleading and yelling had ended that day over fifteen years ago now, A.J. had spent several uncomfortable weeks surrounded by a cold, quiet anger. Once Cecilia's anger had disbursed somewhat, A.J. encountered the same tension he had been dealing with for the past five days.
At least that time A.J. had the luxury of knowing the reason behind his mother's anger, and had even anticipated it before hand. What was upsetting to him now, was the fact that he had no idea what he had done to fall-out of his mother's good graces.
A.J. rolled over to see the face of the digital clock displaying 2:10 a.m. He sighed and massaged his temples in an effort to abate the headache beginning to form.
If someone's angry with you, they should at least have the decency to inform you as to why. Especially if that someone is your own mother
With that final thought, A.J. forced himself to relax so he could get some sleep before the alarm rang in four short hours.
A.J. arrived at the Simon and Simon office the next morning at eight forty-five. Rick was already seated at his desk, eating a doughnut and reading the morning paper. Without much more than a brief hello to his brother, A.J. sat down at his own desk. He picked up a report he had left out the previous afternoon and began reading it.
The next twenty minutes were spent in silence. Rick scrutinized his younger brother, his eyes flicking from his sibling to the newspaper, and then back again. It was obvious to Rick that something was bothering A.J., and after their conversation on Wednesday he could guess what that something was. His brother also looked tired this morning, and it was unusual for Rick to arrive at the office ahead of A.J. Although they didn't open until nine, the younger Simon was usually there by eight-thirty.
Rick hadn't formed any conclusions about their mother and whether or not she was acting oddly. He wasn’t sure if this was because he thought she was acting fine, or because she just wasn't acting odd toward him. Rick had definitely felt a tension between his mother and A.J. the previous evening, and thought it seemed like his mom was avoiding A.J. Yet Rick couldn't quite put his finger on it, either. Just when he thought he had decided one way or another, he found himself changing his mind.
The detective studied his younger brother's bent head a moment longer before breaking the heavy silence.
"I think I taught ya' how to read better than that, A.J. You've been staring at the same page for the last fifteen minutes.
When A.J. didn't do anymore than glance at Rick, the man said, "You know, if this thing with Mom is still bothering you--”
"Yes, it's still bothering me! Didn't you notice how she acted toward me last night? She wouldn't even look at me when she talked to me."
A.J. stood and began to pace between his desk and Rick’s.
"And she never asked about my trip, like she kept saying all week she was going to. That's really odd, too. I mean, Randy Wells was one of the people there, and she knew that, yet she hasn't once asked me about him or his family. Not how his wife is, how his son is - nothing. There were a few others there she knew pretty well, too. I don't know,” A.J. raked a hand through his hair, “I sure can't figure any of it out."
"Well, if you hadn't interrupted me, what I was gonna say is that if this thing with Mom is still bothering you, and obviously it is, why don't you go to the house and ask her what's wrong. I think that's the only way you're gonna get to the bottom of it."
A.J. nodded his head and sighed. "After last night, I've been thinking that too. But what if she won't tell me? What if she just says it's nothing. It's not like I can force Mom to tell me something she doesn't want to."
"Oh hell, A.J., she's always talked to you. More so than to me. I think if you tell her how concerned you are about her, she'll open up to you, or at least let you know if you've done something to upset her." At A.J.'s skeptical look, Rick added, "I'll tell ya’ what. If Mom doesn't talk to you, we'll see what we think in a couple of days, and if things haven't changed by then I'll give it a shot."
"All right," A.J. agreed. "I guess that's as good a way as any to handle it. I'll stop by her place after work tonight."
As A.J. returned to his desk, Rick said, "Come on, nothing's goin’ on around here this morning. Go over there now. I can handle things while you're gone."
“No. I can wait until--”
"A.J., you're not gonna get anything accomplished sitting there brooding. Just go to Mom’s and talk to her."
The blond man thought his brother’s suggestion over. “I suppose it’s not a bad idea.”
“Of course it’s not a bad idea. I came up with it, didn’t I?”
“On second thought, maybe I should think it over a while longer,” A.J. said with heavy sarcasm before standing and walking to the door. He turned around as he placed his hand on the knob. "I'll be back later...and thanks for the advice."
"Geez, A.J., you act surprised. Didn't you think I could give good advice?"
"Don't act so pathetic. You probably read it in Ann Landers anyway."
With that, the blond man exited the office before his brother had time to formulate a comeback.
A.J. knocked on the front door of his mother's home. He could vaguely hear the vacuum cleaner running somewhere inside. Knowing Cecilia couldn't hear his knock, he rang the bell. The detective didn’t want to use his key for fear he might startle his mother if he walked in.
A few moments later, A.J. heard the vacuum shut off. He could hear his mother’s footsteps as she hurried across the foyer. He made sure he was facing the peephole so she could see who her visitor was. Cecilia opened the big oak door and stepped out of the way as her entered the house.
"A.J., what are you doing here this morning?” the woman asked as she shut the door and then walked to the living room with her back to A.J. “Did you forget something last night?"
A.J. sighed. "No, I didn't forget anything." The detective decided to plunge right in with what was on his mind. "Mom, I need to ask you something.”
“What's bothering you? What have I done to upset you?"
"Andrew, you've asked me that every time I've seen you this week. Now for the last time, nothing is bothering me!"
"If nothing's bothering you, then how come every conversation we've had since Sunday involves me talking to the back of your head, like I'm doing right now? Or you looking over my shoulder and not at my face? How come every time I go to hug you or kiss you, you pull away from me? You act like you don't want to be in the same room with me. Even Rick's noticed it."
Cecilia wouldn’t turn to face her son as she blinked away the tears that had suddenly sprung to her eyes. “A.J., it’s nothing. It’s noth--”
"Mom, it is something. Just tell me what I've done to make you so angry."
At the hurt Cecilia heard in A.J.'s voice she turned around, and for the first time since Sunday really looked him full in the face. She moved across the room, holding out both of her hands.
“A.J., I'm not angry with you. You haven't done anything."
Taking her hands in his, A.J. shook his head. "But, Mom...”
Cecilia held onto A.J.’s hands and led him to the couch. "Let's sit down. I realize I owe you an explanation for my behavior this week, but it may not be easy for either one of us to hear this."
“What do you mean?”
It took Cecilia a moment to gather her thoughts.
"A.J., you know I would never say or do anything to purposely hurt you, don't you?"
"Of course I know that."
Again there was silence, as Cecilia turned one of A.J.'s hands over in hers and traced the lines in his palm with her fingertips. It was something he couldn't remember her doing since he was a small boy and used to climb in her lap.
“Do you know how much you look like your father?"
Brows knit in confusion at what he considered to be an odd guestion at an odd time, A.J. stammered, "Well...yes. I...I suppose so. People have been telling me that ever since I can remember.”
Gently, Cecilia said, "No, A.J., I don't mean in general, I mean do you know how much you look like your father now that you've grown that mustache?"
A.J. shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. No, I guess not. I never really thought about it, to be honest with you. I remember, of course, that Dad always wore a mustache, but I never thought about it when I grew this one."
Cecilia gave her son a soft smile. "A.J., you look exactly like your dad right now. Exactly like he looked the last year of his life."
"Is that what this is all about? Is this mustache the reason you've been angry with me?"
“Oh, sweetheart, I haven't been angry with you. I've just been... I don't know - confused, and sometimes I don't even understand why."
“Maybe if you talk to me about it we can both understand why.”
“Maybe,” the woman nodded, then allowed a long pause to linger once again before speaking. “I don't want to hurt you in any way, son, but when I saw you on Sunday it was like seeing a man in the flesh that I knew had been dead for thirty years. The resemblance between you and your father shocked me. I couldn't stand to be in the same room with you. Every time I looked at you, I saw your dad. After I left your house, I told myself I couldn't act that way around you again. That I would get used to the moustache given time, and until I did, I would have to go on as if nothing was bothering me." Cecilia gave a sheepish smile. "I didn't do such a good job of that, did I?"
A.J. smiled back, but kept quiet so his mother could get this off her chest.
"Then on Wednesday when I stopped by the office, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't take my mind off the whole thing. I was going to force myself to go with you boys for lunch, thinking that the only way I would become accustomed to your new look was by being around you. When Rick had to cancel and I was faced with the prospect of being alone with you, I couldn't do it. I had to get out of there.
“I really gave myself a good talking to after that episode. I told myself my behavior toward you had to end, and that I wasn't going to let your new look bother me anymore."
When Cecilia stopped her monologue there, A.J. said quietly, "Go on, Mom. Tell me the rest," and gave her a smile of encouragement.
"I wanted everything to be back to normal last night. I thought I had a handle on it, and that I was going to be okay. Then when you and Rick got here, as soon as you came in the door, it was like having your father here in the house he loved so much. So many feelings and memories that I thought were long buried hit me all at once.
"When you came in the kitchen to help clean up, I couldn't stand it anymore. I knew I had to get you out of there. Your father always helped me clean up after supper. You have so many of his habits and mannerisms, and the moustache you’ve grown only seems to further emphasize them. Your presence in the kitchen last night made me miss Jack in a way I haven't for years."
A.J. could see the tears his mother was fighting hard to contain. He pulled her into his arms and held her for a few moments, neither one of them saying anything.
The woman gathered her emotions and slipped out of her son’s embrace. "I didn't intend to tell you any of this, because I knew it would hurt you. How can a mother tell a son she loves as much as I love you, that she can hardly bear to look at him because she keeps seeing the face of his deceased father?
"I knew you sensed something was wrong, and I figured Rick was on to me, too. Last night while I was doing dishes he came in the kitchen for some water and asked me what I thought of your mustache. He must have thought I gave him a strange answer."
"What did you say? He didn't tell me anything about it."
"I told him I didn't think anything about it, and that actually, I hadn't even noticed that you had one."
A.J. laughed. "Yes, I assume Rick thought that was kind of strange. He must have thought you were hitting the tequila again while you were doing the dishes."
"Andrew Simon, you know perfectly well I do not ‘nip’ alcohol while I do dishes," Cecilia scolded with mock indignation. She clasped A.J.’s right hand again. "A.J., I'm sorry about all of this, and the way I've been acting towards you. I never meant for you to find out how I was feeling, and why. I don't want to hurt you, honey."
“I know that.”
Cecilia tried hard to keep her graciousness from sounding forced. "I'm glad you came by this morning and we were able to talk to you about it. You've made me feel better. Everything will be fine now."
Cecilia moved to hug her son, but A.J. held her at arm’s length,
"No, Mom, everything won't be okay until I shave this off."
"No. I don't want you to do that. That's part of the reason I didn't say anything to begin with."
"I can shave it off. I don't mind."
"A.J., you're thirty-nine years old. I certainly don't have the right to tell you or your brother what to do."
"That's never stopped you before,” A.J. teased, as he released his mother’s arms. “Is this a new side of Cecilia Simon I'm going to see now that I'm almost forty?"
"Andrew, you're impossible, you know that? You and Rick both tease with the same tenacity your father used to.”
“That we do,” A.J. agreed.
“But despite that, no. I don't want you to shave the moustache off.”
"Well, Mom, I want to shave it off, and this is one argument you aren't going to win. Do you still have the disposable razors and can of shaving cream upstairs that you keep for mine and Rick's unplanned overnight visits?"
"They're in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. Are you sure about this?"
"Yes, I'm sure. It's not that important to begin with. I grew it on a whim. I'm certainly not attached to it like Rick is to his. After all, I don't have to look at my upper lip in the mirror every morning to remember what it felt like to have hair on the top of my head."
Cecilia laughed. "You better hope I don't pass that comment on to your brother, or you won’t be around to celebrate your fortieth birthday with us this summer."
"Maybe you won't tell him if I take you to lunch today?"
"I believe we could work something out along those
"Good, you pick the place. I'll be down in a few minutes."
A.J. stood and took the stairs two at a time that would lead him to the bathroom he and Rick had shared as boys.
A.J. found Cecilia collecting her purse and jacket when he walked into the kitchen fifteen minutes later. "You ready, Mom?"
Cecilia turned around. She reached her right hand up to A.J.’s face and ran her fingertips over his now smooth upper lip. "You didn't have to do that for me, but thank you."
A.J. bent down as Cecilia hugged him and accepted her kiss on his cheek. He returned it with one of his own. When his mother didn't pull away as she had every time when he’d hugged or kissed her recently, he thought, Yes, I did have to do that for you, Mom, but all he said was, "You’re welcome."
The blond put an arm around his mother’s shoulders and guided her to the front door. "We'd better run by the office and pick up Rick. It’s a little early for lunch yet, but knowing my brother, he’ll be ready to eat regardless of the time."
"No, let's not this time. I think Rick will understand. We'll bring him a carryout, and if we throw in dessert, I'm sure he'll be pacified."
A.J. shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, if you're certain."
Cecilia slipped an arm around A.J.’s waist. "I'm certain. I haven't heard anything about your vacation yet, and besides, I need some time alone with my youngest son."
A.J. shut the front door behind him and smiled down at his mother. "Glad to hear it, Mom, because your youngest son needs some time alone with you, too."
Opening the car door for her, he added, "You know, you're a pretty terrific Mom."
"That's only because I have two pretty terrific sons."
A.J. backed his Camaro out of the driveway while thinking about the pictures that had come in the mail the previous day from Randy Wells - pictures that included many shots of A.J. participating in various vacation activities.
I'll have to pull some of my old pictures of Dad out and compare them with the ones Randy sent. I wonder if I'll be able to see the resemblance between Dad and myself the way Mom can.
Cecilia smiled at her son. “What has you so deep in thought?”
“Oh, just wondering if I put some pictures of Dad and me side by side, if I’ll be able to see the resemblance between us as strongly as you do.”
“You will,” Cecilia stated with firm assurance. She patted A.J.’s knee. “As the old saying goes, like father, like son.”
A.J. shot his mother a grin, then returned his attention to his driving as they headed for Cecilia’s favorite restaurant.
The woman kept that grin close to her heart, even long after it had faded.
Like father, like son, she thought with deep affection. Like father, like son.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~