Chapter 5, in which Nemphnett and Thrubwell fail to meet expectations but manage to deliver a devastating piece of news. Could this be the end of the road for Ruby and Monty?
Monty had imagined the offices of ‘Nemphnett & Thrubwell’ -Tenby Solicitors – with some excitement.
He had pictured an ancient crumbling building in the heart of Tenby with a huge purple door. He imagined climbing the marble steps and being admitted into a spacious hall with a grand sweeping staircase. From thence, he pictured himself and Ruby following an ancient dusty creature, not unlike the house elf in ‘Harry Potter’, into a library with an overstuffed leather sofa and a roaring fire.
Imagine his disappointment when the satnav brought them to an industrial estate on the outskirts of that lovely town and announced that they had reached their destination at the door of Unit 22.
Instead of an old and faithful retainer, they were obliged to press a buzzer and were admitted to an office no bigger than their own front room, furnished with a laminated desk, four modern, but surprisingly comfortable upright chairs and a rubber plant, that on closer inspection proved to be plastic.
The young woman who greeted them,with an astonishing amount of makeup on her face that stopped short of her neck, offered them tea and withdrew, only to return a few moments later with paper cups from a vending machine.
“Mr Clarke will be with you in a minute,” she said brightly, and disappeared never to be seen again.
“Not Nemphnett? Not Thrubwell?” Monty remarked to the air, dolefully inspecting a rather gruesome looking patch on the otherwise spotless carpet which looked suspiciously like an old blood stain. He could not allay a distinct feeling of foreboding.
Mr Clarke did not keep them waiting long. He arrived in a flurry of anxiety and paperwork, wearing odd socks and an eggy tie. Shaking hands with great vigour, he managed to drop all of his files, which he retrieved with a great nervous giggle, before subsiding into a chair.
“I am Dennis Clarke,” he told the air above their heads. “I take it you are Miss Gloria Davies?”
As he didn’t seem to be looking at either of them, neither spoke for a moment. Then Monty found his voice, “No. I think we can safely say that neither of us has ever been known by that name.”
Mr Clarke made a face and poking his glasses back up his long nose, inspected his files.
“Oh yes…” he agreed, “silly me…..Would it be that you are Miss Ruby Cellars?”
Before Monty could say anything else, Ruby coughed politely, “That is I…I mean to say, that would be me…myself…. I am Ruby Cellars.”
Even to her own ears Ruby thought she sounded like an imposter, so no one was surprised that Mr Clarke asked for some I.D.
While Mr Clarke inspected her driving license and carefully made a note of what looked like every detail on it, Monty asked, “No Nemphnett? No Thrubwell?”
The young man shook his head causing his specs to slide back down his nose. “Long gone,” he admitted, ” Long, long gone.”
Monty looked down at the stain on the carpet and allowed his imagination to run riot while the conversation between Ruby and Mr. Clarke rumbled on in the background. It was a few moments before he realised that Ruby had laid a hand upon his arm and was trembling.
“What are you saying?” he heard her shaky voice. “I am not sure I understand you”.
Mr Clarke shuffled through his papers and slid a document across the table towards them.
Monty looked down at the paper and scanned it. Both he and Ruby looked at each other and then at Mr Clarke.
“This can’t be right.” Ruby’s shocked voice seemed to echo in the stifling little room.
Mr Clarke took the document back and checked it anxiously. “It is quite clear,” he said after a few moments, “The deceased has made a bequest and you are the recipient of that bequest …Miss Cellars.”
Monty was on his feet. “Okay” he heard himself say, “Okay, thanks very much.” And taking Ruby’s arm, practically lifted her from her seat and steered her hurriedly out of the building and into the car.
Neither of them spoke for a while. They just sat staring out of the windscreen at the fat grey wall in front of them until finally Monty remembered Tripod.
A dash into town and frantic shopping spree ensued and it was only when they had filled the car with just about anything a three legged dog could have possibly set his heart upon (even if he was a ‘temporary’ guest) and they were scurrying homeward, did Ruby say anything about the will.
“I can’t believe it’s true, Monty.”
Monty nodded. Ever since the announcement his heart had been doing flips.
“One hundred thousand pounds, Monty…..one hundred thousand pounds. How many noughts is that?”
Monty shook his head. This didn’t feel good. In fact, if he let his mind wander into the dark places it actually felt pretty terrible.
“That’s a life changing amount of money Ruby.” He said solemnly.
Ruby sighed. “It certainly is.”
Her mind, too, wandered into dark corners. With that kind of money a person who hadn’t had any money could buy a little somewhere to live. A person who had been relying upon a friend, might be expected to… well…. perhaps, stop relying upon said friend and go back to making her own way in the world. What if Monty wanted her to go? What if this was… the end?
Monty sank into the silence between them. His mind raced upon similar lines. What if she didn’t need him anymore? What if Ruby left him? What if this was …the end?
Neither spoke again and the deep dark thoughts spun their sticky web so that by the time they reached ‘Dun Nuffin’ Ruby was planning the packing of all that she owned with a tight pain across her chest. She saw herself growing old, alone in front of the T.V. in a perfectly nice but very very lonely little chalet somewhere. Though her heart was breaking and it was all she could do not to throw her face into her hands and howl, she had even begun to tell herself that it would be good for her. Hadn’t she always been independent? Obviously Monty would want her to go. He would probably be relieved to have the place to himself again.
When Monty began to silently unpack the car, she made a point of taking the heavier more awkward items from him… After all, better start as you mean to go on.
Bewildered, he followed after her, his heart breaking at the sight of her wobbly bottom and her mad hair and the sound of her puffing as she struggled up the steps.
So this was how it was to be? What a fool he had to been to expect otherwise. Of course, their arrangement had only ever been temporary. No one had ever said otherwise. In fact he clearly remembered their initial discussion in which the words, ‘Until I get on my feet,’ had figured large.
“Well, old chap,” he said to himself, “If a £100,000 doesn’t help a person get back on their feet, I don’t know what will,” and silently and guiltily, he dashed away a tear.