Read The Inheritance Online

Authors: Elaine Jeremiah

The Inheritance

The Inheritance

by
Elaine Jeremiah

One

 

     ‘What are we going to do, Dad?’

He’d asked Kate to leave her work
on the farm and come and talk to him.  She knew what it was about.  Now she was
in the living room of the farmhouse, pacing around unable to keep still, her
hands clutching a strong cup of coffee.  She’d been hard at work as usual,
mucking out the cattle sheds and moving the hay bales from the field to the
barn. 

‘You were part of the conversation
last night, you know I have no choice; I either give her the money or she’ll reveal
our secret.’  He sighed heavily.  ‘How could she say that, to her own father? 
It’s like Meredith all over again.’

Kate sank down onto the worn sofa
opposite her father.  Her limbs felt like lead.  She thought she knew her
sister, knew what she was like but this was a new low for Emma.  Then again,
she had always taken after Meredith.  She had that same selfish attitude.

‘So what will you do?’

‘I’ll have to give her the money.’

Kate looked unseeingly out of the
window.  He was right; there was nothing else he could do.  They had to keep
the secret safe within the family.  If what had really happened were known, it would
destroy her father and do untold damage to her and Emma’s future lives.  Kate
felt like throttling her.  How could she do this?  But then another thought
occurred to her: that they’d be better off without her.  She never lifted a
finger to help with the running of the farm, she was lazy and she spent money
like water.  Yes, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise.

‘I agree with you, Dad,’ she said. 
‘Give her the money and let her go.  She can ruin her own life with as little
trouble to us as possible.’

Her father rubbed his tired face
and ran his hand through his greying hair.  ‘You’re right, Kate, you’re right. 
Though goodness knows I’d much rather not have to do this.  I wish things were
different, that Emma was different…’

‘Well they’re not, she’s not.  Dad
there’s no point in trying to wish away our troubles.  We’ve just got to accept
things as they are and get on with it.’

He nodded.  He suddenly looked
older to Kate and her heart went out to him.  She sat down next to him, putting
her arm around his slender shoulders.  She could feel him shaking with silent
tears.  Kate felt anger burning inside her.  She wished Emma was here to see
the result of her behaviour, that there was a cost, a price to pay for her
selfishness.  Why did she have to put him through so much after all that had
gone before?

 

******

 

Kate heard the front door slam
shut.  Groggily, she looked at her alarm clock.  It was three am.  She shook
her head.  It was all right for Emma, she didn’t have to get up early the next
day, so it was fine for her to come in at any hour of the night she chose. 
Kate, however, didn’t have that luxury.  She had to get up at four am most days
and she knew that she’d be tired tomorrow.  Tonight she’d been tossing and
turning constantly, even before Emma got in, unable to settle.

Whenever she closed her eyes, she
saw Meredith’s laughing face, mocking her, though in reality Kate’s memory of
her face was fading.  The little sleep she did get that night was full of
semi-nightmarish dreams with Meredith and Emma standing in front of her taunting
her whilst she cowered on the sofa, telling her she had no life because all she
wanted to do was run the farm.  In the dream she was trapped, forced to listen
to the taunts.  She’d be looking around desperately for help, but her father on
the other side of the room had his back to her and wouldn’t turn around.  Then
she’d wake up abruptly, sitting up in bed, beads of sweat on her face.     

She tossed and turned for a while
trying to get comfortable, then sat up again rubbing her tired eyes.  Deciding
to give up trying to sleep for a while, she picked up the novel she was reading,
forcing herself to focus on it.  But it was difficult; her thoughts would
inevitably turn to the incident with Meredith all those years ago and its
legacy.  The words on the page swam in front of her, but gradually she began to
make sense of them.  She felt as though she’d only been reading for five
minutes when she heard the alarm go.  Groaning, she switched it off. 

Kate went around in a daze that
day.  As she did her various jobs on the farm all she could think about was
Emma’s ultimatum and what it meant.  Of course for one thing it meant that she
wouldn’t be around anymore.  Once she had the money and left that would be it. 
Kate didn’t expect her to come back for a visit any time soon.  Emma had made
it abundantly clear by her behaviour that she had no time for her father or
sister, or the farm.  Especially not the farm. 

But more importantly, in treating
her father this way Emma was showing that she had no scruples in using whatever
method she could to get what she wanted.  Kate scrubbed away viciously at the
cattle stall she was cleaning.  She felt so angry.  Why did Emma have to be so
vindictive?  She furiously brushed a tear from her eye. 

As she paused to wipe her brow, scraps
of memories came floating back to her, of Meredith arguing angrily with her
father, of Meredith speaking softly to Kate whilst she was in bed one night
telling her that everything would be all right, ‘as long as Daddy does all that
Mummy tells him to’, and that final evening where it all came to a head.  Emma
was of the same mettle.  She too had used blackmail to get her own way.  But
what Emma didn’t realise was that there would be a price to pay.  The argument last
night between Emma and their father came back to Kate.  When it began she’d
been listening to the conversation through the key hole of the living room
door.

‘I don’t care if it’s what you
think I should be doing,’ Emma had told their father.  ‘I don’t want to live or
work on the farm anymore.  I’ve had enough of being treated like dirt by you
and Kate because you think I should be living the life you want me to live.  I’ve
had enough of your crap and your bullying.  I’m leaving and there’s nothing you
can do about it.’

‘Emma, can’t we just try and talk
this through?  Why rush everything?  Have you really considered what you’re
going to do in London?

‘Yes.  Have a good time!’

‘All right.  But listen to me: you
can’t have your inheritance until you’re twenty five; it’s in trust until
then.  You just can’t have it.’

‘Oh, I think I can.’ Emma sounded
malicious.  ‘You see I know the truth about what really happened to Meredith. 
And if you don’t give me what’s owing to me, I will tell the police what really
happened to her.  So if you value your freedom and this farm of yours, I would
let me have the money if I were you.’

Kate breathed in sharply.  She was
shocked.  Her sister’s words were like poison.

‘Emma, if you told the police what
happened, it would ruin your life too, not just mine,’ she heard her father
say.

‘I don’t see how.  I didn’t have
anything to do with Meredith’s death – you did.  If the truth came out, nothing
would happen to me.  I could just walk away.  Sure, the police would question
me for a while – so what?  They wouldn’t find anything on me; there isn’t
anything to find.  But from your point of view if you don’t fancy a life in
prison, I suggest you give me my inheritance.’

Kate could take it no longer. 
Outraged, she burst through the living room door.  Her father looked surprised
to see her but grateful that she was there.  She could feel her face burning
red with anger.

‘How can you say that, Emma?  How
can you be so selfish and blind?  Don’t you understand that the police would
question you, would grill you for hours on your statement?  They’d want to make
sure that you weren’t lying, that you didn’t have an ulterior motive for
accusing your father like that,’ she said.

Her sister looked at her as though
she were a piece of dirt on her shoe.  ‘So you’ve been eavesdropping have you? 
You never could keep your nose out of my business.’  Emma paused.  Her
expression was scornful.  ‘Neither of you get it do you?’ she went on in a low
controlled voice laced with contempt.  ‘I don’t care about being cross examined,
I’d be happy to go through that if it meant that I could get away from this
hellhole for good.  I’m not going to be bullied into staying here any longer.  You’re
forcing me to stay and help you on the farm by not giving me my inheritance. 
As far as I’m concerned that’s abusive behaviour.’

‘Abusive behaviour?  That’s rich
coming from you.  What do you call this then?  You’re the one threatening to shop
Dad to the police.  I’d call that abusive behaviour.  But money’s all you ever
care about isn’t it?  How much of it you’ve got.  I can’t believe how mercenary
you are.’ Kate’s voice was scathing. 

‘Well at least it’s better than
having no aspirations at all.’

‘Girls, girls.’ Their father had
placed himself between his two daughters who were squaring up to each other as
if in a boxing ring.  He had held his hands up in a peaceful gesture.  ‘It’s
late now.  We’ll talk about this some more in the morning.’

Kate shivered now as she scrubbed at
the cow stall even though she wasn’t cold.  She didn’t want to think about
Meredith or Emma, and would rather stuff her memories of Meredith at least to
the bottom of her mind where she couldn’t easily retrieve them.  When she took
a break for lunch, she decided to eat her meal at her favourite place on the
farm.  She needed to let her mind breathe.  These past few weeks she’d felt as
though she’d been holding herself in, unable to relax and she desperately needed
to unwind.

The oak tree overlooking their
largest cattle field was the biggest on the farm; in fact Kate’s father said it
was the biggest for miles around.  It stood majestically like a proud general
overseeing his troops.  When they were younger, both Kate and Emma had enjoyed
climbing the tree and seeing who could climb the highest.  Kate had managed to get
to the top several times, Emma never had.  As she approached it now carrying
her sandwiches, Kate pictured in her mind the wonderful view she’d had from the
top of the tree, being able to see the entire farm and beyond, hearing again Emma’s
anxious calls for her to be careful and not fall.  They’d been good friends
then.  Kate wondered how it had gone so wrong ever since.  To be fair to Emma
it wasn’t just her fault.  Kate had been to blame too; she’d been distant as the
two of them grew up, engrossed with her work on the farm, not being there
enough for Emma after what happened with Meredith.   

She sat down in the shade underneath
the spreading branches.  The day was warm and it was welcomingly cool here. She
leaned back against the gnarled trunk of the tree, taking in the view.  Her
muscles relaxed and the tension in her chest eased a little.  Closing her eyes,
she felt herself dozing off.  This time there were no nightmares.  Instead she
dreamt of the farm, seeing it from a bird’s eye view on a perfect day with not
a cloud in the sky and all the green fields extending endlessly below her, before
descending rapidly to ground level and finding herself standing outside the
farmhouse with her father and Emma.  They were holding hands, smiling happily and
Emma was telling her it was all right, she’d made up with their father and she
wasn’t going to London after all.

Kate’s eyes flickered open as she
woke up.  Well that will never happen, she thought as she rubbed her tired
eyes.  Emma was leaving and there’d be no turning back.  She nibbled at her
lunch but didn’t feel hungry anymore; her appetite had evaporated.  Abandoning
her meal, she remained lounging against the tree trunk.  She didn’t need to be
back at the farm yet, she could stay here another half hour or so and it was such
a lovely day that it seemed a shame not to spend some of it relaxing.

She reflected on Emma’s attitude
and thought yet again how wrong she was.  Emma assumed that the farm was Kate’s
world, and to a certain extent she was right.  But there was a great deal more
to her than that.  Kate did have other interests and hobbies; it was just that
the farm kept her so busy she didn’t always have time to pursue them.  That didn’t
mean she didn’t have her own dreams and longings though.  She closed her eyes
again and pictured him.  Steven.  He was the one person who’d truly understood
her.  Emma and her father had no knowledge of his existence, but for Kate he’d
been a lifeline.

She’d met Steven when she’d been at
college, before she decided to quit her course so she could help out more on
the farm.  She’d often seen him around the campus but didn’t know his name.  He
was tall with an athlete’s physique, an attractive face; in short he was
stunningly gorgeous.  For a while, however, she’d thought he seemed conceited,
always surrounded by a small group of friends – mainly girls – as he sat
outside the college at break times, gabbing away. 

He seemed full of himself, not the
type of man Kate would usually go for despite his good looks.  He obviously
came from a wealthy family; he wore fashionable, expensive-looking clothes.  Born
with a silver spoon in his mouth no doubt, Kate thought.  In spite of her
negative feelings though, she felt she’d like to get to know him.  She couldn’t
quite admit to herself that she found him attractive.  But he’d never notice me
in a million years anyway, she would think as she watched him with his friends
from a concealed spot on the college campus.  Miraculously it was he who sought
her out.

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