Dómhnall's mother arrived yesterday evening, wearing a calf-length purple dress and blue and silver leggings, carrying a homemade carrot cake.
I made tea (Barry’s for me, rosehip for her) and we sat awkwardly at the kitchen table. She asked me where I’d bought the grapes in the fruitbowl. I told her Black Jack’s. (It’s sold fruit, sweets, potatoes, newspapers and sun-cream, along with everything else you could ever possibly need, for as long as I remember.) Then she asked me how the grapes had been packaged.
‘I really don’t know,’ I told her finally. I thought it was a strange question.
She took a sip of rosehip tea and stared darkly at the grapes.
‘Would you like one?’ I said.
‘No,’ she snapped, and for just a second she looked as though she was going to cry. ‘No, thank you,’ she said, more gently, shaking her head. ‘I’m sorry . . I shouldn’t have asked you about them. Can I see the broadbeans now?’
So we went outside and she examined them gravely and then she stood by the cleared earth and closed her eyes and when she opened them again, she smiled.
‘Your Aunt really loved this garden,’ she said.
‘How well did you know her?’ I asked curiously.
‘Well enough,’ she smiled.
‘Did she ever mention California to you?’ I said and right away her face changed.
‘California?’ she repeated warily.
‘Yes – I found some old hotel bills and a postcard. It looks like she went there, on and off, over the years.’
‘Oh,’ she said, her face clearing. ‘Yes. She did.’
‘I wonder what brought her there – kept her coming back?’
‘Oh. . . .’ she murmured, turning back towards the house. ‘Well . . your aunt loved the movies.’
I racked my brains for any memory of Aunt Dee and movies.
‘I don’t think she ever mentioned that,’ I said. Then I remembered the photo. ‘Do you mean she loved movie stars? Like Jane Russell?’
For a second she froze, then she tugged her wisp of a scarf a little tighter around her neck, mumbled something like ‘Jane Russell . . I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of her. Thank you for showing me the garden,’ and darted around the side of the house.
By the time I’d reached the front garden she’d vanished