( This is partially inspired by Edith Wharton’s Ghost Stories, Stoker’s Dracula and Oxfam’s Mystery/Crime tales. It is still a work-in-progress and reminds me of the importance and difficulty of PLOT ! Ambiguity reigns! How do you make something suggest strangeness without giving away the game? )
‘I gave up burying myself up to the neck in good deeds ten years ago Lucy’ said her mother. ‘Your father had his affections and I had mine. ‘
Lucy did not blame her. Her father made any room look vulgar and his manicured hands felt mothy when they touched you. Even his lemon cologne smelt slightly unsettling, more cloying sweetness than citrus.
Jack Cavendish spent his days gazing at maps each delivered via special mail, each one probably the perfect answer to all his hopes for endless wealth. When he was not actually looking at a map he was away from home, standing on ground repeated within the map held in his hand. ‘I am alert to possibility’ he would say. ‘My time is near. Very, very, near. ’
Lucy knew her mother Camille was beautiful whichever way you looked at her. She often tried to glimpse her mother from a changed angle , trying to catch her mother unawares, yet the effect was always the same. Camille’s beauty stood guard over Lucy’s childhood and it was only when Lucy reached the age of 17 that she realised that even the most perfect of creatures required love. Yet Lucy felt her love was not enough. It touched her mother but did not feed her. ’I am not enough’ Lucy wrote repeatedly in her diary and who would doubt her belief after what followed?
As Camille Cavendish grew older, the shape of her hair changed, shading her face so her eyes became less visible, less readable. How long she stayed so absent it was hard to tell, but Lucy’s writing became littered with a curious form of coding, which researchers believed marked out Camille’s strange behaviours during that fateful summer, which ended with Camille vanishing during the night and Lucy’s father being discovered the following morning, floating face up in the family’s private lake looking secretly amused; as if he were on the verge of yet another irresistible deal.
Havenstead’s coroner proposed that the traces of water found in Jack Cavendish’s lungs and the absence of any suicide note, correlated with a probable verdict of misadventure. But then why had Camille Cavendish left home so abruptly and during the night? asked Lucy when questioned by detectives. Lucy stood erect in court and declared that her mother was a woman who had always stood firm and endured.
‘My mother protected me. Her leaving was completely out of character ‘she said. ‘My father was never an easy man.’ The magistrate pressed her for details, but Lucy claimed she could not say any more. ‘All families have their secrets. You could get lost in mine. Perhaps my mother did.’ And then Lucy wept and went home to her huge empty home.
‘Maybe, just maybe’ several village gossips whispered, ‘it was a pact of some sort that had gone horribly wrong- or horribly right’ some others added knowingly when they had turned everything over and over and through.
Time passed, the local newspaper pronounced Jack Cavendish’s death ‘a most unfortunate case of misadventure’ and the case was closed. Solicitors arrived from London and the fortune came to Lucy as the eldest surviving child.
‘There will be no marriage for me now’ declared Lucy to a packed church one Sunday morning in the middle of her reading.
She ordered the great house to be repainted in gentle pastels; ‘It’s my way of cleansing the past’ , cleared out many of her father’s rooms and ordered furnishings that seemed exotic to those neighbours with a more conservative eye.
One Friday evening in late June, a black taxi dropped off a stranger wearing a long black coat and wide hat, brought down from the far North near the sea according to the driver. Lucy waited a whole week then sent out 100 invitations for a party. ‘My party is dedicated to my beloved Mother Camille whose courage knew no bounds’ stated the invitations and for some reason each invitation was signed not only with Lucy’s qentle hand abut also with another name, Alex Hamilton RA.
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