The Well of Loneliness
I was flattered at first; having had no children of my own, it was rather thrilling when my nephew got in contact after all those years. One worries when deciding not to have children that the twilight years might be spent abandoned in a well of loneliness.
When I opened his letter asking if he might visit me, those worries vanished; it felt lovely just to know that someone had thought of me. He came round for tea a fortnight later. I’d remembered him as a blonde, rather weedy boy – and so he was still, albeit taller, with a slightly thickened waist.
We had a great deal in common, most particularly a passion for books. When he began to visit me on a weekly basis, we went from swapping novels to running our own informal book group. We would buy up the Booker longlist or the latest literary bestseller and read one each week, meeting for tea and scones to dissect. Our opinions rarely differed.
He didn’t tell me much about his life; sometimes I wondered if he was just as lonely as I was. He was an ambitious young man, I could see that immediately, with an excellent degree and a fierce intelligence, though he didn’t seem to know what to do with it.
I sympathized initially, until it became clear that what he really wanted was to live like a gentleman of independent wealth, enjoying travel, literature and indolence without the inconvenience of working.
At first I simply thought this was a waste of a good brain – and also thoroughly unrealistic as his parents had had nothing to leave him. Then he brought up the subject of wills.
He said quite breezily that he was thinking of drawing up a will and could I recommend a solicitor? I gave him a name and address, though privately wondered what on earth he wanted with a will when he had no assets or dependents.
He explained that, having no family of his own, he wanted to ensure that anything he did happen to own at the time of his death would be given to charity. He asked me, casually, if that’s what I had opted to do, being in the same position.
“No, dear boy. I’m leaving everything to you.” He smiled and took another scone.
After that, I noticed a change in him. His visits grew more frequent and he was suddenly overtly interested in my affairs. I saw a gleam in his eye at certain times that I did not like at all and he took to wandering around the rooms of my flat as though he was sizing up the very furniture and fittings.
One rainy afternoon he came for tea as usual. My umbrella was drying in the hallway and he asked where I’d been. “I went into town,” I told him, “to see my solicitor”. I saw his face change sharply. “Is something the matter?”
“Not at all,” I assured him, “I was just making a change to my will.” I watched his expression carefully but it was studiously blank.
“Are you disinheriting me, aunt?” He laughed.
“Not at all, my dear boy. I just remembered that I had made no provision for my burial plot. I didn’t think it fair to lumber you with any of that and I have a very particular idea of what I would like. It seemed much better to have it organized now.”
“I see. Very sensible of you.” He sat down and picked up a novel. “So, Oryx & Crake. What did you think?” His long blonde fringe fell down over his face.
I often see him watching me when he thinks I’m not looking. He forgets that the mirror over the fireplace shows me his face when his head is turned away. I rarely like what I see reflected there.
I suppose he won’t have long to wait. I hope he isn’t too shocked at how little money I actually have. Due to some of the lovely artefacts I have dotted around my home, I think he has mistaken me for a woman of means.
The flat won’t fetch much, not in this unfashionable part of town. And, of course, there is my provision to take into account. As I told him, I am very particular about my final resting place. The idea came to me when I saw the gleam in his eye and felt an unseen threat. I want a mauseoleum with sculptured angels and marble flooring; a temple of gothic greatness. The one I have commissioned is nearly as big as my dear little flat and so very much grander. I should be surprised if there turns out to be anything leftover in that will at all.