28th September 1932 – 13th March 2003
It was not a name Augusta had ever prepared herself to read ever again and she peered at the printed name through her half-moon framed glasses. She'd always known of her husband's mistress 'Bernie' but as he'd been dead over a decade it had become a misdemeanour she'd grown to accept and ignore. Augusta had never had the displeasure of meeting the other woman, putting her far from her mind the moment her husband's corpse had been buried (though she had candidly looked around at the funeral at the unknown faces and assumed one of them would have been the adulterous whore).
The will in front of her had come as a surprise. Not the will itself; she was at the age when most of her friends were either dead or dying, and even her family had to concentrate on the legalities of ownership. As the wife of a lawyer and a fine legal secretary in her own right, Augusta had transcribed and witnessed a deluge of wills in her time. Though she hadn't been expecting the brown envelope through her letter box, it was certainly not completely out of the ordinary.
Bernadette Cynthia Healy's Last Will and Testament however, had come as quite a shock. The address was correct; the will inside having been written on sturdy water-marked parchment favoured by the more expensive law-firms on five separate pages. Augusta had yet to turn over the first page as she was still staring at the name magnified by her thick lenses. 13th March 2003, she counted back on her fingers; Bernadette Cynthia Healy must have died a little over five weeks ago. Slowly shaking her head causing her large earrings to chime below her ears, August moved her water-marked hands towards the page.
Her ring-clad fingers struggled to turn over the page, so Augusta had to wet her fingertips with her tongue in order to get a grip and open the Pandora's will before her. The first page held a table of contents, which seemed unnecessary considering there were only three pages to follow. The contents read in the most ornate calligraphy:
• A letter to Mrs Augusta Davidson to be opened after I, Bernadette Cynthia Healy, have left this world.
• The will containing details of all that I, Bernadette Cynthia Healy, own and where it should get distributed following my death.
An entire page of hand crafted calligraphy on water-marked parchment dedicated to those two lines. Augusta snorted under her breath at the expense. She turned the second page, not needing to reapply her fingertips to her tongue.
The letter dated 1st June 1992, followed in a much simpler handwritten script. Augusta couldn't help but notice this was only a few days after the death of her husband. She knew that somehow the man that gave these two women a history would be to blame for the will ending up in her hands. To think that this mistress had the audacity to send her the most intimate Last Will and Testament, despite the fact they wouldn't have even recognised each other walking down the street.
I can't stand formalities, they are a waste of time and now that I am dead, I couldn't give two fiddlesticks about propriety and convention. So excuse me for using your Christian name, but after all we have been through I don't suppose it really matters.
Jonathon was the love of my life and I envied every second you were able to spend with your husband, because it meant that I was in the side lines. I haven't written this letter to gloat, nor ask for forgiveness, but to try and give you some understanding as to why I've gone to my grave with no regrets.
From what I've heard about you, which was an awful lot, not just from Jonathon but also from the London magazines and mutual friends (you didn't know I was that close to your inner circle, did you?) we came from similar backgrounds. That was up until the war. I was evacuated to Scotland you see, London having a terrible time with the bombing, where as you were just sent to your home in the countryside. I left London when I was nine and did not return until my twenty fifth year.
I had always been told my parents were killed in the bombing and I was lucky enough to survive and continue living in Scotland. Returning to London was my greatest achievement at the age of twenty five. I had been told I had money in an account in London which I could access on my twenty fifth birthday and I wanted to make something of myself. Life never seems to work like that, does it?
On my twenty fifth birthday, after a few months boarding with friends I went to the bank with all the details I'd been given by my foster family, only to find the money had already been withdrawn. Impossible, you say? Well maybe not so. It seems I have a brother who was born the year I was evacuated. He survived and as a man, was able to access the account from the age of eighteen. Even more frustrating I was unable to get any details from the bank as they were no longer in my name. It soon became apparent that the brother who had withdrawn the money had known about my existence and chose to ignore any means of contact or communication.
Here I was, in London, twenty five years old, with nothing more than a few pounds to my name and a suitcase of clothes completely unsuitable for work. This is where your husband comes in. Jonathon saw me in my perplexed state at the bank and offered to buy me a coffee. After the cold hearted men at the bank I accepted immediately. I don't remember whether or not I noticed his wedding ring, and Augusta, frankly I don't care. Given time, that would have meant nothing to me, so I may as well accept the blame for what it is.
I'm losing track of the point of this entire letter. No doubt the last thing you want to read about is your husband's affair, even though he must have been dead for quite some time now. But Jonathon did offer to help me when he heard of my plight – he was always a sucker for a lost cause. I never ended up contacting my brother in my life time; I didn't want to know someone who didn't want to know me. But his details are in the envelope enclosed with this will. It would mean everything to me if you could get in contact with him, if he is still alive of course, and find out his story.
There is no reason on this earth why you would do this for me other than curiosity. Augusta, I know you are the better person out of the two of us, just as I know Jonathon loved the two of us in his own special way. I cannot do more other than ask you to have a look out for my brother and see if I do have a family here in London, or indeed anywhere in the world (how times have changed). If you do not look for him, I understand. It's no less than what I'd deserve.
You were a better wife to Jonathon than I could ever be, and for that I thank you for looking after the man I loved.
Bernadette Cynthia Healy