The wind whipped her skin as Kimberly wound down the windows and left the parking lot. She flicked off her phone and sped towards the motorway. It was time to pay a visit to her aunt Carol.
She wasn’t sure what to make of the session, other than the fact that it was incredibly tedious and frustrating. Why her father insisted on the therapy was beyond her, but she needed the money, so here she was. Trying to explain herself to a stranger who believed that seven years of tertiary education gave one the ability to truly fathom the depths of the human mind.
You can’t learn how to understand people, she thought, it’s absurd. You either do, or you don’t – it’s that simple.
The all too familiar ring of sirens sounded in the background. She glanced at the flashing lights in the mirror and pulled over. “Shit.” She said, hitting the steering wheel and reaching for her purse.
A chubby policeman stumbled out of his car and made his way towards her BMW. “Ma’am,” he said firmly. “Do you know how fast you were going?”
“Too fast I’m assuming?”
“Yes, too fast.” He pulled out a breathalyzer, “142km/h to be exact, Miss,” he glanced at the license she had given him, “Miss Henderson. This is a motorway, and as you can see by those large signs everywhere the limit is 110km/h.”
“Sorry?” She smiled.
“This isn’t a joke Miss. Now, count to ten for me please.”
She did as he instructed and after receiving a ticket, tucked it into the side of her bag and continued driving.
After several hours, she pulled onto an exit and soon found herself in Toorak. It was a wealthy area scattered with large estates, a large handful of which appeared to be born in the Victorian era. They were adorned with tidy gardens and elaborate gates that welcomed you in.
She continued past her childhood friends’ house that sat behind a tall wall of sandstone, and drove up towards her destination. A modest single story residence that overlooked the Yarra River. Arriving at the wrought iron gates she reached out and buzzed the intercom.
“Kimberly?” Carol shrilled through the receiver. “Come in, come in. What a lovely surprise.”
The gates opened slowly and she continued up the neatly pebbled drive lined with old oak trees. Autumn was by far her favourite season, and this was the perfect example. The changing weather had left a collage of coloured leaves scattered across the gardens and drive. The sun picked up the various shades of red, orange and yellow, turning the path into an ancient stained glass window.
She parked next to her Aunts yellow Porsche and breathed a deep sigh of relief. The 1960, 356B had been a gift from her Late husband Richard on their fifth wedding anniversary. He had passed away soon after and she had been left a widow at the age of just thirty-four. Twenty years later and the car was still in perfect condition, a reminder or their love.
“Kimberly!” Her aunt called, walking across the front courtyard with her three wiry terriers in tow. “My dear, how are you? Are you well? It is so great to see you.”
She leaned into her Aunts embrace, “Yes, yes I am good.”
“I’m so glad you’re here actually. We have a lot to talk about,” She led them towards the house. “You know I was just about to call you this morning when the wretched gardener trimmed the back hedges wrong. I got so caught up telling him off that I completely forgot to contact you. But here you are”
“Yes, here I am.” Kimberly said, “Now, coffee? I’m exhausted.”
“Oh of course, Loretta isn’t here anymore,” she said, closing the door behind them. “I figured I could be spending my money on better things, so I’ll fix you one myself.”
The polished hardwood floors clicked beneath Kimberly’s heels as they walked down the long hallway into the open plan kitchen and dining room. The walls were lined with old black and white photographs of people she’d never met, presumably distant relatives. The ceilings were high with moulded edges that drew you back into the Victorian era. It was grand and elaborate, boasting five bedrooms, a formal dining room and several reception areas, however somehow felt homely every time she visited.
“So, my dear. Why are you here?” Carol asked, collecting two mugs from the cupboard below the polished red coffee machine.
“I wanted to say hello?” Kimberly said. She sat herself on one of the tall stools behind the breakfast counter.
The décor was unmistakably French provincial, although Carol had added her own touches with mismatched, colourful pieces she had brought back from her travels. Kimberly couldn’t help but smiled at the mosaic fruit bowl perched on the white marble benchtop.
“Sweetheart. You haven’t just ‘dropped in’ to say hello since your mother was alive.” The machine let out a groan of steam as Carol pressed another button and positioned the mugs.
Kimberly sat quietly as she brought over the coffees and sat beside her.
“Not to mention the mess over the will.” She said, “It was a nightmare.”
“I know,” Kimberly said, taking a sip. “Thanks for the coffee.”
“My pleasure. So, how is he?”
Kimberly rolled her eyes, “He’s forcing me to go to therapy once a week to get my allowance from Mum’s estate. He thinks my intelligence is interfering with my social life, or lack of it I should say.”
“Honestly?” Carol laughed, “That’s ridiculous. You ought to be fighting it. You’re entitled to the lump sum. He’s just stalling that’s all. God knows the man has enough money of his own.”
“Technically not until I’m twenty-five though, according to the will at least.”
“I see,” she mumbled. Carol knew the extent of Christopher’s greed all too well. She was also well accustomed to his stubbornness.
Richard and he were always close, perhaps because they had had no other siblings. However, as they grew older and discovered women, money and cars, competition soon drove them apart. Carol knew what she was getting into when she accepted his proposal, but had underestimated her tolerance enormously.
“You know, when your uncle passed away…” she began, before suddenly remembering there was half a lemon cheesecake left in the fridge. She brought it out and began slicing. “Well, by the time Richard got sick, Chris and he were barely speaking. I don’t know what it was between them and I never found out, but I do remember calling your father to tell him Richard wasn’t going to make it through the week. That his only brother was on his deathbed, and do you know what he said?”
Tears trickled down the side of her cheek as she continued, “He told me to ensure he received his fair share in the will. Absolutely no mention of coming to see him or anything remotely compassionate. Hence why I was so shocked when he brought you girls to the funeral. Although now I understand why he dared show his face at all.”
“He wanted money,” she said. “The bastard wanted to cut me out of Richards estate entirely. Of course he didn’t receive a cent, and why would he? They hadn’t so much as called each other for more than a year.”
“I never knew,” Kimberly said slowly, “He’s so greedy.”
“Anyway,” Carol sat up straight. “That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Well what is it?”
Carol cleared the plates, shaking her head as she rinsed and loaded them into the dishwasher. “As you know, we never got to start a family of own. By the time we settled into our careers it was too late. Richard was already too sick and I refused to have children that grew up without their father.”
Kimberly listened intently, watching as the creases on her face danced around as she spoke. She had aged gracefully, unlike most women of her status who were drawn to Botox and plastic surgery. It had left a softness to her skin and a youthful sparkle in her eyes. She wore her age with pride, to tell the world the tales of her strength and courage.
“Anyhow,” Carol continued. “I am happy as I am. Truly. I don’t mind being alone, I have Freddy, Delilah and Max to keep me company. Despite the little rascals they are.” For a brief moment she smiled, then returned to her story.
“I got a call the other day from a fellow in Sydney. He was a co-worker of Richards apparently. I’d never heard of him before. He insisted that they had met on a business trip early on in Richards career. Heaven forbid the man could be a lunatic, but something tells me he’s not. He may just be telling the truth. Although I can’t quite tell which would be worse.”
Kimberly frowned, “So what did he want?”
“He said he needed to talk to me urgently.” Carols words began to rush. “He wouldn’t tell me over the phone, he said it was too dangerous.”
To be continued…
© Copyright Celsie Richardson 2016