The Family Pool (4)





The library wasn’t stocked, thought Mary as she trailed her hand across the books. It was stacked. She’d had to put most of her own treasured books into boxes and store them at her dad’s house – who had been glad to hold onto them for her and gladder to see her. It had been such a busy seven months; she’d hardly had time to visit. She worked long hours overtime every day in the hope of saving up enough to buy those few choice baby items she had her heart set on.

The nursery that came with this house left very little to add. It was painted white; and decorated in soft pastel colours, neither for boys nor for girls, but a fair mix. Somehow it all blended together though to create a perfect, still atmosphere that was necessary for a baby’s peace of mind.

Mary’s hands itched to fill the place with bright colourful items. Reds, blues. Boy stuff. Donny was a restless youngster; he tumbled and turned inside her, and played football with her bladder. She knew he was going to be a dynamic, active boy.

John was, as so very often in the last time, visiting Uncle Daniel. Mary was beginning to wonder if he were married to his uncle. She had supper ready on the stove, and the table set beautifully with all the highly priced tableware of this house; and that had taken some doing, as she was exhausted after the long day at work! And now the food was slowly getting overcooked, the salad was wilting and all the alcohol was escaping from John’s wine, and the bubbles from her soda.

Her finger stopped on a huge, hard-cover volume with gold-embossed lettering: the Adams genealogy. She had never been “overcome” by curiosity before but right now the urge to take it out and look was too strong to resist. She couldn’t really understand why she felt as though the whole congregated portraitship of Adams’ lining the library’s walls between the shelves was frowning at her for trying to learn more about them. She had a right; she’d married an Adams and she carried an Adams! She tugged at the huge book and it slid out of the shelf with some resistance. Once it was in her arms it was heavy; too heavy to hold in one hand, nearly too heavy to lift for a pregnant woman. She carried it to the antique study desk and placed it on the wooden surface, tracing the gold lettering with her finger. And then she carefully opened the book.

If she had expected bats to fly out of it, or a monstrous hand grabbing her, she was to be surprised. In the front of the book there were two scribbled notes; one on thin, age-yellowed paper with faded ink; and one was just a scrap of folded paper that looked fairly recent.

She looked at the older note first. She could hardly decipher the flowing cursive hand. Small u’s had little lines over them to distinguish them from n’s. The small r looked like nothing at all, just a wavy line. She was getting there.

The signature surprised her the most. “Suzine Adams”. The Crow. She had left a note for posterity? Mary Adams read.

“This clan is like a prison. Every move you make is decided by the High Command. Perhaps the comfort of the physical wealth suits some ladies, but I – need more freedom. I would love to sell my paintings, have them appreciated by the public; get some feedback that I’m any good. But no – the Clan will not permit it. My own principles stop me from leaving my husband Thomas, who has a bad case of clan, but I feel as though there is nobody I can confide in, nobody to share my concerns. I am alone, so very alone! – Suzine Adams.”

The front door opened. Mary put the note back into the book, electrified. She lugged the heavy tome back to its spot and struggled with it until it was back in the shelf; then she grabbed a random book – a book on gardening – and took it to the desk and opened it. And John peered into the library.

“Keeping yourself amused, Baby?”

“Supper’s ready,” was Mary’s slightly unamused reply. She wished he’d let her know by which time he’d be back from conferring with the High Command.

Late that night, after John had gone to bed and was sleeping soundly, Mary sneaked back to the library. She turned on a low light and searched out the tome of the family genealogy again. The book hadn’t got any lighter since she last lifted it; but she lugged it back to the desk and opened the cover once more, scanning Suzine’s note once again. So the old lady had painted? She’d be curious to see her art! And then she unfolded the other note.

“Mary,” it read, “this is Jenny. Listen to me. This family is a trap! Get out as fast as you can, you have no idea. Protect yourself and your baby; it’s too late for me and my kids. Love – Jenny.”

She sat there dumbstruck for several minutes before putting the note into the pocket of her dressing gown, closing the book and replacing it into the shelf.

She had just had her feelings of unease consolidated by Jenny’s warning. But – leave John? She loved the man, for crying! He was Donny’s father! If she was leaving the clan, she’d take him with her.

She turned off the light and ghosted back to the bedroom in the dark, stopping in the lounge to place the note in her wallet. No place felt safe enough for it. John must never find it.

She crept back into bed, feeling icy.

© Lyz Russo