|1.||The Inheritance Powder. Part One. George and Julia||Read it Now|
|2.||The Inheritance Powder. Part Two: Roger and Julia||See below|
|3.||The Inheritance Powder. Part Three: George and Erica||Read it Now|
|4.||Part Four: The Legacy||Read it Now|
|The Inheritance Powder. Part Two: Roger and Julia|
|* * * |
The evening sun began to slip down behind the hills. The air was heavy and oppressive There was no breeze to stir the dusty foliage of the trees. It had, in fact, been an exceptionally hot day and had exceeded record temperatures. The newspapers and TV were full of speculation about the weather. People were dying of the heat in France and Italy. Really quite bizarre. Everything in the garden was wilting except the lavender and Rosemary borders. The purple flowers were smothered in bees and the scent of the Rosemary wafted in through the open conservatory windows. It really did have quite a Mediterranean feel. They needed another gardener now that Potts had decided to retire.
The last rays of the sun lit up the surrounding hills painting them a delicate rose pink and casting long shadows in the meadows. The heat rose up from the scorched earth and wrapped the house in steamy warmth.
Julia sat staring listlessly into her dressing table mirror. Downstairs, a telephone was ringing somewhere in the house but she didn’t seem to hear it. She leaned towards the mirror and her small piercing blue eyes examined her face with studied care. She ran a finger down her rather large nose thoughtfully and then patted her newly peroxide hair. Beads of sweat bejewelled her upper lip. A bottle of Gordon’s gin and a glass stood on the dressing table. She carefully poured a small amount of the liquor into the glass and sipped it reflectively.
Roger was late. That must have been him ringing just now. He was probably drunk and wanted her to come and pick him up from the White Hart. Roger’s drinking was beginning to intrude on their lives. The pub was becoming a second home. Perhaps the business wasn’t going so well. She couldn’t tell. Roger never discussed the business with her. Not that she cared one iota as long as she had free rein with her credit card. She loved shopping. Drunk with the power of spending. She adored staggering out of the stores, weighted down with numerous bags looped round her fingers, her face flushed with pleasure. Besides, if anything happened to Roger (perish the thought) she inherited everything. He was heavily insured.
Julia had always enjoyed receiving gifts and in the early days Roger had been especially generous and had showered her with expensive presents. She was not personally familiar with the act of giving to please others. It was more in her nature to receive.
When she was a child her father always brought home some little trifle for her delight. She remembered the china doll with golden hair that opened and closed its eyes and cried ‘Mama’ when it was turned over. Then there was the little bracelet, glinting gold, with opals flashing their mystical green fire. Her eyes darkened as she recalled the puppy he had brought home for her and her sister when their mother was in the hospital. It had been a little golden Labrador with huge eyes of velvet brown. She had never been comfortable with animals. They always needed something; feeding or taking for a walk or stroking. Sometimes she had forgotten to feed it. Her father was busy at the hospital with their mother so when the puppy fell into the fishpond one winter’s day and got tangled up in the netting used for catching the falling leaves, Julia could only watch its futile struggles and whimperings as it tried to scramble up out of the icy water. When its useless scrabbling and whining ceased, Julia stared curiously as the small body suddenly released its hold on life and floated out, belly-up, into the middle of the pond. She let out a great sigh and blew on her freezing fingers. Then she turned and ran toward the house scuffling through the dead leaves in her pretty fur lined boots.
She found her sister in the music room practising a song with Miss De Mielle the music teacher. She sat listening politely as her sister’s voice flew round the room like a swallow, dipping and soaring and finally coming to rest, vibrating on the low notes. It was a song full of tenderness and sadness and made Julia think about the puppy whose stiff little body had sunk into the waving tendrils of the underwater plants. She felt her face grow hot momentarily with guilt but then her discomfort quickly receded at the thought of the gifts her father might be bringing that evening. Without waiting for her sister to finish her music lesson she ran up the stairs two at a time to her room.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
They were going to be late for dinner with the Huntington-Smythes. Julia rose and walked over to her wardrobe. It was stuffed with dresses and outfits for every conceivable occasion, some with the labels still attached. They had never been worn. Rack after rack of shoes was revealed in another cupboard. Laid out neatly in gleaming rows.
'Imelda Marcos eat your heart out', she murmured out loud.
She finally selected a close fitting black velvet dress with a low neckline and shoes to match. She sat down again at her dressing table and began to rifle impatiently through her drawer until she finally extracted a velvet choker with a large diamond like stone attached to it. She put it on and then leaned back to admire her reflection. Just a dash of red lipstick and a wave of her mascara wand and she was ready. The telephone began trilling again but this time it was answered by Mrs. Overton, the housekeeper.
‘Mrs Huntley,’ she called ‘ Mr Huntley’s on the phone. He’d like to speak to you’.
She sighed exasperatedly, ‘ Alright, Ill take it up here’.
Julia picked up the receiver of the white telephone on the bedside table.
‘ Roger where the hell are you? You know we’re going to dinner with the Smythes. We’re supposed to be there at eight.’
‘Yes, I know that old girl, no need to panic’ slurred Roger good-naturedly.’ Just been having a few bevvies with Godfrey in the white Heart. You remember Godfrey Palmer? We were at prep school together'.
‘You’re drunk!’ hissed Julia. ‘How predictable!!’
‘Yes, I spose’ I am old thing’ chuckled Roger amiably. ‘Come and get me there’s a good girl. We can drive directly over to the Smythes. Should be a barrel of laughs’, he said dryly, ‘At least I’ve got a head start’.
She snorted. ‘Oh for God’s sake! Just stay where you are and I’ll meet you in about half an hour’
Roger giggled, ‘That’s my girl’. The receiver clattered loudly in her ear then suddenly purred in monotonous silence.
She replaced the receiver and glanced at her watch. It was 7.45. She ran downstairs snatching up her mobile and car keys from the hall table. Outside the air felt stuffy. She got into her little blue Polo, and scattering gravel over the flowerbeds she drove off down the road.
* * * * *
As Julia drove along she glanced at the evening sky. Wisps of dark grey cloud began to form into billowy thunderheads. The air suddenly became heavier and torpid. Lightning flickered across the glowering sky.
'That's all I need' she fumed inwardly. She pressed her Manolo Blahnik harder on the accelerator and the little car shot forward obligingly. The heavens opened just as she pulled into the car park of the White heart pub. She stopped at the front entrance and peered through the windscreen. Through the curtains of rain she could see Roger weaving around unsteadily in the doorway. She leaned across and opened the passenger door and hissed at him
'Get in the car for goodness sake!'
Roger flopped into the seat like a landed trout.
'Cant do the seat belt up' he muttered.
She sighed impatiently and grudgingly helped him with the belt.
'Just look at you' she snapped.’ You look as though you've been dragged through a hedge backwards. You knew we were invited to the Huntington-Smythes', she wailed, her voice ending on a perilously high note.
'Oh bugger the Huntington-Smythes! Terrible snobs! Haven't got a personality between 'em let alone a brain!' snorted Roger. 'Anyway. I've got the mother and father of a headache! Started as soon as I woke up this morning. Like a bloody sledge hammer in my head'
'I'm not surprised' she commented.
'Have you got any aspirins in your bag?'
'You're such a fool Roger!' Julia said, ignoring his request. 'Bertie could put a lot of business your way if you played your cards right. But you never could play cards could you?’ she said grimly. Her knuckles gleamed white as her grip tightened on the steering wheel. She started the car and drove on through the now torrential rain. Thunder reverberated round the hills and crackled in the valleys. Visibility was almost impossible. She strained forward to see through the windscreen. A squally wind came out of nowhere and began to buffet the little car.
Suddenly Julia was aware of some strange, animal noises filling the interior of the car. They were coming from Roger.
'What on earth's the matter with you now?'
There was no answer.
She looked at him quickly and saw that his face had become contorted and had a grey-blue pallor. He was drooling.
'Oh my God!'
But no human sound came from Roger's quivering, slobbering, open mouth. Only a snoring, chuckling sound. Through the gloom she saw a lay by and quickly pulled over. The road was deserted. The rain bounced noisily on the bonnet of the car. There was no one to help them. She undid her safety belt and turned to Roger. She touched his hand gingerly and drew it back sharply, as if it had been burned. It was ice cold and his fingernails were pale lilac. A flash of lightning lit up his face. His lips were blue.
With remarkably steady hands, Julia reached for her mobile. She must ring an ambulance. They must have a doctor. They must get Roger to hospital!!! He was very ill. It was a matter of life or death. He could die. He.... Then, her mind suddenly emptied and she became calm. She stared at Roger with a certain curiosity. She had never seen anything die before. Only that useless little dog daddy once bought for her. As she continued to look at him his eyes opened and fixed on her face. He couldn't speak or move but those watery blue eyes begged and pleaded for help. She didn't speak. Only Roger's supplicating blue eyes sparked the silence. As she continued to watch Roger tears slipped down his frozen cheeks. His eyes never left her face. Precious minutes ticked by. Roger seemed to be weakening. There were long pauses between the greedy, gobbling gasps for air. His face was now quite blue; the hands pale and immobile lay lifelessly by his side. Julia picked up her mobile and keyed in the numbers.
'Emergency! Which service please?' The calm, flat tones of the operator spoke into her ear.
'Hello! Hello! I need an ambulance quickly. My husband has collapsed. I think he's had a heart attack!!
'Is he breathing?'
'Yes, he's very blue and cold.'
'Can you feel his pulse?'
‘Yes...no..Oh! I don't know! Just a moment. Yes, it's very faint. Oh please come quickly! We're in the lay by on the dual carriage way, just about a mile from the White heart pub in Hillsfroom'.
'Try not to panic. Loosen his clothing. The Paramedics will be with you as soon as they can'
Julia put down her mobile and turned to Roger. He was slumped awkwardly in his seat. He lay there quietly now. His face seemed twisted to one side. The frantic noises had stopped. She undid his top shirt buttons then put her ear to his chest. No sound or movement came from that stilled heart. She rummaged in her bag for a little mirror. She held it to his open mouth. No mist appeared. Then with a shuddering sigh she sat back in her seat in the eerie silence and watched the rain pour relentlessly down the windscreen.
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