Clara opened the last cupboard door in her father’s house. Ever methodical she had gone from room to room, drawer to drawer, emptying, sorting and dealing with the contents. It had been just a few weeks since he had died, and she was relieved that her father had never been a hoarder and had always been disciplined about keeping the house scrupulously clean and tidy since her mother died over forty years ago now. It had made the whole process so much easier, not having to sort through endless piles of meaningless stuff to find the one nugget of golden memory that she wanted to keep hold of.
This cupboard was news to her, though. It had been partially hidden behind a massive mahogany wardrobe in her father’s bedroom and she had briefly wondered if it was a door to a secret room and was imagining all sorts of mysteries before realising that wasn’t possible – it was simply a blocked in alcove to one side of the chimney breast and there simply wasn’t the space for a whole room between the bedroom and the outside wall of the house.
She turned the handle and simply stared. This cupboard was jam-packed, full to the brim – there were cardboard boxes stuffed with notebooks, piles of yellowed newspapers, and any number of buff folders that contained goodness knew what paperwork. The whole thing was a mess.
Reaching for a newspaper at random she unfolded it and looked uncomprehendingly at the front page – there was a picture of her mother, standing on what looked like an Olympic podium, with a bronze medal around her neck. How on earth had she not known about this? Why had her father never mentioned that her mother had competed and won a medal?
Clara pulled out all the boxes as fast as she dared, and sat on the floor sifting through. The first cursory glance told her that she had training records, diaries, medical records and, right down at the bottom, a box containing the medal itself, wrapped carefully in tissue paper. She held it up and examined it, never having seen an Olympic medal before. It had the date and location on it, Munich 1972 – the Olympics famous for the kidnap and murder of the Israeli athletes and coaches. She had been born a year later, and her mother had died when she was two years old – was that why her father had never mentioned it?
Rummaging through the piles of stuff Clara focused on looking for anything that might give her a clue; a letter, a diary entry, anything. She found nothing, but she was running out of time – the estate agent would be here soon to show the first potential buyer around. Deciding that she’d have to deal with it all later she boxed everything back up again and drove it home, feeling both frustrated at the lack of answers and glad that there’d been a mystery after all.