Twenties Girl

Page 7


“Hey, Mum,” I say. “How come there aren’t any flowers?”
“Oh.” Mum immediately looks anxious. “I spoke to Trudy about flowers, and she said she would do it. Trudy?” she calls over. “What happened about the flowers?”
“Well!” Trudy closes Hello! and swivels around as though she’s quite up for a chat. “I know we discussed it. But do you know the price of all this?” She gestures around. “And we’re sitting here for, what, twenty minutes? You’ve got to be realistic, Pippa. Flowers would be a waste.”
“I suppose so,” Mum says hesitantly.
“I mean, I don’t begrudge the old lady a funeral.” Aunt Trudy leans toward us, lowering her voice. “But you have to ask yourself, ‘What did she ever do for us?’ I mean, I didn’t know her. Did you?”
“Well, it was difficult.” Mum looks pained. “She’d had the stroke, she was bewildered a lot of the time-”
“Exactly!” Trudy nods. “She didn’t understand anything. What was the point? It’s only because of Bill that we’re here.” Trudy glances at Uncle Bill fondly. “He’s too softhearted for his own good. I often say to people-”
“Crap!” Diamanté rips out her earphones and looks at her mother scornfully. “We’re only here for Dad’s show. He wasn’t planning to come ’til the producer said a funeral would ‘massively up his sympathy quotient.’ I heard them talking.”
“Diamanté!” exclaims Aunt Trudy crossly.
“It’s true! He’s the biggest hypocrite on earth and so are you. And I’m supposed to be at Hannah’s house right now.” Diamanté’s cheeks puff out resentfully. “Her dad’s, like, having this big party for his new movie and I’m missing it. Just so Dad can look all ‘family’ and ‘caring.’ It’s so unfair.”
“Diamanté!” says Trudy tartly. “It’s your father who paid for you and Hannah to go to Barbados, remember? And that boob job you keep talking about-who’s paying for that, do you think?”
Diamanté draws in breath as though mortally offended. “That is so unfair. My boob job’s for charity.”
I can’t help leaning forward with interest. “How can a boob job be for charity?”
“I’m going to do a magazine interview about it afterward and give the proceeds to charity,” she says proudly. “Like, half the proceeds or something?”
I glance at Mum. She looks so speechless with shock, I almost burst into giggles.
We all look up to see a woman in gray trousers and a clerical collar, heading up the aisle toward us.
“Many apologies,” she says, spreading her hands. “I hope you haven’t been waiting too long.” She has cropped salt-and-pepper hair, dark-rimmed glasses, and a deep, almost masculine voice. “My condolences on your loss.” She glances at the bare coffin. “I don’t know if you were informed, but it’s normal to put up photographs of your loved one…”
We all exchange blank, awkward looks. Then Aunt Trudy gives a sudden click of the tongue.
“I’ve got a photo. The nursing home sent it on.”
She rummages in her bag and produces a brown envelope, out of which she draws a battered-looking Polaroid. As she passes it over, I take a look. It shows a tiny, wrinkled old lady hunched over in a chair, wearing a shapeless pale-mauve cardigan. Her face is folded over in a million lines. Her white hair is a translucent puff of candy floss. Her eyes are opaque, as though she can’t even see the world.
So that was my great-aunt Sadie. And I never even met her.
The vicar looks at the print dubiously, then pins it onto a big notice board, where it looks totally sad and embarrassing all on its own.
“Would any of you like to speak about the deceased?”
Mutely, we all shake our heads.
“I understand. It can often be too painful for close family.” The vicar produces a notebook and pencil from her pocket. “In which case I’ll be glad to speak on your behalf. If you could perhaps just give me some details. Incidents from her life. Tell me everything about Sadie that we should be celebrating.”
There’s silence.
“We didn’t really know her,” Dad says apologetically. “She was very old.”
“One hundred and five,” Mum puts in. “She was one hundred and five.”
“Was she ever married?” the vicar prompts.
“Er…” Dad’s brow is wrinkled. “Was there a husband, Bill?”