Julia stopped in the middle of the gang-plank and stared up at the building on top of the bluff. Laughing children and parents pushed past her, disembarking from the boat onto Brando's Island, enthusiastic about spending a sunny afternoon exploring the lush summer woodland and picnicking on the beach. The building was Brando's Manse, where Brando himself had lived when he'd been alive, and she could see the glint of sunlight on what must be the glass conservatory where legend said he'd held his wildest, most orgiastic parties.
She started moving again, children jostling her and parents smiling indulgently. She kept her handbag tucked closely under one arm; in it was her husband's cinerarium. She'd sealed the lid with wax, just to be sure that it stayed closed, but doubt still nagged at her. She could hear her husband's hectoring voice complaining that she couldn't be trusted, that a woman should never be left to do a man's job. Her step faltered, and she stopped again, and it took an effort to force herself to carry on down the plank and off the boat.
The daytrippers milled around, staking out fiefdoms on the beach and marking them with beach towels and windbreaks, but Julia walked past them all, past the beaten tracks into the woods and off up the beach. Her feet sank into the white sand, and more memories came back, of coming here for the first time as a debutante, and then coming back again and again, defying her father to meet Brando and his brother. To party like other people never got to see.
Some way along the beach she saw the white slash on a tree-trunk that was the marker for the hidden path, and pushed through the undergrowth. It was thick only briefly, and then there was a narrow path, hard earth now it was summer, that led quite steeply upwards.
Halfway along the path, she saw a young man sitting on a fallen log shaking stones out of a shoe. He looked up when he heard her approach, and smiled. His face was pale and thin, as though he'd been ill for a while, but his smile was genuine.
"Who are you?" said Julia. She was a little shaken, she'd thought that no-one came here since Brando's death.
"Martin," he said, offering her his hand. She took it, a little hesitantly, and after he shook it he used it to pull himself to his feet. Balancing on one foot, he put his shoe back on.
"I thought this was a private residence," said Julia, a little more confidently.
"Oh, I'm one of the family," said Martin. "You're Julia, aren't you? I remember you from the parties."
She nodded, and smiled a little, trying to remember if she'd met him. He looked familiar, but her memory refused to recognise him.
"Are you going up to the house?"
"Yes, but only for a little while. There's something I need to do..."
"Then let me lead the way," he said, sounding playful, and started off up the path. Julia followed him, amused despite herself, still trying to remember him.
She reached the house faster than she thought she would, and Martin, still ahead of her, opened the front door and led her inside. The hallway inside was just as she remembered it.
"I heard there was a fire," she said, looking around, but Martin was already walking towards the door to the conservatory.
"There was a fire," he said, opening the door, and ushering her through. The conservatory on the other side was light and airy, the wooden floor still brightly polished, and the baby grand piano still off to one side with the piano stool tipped over next to it.
Julia walked slowly to the middle of the conservatory and took the cinerarium from her bag. She slit the wax seal with her thumbnail, and noticed that her hands were shaking.
"What burned then?" she asked.
"We all did," said Martin.
As she shook her husband's ashes out of the funeral urn onto the floor of the building he'd burned down to keep her from coming to, she smelled acrid smoke and heard the shatter of glass and the screams of the guests. She remembered Martin suddenly, her mind throwing up the picture from the newspaper, the only person to survive the inferno. He'd died a week later in hospital.
"Make him welcome then," she said.