Oh time, where have you gone? Today, the answer is in brushing up my first contest entry in months. Wish me luck!
In the meantime, here’s my contribution for InMon’s latest prompts. I’d love to hear what you think.
The dead, of whom we must not speak ill, do not reserve the same courtesy for us, it would seem. My Uncle’s Will contained rather more diatribe against the family than it did bequests. And it’s unduly hard to argue with a dead man; he always seems to have the last word.
My wife was a cruel and unfaithful woman. She had a string of affairs with all sorts of people, most notably my brother, William. For this reason, I have left nothing to either of them, nor to the son who most likely shares no more of my genes than do my nephews.
We all sat round the table, listening to the reading. I tried not to look at my father, but in avoiding his eye, caught my aunt’s: wet and sunken, with something that looked like pain but could have been guilt.
On which subject, I hold those two louts entirely responsible for the downfall of the family business. Lucky I got out when the going was still good – before they ruined everything my father had worked so hard to build up. Nothing for Peter or James.
I thought of the long hard hours my brothers had put in, attempting to shore up the mess Uncle Pete had left behind when he retired. Debts renegotiated and paid off steadily, complaints handled and resolved. I knew a lot about it, having done a lot of the admin for them in my spare time at weekends and holidays.
The Will continued, naming and shaming every member of the family, and a fair few close friends too, with these paper lies. Each one, flimsy and unsubstantiated, yet impossible to disprove.
“His illness took away his reason,” said my Aunt, when the lawyer paused for breath. “Please, don’t judge Pete by these words. He was a kind and loving man before the stroke.”
Of course, that wasn’t really true either. Nobody could have blamed her if she had cheated on him – my Uncle was a bitter man long before his brain function gave him any excuse to be.
“There is one bequest,” said the lawyer, clearly trying to get through this unpleasantness and leave the family to our grief.
In all the blackness which pervades this family, one light shines. One star brings hope for the future. Her beauty, in person and spirit, her kindnesses and gentleness; her strength of character and peace of conscience are an emblem for us all. I leave my entire wealth and possessions to my niece, Ariadne.”
The whole room turned to look at me. Their faces were a mixture of shock and annoyance. How had I, little Ariadne, escaped the wrath of Uncle Pete? And what was I going to do with an estate worth over fourteen million dollars?
“I’ll share it, of course,” I said weakly, hoping to prevent the anguish of the family turning on to me. “He wasn’t in his right mind.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” said my mother. I knew what she was thinking, of course. That first lie – my father and my aunt – it had sewn a seed in her mind. She wanted to hate Uncle Pete, but now she couldn’t be sure. That’s what I mean about dead men’s lies.
“You must do what you think right,” said Father. “The Doctors said he was sane when he signed it, so the Will stands.”
“It does indeed,” said Uncle Pete’s lawyer, standing up and obviously hoping to escape now that the reading was done. “Plebney and Blake would of course be delighted to continue to assist with the estate in any way you wish.”
I looked at my aunt. She hadn’t moved. Hadn’t even looked at me since the bequest was announced. She was staring at her fingers, resting on the table, as though somewhere there she might find an answer to all her questions. I walked over and took her hand. It was cold and unresponsive in mine, as though she had died with her husband.
“Think of all the things we can do together,” I said, without really knowing what I meant.