chapter 9

angharad hughes

only connect

Chapter 9

 

 

Alex took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. It was tiring reading in the fading light but they didn't want to go indoors. Claudia had dropped off a large leather suitcase which Lucilia had been using to store documents.

 

"There is something about these that doesn't make sense," he said. "I'm going to need to get them translated but the layout of this like a will to me. See here, the attestation clause? I though the story was that Roberto had died intestate."

 

"I think he made a will but it was invalid," said Ginny, "how about you ask Claudia to have a look tomorrow? "

 

Kenny put down his Nintendo. He looked over Alex's shoulder and pointed at the heading.

 

"'vontade e testament do Ășltimo' is Portuguese for 'Last Will and Testament'."

 

"How do you know?" asked Bron.

 

"I've been reading the phrase book."

 

"Why would anyone need to know Portuguese for 'Last Will and Testament' on holiday?" Andy piped up.

 

"Perhaps if they were sitting next to someone who recounts aircrashes on the plane?" suggested Bron.

 

"In that case," said Alex, "this is a will." He turned to the end. "And it looks as though it is Dan's father's will."

 

"Maybe it was invalid like they said?" suggested Ginny.

 

Alex decided to ring one of his legal contacts in Lisbon in the morning. There was nothing he hated so much as loose ends. It was what made him so good at research. He had the perseverance of a terrier when he was onto something.

 

Kenny looked up again. "have you heard the story of rumpled foreskin?" he asked, "it was in Scary Movie 4..."

 

* * *

 

Nell stretched and yawned. Reflexology was amazing. You would never think that prodding bits of your feet would have such a profound effect. Bibi smiled.

 

"You look so much better than the first time we met!" she said.

 

"I feel it!" She didn't like to say that it was not only the reflexology that had put a spring in her step.

 

They were going to Sandra's for lunch. Afterwards they planned to take Sandra and Luis up into the mountains for a drive before going to Villa Borbeleta for a farewell meal for the New Zealanders. Their van was finally fixed and they were heading off tomorrow.

 

Sandra had laid on a feast. There were (list of goodies). Luis showed Dan his collection of football mugs while Nell helped Sandra lay out the food.

 

"Dan is so pleased to have found you," she said, "he was scared you would not want to see him; that his birth might be something you wanted to keep hidden."

 

"You have no idea how happy it has made me." Sandra opened the oven and took out a tray of tiny pastries. "it has been like part of my body was taken from me and buried. No-one should have to go through all that. And Luis has been so thrilled to meet his brother. He has missed out on having someone to rough and tumble with." They all sat down to eat. The flat was tiny but cheerful. Orange cushions were scattered on the black sofa and an orange rag rug was placed in front of the fireplace. The windows opened onto a balcony with nasturtiums and pelargoniums in old olive oil cans with interesting labels.

 

After lunch they had coffee, strong and frothy. Sandra shook nutmeg on the froth through a little stencil, leaving smiley faces. Dan and Luis went down to the courtyard and played football. Nell washed up while Sandra sat and chatted to her.

 

"You don't know what a treat this is! Luis is a good boy but he does so much already. I don't like to keep giving him chores. "

 

They drove up into the hills, past eucalyptus trees, orange groves and figs. There were almond trees and ancient olives. They stopped by a lay-by to look at the levadas. Nell took several shots of Sandra, Dan and Luis. The family resemblance was astonishing. Nell could not understand how she had not seen it before. She zoomed in on Sandra's face, with the light accentuating her high cheekbones.

 

"You have such good bone structure - you are a photographer's dream!"

 

* * *

 

At the villa there was a buzz of excitement. Alex took Dan to one side.

 

"I think we may have found your father's will in among the documents that Lucilia lent to us," he whispered. "I've faxed it to a colleague in Lisbon to have a look at it so I don't want to say anything to your mother yet. But if it is valid, he leaves everything to her."

 

"So that means she can finish the house! Although I don't know how she could afford to now - my father was going to do most of the work himself...." An idea was beginning to form in Dan's mind.

 

Parvin, Jeff and Marcus arrived with champagne and chocolates. They were much more cheerful.

 

"We've found a wonderful old farm. Its over there." Jeff pointed across the valley. "You go along the track and then it has its own track up the other side of the valley. "in fact you can probably see it from here." Kenny jumped up on the bench by the marble table and then up onto the roof of the water tank where he had taken to sunbathing.

 

"I can see a place with a tarpaulin over the roof."

 

"That's it!" they took it in turns to look, apart from Parvin, who was taking things more gently given her plaster cast. "It has loads of land and, although it looks a state, its only the roof really. Once that's done we can move in."

 

Jeff and Marcus were on brilliant form, joking and play-acting. Molly was quiet.

 

"I'm so going to miss this," she said wistfully, "we always seem to be moving on."

 

"But the world is getting smaller," said Bron, "who knows, perhaps our next fraud case will be in New Zealand!"

 

They exchanged e-mail addresses and website addresses and all the trappings of the electronic world. Andy drove them into Lagoa to the van. The others waved from the gate, growing smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror.

 

"Like the Meat Loaf song!" said Billy.

 

"What?" Molly was irritated, in spite of herself, with his lack of feeling for the moment. You could be crying your eyes out and he would give you some interesting fact about tarantulas and then seem surprised when you cried even more. The trouble with autistic kids was that they said what they thought.

 

"Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are," said Billy, as though she ought to have known this. Molly had a feeling that this was maybe more profound than she could get her head round right now. Jack started to explain to Billy the way car mirrors worked.

 

 

* * *

 

Nell woke up feeling exhausted. She put it down to the excitement of the last few days and dragged herself out of bed. A shower perked her up a bit and she got dressed and went along for breakfast. She had a reflexology session booked for 10.

 

Bibi was chatty.

 

"My son is coming over for a break. He works as a programmer in Chicago so I see very little of him. I know I sound like a typical Jewish mother but he works too hard! I wish he would meet a nice girl and settle down. Oh, God, how much do I sound like a typical Jewish mother!" She started to work on Nell's feet. Suddenly Nell flinched.

 

"Sorry," said Bibi. "that pressure point usually only hurts if someone is pregnant."

 

* * *

 

Alex flipped his mobile phone shut.

 

"Well it seems that the document we were looking at is indeed a will, and it is valid. Professor Bloch said he could see how the local lawyer might have thought it was not valid but there is no doubt it is. So Sandra does own the house over the road. " He opened the phone again and dialled Dan's number.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

"I'm sorry," said Nell, "I think I must have a pee infection. I woke up feeling a bit sluggish." Dan pulled over for the second time, grinning. "I've heard there is a thing called honeymoon cystitis. Not sure if you have to get married first though!"

 

Nell jumped back into the van. They were on the way to Lagoa to meet Alex and Sandra. Sandra had arranged a longer lunch hour. Alex had sounded mysterious on the phone.

 

They settled down at a table at the cafe. Sandra arrived and joined them.

 

"What is this about?" she asked Dan.

 

"I'm not sure. Alex was very shifty!" Just then Alex strode over. He settled down in a chair and leant back, folding his arms.

 

"Its good news. the document that we thought was Roberto's will is valid. You were wrongly advised when he died. So the house goes to you and you do not have to wait until Luis is 18 to finish it."

 

Sandra sat in stunned silence.

 

"But how did the lawyer not know this?"

 

"It's a complicated technical point which would have been easy to mistake. But there isn't any doubt about it - the will is valid. I've had it looked at by a senior lawyer at the University in Lisbon."

 

"Aren't you pleased?" asked Nell, gently putting her hand over Sandra's.

 

"I'm shocked. Also I don't know how I can do anything with it. Roberto was going to finish it."

 

"I've had a bit of an idea." said Dan. "I do a bit of carpentry. If you can get someone to help me with labouring I can help you with it." He turned to Nell. "You are going to be here for at least a couple of months aren't you?" Nell nodded. "i should have done the bulk of it by then. Maybe we could come back to finish it?"

 

"I don't have anything to go back for," said Nell. "the world is my oyster!" She excused herself and went to the loo.

 

When Nell sat down again Sandra was sitting with tears running down her face.

 

"You have no idea how much i was dreading saying goodbye to you again," she said to Dan, "I want to keep you near me now I have found you. Thank God for all this."