|Near Tumut, oil, by Chris Huber|
On Monday morning she had hardly made her cup of tea in the staffroom before Jennifer grabbed her arm and exclaimed excitedly, “Who do you think he is?”
“What on earth do you mean?” retorted Lucy impatiently. She was in a bad mood and depressed, and Jennifer's bounciness could be very irritating.
“Him!” replied Jennifer, “Mr Handsome-who-sweeps-in-from-overseas-like-Lord-Muck and starts tarting up a house everyone else thinks should be bulldozed.”
“Well?” said Lucy, feigning a lack of interest.
Jennifer's eyes glittered, “He's Adam Montpellier, the famous pianist!”
Lucy was staggered. She had heard Adam Montpellier play, on the radio. She'd seen him on TV, and never would she have recognised him as the man who she'd met peering through the windows of her cottage.
“Why does she call himself Montpellier if his real name is Greyfallow?” asked Lucy, more to shut Jennifer up and distract her than from any real desire to know. I suppose, she thought to herself, that's why he's left. He came here for peace and quiet and now that he's been found out, he's going away again.
“Montpellier,” said Jennifer, “Is his mother's name. She was French, from some noble French family. Come with me!” She dragged Lucy off to her classroom and showed her the result of Google searches she'd made on the computer.
“What made you think about it?” asked Lucy, still trying to process the news.
“I thought I recognised him,” said Jennifer, “He seemed familiar and I racked and racked my brains,” (and Lucy knew just how much Jennifer could rack her brains), “before I came to school this morning – it nearly made me late – and so I started digging.” And she produced a pile of printouts. Lucy read, astonished, the news reports about Adam Greyfallow's life. Everybody seemed to know him as Adam Montpellier and she wondered if he'd been ashamed of the Greyfallow name or whether he had had a falling out with his father. She wondered if it had anything to do with the court case that had tied up the house for so long. There he was, stepping out of limousines onto red carpets; there he was, taking a bow at the Albert Hall in London and Carnegie Hall in New York. There he was, in tuxedo, his hair an immaculate, gleaming black wing sweeping over his broad forehead, his eyes a glint of sapphire in the flash of a camera, with a gorgeous redhead on his arm. And then there was the report of the terrible accident and the death of the lovely model, and the news that Adam Montpellier had disappeared, distraught with grief, three months before. There had been reports of sightings from places as far apart as Buenos Aires in Argentina, Dublin in Ireland and Calcutta in India – but none of them was verified.
Lucy felt her heart go out to Adam. He must have withdrawn from the world because of his terrible grief. But she felt her own heart break a little too, because she knew that now she had to face up to the fact that he'd come and gone, and that even if he ever came back, he could never love someone like her.
Lucy was in a low mood for the rest of the day, thinking how someone interesting had finally come to Beauville and then gone away for good. She tried hard not to snap at the children during class, but somehow they seemed to sense that she was in trouble and behaved much worse than usual. In the end she had a shouting match with Tommy Morrison, the alpha male in her Year 8 class, and afterwards felt sickened and embarrassed by the whole thing. It was so unlike her. After she got home to her little cottage she went and stood outside, looking up towards the great house and wondering if, in fact, it ever would be a home again, with people, the laughter of children, parties and music, lights shining from the tall windows at night.
She went inside and decided that she had to do something to take her mind off the mood she was in and the facts she faced. She decided to turn out a cupboard and found that in the process of cleaning, dusting, killing redbacks, and laying down new, fresh paper on the shelves, she felt much better. When she stood back and saw the freshly folded towels and linen she felt much calmer inside. She decided, on the back of this improved mood, to go out for dinner. She could have done her own internet searches for the news of Adam Montpellier, but she concluded that it was a bad thing for her to dwell on what would never be. With a sense of virtuous satisfaction, she showered and changed and drove into Beauville.