With the crisp air chilling her cheeks, Amanda picked up her step as she made her way to the coffee bar. This had become a morning ritual, but today she was enjoying the walk even more. The sun was out and the air was clean.
She took up her favourite spot, the table overlooking the trimmed lawns that ran down to the lake. This morning there was a buzz in the air and more coffee addicts around than usual, creating a buzz that annoyed Amanda.
Sally put a coffee in front of Amanda, she never changed her morning ritual of coffee first and then a second cup with a freshly baked scone, jam and cream.
'What is all the chatter about this morning?' Amanda asked.
"Have you not heard," Sally would always know the gossip. "Mrs. Morris is going to have her nephew stay with her again. When he was about 10 years old he used to live with her. He went to a weekly boarding school in the city but every weekend and holidays he was home with her. Then one day he just wasn't there anymore. Never ever turned up for weekends or holidays anymore. According to Mrs. Morris he went back to his mother in Scotland and no matter how many questions were asked, there were no satisfactory answers. You know how it is in a small village. Everyone knows everyone's business, but Mrs. Morrison has never mentioned her nephew again. It was always said he had been up to mischief at weekly boarding school and had been taken away by the authorities."
"SALLY!" her boss shouted, waving for her to get to the other customers.
"He can be up to no good coming back here," Sally carried on. "I suppose poor Mrs. Morrison will now have to support him and look after him again."
Amanda opened her computer. Here, overlooking the lake she found her mind could be still and she could work on the articles she wrote for a London magazine, but today she did not even see her screen asking for her password. The buzz in the coffee shop and this new information from Sally was disturbing her usual train of thought when she sat down to work.
'I'll rather pack up and work at home,' she thought after what seemed an eternity staring into space. 'Not going to get anything done here this morning.'
She slipped her laptop back in its bag, paid for her coffee - she did not even have her scone this morning - and started back home.
Amanda found herself taking a detour, past Mrs. Morrison's House, on the way home. 'This is not like me,' she scolded herself. "I never get involved in the village gossip. I have stayed here too long, this village mentality is rubbing off on me.'
She slipped her sunglasses off the top of her head and over her eyes and started to cross the road. Brakes screeched and the owner of the new black Mercedes kept his hand on the horn as the car stopped an inch from her. All she could see was the driver lift his hands and shake his head. She was so frazzled she could only step back and mouth a sorry to the driver as she watched him pull off again. Her heart beating in her chest from the shock. 'What's happening to my day. Pull yourself together Amanda!' she shook her head, as much in scolding herself as to clear it.
Once again Amanda opened her computer but she knew that no work would be done for the magazine today. She could try and Google the nephew but she did not even know his name and there was nothing about Mrs. Morris that she could find. Amanda doubted whether Mrs. Morris even had a computer, never mind a Facebook account. She could try and find a newspaper and see if anything untoward had happened at that time.
Her Google search was not successful which made her decide on another trip into the village to see what could be found at the local library. There were sure to be copies of newspapers documenting these events, even though it was forty-five years ago that the nephew had disappeared. Amanda was enjoying this and slipped her coat on again and briskly set off to the library.
Checking for traffic this time, Amanda crossed the road and pushed open the heavy wooden doors of the library. All was quiet as the librarian showed her to the section where the newspapers were stored and gave her some instructions. "No eating round here. No marking anything on the newspaper itself and definitely no tearing out anything you want. When you are finished you will call me and I will restore them to their proper place." Amanda felt like she was back at school as she looked at the librarian. 'Really!' she thought but just nodded at the librarian.
She pulled out a chair and started paging through the newspapers. Sally had not mentioned a definite date that the nephew had disappeared so Amanda decided to start searching for anything that happened in the village in the January of 1995. Gently turning page after page Amanda eventually thought she would give it a break, pushed her chair back and walked to the window overlooking the main road.
There it was again. The new black Mercedes she had nearly collided with. 'I have to see who the driver is,' she thought and rushed off to tell the librarian she was done for the day.
"I'll be back tomorrow. Thanks for all your assistance." She pulled the big wooden doors open and stepped out onto the sidewalk and turned towards the car just to see it pull off. 'Drat, I would love to see who the driver was,' she thought. Feeling disappointed she pulled her coat tight and made her way home. 'Could that just maybe be Mrs. Morrison's nephew. Back from who knows where."
Next morning Amanda was back at her table overlooking the lake. She was waiting for Sally to bring her coffee and she was going to corner her and get more information about this infamous nephew.
Sally was running willy nilly, in and out of the kitchen. She was the only waitress there this morning so Amanda walked over to the counter to get her coffee. She looked out the front door. There was the black Mercedes again and this time she caught a glimpse of the owner as he eased himself behind the steering wheel. Just a glimpse of a well-tailored beige coat and dark immaculately styled hair.
"Sally, I want to have a chat," said Amanda as she took her coffee.
"Not today, friend. I won't even have a lunch break today. Two of the staff are in bed with the flu so it's only me and the boss. Sorry!"
'I can't get any work done. Everything in the village normally just ticks over peacefully but I can't get the nephew and the black Mercedes out of my head. I'll clear my head by going for a run and on the way back I'll pick up dinner from the coffee shop. I feel like their Cottage Pie for dinner.' Amanda closed her front door behind her and set off on the trail around the lake.
The day was too beautiful to waste indoors so Amanda decided to stop off at the marina near the coffee shop and just watch the boats come in. Still breathing heavily she flopped down on the grass and looked out over the lake. Her thoughts far away. She was quite comfortable with her own company.
Amanda's mother had passed away when she was a teen and she had never met her father. Her love for reading and writing had made her a loner and since she had been left a very healthy trust fund she had never had to have the strain of financial worries when an article or a book was turned down or put on hold. This financial situation had made Amanda very secure but also secluded. There was a tight circle of friends but no outrageous adventures or escapades. Only her thoughts and her writings and to a certain extent she was a successful writer.
There were times when Amanda would have loved to be gregarious and adventurous but that was not her nature. Amanda lay back on the grass and closed her eyes against the glare of the sun.
The warmth in the coffee shop was welcoming as Amanda waited for her take-away Cottage pie.
"Did you hear about Mrs. Morrison's nephew," Sally help up two fingers on each hand to indicate an air-quote as she said nephew and rolled her eyes. "Can you believe coming home after so long and sponging on the old lady. Something really bad must have happened all those years ago that affected her deeply. She became a recluse and never mentioned her nephew again. Very Sad."
"I agree and must admit it is very intriguing." Amanda joined in. "I have been doing some research but nothing's come up so far. I'll see you in the morning." Amanda stepped out onto the sidewalk just in time to see the black Mercedes pulling into a parking space across the road. She stood a while but the driver did not move. She did however think he was looking her way, so she didn't stare directly. Amanda just hung around on the sidewalk. 'Come on, get out of the car. I want to see who you are!'
It was getting chilly so Amanda decided to cross the street in an attempt to see the driver but she was no more than a meter from the rear end when the Mercedes pulled off. 'I'm getting freaked out. We have crossed paths four times in two days. This must be the nephew I have been hearing so much about. He could even be dangerous!'
Amanda had hardly sat down for her usual, when Sally joined her at the table.
"What, no coffee this morning?" Amanda joked.
"Haven't you heard? Mrs. Morrison is lying in the morgue this morning!" Sally couldn't wait to share the news. "We can now only guess what happened now that the nephew moved back in. We all knew no good could come of it. poor Mrs. Morrison. How she must have suffered all these years." Sally went on.
"Stop!" Amanda held her hand up. "There is no way the nephew would come back and harm Mrs. Morrison. Let's not jump to conclusions. He looks a real gentleman."
"Have you seen him!" Sally exclaimed over lifted eyebrows.
"Yes, quite a few times over the past few days, though I must admit I have been a bit freaked out by our near encounters. Now if you'll do me a favour, I have to finish an article for the magazine and I have been dragging my feet and I have not been focused the past few days. Please may I have my coffee now?"
Saturday mornings are Amanda's lying in days. Even though she is very disciplined every other morning, she really enjoys making a cup of coffee, drawing the curtains and getting back into bed with a book. Today was no exception and Amanda settled back against her pillows and delved into her book.
Twenty minutes later her doorbell chimed and she rolled her eyes. Still in her pajamas, she grabbed her gown and slipped her arms into the sleeves as she descended the stairs. She opened the door.
Dumbfound Amanda stood rooted to the ground. There in front of her stood the stranger with the beige coat and the immaculate hair.
"Good morning, are you Amanda García? May I come in and have a word with you?" he asked.
Amanda couldn't find her voice. She took a step sideways and looked past him. There was the black Mercedes at the curb. Amanda was starting to panic. "What if the nephew was dangerous and she let him in. Mrs. Morrison was in the morgue. Did the nephew have something to do with it?" she had to think of an answer quickly so as not to let him in.
"I am really in no state to have visitors." She was grabbing at straws now. "I tell you what, I was going to have coffee at the lake later this morning and if you want to chat, I'll meet you there."
"No problem. I'll be waiting." He smiled confidently but warmly and slightly bowed his head in a very old fashioned European way.
'Very smooth but you won't catch me inviting you in while I'm on my own Mr. Nephew!' Amanda leaned against the front door. 'But I will meet with you and find out what all this is about.'
Amanda showered and carefully chose her clothes. 'Why am I worried about how I look when I meet this man who could actually be a murderer.' She just felt she didn't want to be caught on the back foot with the nephew.
She walked confidently into the coffee shop and he immediately got up and walked towards her. He took her by the elbow and virtually seated her. 'He has learn't some very good manners while he has been away, that's for sure.' Then she said, "Thank you, I hope I didn't keep you too long."
This very good looking man did not say a word and he just sat looking at her.
"I have been looking for you for a very long time Amanda,' he said quietly with an accent she was trying to place. "I always kept in touch with your mother but when she passed away I somehow lost you too."
"Stop right now. My mother never met or had anything to do with you or Mrs. Morrison, so I can see no reason for you looking me up." Amanda felt a slight panic in her chest and was pleased that she was not home alone with him.
"Who is Mrs. Morrison?" he asked surprised.
"The question here is - Who are you?"Amanda looked at the man sitting across from her. He was genuinely surprised at her question.
"Amanda, I'm your Father."
"Not the nephew?" she gasped. She didn't know what she was saying anymore.
No. I'm your Father, Mateo García," and he drew her hand into his.
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Thank you to those who read my story.