‘This is probably the letter I’ve been waiting for’
Pauline muttered, shuffling back into the warm living room. Peter
stood quietly, awaiting her reaction to the contents of the white printed
envelope she clutched tightly.
He watched as the face of the wife he loved contorted in despair. Without
a word, she rose and walked quickly past him, thrusting the opened letter into her husband's hand. He knew not to follow.
His eyes fell upon the neatly typed letter. It was from Harrison and Crowe, Pauline’s late mother’s solicitors. It was written in the usual legal blurb, but half way down the page it stated quite clearly, “House and contents thereof, shall be left to my oldest son Andrew. One third of my moveable estate respectively to each of my three children : Andrew Hastings, Bruce Hastings and Pauline Anderson.
‘Is Mum alright?’
The voice of Claire jolted Peter back to reality.
‘I expect so, but give her a minute.’ He ruffled Claire’s hair as he left the room.
Wearing a cheery smile, he tapped gently on the bedroom door, and poked his head round, ‘Can I come in?’
Pauline wiped her eyes and smiled. ‘Of course you can.’
He joined her on top of the patchwork quilt adorning their bed.
Her head fell heavily on his shoulder and he felt her sides heave with emotion.
‘ I don’t know why I am getting upset! This is exactly what I knew would happen, he’s manipulated her for years.’
Her sobs were punctuated only by the loud purr of Mittens, who had managed to inveigle his way into the bedroom of his doting mistress. She stretched out her hand and tickled the tummy of her beautiful black and white cat.
‘Well thank God somebody can still make you
smile. You mustn’t let your money
grabbing brother get to you luv’.
Peter stroked the hair back from Pauline’s tear-dampened cheeks and kissed her gently.
‘It’s just so unfair’ she finally managed to reply. ‘Here we are struggling along, and Bruce trying to recover from the destruction of divorce and our brother has convinced our mother that he should get the lion’s share of what was, let’s face it, our father’s hard earned brass!!’
‘But luv, I warned you it would be like this. Your Mum was all but gone long before she died, and unfortunately your brother took full advantage of the fact.’
Pauline rose to her feet, brushed her auburn hair, and applied her most expensive, burgundy coloured Versace lipstick, a birthday present from Claire.
‘My dad will be turning in his grave , this should not be happening!!’
She re-entered the living room and smiled at her daughter who was now recovered from clinical depression, which had begun at the onset of adolescence. Money paled into insignificance against her daughter’s health.
Pauline treated herself to a large cup of hot frothy coffee from her small cappuccino machine. She gazed out of the window and watched Peter chopping logs for their fire. He always knew what to say and when to back off, and give her some space. She suddenly remembered they were supposed to be looking round some of the D.I.Y. stores today. She felt an overwhelming sense of love for her husband and considered herself more fortunate than her devious brother who had for most of his life, lived at home, sponging off his crippled mother, doing the absolute minimum to ease her discomforts whilst quietly feathering his own little nest.
Pauline had noticed the occasional disappearance of old family heirlooms, and had only once challenged her mother about what was happening. The response had been a tirade of anger from her blinkered, misguided parent, while Andrew, in true prodigal son mode, had feigned indignation. Bruce on the other hand had escaped parental control at the age of nineteen and emigrated to New Zealand. He had never at any stage in his life, asked for financial assistance, and he was now 53. He reminded Pauline of her father, a quiet, unassuming sort of man, always a gentleman, and a real worker. Sadly, cancer had claimed their father prematurely, at the age of 63.
A strong pair of arms slipped round Pauline’s waist, and she felt the warmth of her husband’s lips caress her neck. ‘Come on luv, let’s pop down to the beach and walk the dog.’
The word “walk” stirred Dante from his apparent slumber, and he was now leaping around like an idiot, barking loudly. Mittens cast him a look of disdain from the back of the comfortable blue couch.
‘But what about B & Q?’ Pauline remonstrated re-applying her lipstick.
‘B & Q can wait, what you need right now is a walk along the beach with the two most important males in your life; myself and Dante.’
Peter squeezed Pauline’s hand and held out her favourite red fleece jacket, while the impatient Flatcoat wagged his tail furiously and stared at the back door in anticipation.
Pauline had just climbed into the passenger seat of their dark blue Frontera, when Claire knocked on her window. ‘Jump in’ smiled Pauline, silently touched by her daughter’s apparent concern. They would all enjoy the morning together.
It was a beautiful day, blue skies with candyfloss clouds. Rows of sparrows lined the telegraph wires, like rows of miniature soldiers on parade. Greyfaced ewes grazed on the stubble fields, anticipating the day that the tups would be released amongst them, thus creating the never-ending circle of life. Dante sat in the boot area of the estate car as they bumped down the dusty track towards their favourite area of the beach, in this quiet little corner of the Highlands. They drew up outside the now deserted fisherman’s bothy and set off on a walk along the shore that exhilarated them all. The tide was now receding, grasping at the coloured pebbles, creating a relaxed swishing noise, which was almost like a sharp intake of breath. Dante leapt in and out of the water occasionally racing off in pursuit of a seagull, who merely skimmed above his head, taunting him. An exuberant Flatcoat retriever was not going to catch this magnificent bird of the sea!
They returned and sat outside the derelict bothy, enjoying the warmth of the sun against their upturned faces.
Pauline smiled, enjoying the tranquility surrounding the old broken down building, which had once housed hard working fishermen, with weather beaten faces, mending their nets, probably right where she was sitting.
She could almost feel them next to her, knocking their clay pipes off their wooden benches.
‘Thankyou for bringing me here today, I feel so much better.’ Pauline hugged Peter until a big black head leaned heavily on her lap.
‘Come on then Dante’ let’s go home”.
The smell of wet dog filled their nostrils on the return journey, and Claire was first to leap out, when they arrived home.
‘Hullo Granny’ a little voice squeaked. It was Megan, accompanied by Pauline’s elder daughter Julie. A huge grin spread across Pauline’s face as she rushed to greet her two visitors. ‘That must be telepathy, you could not have timed this better.’
Julie hugged her Mum, not disclosing that a quick call from Claire had instigated the surprise visit.
Megan kicked off her bright red wellingtons and placed them in front of the Aga. ‘Granny , can I go into your room and play with Molly?’
‘Of course you can, sweetheart, Molly will be pleased to see you.’
Molly had been Pauline’s favourite doll as a child. Although a bit battered and worn, she still amused Megan for hours.
The little girl plucked the pigtailed doll from the middle of the bed, studying her freckled face and painted blue eyes.
‘I think you would like to wear one of granny’s necklaces.’ The small figure teetered on her tip toes and pulled down Pauline’s jewellery box. It was a very robust box, all lovingly crafted by Megan’s great grandfather for his own little girl Pauline. Megan loved the old fashioned catch on the front. It was made of brass and her Granny kept it polished beautifully. She pulled out a string of pink coloured beads and wrapped them round Molly’s neck. ‘Now let’s tie your hair up, and get you ready to go to the ball.’ Megan’s little mind was creating a magical scene as she pulled at the box of dollies’ clothes Pauline kept under the bed. She lifted out a silvery, shiny, dress and decided it was perfect for Molly’s occasion.
‘Ooh, you are going to look lovely’ she exclaimed. In her excitement the small child sent Pauline’s jewellery box flying off the bed, and it hit the floor with a resounding crash.
Megan froze in horror as she surveyed the array of beads, earrings and other trinkets scattered across her grandmother’s floor. She had only started picking them up when her grandmother entered the room.
‘Are you okay sweetheart, I thought I heard a crash?’ Megan’s eyes dropped and she burst into tears, afraid that either her granny or her own mummy were about to give her an almighty row.
Quickly Pauline picked her up and plonked her firmly on her knee, wiping away her tears with a handkerchief. Julie had joined the fray, and was already picking up the scattered contents.
With a handful of jewellery she reached for the box and was shocked to find that a bottom section had become dislodged.
‘I didn’t know this all came apart Mum’ Julie commented.
‘What do you mean, come apart?’
‘Let’s have a look at it, I can probably fix it,’ ventured Peter, who had just entered the room followed by Claire.
They all stared at Peter as he picked up the box and the piece of wood that had come adrift. ‘Hang on there’s something in here!!!’
‘Well I’m blowed, you’ve had this box all these years and none of us knew it had a false bottom. Mind you, it’s a strange thing for your Dad to have done!’.
Peter tugged at a piece of ruby coloured satin, and produced an envelope. He handed it to Pauline. It read “TO MY LITTLE PRINCESS”.
‘My God Mum, how mysterious, what does it say?’ said Julie hardly able to contain her curiosity.
Pauline unfolded the piece of paper and another dropped in her lap.
‘My dearest Pauline, I want you to know how proud you have always made me, from your first rosette with Cherokee, to your struggle through University. Your compassion for others, animal and human, has always touched my heart and I fear that you are probably the strongest and most unselfish of my three children. Being the only girl between two brothers, I have decided to ensure that you have something special, something that I know you will appreciate. Bruce is ambitious and I have no worries about him, but alas Andrew is the weak one who will always look for the easy path, with these thoughts in mind I have decided to leave you The Bothy.
Nobody knows it is mine. I purchased it years ago. It is a special place, a place to clear your mind, a place to feel at one with the world. I know you will look after it and enjoy it, because I always took you there and you would spend hours just playing or sitting on my lap listening to the birds. Here are the title deeds, old Henderson at McCauley’s knows all about this, and he vowed to keep silent until such times as you discovered my secret section. Enjoy ‘The Bothy’ and leave it to your children.’
It was Peter who broke the stunned silence in the bedroom.
‘Well done Megan, I think granny will be taking you to her special place now, let’s go and find your wellies!’
Clutching his adored little grand daughter he beamed, “Megan, this is what we big people call JUSTICE!!!!!