Twenties Girl

Page 13


“I’d rather not comment at this time,” I say darkly. “It’s complicated.” I shoot a significant look at Tonya. “If you know what I mean.”
“What?” Tonya’s face starts turning pink with outrage. “You’re not accusing me .”
“I’m not saying anything.” I adopt an inscrutable air. “Except to the police.”
“This is bullshit. Are we finishing this or not?” Uncle Bill puts his BlackBerry away. “Because, either way, my car’s here and we’ve given this old lady enough time already.”
“More than enough!” chimes in Aunt Trudy. “Come on, Diamanté, this is a farce!” With cross, impatient gestures, she begins to gather up her celebrity magazines.
“Lara, I don’t know what the hell you’re playing at.” Uncle Bill scowls at Dad as he passes. “She needs help, your daughter. Bloody lunatic.”
“Lara, darling.” Mum gets out of her seat and comes over, her brow crinkled in worry. “You didn’t even know your great-aunt Sadie.”
“Maybe I didn’t, maybe I did.” I fold my arms. “There’s a lot I don’t tell you.”
I’m almost starting to believe in this murder.
The vicar is looking flustered now, as though this is all getting out of her league. “I think I’d better call the police. Lara, if you wait here, I think everyone else should probably leave.”
“Lara.” Dad comes over and takes my arm. “Darling.”
“Dad… just go.” I muster a noble, misunderstood air. “I have to do what I have to do. I’ll be fine.”
Shooting me various looks of alarm, outrage, and pity, my family slowly files out of the room, followed by the vicar.
I’m left alone in the silent room. And it’s as if the spell has suddenly broken.
What the bloody hell did I just do?
Am I going mad?
Actually, it would explain a lot. Maybe I should just get admitted to some nice, peaceful mental home where you do drawing in a jumpsuit and don’t have to think about your failing business or ex-boyfriend or parking tickets.
I sink into a chair and exhale. At the front of the room, the hallucination girl has appeared in front of the notice board, staring at the photo of the little hunched old woman.
“So, were you murdered?” I can’t help saying.
“Oh, I shouldn’t think so.” She’s barely acknowledged me, let alone said thank you. Trust me to have a vision with no manners.
“Well, you’re welcome,” I say moodily. “You know. Anytime.”
The girl doesn’t even seem to hear. She’s peering around the room as if she doesn’t understand something.
“Where are all the flowers? If this is my funeral, where are the flowers?”
“Oh!” I feel a squeeze of guilt. “The flowers were… put somewhere else by mistake. There were lots, honestly. Really gorgeous.”
She’s not real, I tell myself fervently. This is just my own guilty conscience speaking.
“And what about the people?” She sounds perplexed. “Where were all the people?”
“Some of them couldn’t come.” I cross my fingers behind my back, hoping I sound convincing. “Loads wanted to, though-”
I stop as she disappears into thin air, right as I’m talking to her.
“Where’s my necklace?” I jump in fright as her voice comes urgently in my ear again.
“I don’t know where your bloody necklace is!” I exclaim. “Stop bugging me! You realize I’ll never live this down? And you haven’t even said thank you!”
There’s silence and she tilts her face away, like a caught-out child.
“Thank you,” she says at last.
“’s OK.”
The hallucination girl is fidgeting with a metal snake bracelet entwined around her wrist, and I find myself eyeing her more closely. Her hair is dark and shiny, and the tips frame her face as she tilts her head forward. She has a long white neck, and now I can see that her huge, luminous eyes are green. Her cream leather shoes are tiny, size 4 maybe, with little buttons and Cuban heels. I’d say she’s about my age. Maybe even younger.
“Uncle Bill,” she says at last, twisting the bracelet around and around. “William. One of Virginia ’s boys.”
“Yes. Virginia was my grandmother. My dad is Michael. Which makes you my great-aunt-” I break off and clutch my head. “This is crazy. How do I even know what you look like? How can I be hallucinating you?”
“You’re not hallucinating me!” She jerks her chin up, looking offended. “I’m real!”