I wake up the following morning and stretch my aching body. I had a fitful night's sleep, memories of ages past fluttering behind my eyelids, and for the first time in years I wondered why Jonathon isn't in my bed. I haven't yet informed my children of the letter. Polly and Jack had been horrified to learn of their father's affair, though I had tried my best to keep it a secret from them. But it was one of the worst kept secrets of my generation. Everyone within our social circle, and even those who Jonathon had worked with, had the pleasure of witnessing our raucous arguments because of that woman.
Polly could never understand why I stayed with Jonathon. She'd adored her father and that illusion was shattered when she found out about the affair. Many times she'd tried to convince me to leave her father, but I found myself defending the man who'd broken my heart. Deep down, I knew that Jonathon still loved me and we were stronger than anything that woman could try and do to come between us.
Jack on the other hand just played ignorant. Even when Jonathon went missing for weekends at a time, he would talk about how hard his father was working, and how he was an inspiration. If I remember correctly, Polly would have been twenty one when she found out about the affair, though it had already been going on for sixteen years at that point. We tried to hide it from Jack for as long as possible, but he eventually found out a two years later, when he was twenty. He never questioned my decision to stay with Jonathon, which I greatly appreciated. I suppose it's one of the reasons why his own marriage to Melissa is so strong.
Pulling myself out of bed, I grab my dressing gown and saunter down the stairs to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. The morning sunshine is soft, promising a warm spring day, and I look forward to the solitude of my work. I didn't hear from Polly yesterday, so I assume she'll call me before she leaves for work. I debate whether or not to mention the letter and will from Bernadette Cynthia Healy. Her name still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, even after all these years.
The phone rings. I smile at the thought of knowing my daughter so well. I answer the phone.
'Morning mum, how's things?'
I pause, do I tell her? 'Everything is great thank you. The usual work coming through...'
'When are you going to retire mum?' I hear Polly chuckle at the question. It's a conversation we've had before.
'Well I'm glad I haven't retired just yet, because something different did come through the post yesterday,' I take the plunge.
'Oh?' I can tell Polly is interested. It isn't like me to be so vague, I'm normally blunt and to the point, but I don't know how to bring up a woman we've not talked about in over a decade.
'It's another will - '.
'Oh no. Who's died now?' Polly interrupts.
'Someone I'm quite glad to see the back of,' I hear her gasp on the other end of the line, 'but she's still a thorn in my side despite being six feet under.' I can almost hear the cogs click into place.
'That woman?' Polly had never called her by her name, 'You mean she's finally kicked the bucket? Good riddance.'
'But why do you have her will? Did she want to leave you something?'
'It's a little complicated, but yes, it seems she's left everything to me.'
'Good Lord mum. Like what? I bet dad had paid for most of it anyway, and maybe this is her way of showing regret.'
I laugh at my daughter's optimistic naivety, 'Something like that. But of course there's a catch.' I can hear my grandchildren calling out to their mother in the background.
'I'm sorry mum, I really have to go otherwise Clare and Sonia will be late for school. They send you their love. I can give you a call tonight if you want and maybe come over this weekend? Have you told Jack yet?'
'No not yet. This weekend sounds wonderful. Give my love to the girls. Bye darling.' I put the phone down before Polly has the chance to say goodbye, knowing her two girls are quite the handful.
I feel better having shared the Pandora's box, though I hope it doesn't have an effect on Polly's day.
I finish my cup of tea and stare out of the window at the garden. It is in need of some attention and I make a mental note to get in touch with Ambrose, the gardener, to come tomorrow and start the preparation for spring. We had a mild winter and the flowers and trees are already beginning to blossom.
Walking into the study I remember the day my gorgeous daughter was born. It was 1951 and Jonathon and I had been married for three years. She was born in November, one of the worst winters I could ever remember at the time. My parents had booked a room in a private hospital for the due date, but Polly being Polly had no intention on arriving when expected. She was nearly two weeks early. I was home alone as Jonathon was working late. Mrs MacIver, our housemaid, heard my cries for help as the first contractions made themselves known and she managed to call her own mother, who was a midwife, to the house.
Both women have now left this world, but I have never been so grateful to anyone in my life for delivering my baby safely. We were so lucky that there were no complications; Polly just wanted the world to know she had arrived. I'd never seen Jonathon so shocked as that night when he arrived home, cursing the snow, and saw me sitting in the armchair next to the fire holding our baby. His face split into the most amazing smile I have ever seen. He just stared at the two of us in disbelief, the snow melting on his coat. It was Mrs MacIver who managed to convince him to hold his daughter for the first time, and it was at that moment I knew what true love looked like.