Moving here to Sunset Valley was not my first choice but after dad died my options were limited. The house we had lived in before his death was rented and without a job I was unable to pay the rent. With little money to my name finding another place in Twinbrook was not an option, so here I am by myself in a town I know little about. The few friends I have are back home. Being somewhere where I don’t know anyone makes me feel isolated and lonely but this move was all about a chance at a fresh start so I just have to make the best of it. Once I get a job and start socialising I am sure I will make new friends.
Dad had told me about this house years ago. It was my parents first home together and where I spent the first few years of my life. The move to Twinbrook came after mum’s accident. Dad couldn’t bring himself to live here without her, he never sold it though. Up until a couple of years ago it was rented to a lovely couple. They moved out soon after dad got ill.
Dad’s illness made him think a bit more practically, he started to get his affairs in order for one thing. He made a will and signed the house over to me. The last thing either of us wanted was to loose it. The house is mine now and I am free to do whatever I want with it. At first I was reluctant to make any changes but I’m sure mum and dad would both be happy with me making this place a home again. Keen to make a start on the work I wanted to do to the place I hired someone to repaint the outside of the house.
Most of my belongings had already been delivered before I got here. Among them was a box of mum’s things that dad had kept. Her wedding ring was in this box at one point. I usually wear this along with dads on a chain around my neck, it makes me feel like they are still with me. My favourite item in the box is a photo album. Inside are photos from my parent’s wedding. She looked so beautiful and they both looked really happy. My wish is I that I can find a love like they had one day. I love this photo so much, it’s my favourite one of mum. The plan is to get a copy framed one day, well when I decide where I want to put it.
Most of the first week was spent trying to get things in a habitable state. I planned to leave the inside at it was for now. Most of the furniture was still in good condition although I felt the sofas could do with being reupholstered. The green and yellow combo is a bit old fashioned for my taste. Instead I have been working on getting the front garden more presentable.
Mum and Dad probably liked it but I felt it needed updating. It was untidy and full of weeds. The path had remained untouched for years and was starting to look tired and overgrown. With some help from a local landscaping company it was soon looking much better. The plants brightened the place up and I even found a spot for my beloved scooter. Just changing this small area made me feel more like this was home. I was going to enjoy living here.
Well, that’s what I thought at the time. A couple of weeks later I got a phone call that changed everything. I had not long got myself a job at the science lab. It was late in the evening, I had just settled down after a long day at work with a glass of wine and was flicking through the channels on the TV trying to find something worthy of my attention. My phone was sitting on the table in front of me, not that I was expecting it to ring it was just so I knew where it was. It’s not like I know anyone all that well yet anyway. When it did ring it startled me so much I nearly spilt my wine. Curious to see who was calling I picked it up. Looking at the display I saw it was a local number, who on earth would be calling me from around here? I started to wonder if it was a cold caller or a prank call. Only one way to find out I guess and I answered the call.
“Hello?” I said answering the unfamiliar number. “Who is this?” My tone was not overly friendly but then I wasn’t expecting anything important. I was armed with some choice words ready for them, however I was caught off guard when an elderly woman spoke. Her voice was calm and polite. Quite pleasant to listen to actually.
“Yes, hello. I am sorry to disturb you so late. My name is Cornelia Goth, I am calling on behalf of my husband Gunther Goth.” she explained calmly although I could sense a slight tension in her voice.
“Oh hello, what can I do for you?” I asked trying to remain calm. A call from the Goth family? Why were they calling me?
“My husband has something he wishes to discuss with you.” Cornelia continued. How I hate that line. Very rarely does it mean anything good, in my experience anyway.
“Can’t you tell me over the phone?” I asked, fishing for any titbit of information I could get out of her. This was such a weird thing to happen. How did they even have my number to begin with? It’s not like I have any ties to them.
“My husband and I both agree this is a discussion best done in person. Would you be available next week?” She told me. It was clear I wasn’t going to get anything out of her. Kind of reminded me of when I used to ask dad about mum. He always said I was better off not knowing. I gave up asking about her in the end, it became clear dad didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe when I get things sorted with the house I can do my own digging.
Suddenly I remembered I was still on the phone and this woman wanted a reply. What was I going to say? I mean what could Gunther Goth possibly wish to talk to me about? “Um, ok” I said in reply, shrugging my shoulders. “Any particular day you had in mind?”
What have I got to loose, I thought. After agreeing to the meeting Cornelia and I spoke a little longer in order to arrange a date and time then I hung up. Yawning I made a note of the date of the meeting before heading to bed. I just know this meeting is going to be on my mind until it actually happens.
One week later
I had seen photos of the Goth Manor but they really don’t compare to seeing it for real. It is such a huge imposing building and obviously very old. Taking a deep breath I made my way to the door and rang the bell. A blonde woman answered the door with a warm smile and ushered me inside.
“Amelia right?” She asked as she led me into a spacious hallway. “I’m Agnes, it’s nice to meet you. Please come this way, Gunther’s waiting for you.”
Agnes pointed to a large room on her right as she spoke. Before she could say anything else her attention was drawn away when the cries of a baby could be heard from upstairs.
“Please excuse me.” Agnes said in response to the cries. “My daughter needs me”
“Of course” I said smiling politely. “Thank you”
I remained in the hallway briefly watching Agnes hurry upstairs towards the sound of the cries. Looking to my left I saw the room Agnes had pointed to earlier. Talking a deep breath I entered the room. A thin pale man I assumed was Gunther was sitting on a sofa that was part of group arranged near a fireplace, next to him was a woman I assumed was his wife, Cornelia.
“Hello” I said in an attempt to alert them to my presence.
The woman rose from her seat when she noticed me and greeted me warmly. “You must be Amelia, it’s nice to put a face to the name. I’m Cornelia we spoke on the phone,” she said shaking me hand. “Please sit.”
“Ah of course,” I said following her towards the sofas. “Thanks.”
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with us,” Gunther said smiling warmly at me. “It is so nice to finally meet you. Your father has told me so much about you.”
“Thanks” I said politely even though the comment was totally unexpected “I didn’t know my dad was friends with you. He never mentioned anyone by the name Goth.”
The way Gunther and Cornelia looked at each other when I spoke was curious. They seemed shocked that dad never told me. Was there something they knew that I didn’t? Would I ever find out?
“You are probably wondering why you were invited here?” Gunther asked me.
“It had crossed my mind” I answered in a thinly veiled attempt to remain polite. That was stating the obvious a little. I had to resist the urge to tell them to just get on with it.
Gunther coughed and Cornelia regarded him with concern. Gunther shrugged her off saying he was fine. “You must have heard about the disappearance of our son Mortimer?” Gunther explained. “Such an awful situation but with no other children it has left me without an heir.”
“Yes I heard about that but what has that got to do with me?” I asked then realising I should probably show a bit of sympathy about their missing son I added “I am sorry to hear he is still missing. I hope he is returned to you safely.”
“Thank you, so do I” Cornelia said. I could see tears forming in her eyes. He was her only son and it was only natural that she missed him. It was clear they would never give up hope that one day they would be reunited with him. It was kind of sweet really, I hoped wherever he was he knew how much they loved him.
Gunther sat up straighter, cleared his throat and spoke the words that would change my life. “Amelia, I invited you here because I want you to be my new heir.” he told me.
I was stunned. Of all the scenarios that I had imagined over the past week this was not something I had ever thought would happen. It felt like I had won a competition I hadn’t even entered. “Heir?” I repeated making sure I had heard correctly. “How? I am not even related to you. Don’t you need someone from your own bloodline?”
Gunther smiled knowingly. “You really don’t know anything about your late mother do you? About her family?”
“What does my mother have to do with this?” I asked suddenly very confused. What did these people know about mum? It was at that moment that I noticed a photo sitting on a table behind him, a wedding photo. I had originally dismissed it thinking it was of Gunther and Cornelia’s wedding but now that I looked a little closer it looked familiar. Of course I couldn’t take this as solid proof of a connection to mum. The photo could have been planted. “Can I ask why you have that photo?”
Gunther and Cornelia both turned to look at the photo I was referring to. “How long has that been there?” Cornelia asked. Clearly she hadn’t seen this photo before.
Gunther looked at his wife. “I’m sorry my dear that was my doing. The reasons for which will become clear soon enough.” Clearly this was a polite way of saying he would explain it to her later. Gunther then turned to me. “In answer to your question that is a photo of my younger sister, Lolita on her wedding day. One of my favourite photos of her actually.”
“Sister?” I repeated starting to realise that maybe there was something dad hadn’t told me about mum. “T-that’s my mother.”
“Wait a minute” Cornelia said “You mean to say you’re Lolita’s daughter?”
“My mother’s name was Lolita if that’s what you mean.” I answered using the facts I knew to be true. It’s not exactly a common name so there was a chance they could be talking about mum. One thing was clear at this point, if they really did know mum I needed to hear more. I could do some investigation later to confirm their or disprove their story.
“Please let me explain.” Gunther added. “Perhaps it will help you with your decision.”
“OK” I said prepared to listen. There really was little other reason for him to have that photo. I remember dad saying mum had a difficult upbringing and had few friends. Dad had told me that mum’s closest friend besides him was her brother. He would never tell me who her brother was though. Maybe he thought he was protecting me, but from what?
“Without going into too much detail Lolita was the daughter of my mother, Gretle and Cornelia’s father, Simon Crumplebottom. She was the result of an affair that had been going on for years. Lolita met your father when they were both in high school. They quickly became close friends and later started dating.” Gunther explained. He stopped briefly to have a drink of water then continued. “I was there the day she married your father. It was the happiest day of her life, I remember her telling me that. The only other time I saw her that happy was when you were born Amelia.”
“This is all great” Cornelia said when he finished. “What I don’t understand though is why tell everyone Lolita was your wife?”
Gunther rolled his eyes and turned to look at his wife. His expression told her that this wasn’t the time. All he said in my presence was “I made a promise to my father before he died.”
“So you asked me to be your heir because my mother was your half-sister?” I asked sensing Gunther needed a change of subject.
“Yes and no” He said confusing me further. “It seems like an odd arrangement now but back when my parents were young it was common practice among the higher classes.”
“Arrangement?” I questioned. “What arrangement?”
Why can’t old people just get to the point for once. It’s like starting off at the middle of a book and then going back to read the start. Really annoying, dad used to do that all the time.
“My parents marriage, like my own was an arranged one.” Gunther explained. “I think it would be frowned upon now but my parents were cousins. My grandparents were keen to keep any marriages between those from upper class families and at that time there wasn’t any other suitable matches for my father.”
“Wow” I said. This seemed like a story from a different world, from my point of view it was. “So I am a Goth by blood then?”
“That’s right” Gunther told me. “I am sorry if this is overwhelming for you but it is all stuff I felt you needed to know.”
“It’s ok” I told him with a smile. “It is a lot to take in but I am glad you told me. Dad, for whatever reason would never tell me anything about mum’s past. It is nice to hear about her from someone who knew her.”
“Thank you for meeting with me and listening to an old man’s tale.” Gunther told me. “You will need time to process all this and come to a decision I can understand that. Please take your time and call me when you know what you want to do.”
Gunther handed me a card with his phone number on it. I took it and put it in my bag.
“Before I go could I ask you something?” I asked. If my guess was correct there was something dad lied to me about.
“Of course” Gunther said.
“Do you know where my mother’s grave is?” I asked him. For years I had visited the graveyard in Twinbrook where I had been told mum’s grave was. The gravestone even had her name on it. Before now I had never had any reason to doubt this.
“Your mother lies in the town cemetery just down the road.” Gunther told me. Was anything dad told me true? I never suspected there were so many secrets in my parents past.
“Thank you” I said standing up. “Well I wont take up any more of your time. It was nice to meet all of you.”
I thanked Gunther once more and left Goth manor. The graveyard was my next stop, I was assured it wasn’t far so I decided to walk. Maybe it would give me time to think about what I was going to do now.
Authors note: For those who didn’t guess (I don’t think his name is mentioned in the chapter) Amelia’s father is All Bran Mendoza from the Mendoza ISBI. Someone had to fill the role so why not one of my favourite spares. 😀
Also sorry for Cornelia and Amelia’s expressions in the photos for the meeting. They do like each other, I think it’s just the Grumpy trait they both have! Oh and Agnes pops up in the background of one along with a plumbob, please ignore that.