At the sound of a key scraping against the lock, the young woman looked up from her breakfast plate. “Well, look what the cat threw up!”
Justus froze in shock. “Faith?”
“I know we haven't touched bases in awhile, but it hasn't been so long that you have forgotten who I am.”
The wry observation brought a broad smile to Justus' face. He hurried to embrace his sister. “This is a wonderful surprise! What are you doing here?”
Faith's presence in Port Charles came as a complete surprise to her younger brother. It was not just because she had not mentioned a visit during their last phone conversation, but also because Faith had sworn never to be found anywhere within fifty miles of their grandfather Edward Quartermaine.
“Keesha called me.” Faith pulled back in order to look into Justus' face. “She told me all about the old man's latest stunt.”
Justus merely grunted. It was his signal to Faith that he was not yet prepared to discuss that particular topic.
She took the hint. “Whatever… Anyway, here I am. I hopped the first available flight and then took a cab from the airport.”
“What about your work?”
Faith walked back to the breakfast table. She took one look at the now cold contents of her plate and made a small moue of distaste. “Well,” she scraped the congealed eggs into the disposal, “I just called my boss up and told her that my baby brother needed me, and she would just have to understand… Fortunately, she is a wonderful woman and told me to take all the time I needed.”
“You're self-employed .”
Faith grinned mischievously. “True, little brother. But that doesn't change the fact that I am a most remarkable woman.”
Justus engulfed his sister in another gigantic hug that lifted her feet off the floor. “I am so glad you are here,” he breathed. “I never realized until just now how much I have missed you.”
Andresj' bounded up the stairs, unmindful of the glances of the passing servants. He was so pleased to have returned home that nothing could dampen his spirits. Not the slightly censorious stare of the old butler who found his haste unseemly, or the prospect of resuming the daily studies that would keep him confined inside Wyndemere's walls for three hours at a time.
Slipping quickly into his suite of rooms, ‘Dre grabbed a sheaf of papers from his desk. He turned to leave, and the unfamiliar contours of his altered silhouette caught his eye. With a grimace he stared at his reflection in the mirror yet again.
It had been several days since his haircut back in Greece. And he still was not accustomed to it. Certain light and certain angles just seemed to emphasize the shape of his ears. Andresj' had not paid particular attention to them before, but now that they were so … exposed, it seemed to be all that his eyes could focus on.
The next time Papa suggested he cut his hair, Andresj' vowed to be more vocal in his resistance to the idea. Not that voicing his opposition would have had any effect upon the outcome back in Greece. The suggestion that ‘Dre cut his hair had been couched in the most neutral of terms, but there had been no mistaking the hint of steel that lay behind his father's words. Looking back, Andresj' was forced to admit that he understood his father's reasoning. And at the time, agreed with it.
During a rare moment of freedom from the family record keepers, Andresj' had gone looking for – and found – his father. Stefan stood in the Great Hall of their Greek estate staring at an imposing portrait displayed prominently upon the wall.
“Your discourse with the family historian is concluded?”
“Yes,” Andresj' replied. “She asked me to inform you that she awaits further instruction from you.”
“Very well.” Stefan returned his attention to the painting before him. “Soon your portrait will hang beside your brother's here in the Great Hall.” His gaze slowly swept the long line of formal portraits that formed a visible accounting of the Cassadine family line. “Future generations will look upon your likeness and rightfully recount your place in our family's history.”
Andresj' recalled the moment he glanced at the so-familiar visages of the severe, unsmiling men in the long line of portraits. For the first time that he could recall, though, he felt a genuine connection to them. Great great-uncles Konstantin, Tony and Victor were now more than just faces on a wall along a dark somber hallway. They were a part of who ‘Dre was.
And as for the portrait his father studied so intensely… Well, in Mikkos, Andresj' suddenly had a grandfather.
“So, little brother, do you make it a habit of not spending nights at your own place?”
The question came out of the blue. Justus shook himself from the comfortable silence he and Faith had fallen into.
“I just wondered.” Her eyes were filled with both curiosity and concern.
Justus sighed. There was no diverting Faith once she decided on something. And she had obviously decided on probing into his personal life. “Yesterday was not a good day,” he answered simply. He rose from the couch where he lay sprawled and retrieved an icy bottle of Pellegrino water from the refrigerator. “Actually, it's been a pretty rough week.”
Faith watched her younger brother gather his thoughts. No doubt he thought that she was, in typical big sister fashion, meddling into his private affairs. But Faith knew that unless she pushed and prodded Justus, he would only hold in all his troubles and try to shoulder his burdens alone.
He had been that way from a child. The mantle of their father's legacy had unfairly fallen upon Justus, simply because he was Bradley Ward's single male offspring. Oh, Faith had been expected to do her part in ‘the cause', but she was not expected to sacrifice her life for it the way Justus had.
In order to meet those expectations, Justus had given up his childhood bit by bit. By the time he was thirteen, Faith's younger brother was more responsible than most adults she knew. Justus never got into trouble, never took the daring chances that Faith loved so dearly.
“You know I'll listen,” the young woman said quietly. “Even about the old man.”
Justus glanced up in surprise. It never failed to amaze him how Faith was always able to know his thoughts. He had wanted desperately to discuss what had taken place last week in the ELQ board meeting. But he was equally aware of just how Faith felt about the topic of Edward Quartermaine. It was a subject they disagreed adamantly on.
“Don't look so surprised,” Faith scowled. “You should know after all these years that nothing is more important to me than you.” She rolled her eyes heavenward. “And if that means listening to you discuss that old ‘goat' Edward Quartermaine, then I will call on all my willpower and do just that.”
With a smile, Justus began to do just that.
‘And when you're finished,' Faith thought to herself, ‘we will discuss that diamond ring I found wedged in between the cushions of your sofa.'
“I am sorry that-”
Andresj's voice trailed off. He looked over the room's occupants before checking his watch in confusion. “I am only moments late,” he observed. “Where is Herr Kline?”
“You will continue your studies under the tutelage of Master Anatoly.” Stefan nodded toward Nikolas' longtime tutor.
Andresj' was not personally familiar with the man, but he had seen him often enough in study with his older brother Nikolas. Master Anatoly was a slender, humorless man with a shock of white hair that was combed straight back off his forehead. His lips, narrow and bloodless, were as sure an indicator of his severe manner as the small, dark eyes which glared from behind the shelter of thick, black-rimmed glasses. He was a difficult taskmaster, Nikolas often said, a man who demanded perfection of his young pupils.
Everything about Andresj's new tutor was in direct contrast to the young German instructor who had been with him since childhood. Herr Kline was about thirty-eight years old, and full of enthusiasm for the world around him. Lessons with him had invariably been entertaining, and quite often the three hours spent together flew by unnoticed.
“Why?” Andresj' turned briefly toward Master Anatoly. “I mean no disrespect to you,” he murmured before addressing his father once more. “I would simply like an explanation for the change.”
“Because I have said it will be so.”
The tutor's shrewd gaze followed the exchange with interest. Father and son were evidently at odds about this particular situation. The tutor was curious as to what young master Cassadine would do next. The young man's actions would give him valuable insight about the newest Cassadine progeny entrusted into his care.
“Was my educational progress unsatisfactory in some way?”
Stefan knew that his youngest son would not allow the matter to die without an attempt at discussion. “Your interview with the family historian,” Stefan explained, “revealed several… deficiencies in your knowledge of Cassadine family history and its impact. If you are to assist your brother in his leadership, then these inadequacies must be addressed.”
Whatever the young man's thoughts, the tutor was unable to ascertain them. Andresj's expression became unreadable and his voice stoic. “What is to become of Herr Kline?”
“I have appointed him the tutor of your cousins Grigori and Evgeny,” Stefan explained. “He will be handsomely compensated for the change.”
Andresj' turned and offered his hand to the watching tutor. “It would seem that you have a new pupil,” he said neutrally.
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*