By the middle of the week, Carey had met all the family that was coming. Len, a rather fragile lady, who seemed years older than her triplet, had been decanted by her son, and Joey and Con had fussed over her. Carey had found her rather distant, and wasn’t at all sure that Len realised who she was meant to be.
“Reg – her husband – died quite recently,” Con had explained, interpreting Carey’s expression with ease. “She’s… she’s not coping awfully well. I know David’s been worried about her. Mamma and I tried to get her to come to England, but she refused. I should probably have come earlier, but Betsy – my youngest daughter-in-law - was pregnant again, and with all the problems she had last time… well. She’d just had the baby when Mamma asked me to come out with her.” And she had sighed, regretfully, thinking about her sister.
Steve Maynard was a tall, broad-shouldered man, recently retired from Scotland Yard. His wife, Esme, was a rather fluffy creature, though Carey could catch glimpses of an iron will behind her artfully deployed scarves. They had brought their two teenaged grandchildren, Alastair and Posy, along for the trip. Steve had already promised Carey that if she wanted any help in finding out exactly what had happened to Marie, and who her father was, he was her man. Esme had whisked her away first thing on Tuesday morning, and now Carey was sporting a very fetching hair cut.
Felicity Lewis-Thornton had been the next to arrive. Carey frankly found her a little intimidating: Felicity was tall, elegant and blonde, and obviously very well-off indeed. Just the kind of woman Mrs Howard would befriend. But Felicity greeted her family with obvious affection, and hugged Carey warmly, and told her how she had taught Marie her first ballet steps. Felix had arrived shortly after, very similar in looks to his older brother. He was a headmaster of a boys’ prep school, which fact still seemed to afford his family no little amusement. Geoff, Marianne and Meg had been the last to arrive. Geoff, quiet, with ruddy hair, had hugged Carey tightly, and told her she looked just like her mother, which, given the few photographs she had been shown, Carey couldn’t quite see, but she didn’t say anything and just hugged him back.
“Is Phil coming?” asked Felicity, when they were all sitting in the salon. Geoff looked discomfited.
“Not sure,” he said briefly. He cast an apologetic look at Carey. “It’s not that she doesn’t want to, it’s just…” He trailed off, clearly not sure what would cause the least offence.
“I’m sure you’ll be able to arrange to visit her,” said Roger Richardson, with a smile. Carey smiled back. Roger had arrived just in time for lunch on the Sunday which had meant, as Con had pointed out rather sternly, that he had driven like a bat out of hell, and probably should have been arrested. Roger had just smiled and kissed his wife, then winked at Carey. She thought you probably couldn’t help liking Roger. Con had rolled eyes, but said nothing more. Men, she informed Carey airily, were all like that: bloody annoying.
“Anyway,” said Felicity, “I popped in to Plas Gwyn when I heard the news, and fetched the old films. I thought Carey would like to see them. Felix has all the paraphernalia in his car. Get it out, there’s a lamb!” Felix grumbled good-naturedly as he went off to do his sister’s bidding, and within half an hour and with some manly cursing, he and Steve, with some technical support from young Alistair Maynard, had set up the screen and the machine that would play the old reels of tape. Eventually, Felicity flicked off the lights, and they sat in the darkness and watched the silent film.
It was old, but in colour, and Carey recognised the location immediately: the Tiernsee. More than that – Die Blumen. The salon hadn’t changed very much. The film focused on Joey, sitting and typing. She was much younger, maybe in her forties still, with dark hair twisted into shells around her ears. She looked up, and laughed, clearly scolding whoever was filming. The scene changed: this time they were by the lakeside. Joey was in a swimming costume, and there were Len and a man – she heard a stifled sob – with two small children; twins. The little boy ran into the lake, and splashed the grown-ups with water; the man – Reg, presumably – strode over, and caught the boy by the middle, and carried him back to his mother. They were laughing. Another sob.
A new scene. Older children, playing a game in the back garden. It was in the evening, a low sun. A girl, in her early teens, came up to the camera, talking rapidly and with great vicacity. She had dark curly hair and dark eyes, and was very pretty. A boy came up behind her, grabbed her by the waist, and swung her away from the camera, talking away in his turn. He was older, about sixteen or so, and very blond – Felix? So the girl was probably Cecil. The camera jostled, and it was clear that the cameraman had been caught up in the horseplay.
A new scene: the garden again, probably the same evening. Cecil was sitting on a swing, now, with a girl who had to be Felicity. They were ignoring the camera. In front of them were two younger girls, playing with dolls. The older girl – ten or so – was very thin with a shock of dark red hair. She looked towards the camera and rolled her eyes exaggeratedly, indicating her boredom with the game she was playing. But the younger girl pulled at her arm, and she continued playing…
Carey stared at the little girl as the camera continued to record them. She had dark hair, and as she tilted her head to listen to the red-headed girl, Carey’s breath stopped. That was Marie. That was her mother. She watched, blindly, as the film rolled through, but though there was much more of Marie, she didn’t see it.
The story she had been told, it hadn’t been real. Marie hadn’t been real. But now she had seen her. And Carey didn’t think she could bear not knowing her. She jumped out of her chair, and ran from the room, slamming the door behind her, hoping no-one would follow. Out of the door, down the slope of the driveway… she came to an abrupt halt as she saw the figure ahead of her, bit her lip to try and stem the flow of tears that was building up inside her.
The woman smiled. She was thin, and had dark red hair, and sat in a wheelchair.
“Hello, Carey,” she said softly. And Carey wasn’t sure how, but she was on her knees, crying as if she would never stop into Phil Maynard’s lap.