Twenties Girl

Page 18


“More oval,” says Sadie, peering over his shoulder. “Longer. And there were rhinestones in between.”
“The beads were more oval,” I say apologetically. “With rhinestones in between.”
“No problem…” Mark is already rubbing out and sketching longer beads. “Like this?”
I glance up at Sadie. She’s watching him, mesmerized. “And the dragonfly,” she murmurs. “You mustn’t forget the dragonfly.”
For another five minutes, Mark sketches, rubs out, and sketches again, as I relay Sadie’s comments. Slowly, gradually, the necklace comes alive on the page.
“That’s it,” says Sadie at last. Her eyes are shining as she gazes down. “That’s my necklace!”
“Perfect,” I say to Mark. “You’ve got it.”
For a moment we all survey it in silence.
“Nice,” says Mark at last, jerking his head at it. “Unusual. Reminds me of something.” He frowns at the sketch for a moment, then shakes his head. “No. Lost it.” He glances at his watch. “I’m afraid I have to dash-”
“That’s fine,” I say quickly. “Thanks so much.”
When he’s gone, I pick up the paper and look at the necklace. It’s very pretty, I have to admit. Long rows of glassy beads, sparkling rhinestones, and a big ornamental pendant in the shape of a dragonfly, studded with even more rhinestones.
“So this is what we’re looking for.”
“Yes!” Sadie looks up, her face full of animation. “Exactly! Where shall we start?”
“You have to be joking!” I reach for my jacket and stand up. “I’m not looking for anything now. I’m going home and having a nice glass of wine. And then I’m having a chicken korma with naan. New-fangled modern food,” I explain, noticing her bemused expression. “And then I’m going to bed.”
“So what shall I do?” says Sadie, suddenly looking deflated.
“I don’t know!”
I head out of the side room, back into the foyer. A taxi is offloading an elderly couple onto the pavement outside, and I hurry out, calling, “Taxi? Can you take me to Kilburn?”
As the taxi moves off, I spread out the sketch on my lap and look at the necklace again, trying to imagine it in real life. Sadie described the beads as a kind of pale yellow iridescent glass. Even in the drawing, the rhinestones are sparkling all over. The real thing must be stunning. Worth a bit too. Just for a moment I feel a flicker of excitement at the thought of actually finding it.
But an instant later, sanity checks back into my brain. I mean, it probably doesn’t exist. And even if it did, the chances of finding some random necklace belonging to a dead old lady who probably lost it or broke it years ago are approximately… three million to one. No, three billion to one.
At last I fold the paper and tuck it in my bag, then flop back on my seat. I don’t know where Sadie is and I don’t care. I close my eyes, ignoring the constant vibrations of my mobile phone, and let myself doze off. What a day.
The next day the sketch of the necklace is all I have left. Sadie has disappeared and the whole episode feels like a dream. At eight-thirty I’m sitting at my desk, sipping coffee and staring down at the picture. What on earth got into me yesterday? The entire thing must have been my brain cracking up under the strain. The necklace, the girl, the banshee wailing… It was obviously all a figment of my imagination.
For the first time, I’m starting to sympathize with my parents. I’m worried about me too.
“Hi!” There’s a crash as Kate, our assistant, swings open the door, knocking over a bunch of files, which I’d put on the floor while I got the milk out of the fridge.
We don’t have the biggest office in the world.
“So, how was the funeral?” Kate hangs up her coat, leaning right back over the photocopier to reach her hook. Luckily, she’s quite gymnastic.
“Not great. In fact, I ended up at the police station. I had this weird mental flip-out.”
“God!” Kate looks horrified. “Are you OK?”
“Yeah. I mean, I think so…” I have to get a grip. Abruptly, I fold up the necklace sketch, thrust it into my bag, and zip it shut.
“Actually, I knew something was up.” Kate pauses halfway through twisting her blond hair into an elastic. “Your dad called yesterday afternoon and asked me if you’d been particularly stressed recently.”
I look up in alarm. “You didn’t tell him about Natalie leaving.”
“No! Of course not!” Kate has been well trained in what to divulge to my parents-i.e., nothing.