Exhausted and chilled to the bone the old woman trembled as she dragged her heavy suitcase up the steep driveway. Tentatively, Gladys rang the doorbell.
“Gladys,” Stella whispered, shocked by her sister’s unexpected arrival.
Nervously, Gladys explained that she was homeless. “I need somewhere to lay my head for the night. Henry and Samantha are expecting twins, so he turned me out of the annex, claiming he needed the room for a nanny. My son reserved a hotel room online. Stella, he emptied my bank accounts so I have no money, and I couldn’t pay for the room. Please help me, I have nowhere to go.”
Stella glanced at her husband and shrugged. “I’m sorry, but Asher will be arriving shortly with his family, so we can’t offer you a bed. It is Christmas after all, and Christmas is a time for families to come together. It has been so long since they visited.” She rifled through the desk drawer and quietly muttered, “Found it. Phone Social Services, they will arrange emergency accommodation.”
“Happy Christmas,” Gladys dejectedly responded as she struggled down the steep incline. Dragging her suitcase through the deep snow was difficult; the driving wind chilled her weary bones. “I’m exhausted,” she breathlessly whispered. “The bus shelter is grubby, but it’s better than nothing.”
A heavy woollen shawl covered her frail body. Gladys hoped rather than believed it would keep out the cold. Overcome with fatigue, she was no longer aware of the fierce blizzard and plummeting temperature.
A limousine paused at the junction, its headlights illuminating the bus shelter as it turned onto the main road.
“Pull over, Paul.”
Adam quickly checked her pulse. “Damn,” he hissed. “She shouldn’t be out at this time of night. Put the suitcase and walking stick into the boot then phone Simon Anders.”
Adam cradled the frail woman in his arms on the journey home. Gladys was lucky; she didn’t die that night, but the love felt for her adopted family and son did.
At breakfast the following morning, Gladys explained why she was sleeping in the bus shelter on Christmas Eve. Her claim that she couldn’t impose on his generosity any longer amused Adam.
“Where would you go? A suite has been prepared. It isn’t an imposition: I live alone and would be glad of your company. Strange, but you closely resemble my late mother.”
Gladys grew quiet as she stared at the photograph then quickly rifled through her large handbag. She passed the photograph of two young children playing on the beach to Adam. “On the journey home we were involved in a road traffic accident, my parents died but a witness pulled Sandra and myself out of the car. Adam, we were identical twins,” she whispered. Despite our heartbreak we were separated. I was adopted shortly afterwards.”
“Strange, isn’t it, how often we recognise family members.”
Adam contacted his legal team. Their shock was palpable when he mentioned that Gladys’s husband died just six months ago. “Her son persuaded Gladys to sell the family home and move into their granny annex. He emptied her bank accounts then turned her out on Christmas Eve. The weather was dire.”
Simon smiled as he entered Adam’s study. “The truth, Simon: short and to the point. I am in no mood for a long-winded explanation.”
“Okay. Gladys is healthy, with no obvious health problems, and test results revealed that she isn’t suffering from Dementia.
Adam’s team, backed up by Simon Anders, called in the police and social services. Henry and his wife were taken to the station. When presented with evidence of forgery and fraud, the couple confessed.
Gladys accepted Adam’s offer to live in the manse which she now looked upon as home. Adam was amused when she asked why he invited a stranger to live with him.
“You aren’t a stranger, Gladys, I recognised you at first sight. I enjoy your company, and it will be good to know that my Auntie is safe. When my paternal grandparents contacted Social Services, I was taken into care but eventually they were granted full custody. They claimed my mother was a drug addict. It was a lie: she was innocent, but their son was not. My father was a violent bully, addicted to drugs and alcohol. I was five years old when my mother died. Mom was destitute. A homeless woman, living on the streets of London, faces an uncertain future. Although my grandparents catered for my needs, they were cold unfeeling despots. I worked hard; studied at Cambridge, obtaining a PHD in Quantum Physics but my love lay in writing film scripts and novels.”
“Adam Walde-Pitt. I knew you were familiar. Your pen name is Adam Ward. My late husband and I were devoted fans.”