Twenties Girl

Page 10


“I must have misheard,” I say hastily, and thrust my phone away, just as the vicar appears.
“Please rise,” she intones. “And let us all bow our heads. Dear Lord, we commend to you the soul of our sister, Sadie…”
I’m not being prejudiced, but this vicar has the most monotonous voice in the existence of mankind. We’re five minutes in and I’ve already given up trying to pay attention. It’s like school assembly; your mind just goes numb. I lean back and stare up at the ceiling and tune out. I’m just letting my eyelids close when I hear the voice again, right in my ear.
“Where’s my necklace?”
That made me jump. I swivel my head around from side to side-but, again, there’s nothing. What’s wrong with me?
“Lara!” Mum whispers in alarm. “Are you OK?”
“I’ve just got a bit of a headache,” I hiss back. “I might go and sit by the window. Get some air.”
Gesturing apologetically, I get up and head to a chair near the back of the room. The vicar barely notices; she’s too engrossed in her speech.
“The end of life is the beginning of life… for as we came from earth, so we return to earth…”
“Where’s my necklace? I need it.”
Sharply, I turn my head from side to side, hoping to catch the voice this time. And then suddenly I see it. A hand.
A slim, manicured hand, resting on the chair back in front of me.
I move my eyes along, incredulously. The hand belongs to a long, pale, sinuous arm. Which belongs to a girl about my age. Who’s lounging on a chair in front of me, her fingers drumming impatiently. She has dark bobbed hair and a silky sleeveless pale-green dress, and I can just glimpse a pale, jutting chin.
I’m too astonished to do anything except gape.
Who the hell is that?
As I watch, she swings herself off her chair as though she can’t bear to sit still and starts to pace up and down. Her dress falls straight to the knee, with little pleats at the bottom, which swish about as she walks.
“I need it,” she’s muttering in agitation. “Where is it? Where is it?”
Her voice has a clipped, pinched accent, just like in old-fashioned black-and-white films. I glance wildly over at the rest of my family-but no one else has noticed her. No one has even heard her voice. Everyone else is sitting quietly.
Suddenly, as though she senses my gaze on her, the girl wheels around and fixes her eyes on mine. They’re so dark and glittering, I can’t tell what color they are, but they widen incredulously as I stare back.
OK. I’m starting to panic here. I’m having a hallucination. A full-on, walking, talking hallucination. And it’s coming toward me.
“You can see me.” She points a white finger at me, and I shrink back in my seat. “You can see me!”
I shake my head quickly. “I can’t.”
“And you can hear me!”
“No, I can’t.”
I’m aware of Mum at the front of the room, turning to frown at me. Quickly, I cough and gesture at my chest. When I turn back, the girl has gone. Vanished.
Thank God for that. I thought I was going crazy. I mean, I know I’ve been stressed out recently, but to have an actual vision-
“Who are you?” I nearly jump out of my skin as the girl’s voice punctuates my thoughts again. Now suddenly she’s striding down the aisle toward me.
“Who are you?” she demands. “Where is this? Who are these people?”
Do not reply to the hallucination , I tell myself firmly. It’ll only encourage it . I swivel my head away, and try to pay attention to the vicar.
“Who are you?” The girl has suddenly appeared right in front of me. “Are you real?” She raises a hand as though to prod my shoulder, and I cringe away, but her hand swishes straight through me and comes out the other side.
I gasp in shock. The girl stares in bewilderment at her hand, then at me.
“What are you?” she demands. “Are you a dream?”
“Me?” I can’t help retorting in an indignant undertone. “Of course I’m not a dream! You’re the dream!”
“I’m not a dream!” She sounds equally indignant.
“Who are you, then?” I can’t help shooting back.
Immediately I regret it, as Mum and Dad both glance back at me. If I told them I was talking to a hallucination, they’d flip. I’d be incarcerated in the Priory tomorrow.
The girl juts her chin out. “I’m Sadie. Sadie Lancaster.”
No. No way .
I can’t quite move. My eyes are flicking madly from the girl in front of me… to the wizened, candy-floss-haired old woman in the Polaroid… and then back again to the girl. I’m hallucinating my dead 105-year-old great-aunt?