Years before it had been to the aviary that her great-grandfather, Leonard Pennington, would take his mistresses while up in the big house the family maintained their elaborate pretences. Now Laura was clearing it out. It would become the centrepiece of the restoration—Victorian splendour captured for wide-eyed tourists who would imagine a comfortable and elegant life, not the blighted place Charnsford had been.

Even after Leonard’s death the women of the family had never shaken the hold his house seemed to have on them. Without exception, they’d fared poorly in life. But the house held them. They’d been mistreated, humiliated and violated there. Leonard’s tyranny cast a shadow across the place.

Laura would be glad to be rid of it. The aviary was the most beautiful and most disturbing of all its wicked nooks and crannies. As big as a ballroom and tall enough to contain a forest, it had housed Leonard’s menagerie and played host to his affairs.

The pond needed replacing. As Laura dug around a rock her spade hit something mossy. She brushed away the dirt. There could be no mistaking, in spite of the passing of years, a bundle of infant’s clothes. Laura pushed with all her strength and the stone rolled away. Shards of tiny bone glinted among the clay.


(this is a reworked story based on Inheritance, published on November 9, 2010. See about small stories about love)

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