And the end is very definitely nigh.
Once upon a time, Carey Howard would have backed away from any sign of confrontation, giving way rather than making a fuss. But the previous two weeks had changed her, and now she insisted that Peter accompany her back to Die Blumen to explain why he was wandering around Austria pretending not to know her. And, moreover, to find out what he meant by saying he was her brother. Because the only way he could be her brother was if he was the son of Marie’s lover, which begged the question, how had he known she would be here?
They had run into Phil Maynard down by the lake where she had been taking the opportunity to, as she put it, run off something ‘sweetly pretty’ for her landlady, who had begged for a picture of the alps. Informed of Peter’s claim, Phil had agreed to accompany them to Die Blumen, barely hesitating at the realisation that she would be returning to her mother’s home, and her mother’s presence. The three of them sat in stone silence on the steamer, a silence not broken as they walked along the path to the Maynard chalet.
As they approached, the door opened, and they saw the bright blue uniform of the Chalet School.
“Ceridwen!” called Carey.
“Hey, Carey,” returned Ceridwen, gifting Peter with a decidedly hostile look. “Do you have a minute? There’s something I have to tell you.”
“Can it wait?” said Carey.
“I think it’s quite important,” put in Con, appearing behind Ceridwen. “It’s about this man here.”
“Peter?” Carey thought for a second. “Well, he’s got something telling to do of his own. You might as well stay, Ceridwen.” She gave Peter a jab in the back, and he entered the chalet, feeling rather like a Christian about to be fed to the lions.*
It had all the essentials of a grand denouement, Carey thought to herself, as they settled in the salon. Joey had come down in the interim, and was sitting in splendour in a winged armchair, the flashing darkness of her eyes more than making up for her frail body and white hair. Con Richardson, politely cool, sitting in the window seat, observing the proceedings. Phil Maynard, leaning forward in her wheelchair, fiery and passionate, ready for whatever might come. She and Joey hadn’t spoken to each other. Ceridwen, propped in the doorway, resolving not to allow Carey to be hurt. Carey herself, sitting in a sofa, legs crossed, tried to project more confidence than she felt.
Peter sat in a chair, facing them all. Mother, sisters, granddaughter.
“Well?” said Carey tersely. “Is it true? Are you my brother?”
“Half-brother,” corrected Peter. “Yes, it’s true.”
“James’ son,” clarified Joey in a cold voice.
“Yes.” There was a silence. Carey broke it.
“What are you doing here? Why did you pretend not to know who I was. And for that matter, *how* did you know who I was?”
Peter contemplated lying, and decided it was pointless. “My mother told me you had come here. She was afraid that you would find out who your father was and disrupt… things. She asked me to come and find out what you knew.”
“So you were spying on me?”
“If you like. Look, Carey, I didn’t think it would do any harm! Mother was frantic about it; she was afraid that…” He didn’t finish.
“Afraid of what? And how did *she* know I was here? I don’t understand any of this!”
“She’s always known where you were. She’s been… obsessed by it, as long as I can remember! That’s why I told you to leave. She’s just not reasonable!”
“That was who you were talking to in Maurach.” Peter turned to face Ceridwen.
“You saw us? Yes, that was Mother.”
“She sounded a right bitch.”
“I told you, she’s not reasonable.” He turned back to Carey. “She’s always had a thing about your mother, and you as well. She was always afraid that Father would find out, and…”
“You mean, she knew exactly who Carey was, and didn’t bother to tell anyone who might care?” said Phil, angrily. “How dared she? How dared she keep Carey from us?”
“But *how*?” shouted Carey, more frustrated than she had ever been. “How did she know, Peter? How could she possibly have known?”
“Because she was with Marie when you were born.”
*‘I sheathe my sword. It is sheathed. If I unsheathe it…’ sorry; random thought *g*