“Shall I phone the minister?” Adam was trying not to upset Amanda but was aware that there were processes that need to be dealt with at some point. The delays over Christmas with the coroner did at least mean that there was nothing to be done immediately, though that also meant that there was nothing to do except go thought the motions of having Christmas numb with grief, and alone.
Adam had already registered Sybil’s death online on the Government website as soon as the death certificate was available. That was a simple process that he could get out of the way impersonally. Now there was just Sybil’s funeral to organise.
“Would you mind?” Amanda was holding off each step that reinforced the knowledge that her Mum was gone, but she also knew that it needed doing and if Adam was willing to take over then she could be left to her own thoughts of being orphaned. “All the paperwork is in the box.”
Adam knew which box. It was the box Sybil had pointed them towards with all her final paperwork, instructions, and contact information to ensure that as little as possible would be difficult for them to sort out when her time came. Adam brought out a small stack of slim notebooks and selected the one that Sybil had written ‘My Funeral’ on the front. As he returned the rest of the notebooks he spotted the thick envelope with Harriet’s name on the front. He picked it up and examined the sealed package. It was weighty, and probably contained some books, or something similar, of a variety of sizes. He took it and the funeral notebook together and returned to his study to sit at his desk.
Adam opened the notebook and started scanning though quickly to see what was in it. It seemed very well organised, and Sybil’s neat handwriting easy to decipher. He returned to the front pages and found a list of contacts, included with the people to be informed and invited to her funeral Sybil had listed the minister for Theraton’s Unitarian Church. The phone number for the Reverend Esther Sutherland was a mobile phone so Adam entered the number in his phones contacts figuring that he would be using it a lot in the coming days or weeks. He then dialled the number and waited. It connected to voicemail.
“Hello, ummm… My name is Adam Greene, my mother in law, Sybil Foley passed away just before Christmas and…” Adam took a deep breath to steady his voice, “And we need to organise her funeral. Sybil left instructions to contact you. Can you give me a call back please, when you have time. Thank you.” Adam hung up and and buried his face in his hands and breathed deeply before carefully closing the notebook and returning to the living room.
“I’ve phoned and left a message for the Minister. How are you doing?”
Amanda looked up from the sofa and stretched. “I’m ok, just feeling lost. Sorry I’m not doing much…”
“It’s okay, do what you can, and what you want. I have your Mum’s notebook here, the one for her funeral. Do you want to look through it?”
“No, but I suppose I should. See what Mum wants us to do for her.” Amanda reached over and took the notebook from Adam and held it looking at her Mum’s writing on the cover.
“Shall I leave you alone with it for a while? I could pop out and take that package your Mum wanted Harriet to have.” Adam offered, but also fancied taking a bit of time out from mourning and getting a bit of air.
“If you like, I’ll be ok. Just because I am sad doesn’t mean you need to be too, not all the time at least. You go, and when you get back you can tell me how Harriet is getting on.” Amanda lifted her chin and Adam leaned down and kissed her.
“Okay, I’ll try not to be too long.” Adam got his coat and put the package into a small rucksack before heading out. It wasn’t a long walk to Harriet’s workshop but also it wasn’t a walk Adam had done in a long while. He found himself wondering aimlessly in the vicinity of Theraton Road Station before he gave up and phoned. With directions he headed back past the station and across the main road before he recognised where he had gone wrong.
“Adam!” Harriet called out as she saw him walking up the road. “It’s been so long since I’ve actually seen you!”
“Same, I just wish circumstances were better really. At least it isn’t raining so we can sit outside.” Adam perched himself on the low wall around the green outside of Harriet’s workshop. “How are you?”
Harriet sat on the wall, straddling it a short distance away so she could face Adam. “I’m okay, I am doing really well, I have bits of work, nothing much, but there is enough to keep me busy. And a nuisance call too!”
“Oh? What was that? A spam call?”
“No, not quite. I had a call just before Christmas to see a job up in Higher Theraton, the very top end. I cycled all the way up there this morning to see about it. It was supposed to be a nice pit of work, building a side board to house an entertainment system. When I got there a chap answered the door, family and kids still with Christmas pressies and stuff, and he had no idea who I was or why I was there.”
“Did you have the right address? Name?”
“Yes, twenty seven, High Mill Road! The name I was given was Sarah Matthews. I’ve never heard of her, and they hadn’t either. He and his wife were as baffled as I was. They have a neighbourhood watch there and he checked in with them and let them know while I was there, but no one had a clue.”
Adam was concerned. “Sounds like some kind of scam thing but I can’t figure out why. Unless someone was pranking them.”
“We thought that too, I gave them my number and asked them to call if they had any other pranks, and if it was someone messing with them and they wanted to take any legal action…” Harriet rubbed her thighs. “I wonder if it was against me though.”
“What makes you think that?” Adam shrugged the weight in his rucksack remembering why he was visiting in the first place.
“Well, it was as far as I’d sensibly cycle up hill to get there, it was bloody hard work, just after Christmas, and got me away from the workshop for a long time for no good reason! And my legs ache from the effort. It put me out a lot, but it only put them out for about ten minutes or so.
“If someone was pranking them you’d think they would get some big company with anonymous vans everywhere, or send them pizza and stuff they didn’t want.”
“Hmmm, I see what you mean, but who would do that to you?
“I suppose if you got another one that was a long way off, you can tell me and we could drive to save the time if nothing else. Maybe worth asking callers where they found you and so on to see if they are genuine.”
“Yes, I think I will. I wonder if… Anyway, what brought you over here? Is Amanda okay?”
“Amanda’s as well as can be expected. She is miserable and she misses her Mum a lot. She might even be getting depressed. I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest. But I came over because Sybil left something for you.” Adam twisted round to remove his rucksack and started to rummage inside for the package. “We don’t know what it is but just before Sybil died she asked me to get it out of a box, she had all her personal stuff for her will, funeral, and so on in there, and there was this package with your name on it. She told me to give it to you so I guess it must really have mattered.”
As Adam handed the package over, Harriet could see her name on the front of a bulky and heavy brown envelope. She took it and stared at the writing, neat and precise, ‘To Harriet’ was all it said. “She didn’t say what it was?”
“No. But Sybil has a will and if it was something of value, or important I am sure she would have put it in there instead of like this. Unless it was a last minute thing and she knew she wouldn’t be able to have her will amended to include it.”
“Shall I open it?”
“You’ll have to at some point, unless you want to open it in private, or something.”
Harriet looked at Adam, then carefully peeled open the sealed flap of the package and looked inside. “Oh, there’s another bundle inside. Hang on, I’ll pull it out.” Harriet was being careful not to damage any of the package in case it was important, but also because Sybil had wrapped and written on it and she was feeling quite sentimental about it all. “Here we go. Oh, hang on, she’s written on this too.” Harriet read the message on the inner wrapping. “It says ‘Dear Harriet, This is for you alone. I trust you will understand why, and will appreciate it for what it is. Sybil x’.” Harriet held it to her chest and sniffed. “Okay, Sybil, I will respect your wishes. Sorry Adam, I had better take it in and look at it later. Thank you for bringing it to me.”
“That’s okay. I must say I am intrigued now. Anyway, I had better get back to Amanda and see how she is. We have a funeral to arrange. You take care, and let me know if you get any more odd ball calls about stuff, yeah?”
“Yeah, I’ll do that, thank you. Give my love to Amanda.”
As Adam walked off Harriet carried Sybil’s package inside, pondering the enigma of it all.
Daisy closed the door and hung her coat up on the rack in the hallway. “Honey! I’m home!” She called out to Fran.
“How was work?” Fran was making a cup of tea and set out a second mug for Daisy.
“It was okay, but how do you explain to people that we can’t recycle Christmas wrapping paper if it has foil and glitter and plastic film on it?” Daisy rolled her eyes, in exasperation. “There is so much of it, and so many cardboard boxes too! And the bottles! Everyone is an alcoholic I am sure of it! I mean it is supposed to be a lock down and over Christmas and they’ve drunk as much for a party, at every house!
“Anyway, how was your day?”
“Well Christmas TV is just weird after best part of a year of standard daytime TV!”
“Really? I thought the change would be more interesting.” Daisy sat down at the table as Fran brought the mugs of tea over.
“I miss that antiques show, the one where they buy stuff from high end retail shops and then try to sell at auction for a profit. And that one where they go to house auctions and show people doing up a cheap house they bought and then get it valued. That’s sorta become an integral part of my life. And I am going cold turkey without it! I mean, how an I supposed to know when to have lunch if the programmes are all wrong?” Fran laughed. “Hey, here’s a thought, you should go on the telly and buy a house at an auction to do up. You can get your girlfriend to help with the woodwork!”
“She’s not my girlfriend! We’ve only been for a walk, once! And she hasn’t even called me, no text, no card!” Daisy pouted and then paused, “Though, it might be an idea…”
“What might be? If you phone her she might think you are really interested!”
“Well, I might be really interested! No, the auction thing. I could have a look at some property auctions and see if I can find a cheap house that way. Not sure where that leaves you though. Unless you moved in with me, as a lodger or something! I can charge you a silly rent so that you end up paying my mortgage!” Daisy threw her head back laughing.
Fran laughed along with Daisy. “Oooh you selfish cow, Daisy, taking advantage of a poor ‘ard working peasant to pay for your new lifestyle as landed gentry!” Fran bobbed her head and tugged her forelocks, and then fluttered her eyelashes at Daisy, “And I thought you were offering to have me as a kept woman, M’lord!” Fran laughed. “Seriously though, is it that easy to do, nod you head at an auction and then become a millionaire landlord?”
“Ha! I wish, it was that simple, gotta have the money for that, cash usually if you can’t mortgage the place, and the cash to pay for renovations! Nah, you need to be rich as… as a millionaire landlord to do that sorta thing. Still worth a look though, nothing to lose.
“Hang on! Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Nooo!” Fran protested! “I don’t want you to go, I’ll be all on my own with no work and no money! I’ve gotta get that sorted soon, before you do find somewhere. I am also not sure that Ingrid will come back either, she seems really settled with Jon now.”
Daisy drained her tea. She couldn’t help but feel the guilt and responsibility for Fran’s housing future. But she had her own life to lead and Fran was a grown woman. “That’s a shame, but good for her. Anyhow, I will have to leave you alone… And go for a shower! Back in a bit!”
Daisy headed up to her room and undressed dropping her work clothes in a pile and wrapping a towel around herself before heading for a shower. As she discarded the towel in the bathroom she caught sight of her naked body in the mirror and paused to have another look. Her body had changed with her change of career, her legs needed shaving, but as no one was looking at them she hadn’t bothered. Her calf and thigh muscles were noticeably more defined, her tummy less flat, and she had bigger biceps and forearms. Her proportions had changed and there was probably no going back to her modelling now, but Daisy was fine with that. What Daisy did find herself wondering was whether Harriet would find her attractive, and also if she, herself, would find another woman’s body enticing. Daisy was aware that she didn’t really know if that was how it would work. It didn’t for her, or at least it hadn’t done with the men she had known. She tutted at herself in the mirror, and at the unanswerable questions, and stepped into to the shower cubicle to enjoy the flow of hot water spraying off the day’s grime and odours.