“I think I was about six when we moved there,” she began. “Even at that age, I knew they were excited about the house.” She took a sip of the water the assistant poured for her on request.
“We drove by so many times, so slowly, it got a little embarrassing.”
She fumbled for the locket she still wore around her neck, rubbing it back and forth between her fingers. Adele watched her with a fascination that came with her own familiarity with the curious design, twinkling in the bright office lighting.
“I even caught my mother with pictures of it she got from the estate agent. Blown up to the size of a sheet of paper.” As she pointed at the yellow legal pad the assistant was busy scribbling on, everyone’s eyes followed the line of her finger.
“The strange thing was that she seemed to focus on several of the pictures most of all.” Her words drifted, in a recollection of the time.
“And they weren’t of the house at all.”
The room was so very still as she spoke, the tension acute as the other three held their breaths, waiting for the next episode of the little story.
“The images I noticed she was looking at most often; the pictures she left at the top of the little pile she’d had printed off from the brochure they produced at the time, were weird. They weren’t the house at all, but they were of something else. And at the time, I couldn’t understand – I was only six – why they were so important to her.
“But now I know why.”
She stopped again, this time rising, to walk over to the huge glass windows which gave a murky vista across the rain-sodden town. All at once, Adele knew what she was going to say. She recognised the movement and the way she peered across the town to the hills away to the west, exactly what was coming next.
It all made sense to her now.
“There were seven pictures in all that she seemed fixated with,” Laoise continued. Adele noticed a sense of relief from the lawyer and her assistant that Laoise was getting to the point. A fascinating story was all well and good, but, well, in business, time was money.
“They were all from different angles, yet they had the one thing in common, and it wasn’t the size of the kitchen or the four bedrooms. No, she was fascinated, or so it seemed at the time, with the outside of the house.” She paused for a breath, almost as if to reinforce the emphasis, “All of the pictures were of the garden.”
She waited for a reaction that did not come. She seemed a little surprised that no one seemed to follow her drift as she poured out the solution to the puzzle. So, she continued – a little awkwardly – Adele felt, as she began again.”
“Don’t you see?” she asked as she looked about the room, “Didn’t you realise?”
Helen was scrutinising Laoise closely. Marie was still writing the notes to catch up. Adele’s look was now glued to the girl in front of her.
“The pictures were all of the back garden.” There it was, Laoise thought as she said the words. The clarity they all needed.
“And, what did that mean?” Helen enquired of Laoise. “So, what about the garden? What’s your point, Laoise.”
She seemed puzzled that her offering was not being heeded quite as she anticipated – and not a little confused.
“She wasn’t that interested in the house at all, “ she spluttered in her dismay. “It wasn’t the house that she was excited about.” She let that sink in, her frustration growing. “The garden was why she was excited – and all that meant to her.”
They still didn’t get it.
She fingered the necklace all the more, such that, at one point, Adele thought she might tug it from around her neck and break it.
“There was one picture, in particular,” Laoise continued. “One of them she became preoccupied with and couldn’t put down. It was so weird, for she was not an obsessive sort. Never had been.” They waited now; even the assistant stooped writing, looking up from her pad, poised for what was to come next.
“It wasn’t even a picture taken of the actual garden. This picture was different. In fact, for some people, they might skip over it as rather uninteresting.” Looking up, she noticed their attention now, as she put it in the simplest of terms for them.
“It was a picture of the pond at the bottom of the garden. That little stretch of water that looks rather unexciting. But mother found it enthralling.”
“But why?” Adele now interjected, curious to understand what it was about that focal point her own eyes had been drawn to so often. She knew the curiosity she felt herself when she looked at it from those huge bi-fold doors. She appreciated the draw it had to her, but she had felt she was alone in that respect. A little foible of hers. A sense of pull that came from somewhere deep within only her.
“You have some jewellery, I think.” Laoise looked at Adele as she spoke, still holding the necklace.
“Just like this?” Now she held the intriguing design out before her, teasing Adele to take a closer look.
“I don’t need to inspect it, Laoise,” she said to the girl. “You know about the others, I know.”
“Yes, I know about the others. Of course,” she said. “But do you know why they are important?” Adele thought for a moment, pondering how best to reply.
“I do know they go back a long way. I know they are something to do with my family. What I don’t know is what it has to do with you though.”
Just at that moment, there was a knock on the door, and Marie went to answer.
In this forced break in the conversation, it was clear that whilst Helen wanted to get to the bottom of this and how it affected her case, Adele and Laoise were in a different place.
Adele looked at Laoise, anticipating her clarification of how this all added up. Laoise looked awkward and even a little embarrassed in the vacuum. The silence that pervaded the room while they waited for the outcome of the interruption.
“Helen,” Marie called over, “I think you’d better see this gentleman.”
It was clear from the huffing and puffing and the noisy departure from her seat, Helen was not best pleased to be interrupted. The story was unwinding and – she was hoping – getting to the relevance to her.
The discussion continued outside the door, as once she got there, consummate professional as she was, Helen stepped outside for further consultation. The full-length white blinds were closed all along the office sidewall. Whilst it was impossible to tell what was going on, flittering shadows on the blinds indicated animated activity. Some form of energised conversation going on, and after a couple of minutes of this, Helen stepped back into the room.
“I’m going to need to leave you for a little while. I’m very sorry. Something has come up which needs my attention. Marie will stay with you and organise some refreshments, and I will be back shortly.”
With that, she left, Marie returned, and Laoise and Adele were left together. Alongside a story still incomplete, its shadow permeating an atmosphere of tense apprehension of what was about to come.
Adele considered restarting the conversation more than once, before Marie returned with a tray laden with coffee, tea and pastries – the perks of well-financed law firms, Adele thought. But she refrained from any comment.
The conversation had ground to a halt, for somehow, she sensed it was not a story that could easily be told twice.
- : Mystery