Tuesday 6 February 2018

What had he been up to?

Debbie Boitoult

 dry sherry


I read the letter again, why were his Solicitors writing to me?   It must be 5 years since I’ve seen him; in fact it is 5 years, it was at Susan’s funeral.   The last I heard was that he had sold the old house and moved into a Nursing Home.  
The letter said it would be to my advantage to contact Simon & Broadway, his Solicitors.   It’s worth a telephone call I suppose, perhaps he has left me all his worldly goods.

I was given an appointment the next morning so now I am at Simon & Broadway waiting to be shown into Mr Simons’ office.   Mr Simon sat behind his paper-littered desk.   He peered at me over his half-moon glasses.  
‘Good morning Mrs Heale.   Please take a seat.   I am very sorry for your loss; your brother-in-law was a client of ours for many years.’
‘Thank you, mind you I hadn’t seen him for many years.’ 
‘Oh I see, well I have his will here. He amended it recently.  I know that it was a very difficult time for him; he had to make some hard decisions.    At his age one tends to think that everything is settled and there would be no more surprises in life, but for him first the heartache then the delight.  It’s strange how things happen, isn’t it?’
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I nodded in agreement.
‘The terms of his will are very straight forward. The trust he set up will continue, by that I mean the arrangements of the monthly payment for Lucy.  His personal belongings come to you.   I think the Nursing Home have made arrangements for them to be stored until you collect them.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Oh I am so sorry, didn’t I make myself clear, the terms of the will are..........’
Interrupting him mid flow I asked, ‘Who is Lucy?’
‘I’m sorry Mrs Heale, I know very little about her, other than she is Belinda’s daughter.’
‘Who is Belinda?  My sister, his late wife was Susan.   I know he didn’t have any other family and I don’t think he married again.  So who is Belinda and why is he paying her daughter money?’
‘Once again I am very sorry I cannot tell you any more, it would be a breach of client confidentially.’
‘Surely as your client is dead that doesn’t count anymore.’
‘Well it does for certain things, however even if it didn’t I have no more information other than what I have already told you.     I know that your brother-in-law blamed himself for all the distress he caused Belinda, but he thought it best in the circumstances.’

I thanked him and left his office.  I sat in my car trying to make sense of it.   Who was Lucy and what was her connection to my late Brother-in-law?  He always was a womaniser.  He used to say that women fascinated him, but why he was paying this Lucy a monthly amount?  Perhaps she was his daughter with Belinda and he felt he should provide for her?   No that can’t be right; surely he was too old to have had an affair or start a new relationship.  

I went to the Nursing Home to collect his belongings, perhaps there would be a clue amongst them.  I asked the staff if they know anything about Lucy or Belinda, but there seemed to be a wall of silence.  I was told that they never interfere with their guests personal affairs, unless the individual was not capable of managing them for themselves.  They were quick to point out that prior to his death my Brother-in-law had been perfectly capable of organising his personal matters.  Apparently he had made his own arrangements for his funeral which had already taken place.  He wanted no fuss, just a private cremation.  The one thing they did tell me was he had wanted Lucy to be there, but he understood if it was not appropriate.  Apparently she did not attend. 

Amongst his belongings was a diary.  I sat in my kitchen flicking through the pages, there was an entry written the week before he moved into the Nursing Home.  

     ‘I could see the hurt in her eyes when I told her that I had sold the house.   I tried to explain that I couldn’t manage any more even with her help.   I had always known that Susan was my first love, but when Belinda came into my life I quickly grew to love her as well.  I explained that she was too young to be saddled with an old man like me.  I would be a burden to her, she needed to find someone younger.  I turned my back on her and walked away.    I know it broke both our hearts, but she deserved better than me.’

I realised that tears were running down my face as I read the words.  You silly old fool, what had you been up to?    Oh Belinda, he must have loved you so much if he was prepared to leave you rather than be a burden to you.    The diary fell off my lap.  As I picked it up I saw another entry on the back page.

                ‘Wonderful news, Lucy was born last night.   I know that I must never go to see her, but I’m sure she will be the image of her Mother.  I am determined that even if she grows up not knowing anything about me, I want to help make her life a happy one.  I want to make sure she never goes without.
There was a telephone number written at the top of the page with the name Lucy next to it.   I picked up the telephone.  I needed to know the truth even if it was none of my business.
 A woman’s voice said,
‘Oh hello, it that Lucy?’ 
‘Who is this?   What do you want?’
I knew instantly that I had made a mistake calling.   Her voice was understandably suspicious.   I tried to explain who I was and why I was ringing.  
Hesitantly she said,  'Look I think it would be best if you come here and we talk face to face.   I think there are things that need sorting out.’
She gave me her address and an hour later I parked my car outside her house.   Perhaps at last I was going to find out what he had been up to.  
‘Hello, please come in.   I think we owe you an explanation.    We’re all sitting in the garden in the sunshine.  Come through I know Belinda and Lucy will be delighted to meet you.’
She guided me through the house towards the garden.
As soon as I saw them it was obvious that they were Mother and Daughter, they both had the same colour hair and the same facial features.
‘Lucy was born just after Belinda came to live with us.   We felt that he should know, even though he said that he wanted no contact. It turned out that he had his suspicions that Belinda was pregnant when he left her.   I think he felt guilty about what he had done because he insisted that he pay us a monthly allowance for Lucy.’
At last the mystery was solved.
Mother and Daughter stood side by side looking at me, before they raced off round the garden barking happily fighting over a brightly coloured ball.

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