Gerhardt was in the study poring over papers he had brought home from the office when there was a knock on the door. “Yes?”
The door opened and Benson stood in the doorway.
“What is it, Benson?”
“Sir, you have a visitor.”
“Who is it?”
“It’s Miss Frances Dormer, the late Mrs. Müller’s sister.”
Helena’s sister was there? She hadn’t bothered to come to the funeral so why was she here now? “Where is she?”
“In the drawing-room, Sir.”
“Thank you, Benson.” After Benson left, he gathered the papers and put them in a neat pile before leaving the study. He made his way down the long corridor and when he reached the stop of the staircase, he saw a woman standing there, looking at the portraits lining the wall. She turned when she heard him.
He had never met Helena’s sister before but had heard a lot about her. She looked very glamorous and not at all like his deceased wife. He went down the stairs and extending his hand, he said, “Hello, Frances. I’m Gerhardt, your brother-in-law.”
She smiled and her gaze traveled slowly over him as she shook his hand. “You’re very handsome and a lot younger than I expected,” she remarked. “How on earth did Helena manage to snag you?”
He released her hand. “To what do I owe this unexpected visit?”
“No reason, except to visit this place which I used to call home and which at times felt like a prison and to meet you.”
“You would have met me at the wedding if you had come. Helena invited you.”
“I sent flowers and a card.”
“She would have preferred you to be there.”
“Sure, she would have.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Say, may I have something to drink?”
“Sure. I’ll ring for a glass of water.”
“No, Honey. I need something a wee bit stronger. And there is a bar in the drawing-room.”
“All right.” He preceded her to the drawing-room. While she removed her fur coat, dropped it on the chair by the fireplace and ran her brightly manicured nails down her slim figure, he walked over to the bar. “What would you like to drink?” he asked.
“A Margarita, please.” She looked around the room. “I like what you have done with this room.”
“The credit belongs to Helena.”
“Really? I guess it’s not only her taste in men which has changed but her sense of décor too. Good.”
He handed her the Margarita. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“I’m referring to your answer when I said that Helena would have preferred your presence at our wedding rather than the flowers and card.”
“Helena and I never were never close. We were sisters but as different as night and day. She was our parents’ daughter while I was like the black sheep of the family, always getting into trouble and upsetting the apple cart. As soon as I graduated from university, I moved out. I became a model, living and working in Paris, much to my parents’ chagrin. They probably felt that they had wasted their money sending me to university. I never wanted to go to university but I went anyway to please them but after I graduated, I decided that I wanted to do something exciting with my life. So, I took up modelling and became very successful at it. I met lots of interesting people and have been romantically involved with several men. I’m sure my parents heard about it somehow and I’m sure that they were relieved when I didn’t show up to the wedding. They didn’t want me around and I didn’t want to be around them, either.”
“Why didn’t you come to the funeral?”
“I don’t like funerals.”
“I didn’t want to be there. I sent flowers.”
“Yes. They were lovely. Thank you.”
“Although we were never close, I’m sorry that she’s dead. I can really say the same thing about my parents, though.”
“You really disliked them that much?”
“They didn’t love me and I didn’t love them.”
“What about Garfield?”
“I don’t mind him. Actually, he and I were very close when we were young. I remember the time when we were kids and here in this room, laughing like lunatics. I can’t remember what we were laughing at but I remember that Mother wasn’t at all pleased. She said that before the night was over, one of us was going to end up crying. And it turned out that she was right. I got spanked for breaking one of the jade figurines she had brought back from Beijing. It was very expensive and in her eyes, irreplaceable. I spent the rest of the night in my room, sore and crying my eyes out. Garfield came and stayed with me for a while. Helena didn’t pop in at all. She never got spanked because she was the perfect child. Only Garfield and I got spanked. I got spanked more than him. When I showed up on his doorstep, yesterday evening, he was very happy to see me after all of these years.”
“Helena would have been happy to see you too.”
“Perhaps, I should have gotten in touch with her or visited but it’s no use thinking about that now. She’s gone and I’m here now.”
“I will be having dinner in half-hour, perhaps you would like to stay?”
She shrugged. “Sure.”
“In the meantime, why don’t take you to see the tree which I planted in Helena’s memory.”
“You planted a tree in her memory? How touching. You loved her, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I can tell just from the way you talk about her. She was a very lucky woman.”
“I was the lucky one.”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she finished her drink and then pulled on her fur coat. “Before I return to Paris, I will visit her grave and leave flowers.”
“How long are you here in London?”
“Where are you staying?”
“At Garfield’s place. His kids are fine with me being there but not his wife. I expect she’ll be happy to see the back of me.”
They left the drawing-room and as he put on his jacket, she paused and looked up at the portraits. “I’m surprised to see mine up there,” she said.
“It wasn’t there but after your parents passed away, Helena had one done for you from one of the photos she had of you.”
“That was very generous of her.”
“Generosity had nothing to do with it, Frances.”
“Love. In spite of what you think, Helena loved you and she wished that she could have seen you again.”
Frances turned away so that he couldn’t see her face. “If I had known that, I would have come back sooner. Oh, well, it’s too late now. Let’s go and see that tree.”
Source: Stay Glam
2 thoughts on “The Prodigal Daughter”
From personal experience I am a bit salty about how *some* people make their siblings pay for their parents’ attitude towards them.
That just makes them look as bad as the parents think.
If not worse.
Her presence makes me uncomfortable. What normal person shows up only after some members of the family are dead? To what purpose?
Also, I really have to keep myself updated on your story continuities.
The last paragraph of this chapter shows there might be hope for her yet. But I still have my doubts.
I mean, who on earth flirts with her brother-in-law who just became a widower?
That’s just unscrupulous.
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Yes, people shouldn’t be blamed for how their parents treat their siblings. The parents should be held accountable. It reminds me of how Joseph’s brothers treated him but it wasn’t his fault that Jacob showed him favoritism. Don’t worry, this is the only appearance she will make. I guess she didn’t show up when her parents and sister were still alive because of the past.
This is the third part. The first is One Sided and the second, A New Venue.
You’re right, there is hope for her. She did flirt with him, didn’t she but little good did it do her. He’s being kind to her because she’s family and it is what his deceased wife would have wanted. It will take quite some time for him to even look at another woman, let alone get involved with her but as they say, time heals and Helena would want him to move on and find happiness again. It’s what he would have wanted for her if the tables were turned.
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