How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior (aka Away with the Penguins)
English | 2020 |General Fiction/Classics| ePUB | 3.0 MB
A curmudgeonly but charming old woman, her estranged grandson, and a colony of penguins proves it’s never too late to be the person you want to be in this rich, heartwarming story from the acclaimed author of Ellie and the Harpmaker.
Eighty-five-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit-and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica’s closed heart starts to open.
Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about.
She heaves the mirrors across the kitchen. I resist the urge to close the doors as she goes back and forth, knowing this will only make life more difficult for her. I console myself with the thought that they’ll all be shut again soon.
She is back five minutes later. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, Mrs. McCreedy, but I had to move this out of the way to fit the mirrors in. Do you know what it is, what’s in it? Do you want it? I can always ask Doug to take it to the rubbish tip next time he goes.”
She dumps the old wooden box on the kitchen table and goggles at the rusty padlock.
I choose to ignore her questions and inquire instead, who is this Doug?
“You know. Doug. My husband.”
I’d forgotten she was married. I’ve never been introduced to the unfortunate man.
“Well, I shan’t be requiring him to take any of my possessions to the rubbish tip in the near or indeed distant future,” I tell her. “You can leave it on the table for now.”
She runs her finger along the top of the box, stroking away a clean trail in the dust. Expression number two (nosy) has now established itself on her face. She leans in toward me conspiratorially. I lean backward a little, having no desire whatsoever to conspire.
“I’ve tried the padlock to see if there might be something valuable inside,” she confesses, “but it’s stuck. You need to know the code if you want to open it.”
“I am well aware of that fact, Eileen.”
She clearly assumes I am as clueless about the contents as she is.
My skin crawls at the thought of Eileen looking inside. Other people meddling is the very reason I locked it all up in the first place. There is only one person who I will ever permit to see the contents of that box, and that person is myself.
I am not ashamed. Oh no, never that. At least . . . But I absolutely refuse to be led down that path. There are things contained in that box that I have managed not to think about for decades. Now the mere sight of it provokes a distinct wobble in my knee joints. I sit down quickly. “Eileen, would you be kind enough to put the kettle on?”
The clock strikes seven. Eileen has gone, and I am alone in the house. Being alone is supposed to be an issue for people such as me, but I have to say I find it deeply satisfying. Human company is necessary at times, I admit, but it is almost always irksome in one way or another.
I am currently settled in the Queen Anne armchair by the fire in the Snug, my second and more intimate sitting room. The fire isn’t a real fire with wood and coal, alas, but an electric contraption with fake flames. I have had to compromise on this, as with so much in life. It does at least fulfill its primary requirement of producing heat. Ayrshire is chilly, even in May.