Twenties Girl

Page 9


“I haven’t seen you since you split up with Josh. What a shame. You two seemed so perfect together!” Tonya tilts her head sorrowfully. “Didn’t they seem perfect together, Mum?”
“Well, it didn’t work out.” I try to sound matter-of-fact. “So anyway…”
“What went wrong?” She gives me that doe-eyed, fake-concerned look she gets when something bad happens to another person and she’s really, really enjoying it.
“These things happen.” I shrug.
“But they don’t, though, do they? There’s always a reason.” Tonya is relentless. “Didn’t he say anything?”
“Tonya,” Dad puts in gently. “Is this the best time?”
“Dad, I’m just supporting Lara,” Tonya says, in affront. “It’s always best to talk these things through! So, was there someone else?” Her eyes swivel back to me.
“I don’t think so.”
“Were you getting on OK?”
“Then why?” She folds her arms, looking baffled and almost accusing. “Why?”
I don’t know why! I want to scream. Don’t you think I’ve asked myself that question a bazillion times?
“It was just one of those things!” I force a smile. “I’m fine about it. I’ve realized that it wasn’t meant to be, and I’ve moved on and I’m in a good place. I’m really happy.”
“You don’t look happy.” Diamanté observes from across the aisle. “Does she, Mum?”
Aunt Trudy surveys me for a few moments.
“No,” she says at last, in definitive tones. “She doesn’t look happy.”
“Well, I am!” I can feel tears stinging my eyes. “I’m just hiding it! I’m really, really, really happy!”
God, I hate all my relatives.
“Tonya, darling, sit down,” Mum says tactfully. “How did the school visit go?”
Blinking hard, I get out my phone and pretend to be checking my messages so no one bothers me. Then, before I can stop it, my finger scrolls down to photos.
Don’t look , I tell myself firmly. Do not look .
But my fingers won’t obey me. It’s an overwhelming compulsion. I have to have one quick look, just to keep me going… my fingers are scrabbling as I summon up my favorite picture. Josh and me. Standing together on a mountain slope, arms around each other, both with ski tans. Josh’s fair hair is curling over the goggles thrust up on his head. He’s smiling at me with that perfect dimple in his cheek, that dimple I used to push my finger into, like a toddler with Play-Doh.
We first met at a Guy Fawkes party, standing around a fire in a garden in Clapham that belonged to a girl I knew at university. Josh was handing out sparklers to everyone. He lit one for me and asked me what my name was and wrote Lara in the darkness with his sparkler, and I laughed and asked his name. We wrote each other’s names in the air until the sparklers went dead, then edged closer to the fire and sipped mulled wine and reminisced about fireworks parties of our childhoods. Everything we said chimed. We laughed at the same things. I’d never met anyone so easygoing. Or with such a cute smile. I can’t imagine him being with anyone else. I just can’t…
“All right, Lara?” Dad is glancing over at me.
“Yes!” I say brightly, and jab off the phone before he can see the screen. As organ Muzak begins, I sink back in my chair, consumed with misery. I should never have come today. I should have made up an excuse. I hate my family and I hate funerals and there isn’t even any good coffee and-
“Where’s my necklace?” A girl’s distant voice interrupts my thoughts.
I glance around to see who it is, but there’s no one behind me. Who was that?
“Where’s my necklace?” the faint voice comes again. It’s high and imperious and quite posh-sounding. Is it coming from the phone? Didn’t I turn it off properly? I pull my phone out of my bag-but the screen is dead.
“Where’s my necklace?” Now the voice sounds as though it’s right in my ear. I flinch and look all around in bewilderment.
What’s even weirder is, no one else seems to have noticed.
“Mum.” I lean over. “Did you hear something just now? Like… a voice?”
“A voice?” Mum looks puzzled. “No, darling. What kind of voice?”
“It was a girl’s voice, just a moment ago…” I stop as I see a familiar look of anxiety coming over Mum’s face. I can almost see her thoughts, in a bubble: Dear God, my daughter’s hearing voices in her head .