Twenties Girl

Page 6


I didn’t even send any flowers, I realize in sudden mortification. Should I have written a card or something? God, I hope Mum and Dad sorted it all out.
The music is so lovely and the atmosphere is so emotional that suddenly I can’t help it, I feel my eyes pricking too. Next to me is an old lady in a black velvet hat, who notices and clicks her tongue sympathetically.
“Do you have a handkerchief, dear?” she whispers.
“No,” I admit, and she immediately snaps open her large, old-fashioned patent bag. A smell of camphor rises up, and inside I glimpse several pairs of spectacles, a box of mints, a packet of hairpins, a box labeled String, and half a packet of digestive biscuits.
“You should always bring a handkerchief to a funeral.” She offers me a packet of tissues.
“Thanks,” I gulp, taking one. “That’s really kind. I’m the great-niece, by the way.”
She nods sympathetically. “This must be a terrible time for you. How’s the family coping?”
“Er… well…” I fold up the tissue, wondering how to answer. I can’t exactly say “No one’s that bothered; in fact, Uncle Bill’s still on his BlackBerry outside.”
“We all have to support each other at this time,” I improvise at last.
“That’s it.” The old lady nods gravely as though I’ve said something really wise, as opposed to straight off a Hallmark card. “We all have to support each other.” She clasps my hand. “I’d be glad to talk, dear, anytime you want to. It’s an honor to meet any relative of Bert’s.”
“Thank you-” I begin automatically, then halt.
I’m sure my aunt wasn’t called Bert. In fact, I know she wasn’t. She was called Sadie.
“You know, you look a lot like him.” The woman’s surveying my face.
Shit. I’m in the wrong funeral.
“Something about the forehead. And you have his nose. Did anyone ever tell you that, dear?”
“Um… sometimes!” I say wildly. “Actually, I’ve just got to… er… Thanks so much for the tissue…” I hastily start making my way back toward the door.
“It’s Bert’s great-niece.” I can hear the old lady’s voice following me. “She’s very upset, poor thing.”
I practically throw myself at the pale wooden door and find myself in the foyer again, almost landing on Mum and Dad. They’re standing with a woman with woolly gray hair, a dark suit, and a stack of leaflets in her hand.
“Lara! Where were you?” Mum looks in puzzlement at the door. “What were you doing in there?”
“Were you in Mr. Cox’s funeral?” The gray-haired woman looks taken aback.
“I got lost!” I say defensively. “I didn’t know where to go! You should put signs on the doors!”
Silently, the woman raises her hand and points at a plastic-lettered sign above the door: BERTRAM COX-1:30 P.M. Damn. Why didn’t I notice that?
“Well, anyway.” I try to regain my dignity. “Let’s go. We need to bag a seat.”
Bag a seat. What a joke. I’ve never been at anything as depressing as this, my whole entire life.
OK, I know it’s a funeral. It’s not supposed to be a riot. But at least Bert’s funeral had lots of people and flowers and music and atmosphere. At least that other room felt like something.
This room has nothing. It’s bare and chilly, with just a closed coffin at the front and SADIE LANCASTER in crappy plastic letters on a notice board. No flowers, no lovely smell, no singing, just some Muzak piped out of speakers. And the place is practically empty. Just Mum, Dad, and me on one side; Uncle Bill, Aunt Trudy, and my cousin Diamanté on the other.
I surreptitiously run my gaze over the other side of the family. Even though we’re related, they still seem like a celebrity magazine come to life. Uncle Bill is sprawled on his plastic chair as though he owns the place, typing at his BlackBerry. Aunt Trudy is flicking through Hello! , probably reading about all her friends. She’s wearing a tight black dress, her blond hair is artfully swept around her face, and her cleavage is even more tanned and impressive than last time I saw her. Aunt Trudy married Uncle Bill twenty years ago, and I swear she looks younger today than she does in her wedding pictures.
Diamanté’s platinum-blond hair sweeps down to her bum, and she’s wearing a minidress covered with a skull print. Really tasteful for a funeral. She has her iPod plugged in and is texting on her mobile and keeps looking at her watch with a sulky scowl. Diamanté is seventeen and has two cars and her own fashion label called Tutus and Pearls, which Uncle Bill set up for her. (I looked at it online once. The dresses all cost four hundred pounds, and everyone who buys one gets their name on a special “Diamanté’s Best Friends” list, and half of them are celebs’ kids. It’s like Facebook, but with dresses.)