Part One: July
‘My mother left when I was 6 years old. Then she died.
I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for me but simply to pass on the facts. The trouble is, I never know whether to tell people first that she left, or that she’s dead.
People find it difficult to believe that a child could be so unmoved by the passing of a parent, almost as much as they find it hard to understand how a mother could abandon her child. But there you have it. Now you know, and I would please beg you not to cast judgement on me about the type of person I might be having grown up without my mother. I’m normal.
Well, as normal as anyone can expect to be when their father is a Hippotherapist (believe it or not, this has nothing to do with the large African mammal) and they have been a guinea pig for his treatment methods since the time that they could write their name. I often wonder if the reason my mother left was because she couldn’t handle my father’s eccentricities but I try not to dwell too much on the past, plus she married him, didn’t she?’
Cassie paused in her writing and placed her pen into the notebook. She had thought it would be a good idea to help her get some perspective if she started to note her thoughts down but so far it wasn’t doing her any good. She closed the book and ran her hand over the cover, taking a short moment to admire the prettiness of it. Stationary was a weakness of hers and when she’d spotted this beauty in the train station’s shop she hadn’t been able to resist. Turning her head, she gazed out of the train window, watching the countryside flash by as she pondered her current predicament.
Almost exactly one month ago she had received a phone call out of the blue from a firm of solicitors in Hereford. Her initial reaction had been to hang up the phone but some small part of her interest had been piqued and she’d managed to resist.
‘Is that Miss Thomas? Cassandra Thomas? This is Huw Morgan from Taylor & Morgan Solicitors calling. In Hereford?’
The voice paused, clearly expecting some form of acknowledgement but Cassie was silent. She hadn’t the first clue why someone from Hereford would be calling her home in Sheffield, least of all why they would know her full name. Nobody called her Cassandra, not even her father. The accented voice continued. Cassie pictured a very rotund, bald man on the other end and had to fight a smile. Perhaps he wasn’t bald and she was just being overly judgemental. He had that type of voice though.
‘I’m calling you today because, as you know, your mother has recently died and in her Will she bequeathed a property to you.’
Again, a long pause.
‘Our condolences for your loss.’
Cassie was so astonished she hadn’t known what to say. She was equally shocked and surprised, and, sad? How could she feel sad for the loss of someone she hadn’t ever really known? She had mumbled out a response and written down the name of the solicitor before hanging up the phone, completely and utterly bewildered. Her mother, her estranged mother, someone she hadn’t seen since she left when Cassie was 6, had left her a property in her Will, somewhere in Wales. As far as surprises went, this one was fairly monumental.
She had been due to go out for drinks with her boyfriend Dan and her best friend Andi but when Dan had arrived to collect her she had opened the door and stared at him mutely.
‘Cass, are you alright?’
Cassie and Dan had been dating for 2 years after meeting on a work night out. Dan occasionally did freelance work for the photography company Cassie worked for. They were a small company, just three photographers and a couple of part-time assistants and Cassie who did the admin and organised the diaries. When they’d been introduced, Cassie had immediately fallen for Dan. His narrow face and angular cheekbones were dominated by the large, black-rimmed glasses he wore behind which bright blue eyes sparkled cheekily. He was tall and slender, and utterly gorgeous. She’d spent the entire evening trying not to gawk at him, engineering ways to ensure that she didn’t need to leave her spot next to him at the bar and risk losing her position to someone else. In fact, she still couldn’t quite understand why someone like Dan, with his great fashion sense, creative talent and laidback outlook on life, could ever be attracted to her. Cassie had three staple items in her wardrobe’s repertoire and she wore them to excess: skinny jeans, hoodies in various colours and her converse. Her hair was a non-descript ash-blonde, which worked fine with her green eyes but she generally tied it up, getting up too late in the morning to have any time to do much with it before work. She did occasionally go through stages of staring at it in the mirror, wishing she could do more than just tie it up or straighten it; to make it frame her heart-shaped face a little better somehow but she could never take the plunge. The downside of having grown up with only her dad and one uncle for company; her knowledge of hair and make up were somewhat limited.
At work she was known for being a control-freak; highly organised and efficient, excellent at keeping everyone on track and where they ought to be. Her home life however left a lot to be desired. It was a bit like the hairdresser with the bad hair or the builder with a wreck for a home; she spent all day organising everybody else and so when she finally opened her front door the last thing she felt like doing was being structured. Luckily Dan seemed to see past the piles of mess, the unwashed dishes and the post-it notes which littered every other available surface where she had scribbled down a date, or a thought, or a plan and then forgotten about it completely. In fact the only place in the whole of her two-bedroom flat which was even slightly passable was the spare bedroom which housed her pride and joy. Shelves filled with books, the classics as well as more modern work, her stationary collection comprised of writing paper, notebooks and pens and boxes of printed photographs which she had taken over the years. To the naked eye it didn’t look all that different from every other space in Cassie’s home but when she went into that room she could tell you where absolutely everything was. Here was ordered chaos and she adored nothing more than sitting amongst her treasures, choosing a notebook to write her thoughts down in or opening up a box and being transported into a wonderful memory via the photographs she lifted out.
Dan had stood on the threshold of her front door, a questioning look on his face, but Cassie had turned and headed for her sanctuary, knowing that if anywhere could make her feel better, that would be it.
Once he'd finally got the whole story from her, Dan had been all for driving her down to Hereford immediately to get more details but Cassie had been hesitant. Bequest or not she hadn’t seen her mother for over 20 years. There were so many questions she had; did her dad know? Should she tell him? Why would her mum leave her something? Had she left something for her ex-husband?
This was the main reason she had waited a whole month before making her mind up. Cassie had worked hard to keep the lid on the box marked ‘mother’ closed for her entire life. She would never, ever, be able to forget the sad look on her father’s face when he had sat her down and told her that Mummy had gone away for a little while. Had lost count of the number of nights she had lain awake, listening for the sound of her coming home again. When she finally realised that she truly wasn’t coming back she had been angry, resentful and hurt and vowed never to give her a second thought. And she had rigidly kept that promise for the best part of two decades.
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