by James McMillan
a shot of brandyI asked the children to allow me to spend some of the last few minutes of their mother’s life alone with her. They agreed but very reluctantly.
I sat by her bed and held Kay’s hand and watched her children slowly leave her room. ‘We will just be next door mum, call if you need anything,’ said Jen. ‘She can’t hear you,’ said her brother William and pulled her arm. Jen shook off his hand and as the door closed a furious row began outside.
‘It’s started already,’ I said to Kay their mother but her eyes were closed and she made no response. Kay would never hear anything again. She had gone. I placed my hand on top of hers. To my surprise, I was angry. Why Kay of all people? And why now? But there were no answers.
I can’t remember much of the next twenty-four hours. I don’t really want to. Jen’s husband Tom came and comforted her before taking her home but William stuck around and just got in the way. When he left he asked if we could meet on the following evening at seven.
He was on time and Jen and Tom were with him. I offered coffee or something stronger but there were no takers. Jen seemed reluctant to look at me but I understood the situation. I guessed William was anxious to get something off his chest and she was embarrassed about it.
‘We have found Mother’s will’, William said. He held a crumpled envelope and showed it to me. I looked at him but said nothing. ‘It was in an envelope addressed to Jen and me so I opened it. You should know what it says’.
‘Do I get to read it?’ I asked and extended my hand.
He ignored it and said simply ‘She left everything to Jen and myself’.
He moved his hand that held the will as far away from me as he could. Did he think I would snatch it out of his hand and destroy it?
‘I would imagine her solicitor has a copy William,’ I said gently.
‘Perhaps,’ he said. 'I hope you will understand your situation is now very different?’
‘Yes, as your mother and I never married, I have no right to anything. I will move out tomorrow. You can call me when you have made the arrangements for the funeral. I would like to be there’.
‘Of course,’ he said but he hadn’t expected that. He paused briefly then looked at his sister and said, ‘I don’t expect there will be all that much in her estate after taxes and the funeral costs and so on, and we won’t bother with a wake. She didn’t many friends left. No, there won’t be much I expect.’
I couldn’t let that go. ‘Well, there’s this place,’ I looked around me. ‘A good-sized property in a nice area and this is London where even an old shed in the middle of a dung heap would be worth a million nowadays so my guess is that William and Jen you will do quite well.'
‘Where are you going?’ Jen asked.
‘My folks haven’t seen me for a while so I will visit them and then I might go travelling and see a bit more of the world.'
‘Your mum and dad are lovely.’ Jen said with a big smile. ‘Mum got on famously with them’.
‘Well, they were about the same age,’ said William. I was quick but Tom Jen’s husband was quicker and got between me and William.
‘Watch what you say William,’ I told him.
‘What? It’s true!’
‘I think we should go now,’ said Tom looking at his wife.
‘Yes,’ she agreed. ‘William and I will call you to let you know the funeral arrangements’.
‘Shove the keys back through the letterbox when you go.’ said William. He looked as if he was going to add and just take away what you brought with you two years ago. If he had Tom wouldn’t have been able to stop me again. But William didn’t say any more. He was a young fool in a hurry. I wondered if he had already been in contact with an estate agent.
After they had gone I needed a drink and poured myself a large brandy. It was time to finish what needed to be done. I knelt in front of the fireplace and tore up the envelope I had carried since Kay gave it to me and found some matches.
‘Do you mind if I watch? Jen said.
'I thought you left with the others.'
'I have a key, remember? And there’s things that still need to be said’
‘You can watch,’ I said as I lit a small fire.
‘I presume you have just destroyed her last will, and I presume that one she made in your favour? You didn’t have to. William would have got some nasty lawyers to grab a share, no matter what Mum said.'
‘But your mum and me was never about her money or this place. And if I had taken anything your brother and all those people who said it was, would have been able to look at each other and say I told you so’.
‘Why didn’t you get married?’
‘There was no need. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to be on my own’. I pecked her on the cheek and this time Jen did leave.
I poured myself another large brandy and settled down in Kay’s favourite armchair. The brandy was helping and I finished the bottle. At some point I am convinced I heard Kay’s voice. ‘I still had lots of friends. If he had ever bothered to come around to see me, he would have known that. And I was a fair bit younger than your mother! He will buy a very fast car and will crash it. My son. He is not in a good place and probably never will be.’