Twenties Girl

Page 30


“Oh.” I color. “My dad. And my uncle.”
“We’ve been holding on to them in case they changed their minds…” Ginny pushes through a swing door. “But I don’t see why you can’t take them.” She shrugs. “It’s nothing much, to be honest. Apart from the bits of jewelry…” She stops in front of a pin board and gestures fondly at a photo. “Here she is! Here’s our Sadie.”
It’s the same wrinkled old lady from the other photo. She’s wrapped in a pink lacy shawl, and there’s a ribbon in her white candy floss hair. I feel a slight lump in my throat as I gaze at the picture. I just can’t relate this tiny, ancient, folded-up face to Sadie’s proud, elegant profile.
“Her hundred and fifth birthday, that was.” Ginny points to another photo. “You know, she’s our oldest ever resident! She’s had telegrams from the queen!”
A birthday cake is in front of Sadie in this photo, and nurses are crowding into the picture with cups of tea and wide smiles and party hats. As I look at them, I feel a crawling shame. How come we weren’t there? How come she wasn’t surrounded by me and Mum and Dad and everyone?
“I wish I’d been there.” I bite my lip. “I mean… I didn’t realize.”
“It’s difficult.” Ginny smiles at me without reproach, which of course makes me feel a million times worse. “Don’t worry. She was happy enough. And I’m sure you gave her a wonderful send-off.”
I think back to Sadie’s miserable, empty little funeral and feel even worse.
“Er… kind of-Hey!” My attention is suddenly drawn by something in the photograph. “Wait! Is that it?”
“That’s the dragonfly necklace.” Ginny nods easily. “You can have that photo, if you like.”
I take down the photo, light-headed with disbelief. There it is. Just visible, poking out of the folds of Great-Aunt Sadie’s shawl. There are the beads. There’s the rhinestone-studded dragonfly. Just as she described it. It’s real!
“I’m so sorry none of us could make the funeral.” Ginny sighs as we resume walking down the corridor. “We had such staff problems this week. But we toasted her at supper… Here we are! Sadie’s things.”
We’ve arrived at a small storeroom lined with dusty shelves, and she hands me a shoe box. There’s an old metal-backed hairbrush inside, and a couple of old paperbacks. I can see the gleam of beads coiled up at the bottom.
“Is this all ?” I’m taken aback, in spite of myself.
“We didn’t keep her clothes.” Ginny makes an apologetic gesture. “They weren’t really hers, so to speak. I mean, she didn’t choose them.”
“But what about stuff from earlier in her life? What about… furniture? Or mementos?”
Ginny shrugs. “Sorry. I’ve only been here five years, and Sadie was a resident for a long while. I suppose things get broken and lost and not replaced.”
“Right.” Trying to hide my shock, I start unpacking the meager things. Someone lives for 105 years and this is all that’s left? A shoe box?
As I reach the jumble of necklaces and brooches at the bottom, I feel my excitement rising. I untangle all the strings of beads, searching for yellow glass, for a flash of rhinestones, for the dragonfly…
It’s not there.
Ignoring a sudden foreboding, I shake the tangle of beads out properly and lay them straight. There are thirteen necklaces in all. None of them is the right one.
“Ginny. I can’t find the dragonfly necklace.”
“Oh dear!” Ginny peers over my shoulder in concern. “It should be there!” She lifts up another necklace, made from tiny purple beads, and smiles at it fondly. “This was another favorite of hers-”
“I’m really after the dragonfly necklace.” I know I sound agitated. “Could it be anywhere else?”
Ginny looks perplexed. “This is strange. Let’s check with Harriet. She did the clear-out.” I follow her back down the corridor and through a door marked Staff . Inside is a small, cozy room in which three nurses are sitting on old floral armchairs, drinking cups of tea.
“Harriet!” says Ginny to a pink-cheeked girl in glasses. “This is Sadie’s great-niece Lara. She wants that lovely dragonfly necklace that Sadie used to wear. Have you seen it?”
Oh God. Why did she have to put it like that? I sound like some horrible grasping person out of Scrooge.
“I don’t want it for me,” I say hastily. “I want it for… a good cause.”