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A handful of the broadsheet newspapers reported the death of Mary Louise Trelawny, the celebrated archaeologist, on their obituary pages. It was by sheer chance that Viola Lucy, or Viola Warrington as she now was, picked up that morning’s copy of the papers. Flicking through idly her eye was caught by a picture on the obituary pages. A face she knew so well, that she had known for so many years, but hadn’t seen for at least ten. At the age of 47 her once best friend was now dead. Vi skimmed through the report several times wishing it to be untrue, but knowing full well that it wasn’t. With trembling hands she picked up the phone and dialled a number that she hadn’t for many years.


 


There was no mistaking Verity Carey’s voice when she answered, still as silvery and fair as it had been back in their schooldays.


 


“Verity, it’s Vi Warrington. I was just reading the papers…” Vi broke off, unsure where to go next.


“You want to know if it’s true? About Mary-Lou I mean.” Verity’s voice remained neutral, almost impassive and emotionless.


“Yes.”


“I’m afraid so Vi.”


 


Vi and Verity exchanged a few more pleasantries and Vi hung up now in the knowledge of the funeral details. Alone, basking in the rare peace of a house without her family around, she read through the obituary once more as if trying to make sense of the last half hour. She hadn’t seen Mary-Lou in a good ten years, it had been impossible for them to continue their friendship.


 


Over the next few days Vi found herself speaking to friends she hadn’t heard from in a long time. It seemed strange hearing voices that she’d once heard every day but now hadn’t heard in years. In the thirty years or so since they’d left the safe confines of the Chalet School the world had changed so much; they’d changed so much. ‘The Gang’, as they had been known, had begun to splinter as they’d moved up the school; the movement into reality and the adult world had fractured it further. It had taken the death of their once great friend to try and begin to repair the cracks.


 


 


Robert Fenchurch looked around the small cottage that his ex-wife had taken on her return to England before her death. Sifting through a pile of papers on her desk there was one in particular which caught his eye; on it were written the words: “In the next pages I will attempt to recreate my life, as faithfully and as accurately as I can and hope that in doing so I cause no harm to anyone.” Robert laid the sheet down again; she’d been writing her life story. He wondered when she’d begun it; he knew she’d been here for a year or so but he had no idea when she’d decided to start this or even how far she’d got with it.


 


Mary-Lou’s death was still raw to him. She’d known for more than a year about the cancer but she hadn’t told him until the end when she’d suddenly got in contact to ask to see their daughter, Abigail. The name meant father’s joy, she had been just that to him, but not her mother. Mary-Lou had left when Abby was three months old, just over thirteen years ago and they’d not heard a word until the end.


 


 


On the beach by the cottage Mary-Lou had been renting, Abigail Fenchurch stood looking out to sea and idly throwing a handful of pebbles into it. It was August but the menacing low grey clouds suggested otherwise; the high white crested waves of an equally menacing grey sea crashed into the shore. Abigail flung the final pebble from her hand out as far as she could, before turning on her heel and heading back to the cottage.


 


The last couple of days had passed in a whirl for her once the news of her mother’s death had come through. She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to feel over the death of someone she had never known but at the same time was such an important part of her life. How was she supposed to grieve for the mother she had never truly known? Abigail had seen her at the end, but it had been impossible to make up thirteen missed years in a few weeks.


 


“Everyone was so full of how wonderful it would be to be a mother, but I never felt it. I never felt anything, only trapped, a rat in a maze with no way out. Everyone else cooed and said ‘oh isn’t she wonderful’ but I couldn’t see it. I just saw her as an obstacle, something which prevented me from being free and pursuing my dreams. I didn’t want to be pinned down to one place for the rest of my life, I just couldn’t be. So I wasn’t. I left, walked out on my daughter and back into my work. It cost me friendships to make that decision, I know it was selfish. I’d often felt as though I’d been pushed into my marriage. Robert was a doctor, it made him perfect in the eyes of many people I knew. I did love him once but everything was so rushed, the wedding, then Abigail, that once I was finally able to stop and look around me I realised that it wasn’t what I wanted. I had wanted it at one point, but I couldn’t live with it, with it cutting away at my freedom. I needed to be free, to feel the wind in my face, the sun on my back, the sand beneath my feet. So I left.”


 


Abigail lightly fingered the row of sympathy cards on the bookcase. She found them slightly distasteful, they didn’t belong. She didn’t understand why she needed sympathy over the loss of somebody she’d never really known. As a young child she’d noticed the absence of her mother but it had never really bothered her. As she’d got older she’d realised that all she needed to do was find anything related to archaeology and she could find out where her mother was in the world. It was never quite the same as having her mother around but it came close enough. The occasional woman had passed through her father’s life, always ‘Auntie so-and-so’, a polite euphemism for his latest girlfriend, but they’d never stayed very long. Was it her fault? She would never know.




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