A few hours later uncle Harry came and took him home to the estate. In the weeks that followed he got cards, letters and emails from his friends and schoolmates, invitations to parties and dances. He threw them all away without bothering to even look at them. It was vain and shallow but he had always depended on his looks. Now he felt afraid and unsure of himself. He didn't know how his friends would react when they saw him. He hadn't seen his own face yet and he was not sure that he wanted to.
Thanksgiving came and went. There was no real celebration in the Kane household unless it was a private celebration held by the staff. His uncle was an embittered cripple and widower confined to a wheelchair. It was only Tobal's injury and depression that prompted his uncle's apparent interest now. Tobal knew that it would not last.
Uncle Harry was his only living relative. His parents were dead and he had no brothers or sisters. There was a time he had felt much closer to his uncle but that was long ago. It seemed uncle Harry was as preoccupied as Tobal was.
"I don't understand what the Federation wants with a cripple", he snarled at dinner. Lt. Col. Harry Kane was being re-activated and he was not happy about it. "I need to go away for a few days and see what they want. Can you handle things around here by yourself? Maybe you could have some friends over. How bout that girl friend of yours"?
Tobal squirmed uncomfortably and felt his face flush with heat.
"We, ah, broke up", he said lamely.
His uncle snorted in disgust. "Well suit yourself". He turned and wheeled himself out of the room. "I've got to get ready".
Three days later his uncle returned and Tobal hardly recognized him. Overnight his uncle looked ten years older. His shoulders were more stooped and bags had formed under his eyes giving him a haunted look. It didn't take long to realize his uncle was avoiding him. The tension in the house was unbearable. Other times Tobal tried to deliberately aviod his uncle.
As the days passed he never knew if his uncle was in the house or called away on some important military business and he hardly cared. They had never been that close. His only curiousity over the years had been how a simple Federation Officer had managed the nearly impossible feat of enrolling him in Tavistock Educational.One day he asked his uncle at dinner about it.
"It was what your parents would have wanted", was all uncle Harry would say. Tobal never knew if his parents had moved in such high circles or if it was his uncle. It never seemed important before. He didn't know why it seemed so important now. All he knew was he didn't want to go back. He dreaded the coming of Christmas because it marked his return to school. That was his truth.
The weeks passed with several trips to the doctor and still he was not allowed to see his face or remove the bandages on his own. There seemed to be some problem with the healing process although he was told there was nothing to worry about. It didn't seem right and he worried about it.
He took long walks in the bitter cold to get his mind off things. His uncle's estate was just a few clicks north of New Rome. New Rome was a city-state in what had once been central Minnesota. It was an area with many lakes and lots of privacy. The privacy came with a big price tag. Again Tobal wondered at the source of his uncle's obvious wealth.