Nothing ever good comes from eavesdropping.
Or, so my mother said, once, with such feeling that I suspect she had some experience of having done so. It might explain the enmity between her and her older sister, the aunt we never saw.
Except all that changed when I received an odd email from a woman who claimed to be that very aunt.
We had all been warned about scams that came from dubious sources online, and this initially struck me as one. I would need more information before I answered.
That meant poking the bear, that is, asking my mother about her sister.
And coming right out with the words she hoped she’d never heard.
“Aunt Guenivere sent me an email, asking if we could meet. It seems she wants to meet the nephew she hasn’t seen since I was born. What happened to you two?”
It brought a look of total hatred in return.
“You would be wise not to respond. That woman is just plain evil.”
“You do realize that a statement like that makes it even more imperative that I should meet her. If you’re not going to tell me what happened, I’m sure she will.”
“Then if you must, you must.”
It wasn’t resignation but suppressed rage. Whatever had happened, it was something she believed no one would believe her, or understand, least of all me.
With that, she stood, and walked out of the room, leaving me with the ominous feeling that it would be the last time I saw her.
After verifying that my so-called aunt was Aunt Guenivere, I arranged a meeting in a public place, a tea room in the next town to where I lived. And it wasn’t going to be hard to recognize her, she would just an older version of my mother.
I knew this because I had found a photograph of my mother and her two sisters, all of who looked very much alike. I’d know about the younger sister, she had died in an accidental car crash many years before, and what my mother regarded as a wasted life.
I saw her about the same time she saw me.
And she just made it to the table when her cell phone rang. She smiled, put a hand up and asked for a moment, and then went back outside. I watched her walk up and down, slowly at first, but I could see the conversation was getting heated.
After a few minutes, I went outside to see if I could be of any assistance.
Apparently not. One look was enough, and I knew what it meant. At least her sister and my mother shared the same facial expressions when angry.
Then the conversation ended. I thought, for a moment, she was going to throw the phone on the ground, and only just managed to stop herself.
Instead, she came over and said. “I’m sorry but something has come up and I have to go. I’ll call you.”
With that, she waved down a taxi, one stopped, and she jumped in.
Another pulled in behind her taxi and on the spur of the moment, and said with a flourish, “Follow that cab.”
The driver turned to look at me, and then said, “You’re kidding.”
I held up a hundred dollar note and said, seriously, “This is yours if you don’t lose them.”
It was a lot easier to follow that taxi than I thought. We caught up and the first set of lights and then proceeded to miss every second intersection as if the universe knew I needed to keep her in sight.
All the way to the upper west side and a very expensive apartment block. I paid the cabbie and jumped out, just in time to see a very familiar figure join my aunt.
And they didn’t look like people who didn’t know each other, or who were at war.
They remained outside the apartment block, and I could see my father had arrived by cab, and it was waiting for him.
I got as close as I could, hidden effectively behind the bushes that lined the building entrance. They were speaking loudly, which surprised me
“What the hell were you thinking,” he said, not angrily, but I could tell he was agitated.
“I was thinking it was time someone told him the truth.”
“You know what Evelyn thinks of that, and I do too. You made an agreement.”
“I’ve changed my mind. After all, he is my son, not hers.”
© Charles Heath 2020-2021