All That We Remember

All That We Remember

by Elenor Gill
All That We Remember

All That We Remember

by Elenor Gill


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A woman’s memories are not her own in this supernatural mystery, “a new direction for a well-respected New Zealand writer” (The Timaru Herald).
When a violent car accident leaves Aimee Carmichael with nearly no memories of her childhood, she ventures back to her family home with hopes that it will jog her ruined mind. But instead of the answers she’s seeking, more questions arise as memories start to come back—memories that don’t belong to her.
As mysterious recollections invade her mind and haunting images plague her dreams, tragic secrets come to light and Aimee begins to question everything she thought she remembered about those she loves—and of herself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626817579
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 02/06/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 333
Sales rank: 857,565
File size: 2 MB

Read an Excerpt


November 2009

Today. She's coming here. Today!

It's hard to tell how long it's been. A long time, yes, but time has little meaning here. Things happen, and then nothing happens. The house fills with people — voices, laughter — footsteps echo on the wooden floors. Then they leave and everywhere sinks back into long drifts of silence that float through the hallways and wind around the posts of the great stairway. And I wait alone. Not that I was ever patient, but I've grown used to waiting and I prefer to do so on my own. I've also grown to like having the whole house to myself. Except, of course, for Margaret's daily inspections, but I'm accustomed to her comings and goings and she doesn't bother me now.

I can always tell when someone is about to arrive. Margaret comes in earlier than usual and works all day. She often brings help with her, a woman from the village, sometimes two. When that happens, it means a large number are expected and they will stay for several days. Sometimes it takes two or three days to prepare, that's when I know the visiting group is especially important.

All the windows are flung wide open, even if it is the middle of winter, though usually the visitors only come in spring or autumn. Regardless of the temperature of the day, the heating is turned on to air the beds and ensure there is no trace of mustiness about the place. Sheets are lifted carefully from the furniture so as not to raise the thin film of grey dust. I can never understand where that dust comes from and how it manages to enter despite Margaret's watchful eye. The dust sheets are taken outside the house to be shaken before being folded away carefully. Margaret is meticulous in all things. She shouts her instructions between rooms as they clean and scrub, as if the place had been allowed to become shabby which, of course, it never is. They work all day, stopping only occasionally to brew tea and gossip.

I follow the cleaning ladies from room to room. Sometimes I move things — loosen a feather from a cushion — rattle a teaspoon against a cup. Margaret has learned to ignore me. But the women look around them, wary, then stay close together. They are mindful never to be left in a room on their own. Not that I would ever wish them ill, but a little mischief does no harm and it gives me some amusement. The Lord knows I have little enough of that.

Before the guests, other people come, those who are to look after them. They move into the smallest of the top floor rooms, all of which used to be the servants quarters but now the larger ones have been made into guest rooms. The chef arrives. He takes over the main kitchen, undoing all the women's hard work by unloading his van into the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Last of all, the local florist comes in with boxes of fresh flowers to be clipped and wired into fancy arrangements and set on mantelpieces and dining tables. Everyone works until Margaret is satisfied. She walks slowly through each floor, looking in every corner, seeking out fugitive traces of neglect. Everywhere smells of fresh linen and furniture polish and that stuff they spray onto the carpets. Margaret nods her satisfaction. She goes home to her apartments above the old stable, changes into her black suit and starched white blouse and is ready to stand by the great double doors waiting for the first cars to sweep through the gates and up the driveway. She wears her name in gold letters on a blue square that is pinned to her lapel like a brooch, and carries a big bunch of keys on a long chain at her waist. At least, that's how it usually is.

I knew straight away that this time was going to be different. For one thing, Margaret came earlier than usual yesterday, but on her own. And it was just the two rooms that were made ready; the corner bedroom — that particular room with the veranda on two sides — and the small sitting room next to the kitchen. The bed was made up with crisp white sheets and the bathroom filled with the softest towels and bars of scented soap. She threw tartan rugs over the sofas, plumped the cushions and placed silver framed photographs on the mantle piece — wedding pictures of Gordon and Germaine, John and Mae, a generation apart, now positioned either side of the clock. Margaret herself filled the refrigerator in the small side kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables and ready cooked dishes wrapped in that transparent paper. The flowers she brought were from her own garden and she arranged them herself in cut glass vases. Not so grand looking as the florist's arrangements, but more thoughtful somehow. And she left notes all around the place — where to find things and how to switch things on, and a list of numbers next to the telephone in the hall, as if she would not be in attendance to manage every small detail herself. And then she left, locking the doors behind her, and I was alone again to wait for whoever was going to arrive.

I don't especially mind the people who come now, even though they're not family. No, it's a long time since any of them were here. You can't really count Margaret; she's not a Carmichael and never could be although she likes to think of herself as belonging. The visitors arrive in groups and either know each other or work hard at getting to know each other while they're here. They spend all day talking and arguing around the big tables, then all evening getting drunk and pretending to be enjoying themselves when they're not. I watch them for a while but then I get bored. It's not always the same people yet, somehow, they might as well be. I'm always relieved when they go. I like being on my own, just me and the house. I think I prefer the silence.

Only this time, when Margaret left, the house felt different. The silence had a sharper edge to it, a sort of tightness that grew throughout the night. It seemed to be seeping into the fabric of the building, as if the plaster on the walls was becoming more crystalline and brittle, and the grain of the wooden panels was drying into sharp splinters. But that might have been just me, the stirring of my curiosity. It is as if we have grown together, this house and me, becoming one entity, like a marriage. Maybe the house feels what I feel. Or maybe it's all in my imagination. They always did tell me I had too much imagination for my own good. But whatever it was, last night I felt something growing, coming closer. I walked through the rooms and from the upstairs windows I watched the sea move stealthily up the beach, then creep away again. Morning came and sunlight slid round the edges of the curtains to steal away the shadows. By then I knew.

She is returning. I know it. Already she is on her way. Only, this time I am aware of who she is and I will be ready.


Seen from the house above, the curve of the bay is clearly edged with three contoured lines, like the flounced hem of a skirt. First is the road, a smooth ribbon, dusty grey or black depending on the weather, but retaining the same even width no matter which way it curves. Then, following the movement of the road, come the dunes, a frothy band of sand-blown grasses and scrubby bushes. It is wider in some places than others where certain sections have been built up by the wind and narrower where others have collapsed onto the beach. In spring it brightens with yellow flowers, and the scent of wild freesias hangs in heavy clouds to attract the bees. At the very edge lies the beach itself. Of course that changes in both width and hue as the sea comes and goes, leaving the sand stained with cinnamon-coloured frills and pieces of kelp which, from a distance, look like scraps of black lace. A small jetty stretches out, pointing straight towards the horizon; a piece of the fabric torn and hanging loose.

From the vantage point of the house it's possible to observe the sweep of the road until it disappears in both directions around the twin headlands that mark the northern and southern ends of the bay. Often this road is deserted and, even in the holiday season, a string of half a dozen cars is a major event. This being mid-week, hardly anyone has taken the scenic detour that turns off the main highway at the small settlement of Glenmore, so it is significant that two cars now appear around the southern headland. They're obviously travelling together, not exactly nose to tail, but close enough. The red car in front is being driven by young woman, who, despite the comfort of air- conditioned shade, is wearing a white, floppy, cotton sunhat. The man following in a two-seater convertible isn't wearing a hat at all, although he certainly should be. Anyone with that bright red hair should know better than to drive with the top down.

As they near the centre point of the bay, the woman indicates left and slows down, giving the driver of the sports car plenty of time to follow her, before swinging off the road and through a pair of wrought-iron gates, onto a driveway. As her car turns, she glances in the mirror to make sure he's got the message. He waves as he wrenches the wheel with one hand. The cars pass under archways of trees where the road splits off into a number of smaller side paths, then both vehicles change down a gear and push forward as the main driveway sweeps round to the right and up a steep incline.

They're almost at the top of the slope when the trees part and reveal Breadalbane House. The building is set solidly on a plateau and is framed by old trees, with the crown of the low hill rising behind it. The driveway circles an ornamental pond filled with water lilies, a fountain in the form of a bird casts rainbows into the air. The cars come to rest in front of a flight of steps where Margaret is waiting for them. The woman sees her and waves even before she stops the car and climbs out. She's wearing shorts, and her legs are bare and white as if untouched by the summer sun. She holds the floppy hat firmly in place with one hand as she flings her other arm around Margaret's neck. At first Margaret looks uncertain, but quickly relents and returns the wild hug.

'Miss Carmichael,' says Margaret, 'you look well, you really do.'

'And I feel well. But please call me Aimee. Oh, Margaret, it's so good to see you.'

'Aimee, then. I didn't know if you'd recognize me. Your mother explained about — '

'You know Mum: she tends to exaggerate. As if I wouldn't remember you.'

'Oh, nonsense.' Margaret smiles, lifting a hand to fuss with hair that has been processed to a premature whiteness. 'But just look at you! It must be, what, four years since I last saw you at your grandmother's?'

'And even longer since I've been here. Has the house changed much?'

'Come in and see for yourself.'

The other driver is standing by his car and looking up at the huge double doors. He's also dressed in shorts and sandals, but the bones of his knees and elbows jut out uncomfortably. If he were any taller he would look gangly rather than muscle-hard and wiry. The yellow checked shirt doesn't go comfortably with his red hair.

'Oh, I'm sorry. This is my friend Charley Breeze. Charley, come and meet Margaret.' Aimee steps back while they shake hands.

'Pleased to meet you,' says Charley as he removes his sunglasses. His eyes, surprisingly, are the palest grey, almost silver. They soften whenever he looks at Aimee.

Margaret is suddenly flustered. 'I must apologize. I didn't realize there was to be an extra guest. Your mother said you'd be alone so I haven't prepared ... '

'No, that's OK. Charley's not staying, are you?'

'I have to get back to town this evening. I work nights. Not every night, but ... I'll be back tomorrow. Probably.'

'He might decide to stay later in the week. We'll see how it goes.'

'That can easily be arranged.' Margaret looks relieved. 'I must say I was a little concerned when your mother said you intended to stay on your own. I don't think she was too happy about it, either.'

'Mum worries too much. Besides, you'll be close by.' Aimee steps back to get a better view of the house, holding onto her hat as she tilts her head. She turns to Charley. 'Well, what do you think?'

'Awesome.' He shakes his head. 'I know you said it was big, but I hadn't imagined anything like this.'

The house blazes white in the sun. Steps rise to the main doorway, with a wide verandah on either side that extends, past ranks of tall windows, to the corners of the house. Rows of white columns support yet another balcony running all the way around the upper storey. A third level is tucked under the roof, behind discreetly gabled windows. The architecture owes more to the Greek or Roman style than to early New Zealand: the Carmichaels never do things by halves.

'Breadalbane. It's a Gaelic word, as you'd expect with my ancestors coming from Scotland. It means "the high country".'

'Not quite what I'm used to. My family home had three bedrooms and a sleepout.'

'I never actually lived here, though, did I?' Aimee hesitates, turning to Margaret.

'That's right. This was always Gordon and Germaine Carmichael's house.'

'They're my grandparents,' she tells Charley. 'But we used to come here every year when I was young. Our parents always spent Christmas here and Charlotte and I would stay on for the summer holidays. It was a big part of our childhood. It's going to be sold soon, so it's important for me to come here now, while I still have the chance.' She turns to Margaret. 'Do you think she'll really go through with it?'

'I think it's inevitable.' Margaret tightens her shoulders. 'When your mother gets her mind set on something ... '

'Tell me about it. Hey, Charley, turn around. The best part's right behind you.'

Charley spins on his heels to find the Pacific Ocean stretched out below him in bands of blue and turquoise, with nothing else between him and the horizon but the clear sky.

'Wow. So that's why birds learn to fly. If this was mine I could never part with it.'

'I know. But it's too big and it's too full of history.' Aimee links her arm through Margaret's. 'Come on, why don't you show us around?'

Aimee lets Margaret lead the way, holding onto her arm and leaving Charley to trail along behind. It's Aimee who gives the guided tour, explaining each room as they enter, then looking to Margaret for confirmation. Sometimes she pauses, not trusting herself, and looks troubled when she makes a mistake, as if this is some kind of test and she's being marked for accuracy. 'Has it changed much?' she asks.

'Very little. It's regularly repaired and repainted, but the structure hasn't been altered. The furniture in some of the rooms has had to be moved around, of course, to accommodate the conference facilities. Some of it's new — most of the beds, some sofas and armchairs — but we've tried to keep the original style. The kitchens had to be updated, but fortunately the bar and the poolroom were part of the original house. What was the breakfast room is now used as a TV lounge. I thought you'd be more comfortable in there.' She ushers Aimee and Charley inside. 'I brought in a basket of logs, but I don't think you're going to need a fire. Still, you never know, the wind coming off of the sea has been known to turn cold in November.'

As they continue the tour, Charley is like a kid in a castle, looking everywhere and muttering 'awesome' and giving the occasional whistle of disbelief. He soon loses count of the number of rooms, crossing and recrossing hallways to admire yet more wooden-panelled walls and marble fireplaces. As they climb the great staircase he's tempted by the wide curve of the banister rail, but restrains himself, reserving that treat for later when Margaret isn't around to disapprove.

'I've put you in the blue room, Aimee.' Margaret opens the door and steps to one side to let her in. 'Being on the north-facing corner, and with the balcony on both sides, you'll get the sun for most of the day.'

'Oh, it's lovely. And huge.' There's a shadow of uncertainty in Aimee's voice. 'Have I been in here before?'

'No, most unlikely. This was one of the rooms your grandmother preferred to keep locked.'

'Why was that?'

'I guess the house was too big, even when the whole family were staying. It was easier to manage if parts of it were closed off.'

'But this must be one of the best bedrooms. What a shame no one got to use it.'

'Well, it's used now. And look, this is one change I'm sure you'll approve of. All the bedrooms have been fitted with ensuites. And this one,' Margaret opens a door disguised as part of the range of wardrobes, 'has its own bath as well as a shower.'

'Wonderful. Did Mum do all this?'

'No, your father started the conversion, but Mae took over when he passed away. She still oversees the management side of things, but she rarely comes here herself now.'


Excerpted from "All That We Remember"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Elenor Gill.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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