Teardrop Lake and the surrounding woodland was privately owned and divided into twelve parcels each with one significant dwelling on it, although there were a number of cottages dotted around the woodland as well.
The 12 main properties on Teardrop Lake were not owned as such and were subject to a peculiar legal covenant dating back to the early 17th Century.
None of the residents on the Lake were owners per se, they possessed the lease but for their lifetime only, at the end of which the lease was passed on to their heir.
The houses and the land they sat upon could not be bought or sold by their occupier’s and nor could the leases.
Heirs can elect not live in the property, or elect to have a relative occupy it in their stead but no income can be derived from such a circumstance.
So when widower Daniel Travers was found dead in South View and was without issue, wheels were set in motion, to track down an heir.
Stanislas, Boivin and Champeaux, the solicitors who administered the Lakeside estate, had to find a beneficiary.
In the absence of a named heir in either Daniel Travers or his wife Winifred’s wills, a firm of genealogists had to be employed.
In the event of no heir at all being located then after a lengthy process the property would revert to the control of the trust to manage this had happened in the case of two of the 12, Dancingdean Hall and East Cliff Lodge.
Finding an heir was not a speedy process so although Daniel Travers died in March, it was September the 1st when Danni Holland, the last surviving heir of either line crossed the threshold of South View.
Danni was the 23 year old great, great, niece of Winifred Travers, a woman she had not only never met but had never even heard of.
In fact from the age of 18 until she was contacted by the solicitors she was completely unaware that she had any relatives at all.
Her mother died when she was ten and her father eight years later.
And with his death she was to the best of her knowledge the last one standing.
So they could have knocked her down with a feather when she was told she had not been alone in the world after all.
Danni inherited the lease on the house, the house contents and a small legacy but that wasn’t what she was looking for, she would have much preferred to have met Winnie and got to know her.
So after everything was signed and sealed Danni was assured by Stanislas, Boivin and Champeaux that after Winnie and Daniel’s death, this time she really was the last of the line.
In her first week in South View she did nothing but repeatedly pinch herself, expecting to wake up from a crazy dream.
In truth she was a little shell shocked
Also her arrival at South View besides the beautiful Teardrop Lake prompted her to reassess her future, at least when the dust had settled and her head had stopped spinning.
This was not the direction that she had envisaged her life would take in fact it was only in May of that year that she’d finished her Art History degree.
After leaving University she began working for an insurance company, in the claims department, while she considered what she should do with her qualification.
However inheriting the house meant that Danni could sell her flat in Nettlefield and quit the claims department.
The sale of her flat enabled her to pay off her student loans and have a reasonable nest egg to live on while she took stock.
When she met with one of the solicitors, Rizalina Pugay, she asked her what she knew about her great, great aunt and Riza spoke enthusiastically about Winnie.
“She was a wonderful woman”
“Did you know her well?” Danni asked
“Quite well, yes” she replied
She went on to tell her everything she knew about her up until her death.
“Then when she died her husband Daniel actually died of a broken heart” Riza said and sighed
“How romantic is that”
Danni had to agree that it was indeed a true love story.
She herself had never been in love true or otherwise.
She had had three rather dubious passions but she had never experienced love.
On the Monday of her second week Danni phoned Riza.
“Hello Danni, how are you settling in?”
“Fine, fine” she replied “I still can’t believe it’s happened”
“Well it’s for real” Riza said “so enjoy it”
“I’m trying” Danni said and then there was a pause before Riza asked
“Was there something else?”
“Yes” she replied “am I allowed to decorate?”
And Riza laughed
After Riza explained to her that the house was hers to decorate whichever way she saw fit.
She reiterated that there were certain period features in the house that couldn’t be removed or altered and that other than that only changes to the exterior of the property had to be approved.
So armed with that information she decided she needed help.
When she was at Abbottsford University Danni shared a house for two years with three of her friends June Gough, Katie Watson and Briony Beardsmore.
After graduation Briony went to America but the other two had planned to take a year out and do some travelling before settling down.
She knew however that their reach had far exceeded their grasp and they had to curtail their sojourn.
So Danni phoned them and asked them to come and stay with her for a while.
“This is very nice Danni” Katie said looking around
“Are you sure you’re allowed to be here?”
“Apparently so” Danni replied and hugged her friend who was a tall well-built and totally unnaturally blonde woman, who although was very definitely feminine, hugged like a grizzly bear.
“She’s fetching the bags” Katie replied as they walked into the kitchen.
June was petite and wiry and quite obviously deceptively strong because when she eventually appeared she was loaded with bags, and looked like a Hotel porter.
June dropped the bags in the hall and mopped her brow before running her fingers though her short black hair.
After closing the front door she went in search of the other two and found them sitting at the kitchen table talking.
“I might have known” she said
Over the next few weeks they went all over the house, out buildings, cellar and attic, sorting through Daniel and Winnies personal possessions.
The unwanted items were temporarily stored in the garage, clothing, music albums and knick-knack’s for the charity shop, some items of furniture which were deemed as too old fashioned but were of sufficient quality to auction and likewise for a selection of porcelain and glassware and collectables.
Books were Katie’s forte so all the books were put in one of the downstairs room and she methodically went through them all.
Any documents, paperwork or photographs were put in the study and would be gone through when Danni had the time.
There was also a considerable amount of sheet music which was of absolutely no use to her but Danni was reluctant to just throw it away.
The industrious June had hired a van so she could collect the decorating materials that she needed.
It was a good sized van, June told them that it was a Long Wheel Base Hi-Top, they just took her word for it.
But while they had it they decided to make full use of it to clear the garage which was by that time stuffed to the gunwales.
The good stuff that was designated for the charity shop ended up at St Mary’s Church Hall where it was sorted for the Church Car Boot and jumble sale being held at St Mary’s Primary School on the last weekend in October.
They then did a number of runs to the dump and finally took the items they wanted to sell to O’Sullivan and Springthorpe Auctioneers in Shallowfield.
Danni left June in the van while she went into the office where a young man of a similar age to herself was sat behind the desk.
As she approached he looked up and smiled, Danni liked his smile, and she though he was quite good looking with his curly brown hair and blue eyes.
“Hello” she said “Are you Mr O’Sullivan or Mr Springthorpe?”
“Neither I’m afraid” he replied “Steve Lovett, can I help?”
“I hope so Steve” she replied
“So do I” he said in his head
“I have just inherited a house from my great, great aunt and uncle and I need to sell some of the furniture and such like” she said “is that something you can help with?”
“Certainly” he said “Let’s arrange a time and date when I can come and assess what you have”
“Ah that might be a problem” she said
“How so?” he enquired
“It’s all outside in a van” she replied
“Here?” he said “Oh ok then let’s go and have a look”
“Great” Danni said with a little relief
“So you’re new to the area too?” he said
“Yes about five weeks” she replied
“About the same” he replied
June had seen them approaching and jumped out of the driver’s seat and walked to the back of the van.
“I hope this isn’t a load of old tat” Steve thought to himself
“I’d hate to have to let her down”
He rather liked her, she ticked quite a few of his boxes.
She had shoulder length brunette hair, she was not beautiful in the conventional sense, and she had quite sharp features, a pointed nose and a slightly prominent chin, a small mouth and dark penetrating eyes, but he liked what he saw.
She was the perfect height for him about 4 inches shorter than his 6’ 1” and was blessed with very shapely legs.
“I’m in a B&B at the moment” he said aloud “I don’t know yet if the move here is permanent”
“Oh I hope it is” she said a little over enthusiastically which was noticed by June and when she looked at June it made Danni blush.
She had a small crescent shaped scar on her right cheek that went vivid red when she’d drunk too much or when she blushed.
At that moment it was crimson.
Danni introduced Steve to June who was grinning like a halfwit which quite understandably unnerved Steve.
“Well let’s have a look then” he said uncomfortably.
But once the doors were flung wide open he saw it was absolutely stuffed full.
“This is going to take longer than I thought” he added and had to call for some assistance from a character by the name of “Old Bob” and when it was all unloaded into the warehouse and could all be appreciated he was in his element.
“Can you leave it with us and I will call you later” he said
“Yes” she said that’s fine and jotted down her number
“I’m Danni by the way”
Out of her eye line June was grinning again which made Steve twitch.
“I’ll just get you a receipt” he said
“Well” June said as they drove back to the house
“Well what?” Danni retorted
“I felt like a proper gooseberry”
“Oh do Shut up” Danni said and punched her arm, June just laughed.
When they got home they went into the kitchen and June was still cackling.
“How did you get on?” Katie asked
“She got on very well” June said and Danni picked up a tea towel and started flicking her.
Over a cup of coffee they sat at the table while June regaled them with her representation of events which caused much merriment and made Danni blush again.
After which it was Katie’s turn next to tell her how she had got on.
“I’ve just about finished with the books” she said “and I think there will be at least 50 that your Mr Lovett will be interested in”
“He’s not my Mr Lovett” Danni said
“In that case I will deal with him exclusively from now on” Katie suggested
“That won’t be necessary” Danni said and left the kitchen to peals of laughter.
When Danni and June were dropping off the jumble at the Church Hall they got chatting to the vicars wife Olivia and Danni mentioned the pile of sheet music that they had found in the house and Olivia told her that there was a music Professor living up at the Folly cottages who she thought would be very interested in looking through them.
So that was their first port of call the next day.
Over the next few days Katie finished the books and all three of them cracked on with the decorating.
June had already completed two rooms before the other two got involved.
Not that Katie was much use, she didn’t like dust or cobwebs, she couldn’t use ladders or kneel down, she didn’t like the smell of paint as it made her nauseous and she didn’t like getting her hands wet or doing anything that would make them dry.
What she could do though was make teas and coffees and cook extremely well.
At the end of day three Danni’s phone rang just as she was half way down a ladder.
She looked at the caller ID and saw it was unknown and was thinking about declining it but in the end she answered it.
“Hello!” she said
“Could I speak to Miss Holland please?” the voice asked
“Speaking” she retorted
“Steve Lovett from the Auctioneers” he said
“Oh hello” she said and for some reason straightened her hair which was when she noticed she was being spied on so she took the phone into her bedroom.
“I have looked at all the items now and wondered if I might call round to discuss it” he said
“Well the house is in an awful mess as we’re decorating so could we meet at that coffee shop in Shallowfield? I think it’s called Addison’s”
“Yes that would be fine, is tomorrow at 10 ok?” he asked
“I look forward to seeing you then” Danni replied
The next morning she spent a disproportionate amount of time getting ready for a coffee date and it wasn’t even a date, it wasn’t even a thing it was just a coffee with an Auctioneer, she wasn’t even sure he was an Auctioneer, she didn’t know what he was, but it was just coffee, that she was sure about.
“So why am I spending so much time getting ready” she said to her reflection in the mirror.
He was already sitting at a table when she arrived at Addison’s.
Danni walked over to him.
“Hello Steve” she said “Is it alright if to call you Steve?”
“Only if I can call you Danni” he replied
“That’s settled then” she said and sat down opposite him
“So what’s the verdict?” she asked after the coffee arrived
“Well I’ve divided up what you brought in into three different sales to maximise the prices” He said and handed her a list
“As you can see I have put down reserves on the highest value items”
“Crikey do you expect to get that much?” she asked
“Certainly yes” he said “In the right sale”
“I had no idea” Danni confessed
She was surprised at the amount they might raise, but she already knew what she was going to do with the money.
The meeting at Addison’s lasted longer than either of them intended, bearing in mind the purpose of it was dealt with in the first few minutes.
Finally Steve looked at his watch and excused himself
“I’m sorry I really have to go, I have a valuation to do in Childean”
“I understand, and thank you for this” she said tapping the valuation “And the coffee”
“My pleasure” he said “perhaps we could do it again”
“I’d like that” Danni answered
He was busy the next day so they arranged to meet at the same time the day after.
Danni returned home and told them the news about the valuation.
“Never mind that” Katie said “how did you get on with him?”
“Fine” she replied
“Only fine” June said “You’ve been gone almost 2 hours”
“Yes only fine” Danni said “but we are meeting for coffee again on Thursday”
“Well that’s promising” Katie said
“We are merely going to discuss the upcoming sale”
She told them but she hoped it might lead to more.
Katie and June seemed happy with that so Danni went to her room to change into her scruffy clothes.
The first Auction sale was on the coming Saturday, and was for the porcelain, glass and collectables.
The following Wednesday was the jewellery sale in Abbottsford and then back to Shallowfield on the following Saturday for the furniture sale.
“Have you really never been to an Auction?” he asked in disbelief as they sat in Addison’s coffee shop
“Truly” she replied
“I could take you if you like” Steve suggested
“That would be nice” she said
“Great, you’re in for a real treat, Mr Springthorpe senior is in action on Saturday which is a sight to behold”
“I will look forward to it” she said though not because of Auctioneer.
Just at that moment when the conversation might have turned to something meaningful Danni looked across the table and saw that Steve had gone whiter than a sheet.
So she turned and looked behind her and there were Katie and June grinning through the window.
“It’s alright” she said “They’re friends of mine”
Then she mouthed something in their direction which caused them to roar with laugher before they departed.
And she returned her attention to Steve but the moment had passed.
On Saturday they met outside Addison’s and walked down to the Salerooms together.
It was very busy, and had been all morning, or so he was informed.
They didn’t arrive until eleven because he knew where Danni’s items were in the sale.
They only had to wait for ten minutes and the first lot appeared.
An hour and a half later and all her items had sold.
Only one failed to reach Steve’s estimate but comfortably cleared the reserve.
Steve suggested a pub lunch and Danni gratefully accepted.
“My friend Katie has been going through the books and has identified quite a number that she believes are of value” Danni said between mouthfuls of delicious Chilli at the Woodcutter’s Arms.
“Perhaps you can bring them in and I’ll get our book expert to look at them” he said “They may have to go in the December sale now though”
The following week they met up every day at Addison’s apart from Wednesday when they drove to Abbotsford for the jewellery sale and Saturday when they went to the furniture sale in Shallowfield after which they went to dinner at the Phoenix.
They had had umpteen coffee dates two lunches and a dinner but although they clearly liked each other and they enjoyed each other’s company they didn’t progress it.
The problem was they were both a little backwards in coming forwards, hence the number of coffee dates and no kissing.
Over coffee one day he gave her some bad news
“I’m not going to be around for the next week or so”
“How come?” she asked as calmly as she could
“I’ve been asked to flit between three different Salerooms, covering for holidays and sickness etc.” he explained
At the end of the evening just before she got into the cab she said
“I’ll miss you” and kissed his cheek
As it turned out it was almost 2 full weeks before she saw him again and she was quite low.
But she felt much happier when they met up in their favourite spot.
It was a Friday and Addison’s was exceptionally busy, so much so that they had to share a table with two elderly ladies, which made conversation difficult.
And then later that day Danni, Katie and June went away for a long weekend to meet up with their friend and housemate from University, Briony Beardsmore, who was back briefly from America.
When they returned she tried calling him but only succeeded in getting through to his answerphone, but she didn’t leave a message.
She left it for a few days but as she had neither seen nor heard from him she loaded the car with the boxes of books and drove them to the saleroom.
Danni pulled up in the car park and walked into the office expecting to see Steve sitting there.
But instead she saw a man in his thirties that she kind of recognised but didn’t quite.
“How can I help?” he said
“Is Mr Lovett around?” she said
“I’m afraid not” he replied
“He’s been called away for a few days on family business, a bereavement I believe”
“Oh ok” she said
“I have a car full of books he suggested I bring in”
“Well take them to the back door and Old Bob will sort you out” he said
“Thank you Mr…” she said
“Springthorpe” he replied
That was why she half recognised him he was a younger version of the Auctioneer from the first sale.
She was greeted at the door by “Old Bob” who helped her unload the car and gave her a receipt then she got back in the car and drove home disappointed.
As Steve was absent and June was really cracking on with the decorating Danni decided to get to grips with the mountain of letters and personal papers in the study.
That kept her quite busy for the week following her delivering the books to the Auction house.
Then out of the blue she got a phone call from Steve, she was going to be sharp with him, for not calling her earlier.
After the conversation she was glad that she hadn’t.
The family emergency was his Grandfathers death and the subsequent funeral, which he had to arrange as there were no other family.
That kind of put a dampener on things and then he dropped the bombshell that after the book sale on Saturday he was driving up to Millmoor to supervise a number of house clearances, which really depressed her.
A few days later Danni and her friends were sitting in the kitchen when Katie said
“We’ll be out of your hair soon”
“What are you on about?”
“June’s nearly finished the decorating and we really need to get jobs and start paying off our loans” Katie said
“Oh” Danni said
“I thought you’d want to live here with me”
Danni was an orphan girl and her University girls were her only family and she wanted them near.
“Really?” June asked
“Of course really” Danni replied and the three of them hugged
About an hour later there was a knock on the front door.
June was painting the study and Katie was baking in the kitchen so Danni answered the door.
“Could I speak to Mrs … Oh it’s you” Steve said
“Hello” Danni said “This is a nice surprise”
“Yes” he said doubtfully
“Didn’t you know I lived here?” she said, and then it dawned on her that he wouldn’t because they had only met at Addison’s or the Saleroom.
“To be honest no” he admitted
“Come in” she said
She led him into the lounge and a moment later Katie appeared with a tray.
Being a sucker for romance Katie just put it on the table smiled and left the room.
“I was hoping to speak with Winifred Travers” he said
“I’m afraid Mrs Travers passed away last year” Danni responded.
The news clearly shocked him and he was unable to speak for a few moments.
“Oh dear” he said “I have a letter for her”
The letter was from her deceased brother
“I’m sorry” Danni said
“What was she like?” he asked
“I don’t know, I didn’t know her” she admitted
“But everyone that did says she was a lovely woman, salt of the earth”
“So this is your house now?” he asked
“Well the lease is mine at least” Danni said
When he arrived he was carrying a folder which he placed on the sofa beside him.
But as he reached forward to pick up his drink he caught his sleeve and dragged the folder off the seat and spilled the contents, a mixture of papers and old black and white photographs, onto the floor.
Danni was immediately out of her seat and on her knees scooping up the spillage.
But she couldn’t help noticing the photograph of a soldier
“Who is this good looking young man?” she asked
“It’s my grandfather” he replied
“Oh wow” she said flatly
Steve elaborated as he showed her the other photos
After his grandfather died he wanted to deliver his letter to his baby sister, the problem was he had no idea where she could be
It was only by chance that he happened on the address.
“So how did you track Winnie down?” Danni asked
“Well when I left school I got a job with O’Sullivan’s and Springthorpe and part of the job is house clearances and one of the houses I had to clear last week was that of Elizabeth Blackett, who was a maiden lady in her 90’s.
It was my job to sort through her personal papers and among them were correspondences between her and Winifred, I couldn’t believe my luck.
Elisabeth was a distant cousin of Winnies and was also the genealogist of the family and she had a lot of old family pictures.
I just searched through her address book and here I am”
Although she had asked the question Danni wasn’t really listening to his answer as she was distracted by her own thoughts.
Steve noticed he didn’t have her full attention and said
“Well I had better be on my way, I’ve taken up too much of your time”
“Oh ok” she said and stood up and walked him to the door
“Are you on for coffee tomorrow, usual time?” he asked
“Oh no… I’m busy tomorrow” she lied
“Oh ok” he said and went to kiss her cheek, but she pull away.
“I’ll call you then”
“Yes ok fine” she said and closed the door abruptly.
After Steve visited the house in search of Winifred she had distanced herself from him.
He called her several times over the few days following his visit enquiring about coffee at Addison’s but she always made an excuse.
But eventually she had to see him.
It was the first of December, a week after she had last seen him and Danni had to go to the salerooms to settle the account.
“Well after fees and commission this is the final tally” he said “how would you like it paid?”
Danni knew from talking to her neighbours that Daniel and Winnie were both heavily involved with the Church, he was the Church Warden for many years and she was the organist and they were both heavily involved with the choir.
So she replied without hesitation
“Could you please have a Cheque made payable to St Marys Church”
“That’s very generous” he said
“It’s what they would have wanted” Danni said and stood up
“Have you got time for a coffee?” he asked
“I...” she began
“Please” he added
The conversation was strained as they sat in Addison’s looking down at their respective drinks.
“We could go into Abbottsford one night and see a film” he suggested “What do you think?”
“I think you should find yourself a nice girl and settle down” she replied “I have to go”
“But…” he began but she was already half way out the door.
It was two weeks later and Steve had been sitting at a table in Addison Coffee House for about an hour after he’d finished his Coffee and sandwich.
He was listening to the conversations from other tables as they chatted about their Christmas plans, who was going, who was staying, how many would be there for Christmas Lunch and what they were doing on Boxing day.
Finally he’d had enough of other people’s happiness, because it hurt him, he was doing nothing, seeing no one, and he would be alone.
He mumbled to himself that he needed some fresh air and buttoned up his jacket high against the cold and walked towards the Lake.
It was still snowing as it had been all morning, he didn’t mind though he liked the snow.
He liked the way it dampened down the noise and brought silence to the world so all he could hear were his own thoughts and footsteps.
Everyone was predicting a White Christmas it would be the first one he’d seen in years if it happened, he had heard some youngsters in Shallowfield earlier talking very excitedly about the prospect.
That morning he had looked out of the small window of his B&B and watched as the kids went noisily passed with their Sledges.
They had passed on their way to one of the hills that overlooked the Town.
It reminded him of previous winters when he was a boy and the school was closed for a snow day.
Neither he nor his friends had a fancy sledge though, he and his mates used tea trays or bits of hardboard.
Sledges were a pretty useless thing to own as they sat gathering dust in sheds and garages most of the year until they were needed, if they were needed.
As the light began to fade he didn’t go up the hill where the kids were still enjoying themselves he wanted the quiet solitude only Teardrop Lake could offer.
The silence was briefly broken by the revelers as he walked past the Hotel but even their indulgent cacophony was soon lost as the snowfall snuffed it out.
Through the snowfall it was difficult even to discern the bright festive LED lights that decorated the houses.
With the Hotel well behind him and without thinking he set off along the lane that took him past the Addison family in Tower House.
It was only as he reached the next house that he realized his error as he found himself passing South View, where Danni lived, so he pulled his collar up and put his head down and went quickly past.
In the few months he had been staying in Shallowfield he had become very close to Danni Holland, they were both the same age, both of them were new to the area and neither had any family left.
Firstly he liked her as a friend and she had indeed become a best friend but almost immediately for him he wanted more than friendship.
But in recent weeks she had suddenly changed towards him and she became more distant and sisterly.
So he was, rather childishly, avoiding her which was quite frankly cutting off his nose to spite his face.
It had certainly not made him feel any better and it had probably confused the hell out of Danni, because he went from ringing her every day to avoiding her completely.
Halfway along the Lane on the Southside of the Lake the darkness seemed even darker somehow and the snow was falling faster than ever.
He was unsure if he should press on or turn around and go back, visibility had been reduced to single digits.
He decided to take advantage of an old log at the side of the Lane and wait until the snow eased off again.
And tried to fathom out what had gone wrong between him and Danni.
He sat and stared straight ahead of him through the falling snow and realized it was easing as he was able to discern some of the coloured lights across the lake.
And soon all the twinkling lights of every house were visible as the snow stopped falling.
As the snowfall thinned he was able to get his bearings and was situated in between Forest Lodge and Lakeside Villa.
He decided it might be prudent to head back to Shallowfield and “get while the going was good”, and before the snow began again.
He stood up and headed back towards Shallowfield but was still lost in his thoughts as he did so
"What the hell are you doing out here?" a voice asked from the darkness.
It made him jump as he had become accustomed to the silence and was still somewhere inside his head contemplating his own situation.
He had perceived no warning that he was not alone and had not heard her approaching footfalls crunching in the snow.
He recognized the voice instantly as it belonged to Danni Holland.
“I just needed some fresh air” he replied
"What? In this weather? Are you mad” she said
"Well you’re out in it, so what’s your excuse?” he retorted
"I saw you pass the house so I came out to make sure …” she stopped
“To make sure what?” he asked angrily “that I didn’t jump in the lake”
“Well you looked furtive” Danni said defensively
“I wasn’t being furtive I was being private” he said and strode off down the lane
“I'm sorry," she said trotting after him “but you’ve been a bit off lately”
“And whose fault is that?” he asked, stopping briefly
“What do you mean?” Danni asked “what did I do?”
He stopped again and turned towards her and said
“I thought you liked me”
“I did, I do” she replied
“No I mean LIKE me” he elaborated
“I did” she admitted “but then I found out something”
“What?” he asked intrigued
“When you were at the house two week ago you had a folder with you, which you dropped on the floor and the contents spilled out” She said
“Yes I remember” he retorted “what about it?
“Well there was a photograph, a soldier in uniform” she said “and I asked you who it was”
“Yes it was of my grandfather” he said “I still don’t understand”
“He was my great aunts brother” she said “so I think we’re related, I’m not sure how, but I think we are”
“And that’s why you’ve been all sisterly towards me” he said and laughed “Because you think we’re’
“Yes, but I don’t see any humour in it” she said
“Come back to the house and have a hot drink and explain, you must be frozen”
"Ok but on one condition” he replied
“What’s that?” she asked
“Don’t try to fix me up with one of your friends” Steve said
“Why would I do that?” Danni said and laughed
“Because that’s what sisters do” he said
“They have no interest in you, brother dear” she said mockingly
"Why not? What’s wrong with me?" he asked
"There is nothing wrong with you” she replied and audibly sighed, which he completely missed however
"Then why?" he persisted “they’re always smiling at me in a weird way”
“Oh dear how can I put this delicately” she mused and put her arm through his “Katie and June don’t butter their bread the same way that you do”
"What the hell does bread and butter have to… oh, oh I see” he said
“Do you understand now?” she asked and they both laughed
After they had walked a few more yards he asked
“So do they butter each other’s bread?”
“Frequently” she replied and they laughed again.
When they were back at her house he sat down at the kitchen table while she made a drink, he hadn’t realize how cold he had gotten until he stepped inside the house.
“Am I correct that the man in the photograph is Walter Tiplady?” she asked as she put a steaming mug of coffee in front of him
“Yes, my grandfather” he replied and warmed his hands on the mug
“But how can that be when Walter was killed in the fields of Normandy in 1944” she said “I’ve seen a copy of the telegram”
She had seen it all in amongst Win’s papers.
“It was Henry Lovett who died in 1944 when the Bren Gun Carrier they were in was hit by a mortar. Both men lost their tags and most of their clothes in the blast, Henry died of his wounds in hospital but was in possession of Walters tunic, so was wrongly identified”
“Why didn’t he say anything?” she asked
“He didn’t know” he replied “because along with his physical injuries he also had amnesia”
“What about Henrys family after he was discharged?”
“He didn’t have any family, he was an orphanage boy” he said “and Walter was enough like Henry in appearance for friends and acquaintances to accept him and his manner and the amnesia dissuaded any doubts”
“So how did he find out who he was?” she asked
“He started having unexplained memories when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour” Steve said
“By the time it had all been removed, it all came back, well pretty much all”
He paused to take a sip of coffee and then continued
“There were still big holes in his memory that remained right up till the end, but he died as he had lived for most of his life as Henry Lovett”
Which was why when the solicitors investigator thought that Danni was the only heir to Daniel Travers legacy.
“So you are the real heir, by rights this is your house” Danni said
“That’s not important” he said
“But I have it under false pretenses” Danni insisted
“More importantly than that Henry/Walter was Winnie’s brother and you were her great niece, by marriage, not by blood” he explained and she looked at him blankly
"We are not related" he said
“I don’t understand”
“We are not blood relations” he explained
“So I don’t have to be your sister anymore?” she said
“Thank God for that” she said and kissed him full on the mouth
As they lay in the cozy afterglow in her bed she asked
“So what do we do now?”
“Well I don’t know about you but I thought I might take your advice” he said
“Which advice was that?
“That I should find myself a nice girl and settle down” he replied
“After what we just did you had better be thinking about settling down with me” she said