Bequeath My Estate

Entry by: jaguar

6th December 2016
They wait like inverted ghosts, creatures that believe their real lives can only begin now I’m gone. They think I didn’t know what I was saying or doing at the end, that any random instructions might be contained in this will. The dried prune solicitor duly informs them it was last changed two days before my death and there’s a collective intake of breath that buffets me.

I am aggrieved although they can’t know I’m now a series of dense, invisible cells hanging in roughly my old outline in the air. I would rather still be alive and in better control but this stage isn’t as bad as it sounds. Hour by hour my outline is straightening itself, the wire and flexibility of youth is repossessing my shape. The more my cells concentrate the more conscious I’m becoming of an unfamiliar emotion. It isn’t hope exactly, more a mixture of hope and certainty. I am getting surer and surer I did the right thing. It's a long time since I've felt such certainty.

The solicitor opens the envelope and I stare at the paper that emerges. Such a frail thing to carry so much emotion. Now that no one writes letters anymore it’s unusual for a piece of paper to have so much significance. I look at my youngest niece, Lily, the only one of them that ever wrote to me. Long, painfully correct letters with no life in them. They made me want to kill my brother and his wife who leant on her so heavily, crushed the breath out of the girl. Yet her letters also made me want to shake Lily and howl at her to grow some backbone. She is crying now as if I did shake her, not even looking at the room’s main focus, her face twisted with terrible emotions.

Why is Lily crying, can she know what's coming or is she grieving for what's lost? I know with absolute certainty that no one else here has shed a tear for me. In truth I don’t want all that weeping and gashing of teeth. I quite liked my wake that consisted of people I wasn’t particularly close to behaving outrageously. They were the sort who just top up their alcohol levels continually, a couple of glasses and a soggy vol-au-vent and they were well away. It was jolly though in a desperate kind of way. Lily was there, big rabbit eyes transfixed. It must have been her that organised it, going through my decaying address book last looked at fifteen years before.

Look at the rest of my relatives, all that’s left of a great dynasty. Such a bunch of weasels and ferrets jockeying for room at the front. Who’s managed to elbow their way into chief mourner position? I thought it would be my domineering brother and his awful bust on legs wife. My spoilt little sister must have polished her elbows for hours in order to get in there first. That coat she’s wearing came from my wardrobes, she must have been through the fur corpses and the strangled silks already.

It would serve her right if I’d done that mad old lady thing and left my estate to William, my little pug. Truth be told he was far more of a solace to me than the family ever were. But I’m no mad old lady, I was only forty-eight and William’s favoured foods are cheap. I have left the dog to Lily in the hope he will drive my brother mad. Lily will love William as much as her father will loathe him.

They are all holding their breath and it sucks me towards them, nearer than I care for, so I’m smelling their acrid need. I see close up the scars of greed. We have all lived badly because of our wealth. There was a time my brother could have made a mark for himself rather than becoming the reluctant custodian of the family home. That vast, damp pile has overwhelmed his decency, corroded his spirit, turned him into a caricature of his young, bright self. It pulls him into the earth every day he stays there.

My sparky little sister has snorted her inheritance and now she’s a twanging skeleton hopeful for a lethal dose of her preferred poison. She used to be the one who tended to the animals, cared for the estate workers, tried to make our monstrous parents see the world had moved on from keeping everybody beneath you with your foot on their throats. She tried but she failed and it destroyed her. She won’t be long behind me.

If I give my siblings money it will be the end of them. My brother won’t have to realise the family home is not sustainable, he will be tied to it for his remaining lifetime. My sister will buy her own, early death. I’m giving them nothing. The fortune isn't going to little Lily either who would get as damp blotted as her father and as crucified by self-doubt as me. She would never know any suitor’s true motivation but always suspect right past the big wedding, the honeymoon period, the day-to-day velvet-lined rut. I’m not doing that to her, all I’ve bequeathed is enough for William’s vet bills and for her to pursue her dreary dream of being a poet for another few years.

This is how I decided to bequeath my estate. Half and half to two men, almost strangers to the family now but one wasn’t once and the other won’t be in future. I’ve left half to my long-lost husband, wherever he might be. It’s an expensive sorry for not realising he really wasn’t after my money. Now he’s stayed away so long and asked for nothing my money’s after him instead. I think that will amuse him and might make up for those tortuous years when he tried so hard to cure my doubt.

The other half goes to Jake, Lily’s boyfriend. My brother treated Jake as if he was the worst kind of gold-digger – ironic given they have no gold to dig. He tried to poison Lily against Jake but, for once, she showed some spirit. She even hung one of Jake’s ghastly experimental canvasses in the hall of the family home. It didn’t last long but I loved the gesture. I like Jake although he’s something of an idiot. Let him deal with the money as he thinks best, he can't do worse than us.

My presence is shrinking now. I’m imploding like a black hole, folding back into a teenager, a child, a baby. I'm just able to see their expressions as the solicitor reads my wishes. Selfishly I wanted to register the horror on my brother and sister’s faces. I wanted to know if they'd realise I did it for their sakes. Instead my gaze is trapped by the flare of joy in Lily’s smile. It lifts me up and into something new before we are all gone.