the quilt

The pieces lay strewn across the floor. Lottie tried to get the colours balanced. She tried to get the shapes in order. It was too much, she was not her Grandmother. Granny Gwendoline was so accomplished in all homecrafts but she was especially fond and gifted at quilting.

The Institute of Women often asked Gwen to give talks on the intricate designs and interwoven colours, neighbours, strangers, friends and relatives all vied for a quilt from the hand of Lottie’s gran.

Intermingled with the small coloured scraps of fabric were photographs. Lottie had been left, grieving for her grandmother, abandoned by her parents, marooned by the only family she had ever known. Her nickname “Cuckoo” coming to haunt her as with each fragment of fabric and snapshot of her life the realisation that she knew nothing and the only person who would give her answer now she knew the questions to ask was dead.

Her life fragmented into a thousand shards of unknown shape or weight.

The will was read today, by a man more befitting a Dickensian novel than Brighton on a sunny day; all jacket and tie with handstitched shirt and classically tailored trousers down from London for the day.

Mother, suitably fussy, suitably hot and most decidedly suitably bothered was dressed in a pale pink suit, Lottie thought it was new, but no opportunity to ask arrived. Father dressed in linen suit with a t shirt, matching of course underneath, he was so dapper, my dad. I wonder, now I know they don’t belong to me do I still call them mum and dad, or Shirley and Harold. How strange, how weird life was going to be.

My siblings, well the brother and sister I have had up to now, had eyes of greed and avarice for the entire reading, waiting for their piece of gran. That made Lottie smile, their piece was worth as much as these fabric scraps. Why was I trying to start a quilt today?

The will of Gwendoline Grottmarsch-Billington Smythe was an uncomplicated piece of literature. A single page with the entry, “I leave my entire estate to Lottie, my only relative, my one true relative, as DNA will prove.” and then it was signed and witnessed. The solicitor affirmed Gran was in her true mind when she wrote it.

The ballistic testing equipment from the local army base could not have been sufficient for the eruption that followed. Lottie sat quietly, not sure what the estate was apart from the house on Windsor Avenue and the car, the sweet, gorgeous, beautiful 1979 Citreon Dyane in turquoise. Lottie loved that car, she was always thrilled to be driven by gran anywhere in the car named “Putt-Putt”.

Shirley, Harold, the two other children, various neighbours and hangers-on were still conversing at loud intervals an hour later. Lottie had sat quietly through the whole thing with two pink spots on her cheeks and a detached frame of mind. The solicitor moved every one else out of the room but their words were clearly heard through the glass door.

“Miss Lottie, this is the key to Gwen’s house. All the paperwork is there. I will meet you at the house at four if that is convenient and we might go through her affairs. There is quite a lot to get through, especially we need to shore everything up nicely to avoid the vultures.” The solicitor was smiling. “It is not often I get to wipe smile off smug nasty people. Today is your freedom day. Go enjoy.”

The barracking outside had not ceased and when Lottie materialised her mother attacked her verbally. Lottie caught various syllables of derision but she had spent 22 years ignoring the cutting remarks from her family and was well versed in ducking through a crowd.

Pushing open the door at gran’s she could smell the lavender from the bedrooms and the lemon balm from the parlour. Gwen had loved gardening, her speciality was herbs and she loved to concoct lotions and potions.

Lottie tidied up the photos and the fabric scraps she had thrown around the room trying to make sense of it all. How could her mother not be her mother. Oh how she had dreamed that she was in the wrong family. But the how was driving her potty. Potty Lottie, that was another nickname of theirs. Cuckoo and Potty. ……