Apologies for not only the lateness of this week’s post, but also the fact that this story may make sense only to me. In my defence, I have had a high temperature, sore throat and quaking, shaking limbs for the past two days, and have been mainlining Paracetamol for the last twenty-four hours. If the story sucks, let’s blame it on the flu. Cool? Cool.
This week’s words were:
porcelain :: flex :: shadow :: strawberry jam :: frozen
‘Well, of course, we’ll have to divide up the estate,’ droned my uncle Philip. ‘I think the porcelain should come to us, naturally, and I was promised the oak dresser years ago. It might be sensible to start moving the heavier objects now, in advance of the Will -‘
‘Oh, Philip! Do shut up!’ yelped my aunt Teresa, and Philip stared at her as though she’d slapped him. I watched his fingers flex as he, no doubt, fantasised about wrapping his hands around his sister-in-law’s neck. ‘Mum is still warm, and you’re already divvying up her things!’
‘I beg your pardon – ‘, he began, before the frozen tones of my aunt Tracey filled the room.
‘You shan’t speak to my husband in that manner, Teresa,’ she said, and it was like a shadow had fallen over the sun, or a dark hand had yanked the lightbulb out of the ceiling over our heads. ‘I simply shall not stand for it.’
‘But he’s being mercenary about Mum’s property!’ protested Teresa. ‘We’re all entitled to our fair share. Don’t you think so, Trudy?’ she said, turning on my mum, whose jaw dropped.
‘I – um.’ Her mouth snapped shut again, and she shrugged.
‘Eloquent as always, dear,’ sniffed Tracey.
I rolled my eyes. Enough’s enough. ‘He’s being an ass –‘
‘Pauline!’ gasped Mum, whirling around to face me.
‘Well, it’s true!’ I licked my lips as I flicked my gaze from face to face, one pair of eyes more crazed and incredulous than the next. ‘You sure know her stuff well, Philip, but what year was Granny born, tell me?’
‘Well – ah. Well. Nineteen twenty one… no! No. Wait. Nineteen twenty four. I clearly remember -‘
‘Nineteen twenty six,’ I snapped, ignoring Philip’s muttered Poppycock! ‘And what was her favourite colour, aunt Tracey?’
‘Purple,’ she crowed. ‘I gave her a beautiful purple brooch for her seventy-fifth birthday – which I’ll have back now, of course – and she told me it was quite her preferred shade.’
‘Nope. Green,’ I said.
‘But, I -‘
‘Now. Aunt Teresa. What was Granny’s favourite thing to eat? In all the world?’
‘Well – ah. She was partial to roast lamb, I’m sure, and there was something about rhubarb – wasn’t there? I’m certain she liked rhubarb.’
‘Well, maybe,’ I said, in a small voice. ‘But her very favourite thing was strawberry jam.’
The silence that followed this was deafening. Even Philip, for once, said nothing, and the four of them spent several long moments avoiding one another’s eyes. Clever girl, Granny, I thought, swallowing hard. You had the measure of them, right enough.
‘Come on, then. Plenty to do. The undertaker’ll be here soon,’ I said, levering myself out of my chair.
Nobody moved as I walked across the floor. I stood in the doorway looking in at them, each wrapped up in their own cold little cocoon, and Granny’s face washed over my memory like a sweetly remembered dream.
‘I’d love to see their faces when this is read,’ she’d said, signing on the dotted line with a flourish. ‘Philip, particularly. He always thought he was in the money as soon as he put a ring on Tracey’s finger.’ She grinned, rather grimly, as she folded up the large document in front of her. ‘The fool.’
‘Are you sure about this, Gran?’ I’d asked, but the look she shot me left me in no doubt.
‘Just remember the clause, girl,’ she’d said, her eyes sparkling. ‘Say one word about this – one little brag, just the barest hint, and you get nothing. Just let them all believe they’re getting everything they’ve ever wanted, and more. Do that right, and it all goes to you.’
She’d be so proud of me, I thought, as I turned and made my way out of the room. As I passed the mirror in the hallway, I spent a few seconds practising my ‘surprised’ face, so I’d be ready when the time came.
Like my Granny before me, I was a gifted actress.