Authors: Julia Roberts
One battered brown suitcase stood packed and ready by the
door and the other lay open on the bed in the spare room. The wardrobe was
almost empty of clothes apart from the necessities he would need for the next
two days. There was still space for Philippe’s toiletries bag and computer but
he would keep them out until the last possible moment. He checked periodically
but there was still no response from Holly after his last email telling her he
had managed to get a flight back to the UK on Thursday. He wasn’t worried, she
had seemed pretty keen to see him and just because he had now time on his hands
it didn’t mean that she was any less busy than usual.
I’m going to miss this place, he thought, stepping out onto
the verandah and drinking in the glorious view. He wondered if the Forresters
had reached a decision yet on whether to buy it. There was another three weeks
of his rental agreement that he had pre-paid but presumably after that it would
be back on the market for sale or rent. He was still a bit annoyed at the way
Robert and Rosemary had left without saying goodbye but he was genuinely fond
of them so he decided that once he and Holly had spent a bit of time together
getting reacquainted, they would all meet up for dinner in London, his treat.
In a way it was a shame that his editor was pressurising him
to get back to London so quickly. It would have been good to use the time for a
holiday, maybe even fly Holly over if she could have taken the time off work.
Too late now, thought Philippe, my flight is booked.
The sun was beginning to set and Philippe wandered through
to the kitchen to see what he might rustle up for his penultimate dinner in
paradise. Delphine hadn’t brought him any fresh fish yet this week and now she
wouldn’t need to. She had been really upset when had rung her earlier in the
day to tell her he was going home. Philippe liked to think it was more than
just the regular income she would miss.
Even the best chef in the world wouldn’t be able to make a
decent dinner out of the contents of this refrigerator, Philippe thought,
surveying a couple of bits of cheese and some wilted salad leaves. There
weren’t even any eggs to make an omelette. He closed the fridge door and
grabbed his car keys. He had decided that he would give the battered old BMW to
his friend Billy as a thank you for all the pleasurable morning rides on
Helios. He took the road towards Flic en Flac and the Dolphin Bar, already
salivating at the thought of all the freshly caught fish options there would be
on the menu.
If he had been ten minutes later leaving he might have seen
the email from Holly which would definitely have ruined his appetite.
The Dolphin Bar was unusually crowded for a Tuesday night
with most of the little round tables occupied with three or four people. As
Philippe scanned the cramped room looking for a free table he saw an arm
frantically waving from the back corner and heard his name being called. He
squeezed his way through the warm, perspiring bodies, some reeking of the fish
they had landed that day, to find his friend, Billy, sitting at a table with
another man who looked vaguely familiar.
‘You’ll join us won’t you, Philippe?’
‘If you’re sure you and your friend don’t mind I’d be happy
to. What’s going on in here tonight? I’ve never seen it so busy midweek.’
‘Jacques here has organised some exotic dancers as a thank
you to all the lads who risked life and limb saving the fishing boats from
sinking in the big storm a couple of weeks ago.’
Philippe looked bemused.
‘You probably didn’t even notice the storm you had your head
so deeply buried in your computer. I’m actually quite surprised you found time
to take Helios out for his morning rides.’
Philippe accepted the rebuke good naturedly. ‘I know, I
know, I’m always a rubbish friend when I’m busy writing.’
The other man, Jacques, spoke. ‘Delphine says you have
finished your book now and are packing up to leave.’
At the mention of Delphine’s name the penny dropped. Jacques
was Delphine’s brother whom she had introduced him to when he had first arrived
in Mauritius. ‘Anything you need, Jacques is your man,’ she had said, but there
was something about Jacques that Philippe didn’t like so he had never taken her
up on the offer. Philippe suspected that Jacques dealt in drugs and while he
wasn’t averse to an occasional joint himself, when he needed to relax, he hated
the pushers and dealers that created addicts from the weak-minded.
He managed a smile. ‘Yes it’s all happened quite quickly
really. My publishing company need me back in the UK and I managed to get a
flight on Thursday.’
‘I hope you’re paying Delphine a month’s notice?’
Philippe was regretting his decision to join Billy at the
table with this odious man but it was too late to change his mind now. Again he
forced a smile. ‘Don’t worry, Delphine won’t be short-changed.’
There was an uncomfortable silence before Billy said, ‘I
can’t believe you are going to let me have the car. Are you sure? You could
sell it for a decent price, you know.’
‘You’ve been a good friend to me Billy, just as Delphine
has, and I like to show my appreciation,’ Philippe said pointedly.
‘It must be nice to be in a position to be so generous,’
There’s no winning with this man, Philippe thought,
clenching his fist tightly under the table, but he knew from experience not to
get into an argument with his type so instead he said pleasantly, ‘Can I get
you both a drink?’
It was a relief to go up to the bar to get the beers and
while he was there he ordered himself a shot of whisky, which he downed in one,
wincing at the burn on the back of his throat. It’s going to be hard work with
Jacques as a dinner companion, he thought, I’m going to need a bit of alcoholic
By the time the grilled red snapper arrived, Philippe had
been to the bar a further three times, downing a shot of whisky on each visit,
so he was now impervious to the constant sniping from Jacques.
Just before the dancers began their performance Delphine
slid into the vacant chair at their table.
‘Jacques texted to tell me you were here. Is everything
okay?’ she asked anxiously.
Not for the first time Philippe wondered how these two could
possibly be siblings. He raised his glass.
‘Better now you are here,’ he slurred as the music started
and the scantily clad girls gyrated to the beat.
‘Are you sure you’ll be all right?’ Robert asked, nervously
fiddling with his car keys. He had moved the sofa across the room so that his
wife could enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun streaming in through the long
open windows from the shelter of the lounge. Although it was early May there
was still a chill in the air and the same elevated position that afforded them
their glorious view of the Surrey Hills often caught the cooling breeze.
‘I’ll be fine,’ Rosemary said. ‘I’ll probably just dose
while you are out, or read something on my Kindle.’
‘With everything that’s going on I had totally forgotten the
car was due its MOT. What a good job we stopped at the village shop for milk
and saw Dave from the garage. If he hadn’t jogged my memory I’d have been
driving around blissfully unaware that I was breaking the law.’
‘I’ve always said everything happens for a reason. If we
hadn’t got talking to Holly in Mauritius I wouldn’t have this trip to
Switzerland to look forward too.’
‘Rosie, it’s not definitely on, you know, not until we’ve
cleared it with Professor Lang anyway.’
‘He’ll probably be glad to see the back of me and let’s face
it, once this week is over, I wouldn’t be able to have any more of the new
treatment for two weeks at least, until they know if it’s really making any
Robert turned away. He knew he was a terrible liar and if
his wife asked what the professor had been talking to him about that morning he
wouldn’t be able to withhold the truth.
‘Go on, off you go, Bobby, it’s nearly three o’clock now and
Dave squeezed you in as a favour.’
She didn’t want to sound too keen to get rid of him but she
needed some time alone to get on with things before the tiredness, caused by
the drugs, kicked in.
‘I’ll drop the car off and walk back,’ he said. ‘It’ll only
take ten or fifteen minutes.’
‘And then you’ll have to walk back and fetch it. You might
as well just wait there, it will probably only be half an hour if it passes the
‘You’re right of course, you always are. When I get back
I’ll make us a nice cup of tea and we can have the scones I bought at the
supermarket yesterday. It was just the milk I forgot,’ he said smiling.
Once the front door had closed behind him Rosemary swung her
legs down from the foot stool and stood up carefully. She slowly moved across
the room and opened the door to Robert’s office. It was a wonderful light and
airy space, again enjoying the magnificent view. His desk and easel were set up
at the far end but just inside the door on the left was a smaller desk where
Rosemary kept all her papers. She opened the shallow central drawer, above the
leg well, and pulled out a large white envelope that had nothing written on it.
It was already quite full with smaller envelopes, each printed with the name of
her closest friends, two CDs, a larger envelope and a sheet of paper. Her hands
were trembling as she read the words that headed the paper:
Rosemary’s Funeral Service
Rosemary closed her eyes, remembering the anguish she had
felt trying to organise first her mother’s funeral and then her father’s a few
months later. Although she had known them all her life, she didn’t really know
what their favourite pieces of music were, what reading from the Bible or
otherwise they would have chosen, their favourite flowers or even whether they
wanted to be cremated or buried. She had felt horribly unprepared and had
allowed the funeral directors to make some of the decisions which she later
regretted. Robert had been wonderful, helping her to track down friends and
relatives, putting an announcement in the local paper and choosing flowers and
music but Rosemary decided that when her time came she would have everything
planned so that no one else would have to stress over it, particularly not her
When she was first diagnosed with CML Rosemary had started
her secret envelope even though her initial response to the treatment drugs was
so promising. Just as well, she thought, looking at the contents strewn on her
desktop, I’ve still got things to finish and there’s so little time. She picked
up the largest of the envelopes and slid out the correspondence from within.
Every line was committed to memory but she wanted to check the details for a
final time before shredding the evidence of the real reason she was travelling
to Switzerland. It would be difficult enough when they crossed the Swiss border
to persuade Robert to change destination from Geneva to Zurich, but she
couldn’t risk him getting suspicious by mentioning Zurich at this stage. They had
both watched the news recently about an on-going court case regarding the right
to die. Rosemary could understand how a change in the law could be misused in
certain circumstances, particularly in people with a mental disability or in a
vegetative state but it was different for her. She had all her faculties and
was making a considered decision. She didn’t want the State interfering in her
personal life. It was a relief that Holly would be with them though to back her
up as Robert’s views were very different from her own.
She picked up a fresh sheet of paper and began to write.
My darling Bobby,
If you are reading this it is because my plan has worked and
I have left this world to wait for you until the time comes when you join me...
hopefully that won’t be anytime soon, although I will miss you more than you
could ever know. I hope you will understand and forgive me for choosing my own
destiny. I wanted to spend my final few hours calmly saying my goodbyes to
people I love. You mustn’t blame Holly, she knew nothing of my intentions once
we got to Switzerland. As far as she knew it was one of my final wishes to
visit the country so she just helped me devise a plan to get you to agree to
drive us there. I hope you will comfort each other and that you may be able to
help her son Harry, just as if he was the child we were never fortunate enough
In this envelope you will find letters I have written to my
closest friends, explaining why things had to be this way and why I couldn’t
tell them my plan. I have also planned my own funeral service, with all the
contact numbers you will need and with CDs of the music I would like played.
I know this will be a difficult time for you, Bobby, but
please try and remember how happy we have been together and how lucky we were
to be given a second chance. Some people never find their soulmate, the person
who makes them feel complete, but I did and for that I am truly grateful.
This next bit is very difficult for me to write but please
believe me when I say I don’t want you to be sad and lonely for the rest of
your life. If you meet someone who brings you comfort and makes you feel alive
again, don’t let her slip through your fingers because of me.
I love you, Bobby, and have always loved you since the first
night we met but our lives together on this planet have ended and I want you to
Rosemary could taste the saltiness of her tears as she
carefully folded the paper and slipped it into an envelope on which she simply
wrote ‘Bobby’. She was about to seal it but that made it feel too final.
Glancing at her watch she realised that Robert would be back
soon. She gathered everything up and slipped it back into the large envelope,
apart from the letter from the clinic. She slid the white envelope back into her
desk drawer and then shredded the letter before returning to the sofa where
Robert found her sleeping peacefully fifteen minutes later.