Now I must prepare. First, wheel myself down the hallway to my bedroom at the front of the house. Lay out clothes, all in black. The pure wool sweater and the Armani shirt. Yes, and the trousers of that suit I had made by those tailors on Savile Row, when I was on business in London. My Italian leather shoes, like the suit, will not fit Mandla. At least the left one will be of use. Should I wear the Rolex? No, Mandla can use that.
I’ll use the mobile panic button to alert the security company just before I swallow. Don’t want them arriving too soon. Must remember to lock the front door and security gate to slow them down a bit. They’ll discover me well before the odours of decomposition emerge, but just to play it safe, a splash of the cologne Mandla gave me for my sixtieth. I’ll position myself beneath the lemon tree in the courtyard. That way there’ll be no mess inside, and the fragrance of the leaves and white blossoms are a nice parting memory.
Before I get dressed, I must go to the study for some final checks. Papers are all in order, but I must make sure they’re easily accessible. I hate how the left wheel of my wheelchair scratches the Oregon pine floors. Meant to get it seen to. Oh well, that won’t be necessary now.
The study used to be the nursery. Its walls are still bright yellow. No doubt Mandla will change that. Photographs of my wife, Jessica, occupy one corner of the large mahogany desk. I pick up my favourite, the one I took on our first date. She’s wearing a suede jacket with fur cuffs, and a short skirt and boots that show her sexy legs. She looks so happy.
Then there is the one that still makes me cringe, taken six months before she died. She still sparkles with happiness, and time has drawn pencil-lines of laughter around her eyes. Her casual clothes make soft folds, and hearty laughter hides the pain of the cancer that wracks her body.
“I’m sorry my love,” I kiss both photographs in turn. “Sorry for being such a coward. Perhaps we’ll meet again.” Vain hope. I don’t really believe that.
In the top drawer of my desk I find the small yellowwood box left by the previous owners. I tried to return it, but they had left no forwarding details. I never opened it. It felt too much like prying. Now there’s no reason for such petty morality.
I lift the lid. Disappointment. All it contains is one small scrap of folded paper. Is this what I’ve been “too ethical” to look at? Is this all? I unfold the piece of paper, and read the scribbled words. I read them again. I close my eyes to ponder their meaning.