‘Why are there are no windows?’, I’d asked, as the one bare bulb cast deep shadows amongst odd glints and highlights from dust covered old furniture, cardboard boxes and a brass bound, pirate’s treasure chest.
‘Because this is my mystery room,’ she whispered, ‘where I keep all my secrets.’ She rummaged around; found an ancient, tinplate train set. ‘You can have this. It’s a real toy, not like the plastic and electric rubbish they make nowadays.’ It was clockwork, but didn’t wind me up particularly, until I took it home and cleaned it. To a gleaming newness. I still have it.
I liked her son, Paul. Older than me: same age as my sister. He’d always include me in everything. I thought they might get together, in their teens. It never happened. His Mum treated him as precious. So, what I find strange, now Muriel has died, is why she’s left me that old trunk from the attic. If it held all her treasures, as she’d said, surely it should go to Paul?
I look around. Still just one bare bulb. Paul’s downstairs with the solicitor, signing papers. I’ll need his help to get this treasure chest down. Meanwhile, I can take a look inside. I’ve been given a small key.
Photo albums. Three of Paul, growing up. One of me! I don’t remember ever seeing these photos before. And a bundle of letters. Many faded. Do I read them? Picking one, it’s from Dad. To Mu. And full of love. I read more. Spread over years. And there’s something tucked into the domed lid. Addressed to me. My fingers tremor as I open the crisp new envelope, guessing a secret is to be revealed. Paul is my half-brother. Sworn to secrecy, he’s always known.