This wasn’t a stately home, the National Trust hadn’t had their hand on it so there were no canopied beds in the upstairs rooms, no tapestry wall hangings though there were paintings in heavy frames. He knew nothing about art but couldn’t imagine that this house would hold worthless copies or cheap imitations. He didn’t pay them too much mind, that was not his job but he made a note to mention them to the auction department. Maybe there would be more work to be had here and yet another feather for his cap.
The rooms were good-sized with large windows, most had fireplaces and walk in closets and the one at the front had an en suite bathroom and dressing room. The furniture matched what he had already seen and though he would have loved to linger, gazing down to the river from this higher vantage point he had to move on. The bathrooms were old-fashioned and though there were four, on this level they had the air of disuse. They would be changed by a developer, though the old fittings could well be incorporated into new bright rooms with a little imagination and the will to do it.
He had inspected five of the six rooms on the first floor. One more and then to the spaces that were in the roof. He expected they would be smaller and more in need of attention but they were essential if the place were to be turned into a decent sized hotel. The downstairs rooms had to be gracious and impressive but the guest rooms in the upper floor increased the letting potential and providing they could be made into en suite units and were large enough for a couple of twin beds and some storage they would work.
He reached his hand to the last door on the left hand landing. “Locked.” He turned to where Libby was standing leaning against the balcony rail. She nodded her head towards the door, “That one, it’s locked.”
“Oh. Don’t you have the key then?” She shook her head and began to move away towards the narrow stairs in the corner. “Libby hang on. I need to look at this room. It’s the bigger one at the front isn’t it, to match the one at the other side?”
“Dunno, never been in.”
“Well, this is a bit of a problem.”
“Because I have to inspect it of course.”
“Well you can’t can you. It’s locked. Always has been. I dunno why. Not my business anyway. You’ll have to guess.”
“Yeah, say it’s like the other one only back to front. “
“But Libby that’s not the way it works.”
“Can’t be helped. It’s locked.” Jed swallowed his disappointment; it wasn’t her fault after all.
“If I can have the contact details for the owners then I can get in touch with them. I can ask for permission to have a locksmith open the door or perhaps someone has a key. Their solicitor maybe.”
“Thing is they want me to talk to you. They don’t want to be bothered with it all, this viewing and stuff. They said they’ll pay me if I deal with it all so I can’t give you the phone number or I won’t get paid.”
“Shit, sorry – okay. Well when you speak to them can you ask them about this room? I really will need access. I can say in the particulars that it wasn’t examined but when we do viewings we are going to need to get in there. Nobody is going to be interested in buying a place that they can’t see. Then there will be surveyors and so on they’ll have to get in to make sure there are no structural problems.”
“It’s a bloody pain all this. I thought you’d just take a picture, stick it in the window and then someone would buy the place.”
“Good God Libby, no. That’s nothing like what happens.” Her reaction was a sullen shrug and she turned and began to climb the steps.
“You’d better get it finished then. We still have the outside to do and my place and I’m gasping for a drink. I’ll make us a coffee when we go to my place yeah. This is boring.”
“Yeah a coffee would be great, I’m sorry to put you out. I did say I could do it on my own though.”
“No, it’s my job. I need to be able to tell them I watched you.”
So she had a work ethic and moral code and maybe it wasn’t part of her duties to keep the garden weeded and the furniture polished. The place wasn’t actually filthy and there were no signs of mice or roaches and it was a huge place for one person to look after. “Is there just you here Libby?” She spun to face him and peered down at him from the dimness of the upper landing. “Course it is, how do you mean? Course it’s just me.”
“I just thought that it was a lot for you to look after on your own.”
“Oh right, yeah well a bloke comes once a month to cut the grass. He used to do the garden properly but that’s been stopped now. I guess they think there’s no point if they’re selling.”
“Right, so you just check the security and so on do you?”
“Yeah and now and again I do a bit of cleaning, where it needs it. Nobody lives here, why would you need to clean it.” He could have told her why but it wasn’t his business, though he would suggest a team came in to smarten it up in preparation for viewings. No matter it would probably all be gutted and decorated and altered, first impressions were still important. He climbed into the attic rooms to find that in fact they were better than he had hoped with charming windows under the eaves looking to the river at the back and down the long drive and to the town at the front. He was ready for the coffee Libby had offered and then looking forward to a walk round the grounds and down to the lake.
No Sarah today and I did want to talk to her. This is all too much for me. I have calmed and thought things through and I am reaching a decision. I don’t know how she will feel about it, with what happened before and the repercussions but maybe, just maybe she could be persuaded to return. Oh not for all the time I know, she has her other life but if I was to tell her that I will sign over the house to her, make it hers would she come and stay and let me see out my days here in comfort.
I can understand why she would not, but it is all such a long time ago now and nothing can be done about it. I have cried again as I cried at the time, endless, useless tears. She must know that in the end she will have this place to do with as she wishes and, if she has it now and takes control maybe my life can become more than this tortured existence of loneliness and isolation.
It may well be that she will refuse totally and I would understand. If that is the case then maybe the other solution would be to sell, to move into a – oh what do they call it a facility. It appalls me to even think of it but then I never imagined my life would end like this.