When the time came to walk to the bus station on the morning that the Will was to be read, Javier strolled along beside his friend. And now their bus was approaching the city. It had taken over two hours to cross the bleached landscape. Carlos read his newspaper while Javier stared out across the dry fields towards distant hills.
They had hardly passed a word. Javier made it clear over breakfast that he was being made to attend against his better judgement. But the truth was that he couldn’t bear the thought of Carlos having some intimacy with Miguel that he didn’t share.
The transmission whined as the bus slowed and swung off the interchange into the congested life of the city. It was mid-morning. Javier took in the bustle of the pavements and stared up at the walls of the great windowed canyons and their many-varied styles. He felt glad that he lived in a small town.
Carlos folded his newspaper.
“I think we are almost there.”
Javier turned and looked him in the eye.
“For better or for worse.”
Carlos smiled to himself, snorting through his nostrils. He’d known Javier long enough not to take the hook.
“Maybe we can spend some time in the city afterwards – take a look at the shops. There are museums here. We should take the opportunity.”
“If you wish.” replied Javier, without conviction. “I really don’t mind.”
The bus made its way through traffic signals and gridlocked junctions before turning down a ramp and into the interior of the bus station. Passengers began to stand to pull down cases and clothing. Carlos and Javier saw no need to rush and waited until the aisle emptied. Carlos took out his map.
The chambers were less than half a kilometre from the bus station above a wide, busy street. The name of the firm was on one of several brass plaques beside a heavy metal-framed door.
Carlos pushed the door open and they entered the lobby where a notice beside the lift directed them to the fourth floor.
They walked into the open reception area and announced themselves to the woman at the desk. She showed them into a waiting area and asked them if they would like coffee. Javier politely refused, answering for both.
They were the first people to arrive.
At two minutes to eleven, a glass door opened and the lawyer they recognised from the day of Miguel’s funeral strode over to them.
“Senor Sanchez, Senor Rodriguez! Buenos dias! I am so glad you have come. How was your journey?”
They stood up and shook hands warmly.
Carlos spoke first.
“Buenos dias! Senor. The ride was very relaxing, thank you. It’s rare that we come this way.”
Javier looked on – unsure whether to remove his hat.
“Have you been offered something to drink?”
“Gracias.” replied Javier. “We are fine.”
“Where is the family?” asked Carlos.
“Senora Jimanez is already in my office. She is alone.”
They walked into the lawyer’s smart but rather austere room and stood by the wooden conference table.
Javier removed his hat. “Senora.” He nodded a greeting, which was returned with a polite nod of the head.
Four sets of papers were already prepared and laid out on the table – one for each person.
Javier looked around the room, then at Carlos, but said nothing. Carlos seemed to be having the same thought: “Where is the family?”
“Shall we begin?” asked the lawyer, and the four sat down.
The secretary entered and discreetly poured water for each person as the lawyer spoke.
“Before we read the Last Will and Testament of Miguel Gonzalez, I understand that Senora Jimanez would like to say a few words. Senora.”
“Gracias, Senor Mendez.” She took a drink from the glass in front of her.
“My father lived a long and interesting life that was not without pain. He grew up during the chaos of the Civil War. His mother was killed during the German air-raid on their town. His father disappeared in the aftermath of the war and Miguel was brought up by his mother’s sister and her husband. They had no children of their own.”
She drank again from the glass and stared silently at the table for a few moments.
“My father’s uncle was a journalist and was himself under constant suspicion. Somehow, they managed to provide Miguel with an education. It was no surprise that he became a writer, and no surprise that his writing was considered to be subversive by the regime – he was a writer of conscience. His books were printed by a number of small presses in the north.”
Carlos and Javier looked at each other with eye-brows raised. All of this was news to them.
“His writing was quickly suppressed because it was adjudged to flout the conventions of the times. My father was detained on a number of occasions during this dangerous period, but it appears he had friends on both sides. Such were the complications of those times. It was around then that he went into hiding, living quietly as a schoolteacher in your town.” She acknowledged Carlos and Javier.
“This, I remember.” mumbled Javier.
“And he never wrote any further books?” asked Carlos.
“No.” replied Senora Jimanez, quietly. “He adopted a new life of conventionality. Of course, he was the same man and never lost his beliefs. He could have been rehabilitated after Franco, but he wanted to be left alone. Because of the views he held, he was considered a black-sheep within the family, but he was my father.”
There was silence for a few moments.
“He did write again.” said Javier. “He wrote some of the most beautiful poetry I have ever read.”
Senora Jimanez looked up. “Where? I have never seen it or heard anything of it. Nothing is published to my knowledge.”
“We shared our work among our small group.” said Javier. “The quality of your father’s writing set him apart. That and his passion – his passion for freedom was strong.”
“Your father was the embodiment of the human spirit, Senora.” added Carlos “He believed in freedom from the yoke of the old ways and the Church. He believed in the ordinary people.”
“I didn’t speak to him much. We had very little contact.” She paused. “Whenever we did speak, he had nothing but praise for his friends in the town and gratitude for the way he had been accepted and been able to find a home and a meaning to his life.”
She wiped tears from her eyes as the others looked on.
The lawyer asked whether the Senora had finished. She thought for a while and then nodded. He then began to read out the Will. All three listened intently.
Miguel’s estate was modest, and what little there was passed to his daughter. There was no instruction as to what should be done with his writing, as though he had ceased to acknowledge ownership.
Carlos, with his usual innocence, was the first to ask “So Miguel had no money?”.
Senora Jimanez answered “No. He owned very little of anything. Are you disappointed?”
Javier looked at the two of them thoughtfully. “I’m glad. This Will changes nothing. Miguel is still the man I knew, and that was my only concern.”
The lawyer looked at his watch and rose from his seat. Carlos and Javier took this as their signal to leave. They shook hands with the lawyer and bade farewell.
Senora Jimanez walked quickly around the table and stood in Javier’s path.
“Do you have any of the poems that you mentioned?”
“Si, Senora. I have many pieces that your father wrote. He gave them to me.”
“May I see them?”
Javier wrote his telephone number on the back of the lawyer’s card and gave it to Miguel’s daughter. He exchanged a brief look with her, then placed his hat on and walked out of the door. Carlos smiled briefly then followed Javier.
“To hell with the museums.” said Javier, “Let’s find a bar.”
“D’ acuerdo, amigo.”
Copyright Kevin Buckle 2013