BERNADETTE CYNTHIA HEALY
It isn't a lot to go on. Tames End Primary School isn't a school I've ever heard of, so no doubt it's either changed its name or has closed down at some point in the last fifty years. I know I can't just assume as much and I make a mental note to do some research once I've got my head around the idea of accepting Bernadette Cynthia Healy's request.
I gaze at the sepia photograph and the nine year old boy. He is smiling, clearly the thought of going to back to school didn't faze him, and he seems proud of the uniform he's wearing. I wonder, briefly, who took the photograph. I was sure I'd read somewhere that his parents died during the war, so I begin to shuffle through the various pieces of paper that fan out over my skirt.
Here, in her letter, 'I had always been told my parents were killed in the bombing and I was lucky enough to survive and continue living in Scotland.' It certainly gives the impression that there was some doubt concerning their survival, and it begged the question as to how could her own parents not be bothered to collect their daughter after the war and years of living as an evacuee.
I have to stop myself from feeling sorry for this woman. Of course I have to keep my emotions in check; she's the woman who slept with my husband for twenty one years of my marriage, not some victim of abandonment. I force myself to think more clinically. I cannot ignore the wry smile plastered on my lips. If Jonathon were still alive he'd tell me to go with my gut instinct. He used to say that he was rational and logical and I was the person who forced him to think outside the box.
I'd never have bothered with logic and reason if it hadn't been for Jonathon. He made me a better lawyer and gave me the chance to investigate my emotional gut feelings when other bosses and even other colleagues thought I was wrong.
There were times when I'd been wrong, of course, but more often than not, my gut instinct wasn't far off. I just didn't want to be right about Bernadette Cynthia Healy's parents. I hoped I was wrong because I didn't want to pity the woman I'd hated for nearly half my life.
I empty the rest of the contents of the envelope, trying to delve further into Albert Healy's life so I can get some sort of understanding of what kind of man I may well be dealing with. There isn't much to go on. A newspaper clipping from 1961 stating that an Albert Healy married a Eugene Barnet in a small ceremony in St Mary Magdalene Church in Bermondsey. And the bank statement from that fateful day back in 1957, which unified this woman and my husband.
I'm quite impressed with the little information that she's managed to supply me with. It's more than I'd expected when I'd first read the letter, though the finer details weren't at the forefront of my mind at the time. In fact it's more than enough information for her to have found out everything she'd ever wanted while she was alive.
The newspaper clipping shows her obvious interest into her brother's life, even though she denied herself the pleasure of ever having to meet him. I sit and imagine for a little while what it would be like to meet a brother you didn't know existed until you were twenty five years old. Especially what this means for you financially (secretly I'm fuming at the ability for a man to take control of money that isn't his, just because he's a man – but again I have to keep in control of my emotions and the fairness of it all) and I can't help but wonder what it means for Bernadette Cynthia Healy's parents.
Are they still alive? Did they not die in the blitz? Did they really abandon their only daughter? So many questions, yet I'm puzzled most as to why my nemesis waited until after her death to bother asking any of these questions. That's the greater mystery to me, for now.
I glance at the rest of the Last Will and Testament that sticks out conspicuously of the brown envelope it arrived in a few days ago. I've skimmed the contents only the once and have succeeded in ignoring the more monetary side of this so called bargain. Nevertheless, I will have to be fully up to date with every detail when I try and explain this whole situation to both Polly and Jack.
Opening the crisp water-marked paper, I turn to the offending page. I acquired a knack for ignoring the lawyer-speak garnishing every clause and stipulation from Jonathon, and it takes me all of thirteen minutes to summarise the three pages. As long as I comply to Bernadette Cynthia Healy's wishes and put all my efforts into finding her brother and family, alive or dead, within the next twelve months, everything she owned will become mine.
Everything she owned: a property in Chelsea and all its contents, a 1974 Jaguar E-Type V12, which screams of Jonathon's taste and makes my stomach churn, and a second property in Scotland on the outskirts of Glasgow. There are only rough estimations as to the value of everything, but the car alone is worth nearly £80,000. I have to catch my breath as I realise to what extent this woman had played her game of life.
How do I convince my children that I'm not going to agree to this farcical idea for the money, but for some solace of mind? How do I convince myself that's the reason I'm going to do the deed and play investigator for a dead woman? I don't need the money, and I've never been one for the finer things in life, though that's where Jonathon would argue it's because I've always had the finer things in life and I've never had to do without.
I suppose he wouldn't be entirely wrong, but I do like to use money to help people, and I can only imagine what strengths the firm would aspire to reach if they had access to more capital. I can almost hear Keith begging to do more pro bono work if it meant he could fight against the larger companies in court. And of course, I'd give a certain amount of money away to charity; Polly and I have talked about starting our own charity for women who want to leave their abusive husbands, but we've never had the time nor money to put our words into action.
At least this way, some good could come of Bernadette Cynthia Healy's life.