The Family Pool (5)
Mary Adams peered at the page in the genealogy, by the light of her torch.
The library had become her shrine, and the huge tome her Book of Mysteries; every time she couldn’t sleep at night because of Donny being restless or her hugely pregnant body being simply too uncomfortable in the oppressive early heat of September, she came here and read further in the book.
She had stopped hiding her fascination for the Adams generations from John. He hadn’t once found her in here yet reading the large volume; but she had resolved that all she was doing, was studying the family she had married into. Because there was no real explanation for the morbid fascination that gripped her every time she stole into this room to pull the book from its position. She felt as though she were digging in forbidden information.
The genealogy had a bit of detail on many of the family members, hand-written into the book on pages opposing the family trees. Some members got a long, thorough mention, added in many different hand-writings; others just a brief naming. She was by now about halfway, figuring out the countless cousins and nephews from two generations back. It wasn’t always easy to see who the family boss was for any given generation. It took a bit of sleuthing.
Her finger trailed along the family tree, tracing the torch beam. There were occasional dead-ends – people who had died childless. She found a footnote on one specific one on the current page and looked it up. “Timmy. Very sweet and obedient boy, his parents’ pride. Drowned in Richardsmere aged 10.”
How tragic, thought Mary, her hand touching the bump that housed her own youngster. But… Richardsmere? She paged back a few pages and then a few more… there it was: “Alexandra Adams, mother of Ben and Orville, drowned in Richardsmere in 1967 while vacationing. She shall be missed.”
Two drownings in the same spot? Mary checked the date of the young boy’s demise. 1987. Twenty years removed. And yet… why the same place?
The holiday came as a surprise. John had taken a week’s leave from his business while she herself was already on maternity leave; waiting for the baby. He proclaimed that he wanted to spend a few last days with his wife before she was claimed completely by a squalling pink-foot. Mary leaned back in the car seat, eyeing the green landscape contentedly. Perhaps she ought to relax about this whole clan business; her own suspicious attitude was beginning to wear on her and John’s relationship, and right now she was tired enough that she only wanted to relax into the lap of luxury so kindly extended to her and accept all the great things that came her way, without challenging. Perhaps this holiday was exactly what she and John needed.
She was going to break to John tonight that she really wanted to call her son Donovan rather than Daniel. It wasn’t such a huge change. It was her right as a mother.
The car drew up to a spacious double-story house.
“We’ve got upstairs,” said John. “We don’t really need the whole house, do we? Aunt Elaine and my cousin Tamara are in the downstairs at this point. But don’t worry – the privacy is complete, they don’t want to be bothered either.”
Mary smiled. She had caught the Adams clan out at less-than-opulence.
That was, until she ascended the stairs – arriving at the top only marginally winded – and opened the door to the upstairs apartment of the house.
“Wow!” Drawn magnetically by the panoramic view, she found her way to the glass sliding doors and unlocked them, and moved out onto the balcony.
The rolling Midlands landscape spread out before her, bathed in sunset light. Down in the valley a lake wound around the hill. The gardens were a fairytale of huge trees in which, the way her mother would have put it, pixies still lived; rose-covered trellises and bushes trimmed into dividers. And it blended into the natural landscape apparently without a clear division.
“Family-owned, I presume,” she commented at John as he stepped out onto the balcony, placing his arm around her shoulders.
“And how,” he grinned hugely.
That night Mary got her next surprise. This time, less pleasant.
She found the guestbook and opened it to write a thank-you note into it. And saw the last entry.
“So this is it. My last visit here. I had an inkling it would all end at Richardsmere… well, kids, have fun and remember to forget the Crow! Aunt Suzine.”
Aunt Suzine! Suddenly Mary was feeling intensely unwell.
“Darling, won’t you please try to find an open pharmacy and get me something – anything that’s safe – not feeling that well…”
John took one look at his wife and dived for his keys. “Should I call the ambulance? Is Junior arriving? Do you have contractions?”
“No contractions,” groaned Mary. “Just feeling sick.”
“The panic button is right here,” said John and handed her a remote control with a single red button. “I’ll be right back. Hang tight, babes!” And he stormed out of the door.
It would take him at least half an hour to get to the nearest village, and then it was debatable whether he’d find an open pharmacy. Mary Adams fished her cellphone out of her bag and started frantically dialling numbers.
After quite a bit of searching she found the coroner’s number. She got a young assistant on the phone, probably because it was after hours. This suited her well. She demanded details on the death certificate of Suzine Adams.
A cultural struggle and ten minutes later she was cradling the cellphone in her hand, staring blankly out of the window. Her suspicion had been confirmed.
There had been no cancer. Suzine had drowned in Richardsmere.