Not to be Trusted

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
The age-old tale of love, jealousy and murder.

Submitted: June 07, 2015

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Submitted: June 07, 2015

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NOT TO BE TRUSTED

In the graveyard, the coffin over which the vicar was praying was smothered with flowers. Then holy water was sprinkled over it and the flowers were removed, and the coffin began its journey to the bottom of its final resting place. Some of the mourners dropped a single flower onto the coffin now lying down below. There was quite a good number of mourners present, taking into consideration the age of the deceased.

A fresh wind carrying the promise of fine rain with it, sprang up over the whole area. Umbrellas were opened as the rain began to fall, and in a very short time the graveyard was empty, leaving the grave open to the elements, and the occupant of the coffin alone in the cold darkness. The friends and relatives went back to the house for a light lunch and drinks. As it was midday, the food was very welcome, some of the invited had driven a long way to say their last farewells. The family house had been home to the Fielder family for many generations. The main door was left open until the last guest had entered, and then closed against the weather that was becoming increasingly violent. Inside the fine old-fashioned furnished rooms, people were mingling, and hoping for a juicy bit of gossip. Barnaby Fielder, the actual incumbent of the house, stood with his children, shaking hands with everyone, and thanking them for having attended the ceremony. There was a touch of sadness in the house, in spite of all the giant vases of flowers decorating the downstairs rooms. But although sadness was present, nobody was crying. They all made polite talk, until one by one they shook hands with Barnaby, and got into their large cars and drove off. The next time they would meet, would be at another funeral or a wedding or a christening.

 

Rosalie got home to her small flat, took off her dark grey winter coat, which she hung on a hat- stand in the hall, and placed her shoes nearby. Rosalie was at that time around fifty years old and alone in the world. She had enjoyed a varied life, which had been spent mostly abroad, nursing. On arriving back in England, a country she was quite ignorant of, she went to look for her mother’s and father’s relatives. She had eventually tracked them down in a small town near the coast. She had also got herself a job as a volunteer visitor to the elderly ladies nursing home. Having been a busy woman all her adult life, the worst thing for Rosalie would be to have time on her hands without any responsibilities. She had offered her services to the nursing home, more as someone who would comfort and read to the patients. Her days of running around administering medicines and injections were over for her. She wanted to listen to what the patients had to say.

 

Some of the ladies stayed for a short while, and then went home to continue their lives, before getting ill or having an accident, which put them back in the nursing home. There was one elderly lady who had been admitted after suffering a stroke. Her name was Jessamine. She had the most glorious head of white hair. The first time Rosalie and Jesssamine met was not very propitious, as Rosalie smiled at the tiny figure in the bed, with the wonderful white hair spread out all over the pillow. Jessamine returned Rosalie’s smile with a glare from her dark brown eyes. Rosalie said to her, “So that’s how it is, is it?”

 

Rosalie had other ladies to visit, and didn’t pay too much attention to Jessamine. She would wave to her when on her way to see another lady, but in the main, kept out of her way. Rosalie wasn’t quite sure what to do about Jessamine, as so many patients needed visitors because they had no living relatives, or were far away from them. As the turnover was quite heavy, the healthier were sent out as soon as they were able to cope. Jessamine had suffered such a strong stroke, it was generally thought that she would die in there.

 

On one of Rosalie’s visits, one of the nurses said, “We think Jessamine is getting better. She has been trying to talk and appears stronger.”

“I’d better go and see this wonder of wonders. She must be strong, if at her age she is getting better from a terrible stroke.”

Rosalie walked towards where Jessamine was usually to be found. “She isn’t here any more, but is in the community room to animate her to talk more,” the nurse said.

Jessamine was sitting in an armchair next to a window. It was difficult to know whether she was looking out at the garden or maybe just dozing. Rosalie walked up to her and said, “I hear you’re getting better.” Jessamine glared at Rosalie in the same way as she had done at their first meeting. The one thing that Jessamine didn’t know at that time, was that Rosalie was somehow related to the Fielder family. Rosalie had discovered that piece of information from one of the other patients who was related to Jessamine, whose name was Lilac. It seemed that at one time in the family, there had been an attraction for bestowing flowery names on the females. Lilac was a gossipy old lady and told Rosalie to be careful of Jessamine. “She’s not to be trusted,” were her last words to Rosalie before leaving the nursing home to rejoin her family. Rosalie was not upset or worried about receiving a piece of information about Jessamine. She understood that the white-haired elderly lady, who was so angelic in appearance, could well have been another person when she was fit and well before the stroke.

 

Then, one day, Jessamine received a young couple of visitors, a man and a woman. They were the first members of Jessamine’s family Rosalie had seen. They said they were her grandchildren, who went by the names of Myrtle and Patrick. They were delighted to see Jessamine, and she reacted positively to their appearance. Rosalie observed the three together, and marvelled at how you could sense they were family. Then she went off to check up on the others and their visitors, taking them tea if wanted, and putting the flowers taken to cheer up the fading females, into vases. When visiting time was over, Rosalie accompanied Myrtle and Patrick to the entry door of the community room. “Will you pass by again in the near future?” Rosalie asked them.

They shared a long look and Patrick answered, “I’m afraid we can’t say for certain when the next time will be. We both work and have commitments within the family, and all of those are very time consuming.”

“Has Jessamine any more direct family?” Rosalie asked, in an attempt to discover something about the old lady.

“She never had any brothers or sisters. Our father was an only child. Now you know the answer. I’m sorry, but we must leave. It’s been nice meeting you, Rosalie. Bye.”

Rosalie went back to the patients, and from where she was standing, Jessamine appeared to be all right. Night was descending as the tables were laid for dinner. Those who were able to sit at a table had their meals as if they were at home. The reason behind that, was to prepare them for returning to their old lives.

If Rosalie thought Jessamine was going to be more pleasant after the visit of her grandchildren, she was very much mistaken. The old lady ignored Rosalie when she approached her to take her to the dining table. “I can manage quite well by myself, thank you,” Jessamine said crossly.

Rosalie felt like abandoning her charge exactly where she was. Jessamine was smirking on her half-paralytic face. One of the most experienced ladies who worked in the nursing home and didn’t stand for any nonsense, saw Rosalie’s predicament and grabbed a wheelchair, and marched up to Jessamine. “Come on now, Jessamine, get into the chair and stop misbehaving like a five year old. Everyone is here to help you, therefore just get in and have your dinner. The kitchen staff isn’t keen on being kept waiting to serve the food, they want to get away on time.”

Jessamine joined the rest of the old ladies who were sitting at the same table. They were served a vegetable purée, followed by a piece of white fish. The dessert was baked custard, which Jessamine didn’t even have the cheek to complain about. Rosalie approved of the food served to the aged, as it was light and easily digested by old stomachs. There wouldn’t be any indigestion problems with those who had eaten at the dining table.

Rosalie went off and ignored Jessamine, but the undisguised dislike in those stroke-ridden eyes haunted her. She wanted out, and that evening in her small rented flat, made up her mind to leave as soon as there was another volunteer to take her place. Jessamine was forever calling for Rosalie, who could not understand why the cantankerous old lady blew hot and cold with her. One minute she was just elderly, and the next quite frightening, and launching spark-ridden looks at Rosalie. The business with the wheelchair was never repeated, and Jessamine made an effort to walk under her own steam to the dining table. She must have been a strong woman once, was Rosalie’s conclusion about Jessamine. Patrick and Myrtle paid their grandmother sporadic visits which obviously lightened her up a bit. She never said much during those visits, but nevertheless they had a positive effect on her.

 

It was after one of those visits that, on one afternoon, Jessamine said to Rosalie, “Would you do me a favour, please?”

“Yes, of course, if I can. What is the favour you want from me?”

“I’d love a fluffy cherry-red dressing gown to sit in. I can’t stand the one I already have.”

Rosalie, who was willing to please Jessamine, said, of course she would go into the nearest big town and get her a cherry-red dressing gown. What puzzled Rosalie, was that Jessamine hadn’t asked her grandchildren to buy her the dressing gown. Another strange thing was, that during the day, those who were due to leave and go back home in the near future, wore their everyday clothes and no longer dressed in nightwear.

 

Rosalie was very clued up on the town shops, and the next morning simply made her way to the largest department store, which sold just about everything. Not being in a hurry, she ambled round the store from floor to floor, taking everything in, as if her brain was a computer. She saw several things she might want to buy, especially if she bought her own flat. At last, she was on the ladies lingerie floor. The dressing gowns were hanging on a rail near the far wall. There were several red ones, but as Jessamine had opted for a fluffy one, Rosalie picked the one nearest to Jessamine’s choice, paid, and went upstairs to the restaurant for lunch.

Her hunger satiated, Rosalie went to the nursing home. Jessamine saw the store bag and held out her hands for it. She tried on the dressing gown, and Rosalie saw Jessamine happier than she had ever seen her before.

 

JESSAMINE’S STORY

 

When I was young I was considered a giddy girl, but then I met Christopher Fielder and fell in love. I was very young at the time, and he was from a very good family, whereas we were not poor, but not rich either. We used to meet at all the local gatherings, where everyone got together. I knew his family and they knew mine. After a couple of years, it was assumed we would get married, but then Christopher was called away to serve abroad in a governmental post as an under-secretary. He said we would get married on his return, and I went about getting my trousseau ready. I lived every day in a dream of the wedding, and my life afterwards as Christopher’s wife. The Fielder family also took it for granted that we would marry, and eventually live in the big house.

 

Then after eighteen months his father showed me a letter from Christopher, informing that he had married a widow with a four year old son, and that she was also pregnant. Old Mr Fielder was furious and didn’t mince words in his reply to Christopher. He said, “You can’t bring her here, and that’s my last word on the subject.”

The Fielder family was terribly upset. Nobody knew who the woman was, but she wasn’t the sort of person they expected him to marry. Nobody likes it when another man’s child is brought into their family, and that was not the only problem, Christopher wrote to say they were on their way back home and would be arriving shortly.

 

One day, Christopher and family, including the other child, were seen to be alighting from a huge car outside the Fielder house. Old Mr Fielder went to speak to Christopher, and said - in no kind terms - that they could all get back into the vehicle and disappear for good. He also added that he had disinherited him and his own child too, and that he held no responsibility for the woman or her other child. I was witness to that sad scene, but I understood why he was angry. There was no information as regards the woman. She literally could have been anyone, but the Fielder family wasn’t prepared to accept her.

 

I was in love with Christopher and thought of many ways I might be able to help him free himself from the unwanted wife. They were living in a nearby village in a small cottage, not quite what that awful woman had expected. I used to take long walks from one village to another, which wasn’t uncommon in those days. I had seen her on several occasions, and had exchanged words with her regarding how lovely the baby was. The other boy was always with her too. I never saw Christopher with her. I sometimes bumped into him when he was sending mail or receiving it in the post office. Every time we met, I noticed how haggard he was.

 

Some days later, I went for a walk to their village and met up with her and the two boys. She had a smirk on her face, looking very pleased with herself she was. I realized that she had been talking to the local bad boy, Jeremy Higgins, who was known as a real no-good.

I don’t know what made me do what I did, but it all happened so fast, as to have been out of control. I gave her first son some money to go and buy sweets, and I asked her if I could hold the new baby. She was willing to hand him over to me. I went into the churchyard, with her following behind. I invited her in to see some of the old graves. Some contained the remains of the Fielder family.

In the far corner was where the paupers were buried without name or number. There were always a few graves ready to receive the remains of those who were not able to afford a coffin. I went up to one of them, and after making sure the baby was all right on the ground, I hit Christopher’s wife hard on the back of her head with the gravediggers’ spade, and then pushed her into the hole. It didn’t take me long to cover her body, I was young and healthy.

Her older son came back with his sweets, and asked me where his mother had gone. I told him I had seen her talking to a man called Jeremy Higgins - which was true. I took the children to Christopher’s, and told him what I had seen. He looked devastated. I left him with the village lady who did the cooking and cleaning for them, and went home to my family cottage.

 

News travels fast when there is a scandal involved too, and it didn’t take long before Jeremy Higgins was arrested by the police as a person of interest in the disappearance of Christopher’s wife. The local no-good was afraid of the law, due to his reputation as a bad boy. However, as luck would have it, he was exonerated because he had been in the company of some of his cohorts in a pub in another village, and had been in a drunken state. It was obvious he would have been unable to do anything much. The local consensus was that Christopher’s wife had run off, either alone or with another man.

 

Time passed, and the woman was forgotten about - even by me. After seven years from her disappearance, she was declared officially dead. During those seven years, I made myself indispensable to Christopher and his children. The first boy, although not his biologically, was never treated any differently by Christopher.

We were married in a small church in the village where I was born. Old Mr Fielder had accepted Christopher’s son as his son’s heir and had reinstated Christopher. I was never able to have children, but we were happy enough. Once married to me, Christopher lost that haunted look he had on his face when she disappeared. She was never talked about ever again. Christopher adopted her son, and gave him his name.

 

Jessamine turned to Rosalie and said, “And all was well, till you arrived.”

Rosalie’s mouth fell open, “What did you say? I remember the acid look you gave me on my first day here.”

Jessamine, who was showing signs of tiredness, gave Rosalie one of her wicked glances, “You’re not very observant, are you?

“What am I supposed to be observant about?”

“Haven’t you noticed that your hair colour is the same chestnut wavy hair as is Barnaby’s and his half-brother’s? Their mother’s hair was the same shade. Is there anyone else in your family with that hair colour?”

Rosalie swallowed before answering, “Yes. My father had the same colour. All his family had the same reddish-brown hair. So now the mystery of my aunt Hester’s disappearance is solved. Why have you chosen to tell me all the sordid story of how you think you committed the perfect murder?”

“It makes no difference to me who you tell, nobody can do anything to me. I’ll be dead soon enough.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you,” Rosalie declared, feeling the nastiness that poured out of Jessamine’s mouth “What’s the name of the church where you killed my aunt Hester?”

Jessamine smiled, and said, “What if I choose not to tell you?”

“Then you will surely go to Hell, so you might just as well do the only correct thing you’ve ever done, before you go to meet your Maker.”

“The church is Saint Cuthbert’s, in the village where she and Christopher lived.”

“Are you happy with playing the part of God?” Rosalie asked.

Jessamine made no reply, and Rosalie left, and never saw her again. She felt the old lady with the wonderful white hair was some kind of devil.

 

Months later, when Jessamine’s confession to Rosalie had become public knowledge, the members of the Fielder family were in Saint Cuthbert’s graveyard. The church authorities had given permission to dig up Hester’s remains. They were a sorry sight. Bones and fragments of clothing were all that was left, and a few strands of the lovely hair. Barnaby and Timothy, Hester’s first son, had her remains interred in the Fielder family vault, beside Christopher’s.

 

Jessamine’s coffin and contents were cremated, and her ashes scattered to the four winds.

 

The entry of Rosalie into the Fielder family, made two small groups into one bigger one, and everyone the happier for it. Jessamine was never mentioned again, neither by name nor by person.

 

She was just - quite simply - forgotten. 


© Copyright 2018 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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