Justine is Peony’s best friend. They went through secondary school together and were comically ill-matched, my daughter a rather jolly, sporty, strong kind of girl, and Justine moribund. Sallow. One of those very internal types.
Justine’s parents are artists – suspiciously wealthy ones – and they live in the conservation area which already pissed me off about them, given that artists should surely be scratching a living. Anyway, they are glamorous and well-connected and their only daughter, also an artist, moves in quite different circles to my more sensible girl.
By all accounts she’s not half bad as an artist. Her medium is grass, which she uses to great effect, I believe. There’s unquestionable talent there. She went to art school on and off and lives in town now in a flat which her parents bought specifically for her.
My Peony did the right thing in going up North to university and I thought that mixing with real people might cure her of that rather strenuous friendship but nothing of the sort happened. She and Justine remained stubbornly devoted to each other and for the life of me I can’t see what bonds them together.
Now here’s the thing I didn’t know and here’s the way I found it out.
Two days ago on a day as beautiful and mellow and golden as this one (though I can’t quite appreciate its beauty at the moment and I think you’ll forgive me for that), I tapped on Peony’s bedroom door and called in that we should take Ken for a walk and make the most of the September warmth. She’d been out all morning and had come home while I was in the garden and I’d only known about her presence when her radio went on and the clapping proceeded. A lot of clapping. I’d never heard her clapping so much. And every now and again she’d sing out: “Cos I’m happy!” or “Ha-ppy, ha-ppy, ha-ppy.”
The door opened at once and her lovely round face appeared at the crack and though her expression seemed weary, she managed to smile.
“Right ho, Mum. Good idea,” she beamed. “Might I just fetch something first?”
I assumed she meant a cardigan.
“You won’t be needing one, darling,” I called and craned my neck to see inside her room.
I can’t go on right now. I’m all overwrought again. Wait a bit, would you.
Oh it wasn’t a cardigan!