The young chap at the dealership had said it could go one hundred and fifty miles per hour, but Rose found that she and the Porsche got on better around the forty mark. Any faster and she’d have to change gears, and at eighty-nine Rose was struggling with the clutch pedal. She didn’t mind. It was dark outside and she felt safer at a slower pace.
Passing the lit-up petrol station on the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border, she allowed herself another glance over her shoulder. The backseat read like the opening pages of Vogue Magazine. ‘Saint Laurent’, ‘Dior’, ‘Gucci’, ‘Dolce & Gabbana’: no longer abstract names, but her own stiff paper bags containing beautiful garments wrapped in tissue paper. In the passenger seat were her favourites, the orange parcels from Hermès, one of which contained the alligator Birkin Tote.
There was more to come. Soon she would take delivery of a Persian silk rug, which had once belonged to a European royal family. Her shoulders lifted to around her ears as she remembered placing the order on the day her children had surprised her with the ‘wonderful news’ that she had been offered a place at Quiet Days, the sought-after retirement home where she was to spend the rest of her life.
Rose wiped a tear from her eye with one hand whilst tightening her grip on the steering wheel with the other. ‘The rest of my life, perhaps,’ she whispered into the darkness. ‘But not the rest of my money.’
The cash would be gone long before Rose’s time was up. The delightful manager at the Bvlgari store on Bond Street would help see to that. Once the emerald bracelet arrived from the workshop in Switzerland, Rose reckoned she’d barely be able to afford three months in the home. Just as well Pippa and Jeremy had been more than happy to sign a document guaranteeing settlement of her bills indefinitely should she find herself without means in the future.
‘Most unlikely’, Pippa had said when they completed the paperwork at the solicitor’s air-conditioned office in Mayfair. ‘Mum never spends on herself’.
Afterwards, there had been the usual mumblings about how Rose ought to join the bridge club followed by suggestions she treat herself to lunch at the pub. ‘Remember, you can’t take it with you.’
Rose looked at her diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe Grand Complications, which had been delivered to her suite at The Connaught the same morning. She was still getting used to its unusually small hands, but it did appear the time had gone a quarter past ten. No wonder her eyelids felt heavy, her legs stiff and swollen from hours in the car. She longed for a nice, soft bed. She touched the brakes a little too hard, turned the Porsche around and set off towards Oxfordshire and the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.