A strange energy has gripped the house.
I don’t know if it’s Clementine, or her turnip stew or curried bean casserole, but even the garden has exploded. The runner beans are sprouting bright crimson flowers and rocketing skywards. The peas are sporting delicate heads of white blossom, and the cabbages are plump and firm as footballs.
It was while we were scrubbing potatoes yesterday evening that Clementine opened up about Aunt Dee. We’d just finished watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s (over a tumbler or two of gin fizz) and were discussing the concept of elegance.
‘It’s to do with carriage,’ Clementine said.
‘I would have thought it was more to do with clothes,’ I ventured.
‘No.’ She shook her head and dropped a potato into the pot. Plop! ‘It’s carriage. That’s it. That’s the secret to elegance.’
For someone who seems so unassertive, you can be surprisingly bloody definite, I thought.
‘What about someone like . . Jane Russell?’ I said. ‘Do you think she was elegant?’
Clementine’s hands froze, mid scrub.
‘Jane Russell?’ she murmured faintly
I’ve suspected for some time she knows more about Aunt Dee’s secret other life than she’s letting on. Now I was almost sure of it.
‘Yes. As a matter of fact I found a card from her, with a personal message to Dee,’ I said, watching her carefully. Clementine’s face went a funny red colour, almost the same tone as her lipstick, and I noticed with guilty horror that her hands had started to shake.
‘Clementine?’ I whispered. ‘Are you alright?
‘I just . . need to sit down for a moment,’ Clementine muttered, sliding onto a kitchen chair. I fetched her a glass of water and sat down across from her. She took a sip and a spot of colour came slowly back into her cheeks
‘Tell me the truth,’ I pleaded. ‘What are you trying to keep from me about my Aunt?’
Clementine stared darkly at me. Her head scarf had slipped sideways, making her look lopsided and off balance.
‘Alright,’ she whispered finally. ‘I suppose it may as well be tonight.’