Twenties Girl

Page 29


“So, that’s where you used to live,” I say with an awkward brightness. “It’s really nice! Lovely… garden.” I gesture at a couple of mangy shrubs.
Sadie doesn’t answer. I look up and see a line of tension in her pale jaw. This must be strange for her, coming back here. I wonder how well she remembers it.
“Hey, how old are you, anyway?” I say curiously, as the thought occurs to me. “I mean, I know you’re a hundred and five really. But now. As you are… here.” I gesture at her.
Sadie looks taken aback by the question. She examines her arms, peers at her dress, and thoughtfully rubs the fabric between her fingers.
“Twenty-three,” she says at last. “Yes, I think I’m twenty-three.”
I’m doing mental calculations in my head. She was 105 when she died. Which would mean…
“You were twenty-three in the year 1927.”
“That’s right!” Her face suddenly comes alive. “We had a pajama party for my birthday. We drank gin fizzes all evening and danced ’til the birds started singing… Oh, I miss pajama parties.” She hugs herself. “Do you have many pajama parties?”
Does a one-night stand count as a pajama party?
“I’m not sure they’re quite the same-” I break off as a woman’s face glances out of a top-floor window at me. “Come on. Let’s go.”
I head briskly across the road, up the path to the wide front door, and press the security buzzer.
“Hello?” I call into the grille. “I don’t have an appointment, I’m afraid.”
There’s the sound of a key in a lock, and the front door opens. A woman in a blue nurse’s uniform beams at me. She looks in her early thirties, with her hair tied back in a knot, and a plump pale face.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes. My name’s Lara, and I’m here about a… a former resident.” I glance at Sadie.
She’s gone.
I hurriedly scan the whole front garden-but she’s totally disappeared. Bloody hell. She’s left me in the lurch.
“A former resident?” The nurse prompts me.
“Oh. Er… Sadie Lancaster?”
“Sadie!” Her face softens. “Come in! I’m Ginny, senior staff nurse.”
I follow her into a linoleum-floored hall smelling of beeswax and disinfectant. The whole place is quiet, apart from the nurse’s rubber shoes squeaking on the floor and the distant sound of the TV. Through a door I glimpse a couple of old ladies sitting in chairs with crocheted blankets over their knees.
I’ve never really known any old people. Not really, really old.
“Hello!” I wave nervously at one white-haired lady who is sitting nearby, and her face immediately crumples in distress.
“Sorry!” I call quietly. “I didn’t mean to… er…”
A nurse comes over to the white-haired lady, and in slight relief I hurry after Ginny, hoping she didn’t notice.
“Are you a relation?” she asks, showing me into a little reception room.
“I’m Sadie’s great-niece.”
“Lovely!” says the nurse, flicking on the kettle. “Cup of tea? We’ve been expecting someone to call, actually. Nobody ever picked up her stuff.”
“That’s what I’m here about.” I hesitate, gearing myself up. “I’m looking for a necklace which I believe once belonged to Sadie. A glass-bead necklace, with a dragonfly set with rhinestones.” I smile apologetically. “I know it’s a long shot and I’m sure you don’t even-”
“I know the one.” She nods.
“You know the one?” I stare at her stupidly. “You mean… it exists?”
“She had a few lovely bits.” Ginny smiles. “But that was her favorite. She wore it over and over.”
“Right!” I swallow, trying to keep calm. “Could I possibly see it?”
“It’ll be in her box.” Ginny nods again. “If I can get you to fill in a form first… Do you have any ID?”
“Of course.” I scrabble in my bag, my heart racing. I can’t believe it. This was so easy!
As I fill in the form, I keep looking around for Sadie, but she’s nowhere to be seen. Where’s she gone? She’s missing the great moment!
“Here you are.” I thrust the form at Ginny. “So, can I take it away? I’m nearly next of kin…”
“The lawyers said the next of kin weren’t interested in having her personal effects,” says Ginny. “Her nephews, was it? We never saw them.”