In the end though, it turned out that the paintings were only copies.
“Well-executed, but definitely not originals, I’m afraid,” said the antique dealer. “not worth much at all.” He went into detail about the incorrect slope of the signatures. About phony cracks. But Claudette was no longer listening.
After that disappointment, Claudette and I unwrapped the last of the goods without much hope. We discovered a few ornaments, a tea-caddy, a pair of candlesticks that Mr Dordrecht said were genuine silver and worth a few hundred.
Finally the last box was empty, the last item uncovered. In the centre of the backyard stood the small pile of saleable goods.
“Well, Ms July, I’m afraid I can’t make you much of an offer on these. You’re welcome to get a second valuation of course. But the most I would pay is …”
He mentioned a sum of money that would have made me happy. But it was nowhere near Claudette’s idea of a fortune. Not even close.
Disconsolate, Claudette began carrying the things through the house to the front door, ready for Mr Dordrecht’s assistant to collect later. I helped her. She was sobbing now, so I put my arm around her.
“You still have the house. And all the good memories here.”
She said, “No ways. Not with the huge mortgage we still owe. I must get rid of it, fast. Faheema, I need you to get all that junk from the shed cleared out. Chuck away the boxes and newspaper. Take them to the dump.”
“Okay, sis,” I said. I still had another day’s leave from the library.
But how could I possibly dump boxes, papers, that had been part of my Mom’s past, Ouma’s past, part of my family’s history – even if it was my adopted family? How could I leave them on some horrible, smelly garbage dump?
I suppose I was being silly, but once the shed and the backyard were clean, I took the boxes and the old newspapers over to my little flat. I needed to keep them with me for a while. My share of the family inheritance, I told myself. Sentimental value only!
Mr Isaacs came to visit that evening.
“Hello Faheema. I just wanted to check how you are. It must have been rough, going through all your family’s possessions. I know how much you loved your parents. Do you need an extra day to recover?”
He’s always been a kind, considerate boss, Mr Isaacs. I went to the kitchen to make him a cup of tea. When I came back, he stared at me with his eyes huge behind his glasses. As though he was in shock. He seemed to be struggling to speak. He kept waving one hand towards the pile of boxes and newspapers I had brought back from Mom and Dad’s shed.
“Mr Isaacs? Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
He managed to speak at last, in a strangled whisper. “Dear Lord in Heaven, Faheema. Do you realise what you have here?”
Tell us what you think: Why is Mr Isaacs in shock?