Twenties Girl

Page 28


“Where?” Sadie tosses her chin.
“There . You know…”
“I haven’t been anywhere.” She glares at me. “I haven’t met anybody. I wake up and it’s as though I’m in a dream. A very bad dream. Because all I want is my necklace, but the only person who can understand me refuses to help me!” She looks so accusing, I feel a surge of indignation.
“Well, maybe if you didn’t come along and ruin everything, that person might want to help you. Did you think of that?”
“I didn’t ruin everything!”
“Yes, you did!”
“I taught you how to eat an oyster, didn’t I?”
“I didn’t want to know how to eat a bloody oyster! I wanted my candidate not to walk out!”
For a moment, Sadie looks cornered-then her chin juts out again. “I didn’t know he was your candidate. I thought he was your lover.”
“Well, my business is probably sunk now. And I can’t afford any of this stupid food. It’s all a disaster and it’s all your fault.”
Morosely, I reach for another oyster and start poking at it with my fork. Then I glance at Sadie. All her spirit seems to have evaporated, and she’s hugging her knees with that droopy-headed-flower look. She meets my eyes, then drops her head down again.
“I’m sorry.” Her voice is barely above a whisper. “I apologize for causing you so much trouble. If I could communicate with anyone else, I would do so.”
Now, of course, I feel bad.
“Look,” I begin. “It’s not that I don’t want to help-”
“It’s my final wish.” As Sadie looks up, her eyes are dark and velvety and her mouth is in a sad little O shape. “It’s my only wish. I don’t want anything else; I won’t ask you for anything else. Just my necklace. I can’t rest without it. I can’t-” She breaks off and looks away as though she can’t finish the sentence. Or doesn’t want to finish it, maybe.
I can tell this is a bit of a sensitive area. But I’m too intrigued to let it go.
“When you say you ‘can’t rest’ without your necklace,” I venture delicately, “do you mean rest as in sit down and feel relaxed? Or do you mean rest as in pass on to … there?” I catch her stony gaze and amend hastily, “I mean, the Other… I mean, the Better… I mean, the After- ” I rub my nose, feeling hot and bothered.
God, this is a minefield. How am I supposed to put it? What’s the politically correct phrase, anyway?
“So… how does it work, exactly?” I try a different tack.
“I don’t know how it works! I haven’t been given an instruction pamphlet, you know.” Her tone is scathing, but I can see an insecure flash in her eye. “I don’t want to be here. I’ve just found myself here. And all I know is, I need my necklace. That’s all I know. And for that… I need your help.”
For a while there’s silence. I swallow another oyster, uncomfortable thoughts jabbing at my conscience. She’s my great-aunt. This is her one and only last wish. You should make an effort with someone’s one and only last wish. Even if it is totally impossible and stupid.
“Sadie.” At last I exhale sharply. “If I find your necklace for you, will you go away and leave me in peace?”
“For good?”
“Yes.” Her eyes are starting to shine.
I fold my arms sternly. “If I look for your necklace as hard as I can but can’t find it because it was lost a zillion years ago or, more likely, never existed… will you still go away?”
There’s a pause. Sadie looks sulky.
“It did exist,” she says.
“Will you?” I persist. “Because I’m not spending all summer on some ridiculous treasure hunt.”
For a few moments, Sadie glowers at me, clearly trying to think of some put-down. But she can’t.
“Very well,” she says at last.
“OK. It’s a deal.” I lift my champagne glass toward her. “Here’s to finding your necklace.”
“Come on, then! Start looking!” She darts her head around impatiently, as though we might start searching right here and now in the restaurant.
“We can’t just go randomly looking! We have to be scientific .” I reach into my bag, pull out the necklace sketch, and unfold it. “All right. Think back. Where did you last have it?”
Fairside Nursing Home is in a leafy residential road: a redbrick, double-fronted building with net curtains in every single window. I survey it from the other side of the road, then turn to look at Sadie, who has been following me in silence ever since Potters Bar station. She came with me on the tube, but I barely saw her: She spent the whole time flitting along the carriage, looking at people, popping up to ground level and down again.