Archibald Leech had not risen to the post of vicar of Saint Andrews by making rash or hasty decisions.
When Hailey phoned that morning inquiring about her late aunt, he refused to discuss the matter over the phone, but insisted she come to the church office that afternoon.
But, no sooner did the vicar hang up on Hailey, before he was again on the line to Alicia McAdam informing her of the ‘indelicate matter’ that now necessitated her input.
“I can’t believe that Hailey would be so indiscreet as to put you into such an uncomfortable position, Archie.”
“It’s quite all right, Alicia. I realize younger family members often lack the sense of propriety that characterizes our generation. He hesitated. “How do you wish to proceed?”
“Tell her the ashes were turned over to Beatrice and what became of them after that was not your concern. That should effectively settle the matter.”
“Simple and elegant, Alicia.”
“Hrmp.” She wrinkled her nose at the obvious attempt to flatter.
“It’s just simple logic Archie. I am, however, indebted to you for your provenance. I’ll keep it in mind when writing the check for the building fund.”
“You’ve always been generous, Alicia.”
“Just keep that in mind, Archie, when assigning a new chairwoman for the Ladies Guild.”
“I wouldn’t consider anyone other than you, Alicia. Give my best to your sisters.”
She put down the receiver, seething with anger.
How dare she over-step her bounds. Who does she think she is?
The answer was patently obvious—Beatrice’s spawn.
Like Mother, like daughter.
She desired nothing more at that moment than to wring her neck, snapping it like a swan’s—but then, she often wanted to do the same to Beatrice, to no avail.
Let her ply her tricks, she mused—it’ll come to naught. She’s an ingénue. The family honour will remain unstained and eventually she’ll be forced into line.
She smiled at the futility of the headstrong and impudent Hailey kicking against the goads.
Quite futile, she snickered and tried to imagine the girl’s exasperated face when Archie feigned ignorance and ushered her out the door.
Hailey knew when she was had.
The old vicar was clever and deftly turned aside all her inquiries, pleading ignorance at every turn.
The more she pried, the more earnest and solicitous he became. “I would love to answer your questions and ease your anxiety, Hailey, but I’m just not privy to the information you need. It’s unfortunate—your mother could help, but she’s gone and I have no idea how I can assist you further.”
She drove away from the church, feeling defeated, depressed and barely able to breathe.
The vicar’s shrewd maneuverings had produced the desired effect—she was left feeling stymied and helpless. He was part of it somehow—connected in some way to the McAdam dynasty.
The family reminded her of a huge mediaeval fortress filled with mazes and blind passageways, but to what purpose? Was it just a self-serving hall of mirrors designed to confound and dismay prying outsiders? If so, why was she excluded?
She had no idea, but it was the pattern of her life at home and couldn’t be denied.
She turned off Lakeshore Road heading toward Trish’s.
It crossed her mind to use her cell phone to warn her she was coming, but decided against that. Trish would probably try to put her off—make her wait a day or two to work through it on her own—make her ‘more independent’ as she was in the habit of saying.
Well, maybe she was clinging a bit too much lately, but hell—she just lost her mother and now this—Trish would have to be more patient.
The fact that she needed therapy, in other words, needed Trish, bothered her. More than anything else, she wanted to be normal.
The night terrors and suicide attempt that drove her to Trish were all behind her, including the black depressions.
What she was facing now was different—it was less mood disorder and more situational. But what a situation!
Alicia was involved—she knew it in her gut, but couldn’t prove it. She could almost see the old woman’s eyes mocking her, black and filled with glee.
She had won her victory and worse, there was nowhere else for her to go from here.
Mother was dead and the aunts would close ranks and claim ignorance about Clare’s ashes.
She was blocked before she even began. Hot tears burned her eyes, born more from hurt than frustration. She pounded her fist on the steering wheel.
Why had Mother participated in this cruel game? It wasn’t like her to be this way.
Then, it hit her—Maybe Mother hadn’t participated at all—maybe that’s why Alicia was so eager to get her hands on Mother’s private papers.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.