She sat in the solicitor’s office, nervously playing with the strap of her cheap leather handbag. She looked around at the oppressive and solemn decor and watched the dust motes as they danced in the narrow shaft of sunlight that barely lit the darkly paneled room.
‘What on earth am I doing here’ she thought to herself as she waited for Mr Bloom to explain the reason for her presence. He seemed like a kindly man, an old fashioned gentleman who’d pulled her chair out for her and offered her a cup of tea which she’d declined after spotting the delicate porcelain cup and saucer on his desk; her hands were shaking and she didn’t want to embarrass herself.
Mr Bloom took the glasses from the end of his nose and wiped them slowly with a small cloth and regarded her with tired and rheumy eyes before smiling distractedly and pulling a buff folder towards him. As he slowly untied the pink ribbon that bound the file he said, “Thank you so much for taking the time to come to my office today Miss Solomon, I expect that you’re wondering why I asked to see you.”
Cathy Solomon smiled nervously and nodded. She was worried. Although Mr Bloom seemed perfectly pleasant, with her job as a social worker she was always at risk of law suits and claims of abuse. It saddened her deeply as she genuinely cared for the broken families that she cared for but she was enough of a realist to know that there were people in the profession who abused their positions. The elderly solicitor was still looking at her, obviously waiting for a verbal response but, as none was forthcoming, he pulled several sheets of paper from the file and began speaking.
“I have here the Last Will and Testament of Mr Sebastian Courtney; have you heard of the gentleman Miss Solomon?”
“Well, yes, of course, who hasn’t? He was a wonderful actor.” Cathy had often watched his films with her mother when she was growing up and she’d always been a fan, not least because of his handsome features and melodious voice. She’d been genuinely upset when she’d seen reports of his death. Her mother had never seemed to take the same pleasure from the movies as her daughter but she was just content to sit with her and watch the awed expression on her pretty, young face. Cathy’s eyes softened as she thought of her mother; they’d had such a close bond and she’d been devastated when she died at the age of just 45. Cathy had been 21 at the time and old enough to understand that her mother’s health had been slowly broken by years of working three jobs and never having enough to eat. She’d done it all for her daughter as she was determined to save enough from her meagre earnings for Cathy to be able to attend college and make a real life for herself. On the day that Cathy graduated her mother was there, so much pride in her eyes, and a beautiful smile on her face despite the pain that she was suffering.
That was one of the last days that they spent together but it remained a wonderful memory. Cathy had always wished that her mother had had someone to love her and take care of her but she never seemed interested. ‘After your father, I couldn’t look at another man’ was always her answer whenever Cathy questioned her about it. She would smile sadly and pat her daughter’s hand and then changed the subject. Cathy didn’t remember her father but knew that he must have been a very special man if he’d loved her mother.
Cathy realised that Mr Bloom was speaking to her and she drew herself from her reverie.
“……so, in conclusion, the house in Chelsea and all it’s contents will pass to you and you will receive a lump sum of £14,500,000. I expect that Mr Courtney’s wife will contest but she has no case; we drew up this will together, Sebastian and I, and it is clear and completely watertight.”
“I’m sorry” said Cathy, trying to make sense of what she’d just heard “did you say that Sebastian Courtney left money to me? There must be some mistake, I’ve never met him. You must have me mistaken for another Cathy Solomon Mr Bloom.” Cathy started to stand up but the solicitor waved her back down into her seat.
“I assure you Miss Solomon, there is no mistake. Mr Courtney carried the guilt of what he did for 45 years and this is his way of making amends.”
Cathy frowned, desperately trying to understand what Mr Bloom was telling her. The solicitor saw the confusion on her face and the penny dropped.
“Miss Solomon, did your mother never tell you about your conception? Who your father was?” he said gently.
“Yes, of course, his name was Michael and he was killed in a car crash a month before I was born. Mum didn’t really like to talk about him too much as it upset her, she really loved him.” Cathy was feeling overwhelmed and her eyes filled with tears.
“Oh dear” Mr Bloom took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose trying to relieve the tension that was building between his eyes. “Miss Solomon, I really don’t know how to tell you this but, under the circumstances, I have no choice. Your father was not named Michael. Your father was Sebastian Courtney. As a young man he was very wild; he was rich, famous and had been allowed to do as he pleased for years without reproach. Your mother worked as a waitress in a restaurant that he frequented and one night……” He hesitated, unsure how to continue “…he made a play for your mother and, when she rejected him, he raped her.” He was quiet for a moment, letting his words sink in.
“Oh God! I think I’m going to be sick!” Cathy fled from the room, her hand over her mouth. She was back 15 minutes later, ashamed, shocked; there were so many emotions on her face and her eyes were wet and smudged black where she’d been crying. She sat back down facing Mr Bloom and, in a leaden voice, said “I don’t want his money or his house Mr Bloom, let his wife have it. Is there something I can sign to waive my rights?”
The solicitor looked surprised and concerned but said “Miss Solomon, you really shouldn’t make a decision right now, take a few days to think about it.”
“I don’t need to take any more time Mr Bloom” Cathy said with perfect dignity “Tell me what to sign and then I’d like to leave please.”
Extracting a sheet of paper from the file, the solicitor handed it to Cathy. He passed her a pen and showed her when to sign her name. “If you can just initial there and put the date at the top, our business is concluded. I’m sorry to have brought you such grief Miss Solomon but I am afraid it’s my job.”
Cathy rose and shook his outstretched hand. “Please don’t concern yourself Mr Bloom, I understand and thank you.” She turned and quickly walked to the door, eager to leave the dark and dusty office and return to her friends and colleagues. She didn’t know yet if she would tell them what had happened but she knew that she didn’t want to be alone.
Mr Bloom waited until she’d left the room, closing the door behind her, before picking up the phone.
“Mrs Courtney, Bloom here. It’s done. Miss Solomon has waived all her rights.” He listened for a moment before replying “Yes, she fell for it. I told her that it was rape, she will never know that your husband carried a torch for her mother all these years and never got over her leaving him”. He listened once again and then said “Yes, Mrs Courtney, you will now inherit the entire estate.”
They said their goodbyes and Bloom put the phone down before leaning back on his chair, smug in the knowledge that he’d really earned his £1 million fee.
Written in response to Fandango’s one word prompt