This article contains spoilers for the book ‘The Death of Mrs Westaway’.
It was almost time for dinner. When she stepped out, the sky was getting dark. This was not surprising since it was the middle of a cold, dark winter. Maud had been cooking when she realised that she was out of tomatoes. Ever the perfectionist, she hopped into her car and made a quick dash to the closest grocery store. She finished up with her shopping as fast as she could, wanting to get home before her daughter, Hal, did. On her way home, she stopped at the stop sign and hummed along to the catchy song that was playing on the radio. Her spirits lifted as she thought of her darling daughter. When the sign turned to green, she slowly accelerated her car. However, there was a palatable change in the air. She could feel in her bones that something was wrong. She felt cold malice in the air that she had only felt once before. Her heart froze as she realised that he was there. Time slowed down as she saw the headlights of the truck glaring down at her. She knew she was about to meet her end and that it would come from her own brother.
And in that moment, her whole life flashed before her eyes. As her mind cleared of the fog, she wished she had had the chance to tell Hal the truth she had kept hidden from her.
Maud Westaway had always been spirited. Her childhood caretaker had often wondered how the little girl was so remarkably intellectual for her age. She had been five when she had declared she wanted to be complimented for her wit and not for her pretty dress. Her life had been fine at that age. She would spend the days playing and running around with her siblings. They would often go to the nearby lake and splash around in the water. There was, however, one person whom she loved more than anyone else in the world. Her twin, Ezra. Ezra Westaway was their mother’s favourite, a fact that was obvious to everyone but himself. As such, he managed to escape the brunt of her punishments. Where the other kids got locked up in the attic for ages without food and water, he got off with a slap on the wrist. As the years passed, Maud’s mother, Hester Westaway, grew even more malicious. One by one, Maud’s brothers began leaving the house. Her mother did not believe that a girl should be educated, so when it was time for Ezra to go to boarding school. Maud had to stay behind.
As she grew older, she realised she had to get away from the place she called home. Trepassen House, as it was called, was probably beautiful and scenic back when it was built. Now, the enormous monstrosity was starting to fade away from existence. With not enough money to maintain it, the mansion was starting to look rundown and uninhabitable. But that wasn’t what bothered Maud. Her mother’s behaviour had become more volatile and unpredictable. It had gotten to the point where she was truly scared of her. When her cousin, Maggie, came to live with them, she was just happy for the company. Maud and Maggie were like fire and water, each complementing the other perfectly. Where Maud regarded everything and everyone with scepticism, Maggie believed in the art of tarot reading. She held a tin can of tarot cards dear to her and read them out for whoever was interested in them. After a fun-filled summer in which the boys returned home, Maggie found out she was having a baby. This did not sit well with Hester Westaway, who locked the young girl in the attic. Her tarot cards, previously a hobby, became her sole companions during the cold, dark nights. The tin can they were in offered her a warmth that was greater than what was emanating from the fireplace.
The girls made their plans. Maud had received a scholarship to an Oxford college. They had also decided on an apartment and signed a contract. They finally managed to get away from the horror that was Trepassen House. And life was good for a while. They made a world of their own, mother, daughter and aunt. When the reality of living in poverty caught up to them, Maggie knew she had to go back to the father of the baby. And so she met Ezra Westaway, to ask him for child support. As her blue eyes met his dark, angry ones, she knew she was never leaving Trepassen House again.
Hal was wailing again, crying out for a mother whose face she was too young to remember for much longer. Maud was numb, unable to comprehend what had happened. Her heart broke for her dear cousin. Maggie had been so brave to go to Ezra, to fight for her daughter’s future. Maud Westaway looked at how Hal’s chubby face was squirming in concentration and how her tiny hands reached out for her. And she knew that she would do whatever it took to save this little angel from a life of fear and misery. As she cradled the baby in her arms, she spied the tin can across the room and smiled sadly.
I love you.
The above was inspired by The Death of Mrs Westaway, written by Ruth Ware.
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