For a few moments, she could not find her voice. She just stared at the scar.
“Are you going to let me have that cocoa anytime soon?” The old man laughed.
He removed his hand from her grasp and slipped his fingers through the mug’s handle. He savored the warmth and creamy sweetness of his drink and hoped his daughter’s focus would redirect from his hand to her cocoa. She took a seat, cradling the mug in her hands and thinking about what she wanted to say.
“Dad, I couldn’t help but notice you named some of the characters after your friends.” Erica mused. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen them… but I remember Demetrios and I’m guessing Eleon is for your friend Leon. Come to think of it, you have a friend named Linus too.”
“You’re beating around the bush, little girl. I suspect there’s something else you mean to ask me, so get on with it. It’s almost my bedtime too.”
He gave his daughter a wink then took another sip of his drink. He was proud of the way her mind worked, always thinking ahead, always planning and working out problems. She got that from me, he thought, grinning.
“So does that mean P.J. is actually Praxis?” She asked, half laughing yet hoping he would not confirm her statement.
“Nothing gets by you, does it? Praxis isn’t a popular name anymore so P.J. seems to be a better fit nowadays. Now, are you really sure you want to go barking up this particular tree? I’m not so convinced you’ll want to hear this.”
“C’mon, Dad, you’re not really going to tell me that you’re a member of The Brotherhood of Eternal Glory and you’re going to live forever. Obviously, that’s not the case because you’ve clearly aged over the years so… nice try.”
The old man smiled, placed a kiss on his daughter’s head and bid her good night. He shuffled off to the bathroom to brush his teeth and put on his pajamas. He removed the stage makeup that gave him wrinkles and dark spots to camouflage his flawless skin then combed the sprayed-in gray out of his hair. That night in his dreams, he relived his induction into the brotherhood forty-five years ago. There in Vietnam, his squad was under heavy fire. Reinforcements came to their aid only they had not realized it was the brotherhood. He was sharing a foxhole with the two remaining members of his squad and four captains named Demetrios, Leon (he had dropped the E by then) P.J. and Linus. The captains had been impressed by the young men’s bravery and integrity so they shared a little bit about a secret society to which they belonged. The young man named William was intrigued though there was a small tidbit of information that the captains had withheld. They had neglected to mention the part about being unable to die because they’d been cursed to fight evil for all eternity. Emboldened by poetic words about battling evil, tyranny and oppression, William pledged to join their brotherhood. He’d willingly pricked his palm with the strange curved blade and the four captains welcomed him with open arms. Shortly after, an air attack dropped bombs all around them. When William opened his eyes, there were craters and body parts strewn across the countryside yet he and the four captains were completely unharmed. It was then that they dropped their own bomb on him. He had a pretty new bride waiting for him at home so his reception to the news was mixed. It was after he’d been discharged that his new “brothers” taught him techniques to appear to age over the years. He’d never told anyone, not even his wife about his secret. When he woke, he knew he could not reveal the truth to Erica either. He resolved to tell her he was only making up a fun story for the kids so he used the name of his friends and took advantage of his strange looking scar for embellishment.