Her fingers brushed over the delicate caramel slices and froze. Rachel’s eyes flickered around the room searching for her husband before she scooped up two. She reasoned that no-one ever ate at these things and it would be a shame to let them go to waste. Further justifying her actions, Gran had always teased her about her slender frame. Taking these morsels was in honour of her memory.
Rachel slunk over to the window guarding her piled plate. Dane had been a real arse about her figure lately. She was glad to find he was not in the room. As her teeth sunk into the soft creamy centre of the slice, she closed her eyes in rapture. Dane had been Gran’s favourite. There aught to be no argument as to who get the house. With no will, it was up to the family members to divide Gran’s belongings. Gran’s heavy velvet curtains hung listlessly in the heat. As long as Rachel had her way, they would be the first in the skip on her renovation jaunt of the old home.
The murmurings of the small crowd still hanging around the wake settled into the background as Rachel began deconstructing the family matriarchs possessions. Most of the rest of the family owned their own homes. Dane and Rachel had been struck with a series of bad situations which saw them with little financial backing. It seemed obvious to her that they would be the best ones to move in.
Rachel allowed the next slice to melt in her mouth luxuriating as the exquisite thick caramel slid down her throat, ignoring the burbling masses around her. Most of the people present were related to Dane in some way. Gran had described the family as delightful eccentrics, though as far as Rachel was concerned they were a bunch of lunatics afraid of their own shadows. Timothy caught her eye and waved cheerily across the room. Rachel gave him a genuine smile. Apart from Dane, he was the only normal family member. Her eyes were drawn to his periwinkle shoes. He was so obviously gay. It saddened her that he was trapped in his own closet, afraid to jump out.
Hunched figures curled fingers around tea cups, balancing saucers of untouched morsels. Although she couldn’t hear them, she was certain they whispered dark secrets, where only family born were ever let into the inner circle. She leaned against the wall, allowing her head to rest near the window, wishing she could escape graciously and appear again when Gran’s things were being distributed.
“What do you mean its still here? Didn’t something grab it the second..”
“What? The moment Gran died, you think we were thinking about what do with..”
“Shhh will you?”
Rachel’s head jerked. Dane’s unmistakable voice cut through the murmurings in the room. She gently pushed the drapes over to peak out of the window onto the verandah. A small group huddled outside. Their eyes darted towards the sliding door where the reception was being held. Intrigued by this odd exchange between the siblings, Rachel pressed closer to the window, wriggling behind the drapes.
“But what are we going to do with...you know.. it?”
A huffed outlet of air and shuffling of leather shoes on wooden floorboard punctuated the silence.
“Gran was very particular. It can’t just go to anyone and its not like it could be put in the will.”
“There is no will, you idiot.”
“Whatever. It couldn’t be written down anywhere.”
“But who? Which one of us could, you know make sure its looked after..”
“You mean hidden.”
“If anyone found out. Saw it. Told anyone about it.”
“Can you imagine the media?”
“I wish we could have just put it in with her.” Another lengthy silence followed.
Rachel envisaged Pete’s adams apple bobbing as he swallowed. His trademark red flush no doubt would be rapidly rising from his collar. He cleared his throat. “You know, bury it with her. It might have been the best.”
“Are you kidding? Its been in the family for generations. It’s got to be handed down to the right person.” Jess’s hiss began to hit a shrill squeak.
“I’ll say it. It can’t come to me. Rachel wouldn’t understand its value. She’s more likely to get the wrong sort of attention about it. Who knows what might happen if she saw it.” It was Rachel’s turn to flush. She felt a sharp stab of cold slide down her chest before indignation set in. She set her saucer of sweets down on the window sill,undecided whether to march out and demand they reveal the item they were hiding from her or remain hidden and listen.
“Pete, you should look after it.” Murmurs of agreeance as Pete cleared his throat again. Rachel’s face wrinkled in disgust. The thought of the youngest family member having responsibility over an heirloom which was obviously priceless, left her speechless. She wondered how any of them would consider such a stupid decision.
“So, its still up in her bedroom, in with her dresses?”
“Has been for 65 years.”
“Remember when she first showed us?”
The small group erupted in laughter.
“Opening that cupboard.”
“We felt so special that she’d shown us.”
The sliding door shot open, the grit in its runners squealing in protest.
“Dane, Pete, Jess. You need to be inside with the rest of the family. I know its difficult, but your Gran would have wanted you to celebrate her life with everyone, not hide out on the patio.”
“Hi, Uncle Stuart. We were just talking.”
“Not about to drag a skeleton out of the cupboard are we? Do you think Timothy will do it? I am sure plenty of the family are expecting it .” The hair on the back of Rachel’s neck rose as the tension outside crackled.
“Today isn’t really the time or place is it?” The sound of Stuart’s massive paw slapping a back made Rachel wince. His belly laugh exploded. “Good one, Pete. Well, inside with you all then.” Foot steps across the veranda headed over the sliding door as the group were herded back inside.
Rachel slid out from behind the curtain. It was now or never. Whatever treasure was in Gran’s cupboard in her bedroom was most certainly part of her inheritance and she was determined to secure it, for safety of course, before it disappeared into Pete’s unpredictable life.
With her eyes cast down, she slipped past the mingling mourners clutching their plates and cups. She kicked off her high heels and stealthily climbed the stairs, cringing at every creak. Slipping into Gran’s bedroom, Rachel stopped, shivering. She looked around the familiar room. Gran’s dressing table was still neatly set out with hair pins and brush. Her lipstick stood to attention, ready for application. She expected to see the matriarch stride in any moment and demand an explanation from this interloper.
Quashing her fears, Rachel grasped the door handle of the cupboard. She breathed deeply, every nerve tingling and opened the door a crack. Dresses were filed in strict colour coding on hangers, shoes precisely paired into the bottom with matching handbags and scarves on a shelf above. Rachel stifled a giggle. Gran was just as weird as the rest of her family.
She opened the door a little more, pushed the dresses to one side and leant in, peering into the dark; unsure as to what treasure she was searching for. A bony hand snaked its way round her throat and compressed her windpipe. Rachel gargled as the grip tightened and she was dragged into the cupboard.