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Charlie: Chapter 2
I closed the front door with a slam, calling out to Louise and Grace, my seventeen year old twin girls, as I went. With their exams over, they’d finished school and with it, all semblance of routine. When I’d left that morning they’d both been fast asleep. A naughty part of me had been tempted to pull out the hoover and start cleaning loudly. Maybe whistling a tuneless little ditty, summoning them both from their beds, but I hated housework, even if it meant a joke at their expense, so instead I’d enjoyed a quiet few minutes on my own, mentally preparing myself for the funeral later that day.
“Hello? You lazy rotters still in bed?”
I shouted up the stairs, expecting to hear footsteps or at least something to acknowledge my presence but the house remained silent. It was only then that I realised Missy wasn’t running around my feet like a lunatic. I walked into the kitchen and was greeted by a scene reminiscent of a disaster film. Untidy teenagers leaving a mess in the kitchen was such a cliche but it seemed that with the summer upon us even Louise, usually the good one, had lost all ability to tidy up after herself.
They had at least had the good grace to leave a note telling me they’d gone for a walk with the dog. I wasn’t sure what Missy had done to deserve the undivided attention of my daughters but instead of questioning it, I put the kettle on and made a grab for my laptop. If I was going to talk to my mother about Dad I had to first get some of the facts straight. Like, where exactly Loches was for starters. I couldn’t ever remember taking a family holiday to France, the Isle of Wight was about as far as my parents could afford when I was little, and I was sure Mum had never mentioned it, but something had led my father to write this address and I wanted to know what.
With the coffee made, I typed the address into Google maps and was rewarded with the frustrating invitation to add a missing place to the map. If there had been a Norwest House in Loches, it had either changed its name or been knocked down. Even when I tried a few different variations, allowing for my father’s untidy handwriting, I still drew a blank. The only entry even vaguely related to Norwest House was a property company in Australia. Their houses looked fancy, really beautiful, but my parents hated flying. I couldn’t entertain the idea of them going all the way to Australia. That couldn’t be it. Bugger!
I shut the lid of my laptop in frustration. My mother was a tricky character at the best of times. I’d wanted to go to her with knowledge about the local area and instead I had nothing. Unless of course she wanted directions from Loches train station into the centre of town, but I suspected that that wouldn’t be terribly persuasive. I knew I could be stubborn, it was what made me a brilliant investigator, but I had nothing on my mother. If she didn’t want to help, it wouldn’t matter what I said, she’d give nothing away. And this was never more true than when it came to my father.
After his death, Mum had refused all conversation about Dad. Where other families would celebrate the passing of time by telling stories, sharing memories, my mum acted as if he’d never even existed. All conversations were closed down and she wasn’t above feigning illness to avoid difficult conversations. But this address felt important.
Part of me knew I was being a little irrational. It shouldn’t matter. Who really cares about an address in some far off region of France that my Mum and Dad may or may not have visited, once upon a time? But I knew that was Dad’s handwriting, I was certain of it, and for that scrap of paper to find its way to the very coat I wore for his funeral? That was too much of a coincidence. Rob would suggest I should instead focus on one of the many cases waiting for me in my inbox, take a paid job and stop fixating on a case that could have no happy conclusion, it wasn’t like I could bring my father back from the dead, but that address had captured my imagination and I couldn’t just ignore it.
No, no matter how difficult it was for her, I couldn’t let Mum get away with fobbing me off this time. Feeling determined, I drained my coffee cup, scribbled a note to the girls underneath theirs and phoned Rob. He made a bit of a fuss about picking me up again, he’d only just got home he said, but after reminding him that it was his fault I couldn’t drive thanks to all the wine he’d plied me with at lunch, he gave in. Aside from playing taxi, I was glad Rob was coming too. This was my investigation but my mum liked Rob. I knew if he came with me she’d be much more likely to show off about what she knew and maybe let something important slip in the process. On my own I’d be faced with stoney silence.
With a quick glance back at the mess in the kitchen, I added a reminder to the girls to clean up. I was glad they were getting along and it was nice not to be the one walking the dog for once but they needed to learn quickly that I had no intention of spending the whole summer cleaning up after them.
Nagging over with, I went outside to wait for Rob, my tummy dancing with nerves. I crossed my fingers and hoped that this might prove to be the one time my mother chose not to be a difficult cow. Ha! I won’t hold my breath!