The Living Will
Belinda tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for her siblings. The cafe was beginning to fill up and she felt out of place among the teenage mothers in their bling who were all extremely busy on their mobile phones and ignoring their bored offspring. She ordered another vastly overpriced cup of poor quality coffee , this time she asked for less milk with it. She wanted to be alert in the solicitors office. She had to keep her wits about her, especially with her so- called family there.
‘Where’s mine?’ heralded the arrival of her sister Fiona.
‘You can buy your bloody own, you got more money than I have.’ Replied Belinda.
‘Not my fault you had so many kids is it? How many you got now…..? Six?’
‘You know damn well I only got four!’
‘Whatever! Whose idea was it to meet in this dump?’ asked Fiona, looking around at the scruffy décor and scruffier clientele, with a look of disgust and contempt.
‘Will you keep your voice down,’ hissed Belinda, who was aware of the curious looks that they were getting and began to feel uneasy. ‘It was requested by Uncle Hugh that we meet here before the reading of his will.’
Their exchange was interrupted by Simon, their brother. The youngest and most favoured of the family. The only son, grandson and nephew of the Wilkinson brood. The girls never went without, but Simon always seemed to have that little bit more, it still rankled them almost forty years later.
‘Ah, there’s the golden boy, come to see what good old Uncle Hugh has left you, have you? Everything I expect. Don’t know why us two bothered coming!’ spat Fiona, as way of a greeting. She was the middle child, the one most put out by Simon’s arrival as she had been the baby for almost six years.
Simon snorted, ‘ Good old uncle Hugh! Don’t make me laugh. Before this summons none of us had ever heard of him, and be honest , if there wasn’t a will involved none of us would even be here today.’ He looked at his sisters. They stared back at him.
‘And your point is what exactly?’ asked Belinda. ‘You’re not expecting remorse or guilt or anything like that are you, because in that respect we are all alike. We are here solely to benefit ourselves. It’s not our fault we never knew him, but if he wants to leave us all his money, I’m not going to say no and neither will you. So don’t go all John-Boy Walton on us because it doesn’t suit you dear! Now, come on, it’s almost half past. Good job the solicitors is only across the street.’
They left hurriedly almost knocking over the old lady who had been sitting opposite them , and had got up to leave the same time, in their haste to be first through the door and across the road to the solicitor’s office. The old lady tutted as she steadied herself. She left a tip for the waitress, then picked up her bag and made her way carefully across the road to the solicitor’s office.
The shabby exterior drew sighs and haughty sniffs from the three expectant heirs.
Fiona was rummaging in her bag for a hankerchief to put on the door handle, when Simon
stepped forward and crossly opened the door.
‘Not over the OCD yet then !’ he said viciously.
‘Charming.’ He replied, as he went in and let the door shut behind him.
Belinda exhaled loudly, God, how she hated them!
She glared at Fiona, ‘ Come on, let’s get this over and done with, and with a bit of luck we won’t have to see each other again.’
Fiona nodded in agreement, God, how she hated them !
They entered the office and totally oblivious to the old lady behind them, they let the door shut in her face.
‘Charming.’ said the old lady, as she went in and quietly closed the door.
They barely looked at her as she entered the waiting room. She sat immediately behind them, she didn’t want to miss a word. She noisily unwrapped a toffee causing Belinda to turn around and give her a withering look. She smiled her sweetest little old lady smile. Belinda scowled and faced front.
The receptionist stood and with a smile announced that Mr. Cooper
would see them now.
‘About bloody time too,’ whispered Fiona , but everybody heard, including the receptionist. She glared at Fiona and opened Mr. Cooper’s door. They tumbled through the door and rushed for the three comfiest looking seats. They were surprised to say the least when the old lady followed them in and sat down.
‘Who’s that?’ hissed Simon.
‘I don’t know,’ replied Belinda, ‘ probably his cleaner by the look of her.’
The old lady winced.
Mr. Cooper cleared his throat and began to speak. They only half listened, their attention was being drawn to a huge screen that had appeared behind him.
‘And here he is, the man himself to explain it all. Mr. Hugh Jardon and his living will.’
The screen was filled by Hugh, a man in his seventies, sat in a wicker chair, surrounded by shelves full of books. His books!
Simon nearly wet himself with excitement, he nudged his sisters. ‘That’s Hugh Jardon, THE Hugh Jardon, author of all those com-porn novels.’
‘What ARE you talking about? Com-porn? What’s that?’ asked a bewildered Fiona.
‘Comedy- porn, stupid!’
They were none the wiser and completely unimpressed until Simon uttered the magic words,
‘They made a series of Hollywood blockbusters.’
They sat in complete silence to listen to their Uncle Hugh, who had been reading a list of his assets. Country houses in four countries, a beach house on his own beach, racing cars, racehorses and of course the money……….. Millions.
Belinda wordlessly wiped the dribble from her open mouth and looked at her siblings who were equally amazed.
‘ I hereby bequeath it all to………..’
They collectively took an sharp intake of breath.
They spluttered and choked . Simon exclaimed ‘Norah Wilkinson? Who the hell is she?’
‘I’m Norah Wilkinson.’ said the old lady.
They watched as the old lady took off her headscarf and grey wig to reveal a shock of red hair, she then removed the spectacles that had added about ten years to her now youthful looking sixty year old face.
‘Ginge!’ mouthed Belinda,’ is that you?... It’s never you?!’
‘Ginge? That makes a pleasant change to what you used to call me, on my rare visits to my father.’ answered Norah, ‘ what were the other names ? Let me think….., ‘
’No need for all that now.’ retorted Belinda, guilt and shame had made her face flush.
Fiona reddened as well. Of course it was Norah, their father’s daughter from a previous marriage. He had left them both for their mother when Norah was about ten. They had been horrible to her and had hardly noticed when she disappeared from their lives. When she attended their father’s funeral, they had ignored her and told anyone that asked that she was the cleaner, unaware that Norah had over heard.
‘Yes , he was more your father than mine, but it’s thanks to you lot that I have all this. You might have had the pampered upbringing, the ponies, the trips abroad, while I had seaside holidays and donkey rides, jam sandwiches for picnics and holes in my shoes. If you lot had accepted me I wouldn’t have lived above the old café over there and then I wouldn’t have met Hugh.’
‘Anyone call?’ boomed Hugh, as he filled the doorway. Simon fainted.
‘Hello darling,’ said Norah, ‘I think we should explain.
The receptionist brought in a tray of tea and biscuits, and a brandy for Simon. They were all
sat around the desk, Mr Cooper was enjoying himself immensely. When Hugh and Norah had
asked for the loan of his office he didn’t hesitate and offered his services as well. He hadn’t even charged as they were firm friends as well as clients. He had been Norah ’s mother’s solicitor and had always felt guilty about her paltry divorce settlement, but he had been up against the best that money could buy and had just starting practising.
‘After my mother died , Hugh proposed, but I turned him down.’ began Norah. ‘ We had been childhood friends then sweethearts, his parents owned the café, and became my family, but I didn’t want to marry anybody, I didn’t want to have to divorce maybe someday. We are still not married. We are happily unmarried you might say. We set up home together and I began to write and sell the odd short story.’
‘Some very odd!’ laughed Hugh.
‘Anyway, it evolved into a living and with Hugh illustrating , we teamed up and I wrote our first erotic comic novel or com-porn as they call it now, isn’t it Simon.?’ He blushed.
‘However , no publisher would touch it in those days, as it was written by a woman, hence Hugh Jardon. That was my little joke, some still haven’t caught on. His real name is Jenkins. The rest , as they say is history. With the film money now we have far more than we’ll ever need. Not bad for a cleaner hey?’ She looked at Fiona. ‘ As we haven’t any children we thought we’d seek out our relatives , and give some away now. Saving any arguments and nonsense later, and this way it goes to whoever we want it to go to. Hence the ‘living’ will. Hugh has only the odd cousin…….‘
‘Very odd.’ Interrupted Hugh.
They all laughed. Simon did the calculations in his head, if his sisters were out because of their bitchiness, that meant that it was between this cousin and him. He smiled.
‘and his eight children, twenty two grandchildren and three great grandchildren, so that takes up an enormous chunk of it, but leaves us plenty to get by on.’
Simon’s, Fiona’s and Belinda’s faces were like thunder. ‘ Did you only bring us here to humiliate us and have your revenge?’ bellowed Fiona.
Norah looked them squarely in the eyes. ‘Yes. If I’d have left this until I died, I wouldn’t have been able to see your faces, after all, the dead won’t hurt you…… but I have left you some er… property, ‘
Their hopes soared. The country houses.
‘ Simon, you get sod all…………. Belinda, you get bugger all……………. and Fiona, well do I need to spell it out? It’s just as you said at father’s funeral, Norah gets naff all. Remember?’
Then they stomped out as one, slamming every door behind them.
‘Charming!’ said Norah and Mr Cooper in perfect unison. They collapsed in peals of laughter.
‘How odd.’ chuckled Hugh.