Look at her down there, all crumpled. Her dress all rumpled.
She wouldn’t like that. She was always so neat.
She wouldn’t like the blood, so dark and messy.
You were always so perfect, Anna. You were always so bright and shiny, as if you were sparkly new every day.
“My Diamond,” Mom always said.
And who was I, then?
Who was I while you were Little Miss Perfect?
Well, you’re perfect now. You’re perfectly dead, ha ha.
In the window overlooking the patio, the curtains rustle. Dad’s arm tenses around me; I know he saw it too. Someone – one of Kat’s parents – watching us, maybe, studying the words forming on our lips.
But when we make our way into the kitchen, it’s empty, silent except for the hum of the fridge. The floor tiles are gleaming white, not a trace of the mess that was there earlier.
The house in Oxford was beautiful in the morning. A long rectangle of sunlight cut into my bedroom and rested on the duvet. The Islip canvas in the guestroom was a river in motion and Ana had placed it behind the bed, facing the window, so that it was hard to tell what was the effect of the pain and what was the real light in the room. I kicked off the cover and stretched into the warm day. For a moment I imagined the house was mine, and empty. I would take a book from the study and spend the morning in the garden. There would be no need to talk to anybody all day.
I flipped through the book and landed on page 163.
I was fourteen when Joel and Edwin left for university. Miserable at school, short-tempered with Danny at home, I began to dream of Joel returning and declaring he’d fallen love with me. I longed to leave the sneers of my classmates behind, and marry Joel, and live happily ever after with him at Summerbourne.
How I miss the days when love seemed so obvious and simple.
My fledgling romantic hopes were crushed a couple of weeks before my fifteenth birthday. I don’t relish revisiting that memory now, but it occurs to me for the first time that something Joel said that day might be linked in some way to what happened when Danny and I were born.