It was strange being back in the hotel. Lily had thought she would never see it again but so much had changed. She was stronger now, she had done something that most people would never dream of. And she had got away with it. Of course, she had done it because of Terry, and Peter, but mostly Terry. It had been a duty. She could still help him, could make up for her failure last time.
There was no regret, there had been that dreadful fear, and shock but never any regret. Even when she allowed the memory to trickle in, the final moments, that strange last breath, the terrible aftermath, from just a couple of day’s distance, she felt strong, powerful. She hadn’t enjoyed doing it, of course not, but it had been necessary and it was time to put it behind her.
She couldn’t waste time dwelling on what had happened. There was still more work needed. It was what mums did wasn’t it. Alright, she wasn’t his mum, she knew that, of course, but, after all, he could have been her son. He was a little younger than Peter, it was only a question of timing wasn’t it, a couple of short years. Everything else was the same.
She took a hot shower and dressed in her black dress, he hadn’t said where they would go to eat but she wanted to look nice for him. It would be fine if he didn’t have time to take her back tomorrow. She had brought plenty of clothes and anyway, Bath was full of lovely shops. It would be an ideal time to spend some of the money that had been sitting in her account for an age. It would be fun, and now that there was a reason to look good, or at least to look better, it was worth the effort.
She took her medication and made sure the spray was in her bag. She felt better than for a while. Having something to do, someone else to think about apart from herself, was good. She pulled the chair in front of the window and gazed out at the view over the little pond and the busy road beyond.
The afternoon wore on and she took a nap. She looked for something to watch on the television. Daytime viewing wasn’t something that had ever appealed, and very quickly it became clear that there wouldn’t be much temptation to do it again. Seven o clock came and she began to worry. There was nothing on the phone’s missed call list. It was so tempting to ring, to pretend to have forgotten whether they had already arranged something. Anxiety built, perhaps there really had been a misunderstanding. She replayed the conversation in her head and was convinced that this was the agreement and so, there was nothing else to do but to wait.
It was after half past seven when the call came, “Lily, I’m sorry. I meant to ring earlier. Something’s come up.” Her heart thudded. He was going to cancel. The funeral directors had raised the alarm – she wasn’t sure they would do that, but it seemed possible.
He continued, “I’ll pick you up in about ten minutes if that’s alright. Do you think you could manage a little walk? There are a couple of pubs just near to where you are, they are both very nice. If that suits I’ll call and book a table.”
“Lovely. I’m feeling fine Terry, you really mustn’t worry about me so much, truly.” He was such a kind boy, so thoughtful. She was so lucky.
Immediately they met, Lily knew that there was something very wrong. He offered her his arm, he kissed her cheek but there was no smile, and the short walk to the pub was silent. “What would you like to drink, Lily?”
“A glass of red wine please, something heavy.” He smiled as she repeated the words from their first meeting.
They ordered and she took her first sip of the Bordeaux, “Oh lovely, that’s perfect, thank you.” He responded with a short nod and drank half of his pint of lager in a couple of deep gulps. It was a replay of the first time and even the atmosphere was a mirror, he was distracted, edgy and he let out a huge sigh. She could wait no longer.
“What’s the matter?” He shook his head, but then lifted his eyes to look directly across the table at her. Her mind was racing, this must be about Colin, they had found out. It was her own fault, she had let down her guard, been too sure of herself, smug even, and now, here came the comeuppance. Tempting providence, was never a good idea.
“I had a meeting earlier, with Andrew Stoner. That’s what kept me. It was supposed to be a short thing. Just to talk about the funeral, but it took longer than expected. That’s why I was late.”
Lily took a sip of her drink. Her hands shook but he didn’t seem to notice. “Was there something wrong?”
“Yes, you could say that.” She was afraid to speak, afraid of his next words.
“So, Colin.” He paused again, he was struggling to format what he wanted to tell her.
“He’s screwed me. Even from beyond the bloody grave. Well, not in the grave yet, but you know what I mean. Even though he’s dead, he’s screwed me over. Sorry for the language Lily but I am so bloody mad.”
This wasn’t what she had been expecting. She would have felt relief if it hadn’t been for the furious fire in Terry’s eyes, the way he picked up the drink, drained the glass and slammed it back on the table.
“What on earth has happened Terry? Tell me what’s happened?”
“I’m sorry, Lily this isn’t anything for you to worry about. Look let’s just have our meal and talk about something else.”
“Well, I came here to help you, Terry. If you need to talk about something, get something off your chest then I don’t mind you using me. I’d like it.” He gave her an odd look but then he tried to smile. It was a poor effort, just an upward movement of his lips but it was enough to let her know that he wasn’t angry with her.
“Okay, well, you know I always said that I reckoned it would all be mine one day? The properties, the business? I said I stuck with it, worked for him, even though I despised him, because I told myself I was really working for myself, my future?”
Lily nodded, but it was obvious the way the conversation was going and she whispered a response. “Is this about the will?”
“Has he not left it to you then? Oh, Terry!”
He shook his head as he answered, “It’s not quite that bad. Although in a way it’s worse. He’s left it to me, most of it anyway. There are a couple of places that he has left to friends, their own homes and I guess that’s fair enough. A bit over generous in a way I guess,” he shrugged his shoulders, “but…”
“Oh, hang on here comes the food. I need another drink as well. Shall I get you one.” Lily was about to refuse but she nodded. Why not, she wanted another drink and why shouldn’t she have what she wanted.
As they ate he explained about the meeting. How Andrew Stoner had gloated as he had relayed the terms of Terry’s inheritance. How for the next ten years he, the solicitor, would manage a trust that would dictate most of how the business was run.”
“But it’s still yours?” Lily was puzzled and confused by the terms he was using.
“Yes, in name it’s mine. I’ll still have the day to day running. The donkey work. Dealing with agents, contractors, all of that but nothing else. None of the ongoing expansion or development of the business, none of the stuff that he, Colin, used to do. For the next ten years, anything at all to do with that, will have to be approved by Andrew bloody Stoner. Even my own flat. If I want to sell that I’ll have to go to him and he’ll have input. It wouldn’t have mattered if we’d been on the same page about this stuff, but he’s the same as Colin was. Stuck in the mud, ticking along. He just wants things to stay the way they’ve always been. No expansion, no new investment – oh all sorts of ideas I had, stuff I’ve tried to get Colin to do for years. Now, now the old bugger is dead I still have to wait. Another ten bloody years before I have control. It’s so unfair Lily. I’ll be too old by then to do what I want. You have to get this stuff going as soon as you can, build up your money, organise pensions. I just feel like giving up, I just feel like throwing in the towel.”
“Is that why he rang then, after we’d been to see Colin, is that why he called the solicitor?”
“No. God no – ha – if only. If it had been, then there was no way they would have time to make it legal. No, this is something they cooked up between themselves months ago.
When Colin started to get better from his stroke. I guess he’d had a glimpse of his own mortality. I was trying to get him to sign things over and, well it just backfired didn’t it. He wanted to make sure that, even if he wasn’t here, he was still controlling things. The old swine.”
But, Terry, you can’t give up, what would you do then?”
“I’d just go. I’ve thought about it before, when things have been getting me down. I’d just leave the whole bloody lot and emigrate, go to America maybe, Australia, somewhere I could make a new start and leave all of this stuff behind.”
The word had leapt unbidden from her mouth, and now she was embarrassed and needed to cover her panic at the thought of him leaving her. “Well, what I mean is, you shouldn’t let him win. It’s your right, he owes you. You know that, more than an ordinary Grandfather, Father – he owes you Terry. You can’t let him win. You mustn’t.”
He smiled at her, it was warmer than before. The revelation had helped. “Oh look, Lily. This isn’t your problem. Don’t let it upset you. I need to think about it all and see what my options are. But quite honestly right now, I just feel as though I want done with it all.”
“He’s old, Andrew Stoner, isn’t he?”
“Same age as Colin was, yes.”
“Well there we are. Maybe he won’t live another ten years. What happens if he dies?”
“Oh well, I’m not a hundred percent certain, but I’m pretty sure that in that case I get complete control. There were no other conditions, no-one else mentioned. Ha, that’s the answer, perhaps I should push him under a bus or something eh?”