Some months later, Jonathan was enjoying a cup of coffee on the veranda of a holiday apartment he had rented for a summer break. He looked out over the low railing as the Portuguese sun shone proudly from a perfect blue sky. The beach sand was near-white, clean and, he remembered from yesterday’s stroll, gloriously hot underfoot. The sea had a sheen of shimmering turquoise, broken by the rush and foamy spume of gentle waves playfully gliding to the shore. Other apartments and villas scattered on the mountainside seemed even whiter than normal, almost glinting in the brightness of late morning. The landscape was the normal patchwork of green and beige scorched earth, basic but beautiful. It was an unashamedly idyllic location. He leaned forward and squinted out from under his straw hat and admired the colourful flowers across the front of the terrace and on out to the small garden, a satisfyingly perfect green, without any brown blotches. There were several trees, two growing lemons and three with olives. He leaned back, took a sip of coffee and breathed a sigh. The holiday was a treat to himself after signing a publishing agreement for “The Molly Kingston Story”. He had abandoned the plans to turn it into a novel because he thought a proper biography and background history of music halls would be more true to her memory and more interesting to general readers. His publisher was trying to get Roy Hudd, the walking encyclopaedia of music halls and old-time entertainment, to write the foreword. He felt good about it. He felt sad that she would not see the finished book and then began to feel even sadder that no one from her background of family, friends or former colleagues had responded to his newspaper advertisement. But, as the increasing heat of the sun warmed his body, Jonathan shrugged off anything in his head over which he had little or no control. He returned his thoughts to the excitement of having his first book published.
After a time of mental self-congratulations, his thoughts turned to Maple Court, once the epitome of peaceful dullness but transformed during the earlier part of the year into an incident-packed soap opera. Sophie had moved out at last and set up her own place in Molly’s old flat. They were still very close emotionally and Jonathan liked her first shot at independence. It was comforting to know that she was still close physically. Poor Maxine was still recovering from the accident but confined to a wheelchair. The doctors reckoned on months of physiotherapy before she could walk again. She had moved back to live with her parents. Jonathan had visited her in hospital with Sophie but she kept giving him strange looks despite his attentiveness and sympathetic manner. Her last words to him sounded like strange advice: ‘Beware of the dog.” Later, he asked Sophie what that meant but Sophie just sniggered and barked “Woof, woof.” Matt and Cass were still living together across the landing, much more a couple than just flat mates. Sophie heard rumours that they planned to get married soon after graduation. Jonathan liked them and because of his concern for Maxine and his hospitality and support to them in that hour of need, they saw him as a kind of guardian. Angie and Chico separated in some kind of acrimonious split. At Jonathan’s last sighting of Chico, he was convinced that he had a heavyweight’s black eye. He was getting into a taxi and heading off to God knows where but Jonathan reckoned with his charm and good looks, he would find another Angie to sugar him for a while. Perhaps, he would find a job in another wine bar or even open his own, or pursue his acting ambitions. Angie had one last blazing row with Jonathan after he told her that he had no intentions of giving her any money or any property. He loved watching the £ signs drain from her eyes. She shrieked at him, demanding what she called “her fair share”. He told her that if she wanted to fight him in court, he relished the thought of tearing her apart for all her nastiness, deviousness, selfishness and any other “ness” he could think of on the day. Angie had stormed off, threatening him with legal action and vowing to rubbish him during his publicity tour for the book launch. Jonathan was worried a little by that but then again he was always worried by Angie’s behaviour. She was a loose cannon. She was capable of anything. Anyway, he reckoned she would be occupied for a while trying to find a new lover to trap, manipulate and cater to her erogenous zones. He felt sad that the bitterness between the two of them had also involved Sophie. On the dreamer’s side of his brain, he had always hoped for a happy marriage and resultant happy family life. But, he supposed, two-thirds of the trio were happy enough.
“Shit happens,” he said out loud as a seagull swooped past him. Tom was sent to prison for three months for dangerous driving and leaving the scene of the accident. It was a traumatic time for him and Sophie seemed to be very upset about the whole thing. She was there for him in court and whenever else she could visit him. When she talked about the case and the consequences, Jonathan detected quite a bond developing between his daughter and Tom. He wondered if the relationship would develop after Tom’s release. As far as Jonathan was aware, Tom’s wife, Jennifer, did not come to see him at all. It was a strange business. But not half as strange as the revelation that Tom and Dot, of all people, had had a one-night stand, not long after Jennifer had left. Jonathan didn’t know all the details but Sophie told him about seeing Dot with Tom at the police station and Tom, in a free-flowing confessional mood, blurted it all out. Dot had sat in the interrogation room mortified by this tale of her bedroom activities, made a million times worse by Sophie listening, aghast but gloating. Dot fled the police station and had remained aloof from Jonathan thereafter. They remained courteous but cool, a nodded hello, a friendly wave to acknowledge each other, but nothing else. Jonathan was relieved that her amorous ambitions towards him had eased up but he was saddened that their friendship had weakened.
He got ready for the short stroll to a local restaurant for lunch. As he shaved he summarised Maple Court in his mind. Of the apartments now, he lived alone (yes! result!!) in one, Sophie was getting used to living alone in one, Matt and Cass were building their relationship in one, Tom’s was unoccupied but still in his name, awaiting his return, and maybe Jennifer’s too. Angie was spitting feathers in one and Dot continued to live her restless life in one. “How long would things stay as they were?” mused Jonathan, thinking of a chilled white wine and some pate. It was not a bad place to live and, hopefully, it would return to a nice, pleasant blandness. He looked at another seagull, this one sitting on the railing to the left of him. This holiday was doing him the world of good.
“What else can happen, Mr Seagull? I think we’re in for a quiet period back home, don’t you?” Jonathan’s mobile phone rang.
“Mr Montague? Mr Jonathan Montague?” asked a male voice.
“Yes, this is Jonathan Montague. How can I help you?”
“I need to talk to you. I saw your notice in the paper. I’m Andrew, Molly Kingston’s son.”