Twenties Girl

Page 8


“Dunno. Yeah, I think there was. Don’t know what he was called, though.” Uncle Bill hasn’t even looked from his BlackBerry. “Can we get on with this?”
“Of course.” The vicar’s sympathetic smile has frozen. “Well, perhaps just some small anecdote from the last time you visited her… some hobby…”
There’s another guilty silence.
“She’s wearing a cardigan in the picture,” ventures Mum at last. “Maybe she knitted it. Maybe she liked knitting.”
“Did you never visit her?” The vicar is clearly forcing herself to stay polite.
“Of course we did!” says Mum defensively. “We popped in to see her in…” She thinks. “In 1982, I think it was. Lara was a baby.”
“ 1982? ” The vicar looks scandalized.
“She didn’t know us,” puts in Dad quickly. “She really wasn’t all there.”
“What about from earlier in her life?” The vicar’s voice sounds slightly outraged. “No achievements? Stories from her youth?”
“Jeez, you don’t give up, do you?” Diamanté rips her iPod speakers out of her ears. “Can’t you tell we’re only here because we have to be? She didn’t do anything special. She didn’t achieve anything. She was nobody! Just some million-year-old nobody.”
“Diamanté!” says Aunt Trudy in mild reproof. “That’s not very nice.”
“It’s true, though, isn’t it? I mean, look!” She gestures scornfully around the empty room. “If only six people came to my funeral, I’d shoot myself.”
“Young lady.” The vicar takes a few steps forward, her face flushing with anger. “No human on God’s earth is a nobody.”
“Yeah, whatever,” says Diamanté rudely, and I can see the vicar opening her mouth to make another retort.
“Diamanté.” Uncle Bill lifts a hand quickly. “Enough. Obviously I myself regret not visiting Sadie, who I’m sure was a very special person, and I’m sure I speak for all of us.” He’s so charming, I can see the vicar’s ruffled feathers being smoothed. “But now what we’d like to do is send her off with dignity. I expect you have a tight schedule, as do we.” He taps his watch.
“Indeed,” says the vicar after a pause. “I’ll just prepare. In the meantime, please switch off your mobile phones.” With a last disapproving look around at us all, she heads out again, and Aunt Trudy immediately turns in her seat.
“What a nerve, giving us a guilt trip! We don’t have to be here, you know.”
The door opens and we all look up-but it’s not the vicar, it’s Tonya. I didn’t know she was coming. This day just got about a hundred percent worse.
“Have I missed it?” Her pneumatic drill of a voice fills the room as she strides down the aisle. “I just managed to scoot away from Toddler Gym before the twins had a meltdown. Honestly, this au pair is worse than the last one, and that’s saying something…”
She’s wearing black trousers and a black cardigan trimmed with leopard print, her thick highlighted hair pulled back in a ponytail. Tonya used to be an office manager at Shell and boss people around all day. Now she’s a full-time mum of twin boys, Lorcan and Declan, and bosses her poor au pairs around instead.
“How are the boys?” asks Mum, but Tonya doesn’t notice. She’s totally focused on Uncle Bill.
“Uncle Bill, I read your book! It was amazing! It changed my life. I’ve told everyone about it. And the photo is wonderful, although it doesn’t do you justice.”
“Thanks, sweetheart.” Bill shoots her his standard yes-I-know-I’m-brilliant smile, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
“Isn’t it a fantastic book?” She appeals around to the rest of us. “Isn’t Uncle Bill a genius? To start with absolutely nothing! Just two coins and a big dream! It’s so inspiring for humanity!”
She’s such a suck-up, I want to hurl. Mum and Dad obviously feel the same way, as neither of them answers. Uncle Bill isn’t paying her any attention either. Reluctantly, she swivels around on her heel.
“How are you, Lara? I’ve hardly seen you lately! You’ve been hiding!” Her eyes start focusing in on me with intent as she comes nearer and I shrink away. Uh-oh. I know that look.
My sister, Tonya, basically has three facial expressions:
1) Totally blank and bovine.
2) Loud, showy-offy laughter, as in “Uncle Bill, you kill me!”
3) Gloating delight masked as sympathy as she picks away at someone else’s misery. She’s addicted to the Real Life channel and books with tragic, scruffy kids on the cover, called things like Please, Grammy, Don’t Hit Me with the Mangle .