Authors: Rebecca Chance
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #dpgroup.org
Deeley couldn’t read anything into this last statement. Was the woman making a sly comment on Bill’s abuse of Maxie? Or was she ignorant of it?
Somehow it was hard to imagine this woman being ignorant of anything.
‘I live just down the road,’ the woman continued casually. ‘Used to know Bill quite well. He really took to your mum. Met her in our local. More fool him. She was a bad lot. Very pretty, but a bad lot.’
Deeley shrugged; she couldn’t argue with that.
‘Dead now,’ the woman said, dragging on her cigarette as if it were her main source of nutrition, never taking her eyes from Deeley’s even as the thin grey coil of smoke rose between them. ‘Overdosed, didn’t she?’
Deeley had been too nervous of the woman to call a halt to the conversation before, but somehow the mention of her mother started to ring alarm bells inside her head. This woman knew a lot about her mother and Bill, and she had clearly not just been walking down the street when she saw Deeley standing in front of the house and stopped for a chat. She found herself glancing down at the woman’s feet, and realized that what she’d taken for Uggs weren’t boots at all. They were slippers. Big furry pink slippers.
The woman had seen her from inside her house, somewhere down the road. Had grabbed her packet of fags and nipped out to confront Deeley without even bothering to put some outside shoes on, though it had rained earlier and the pavement was still damp.
The alarm bells inside Deeley’s skull were ringing even louder now.
‘I should really be going,’ she said. ‘I’ve got a train to catch.’ She would have looked at her watch, to pantomime checking the time, but it was a diamond-studded Piaget, a gift from Nicky two Christmases ago, and she sensed very strongly that the best place for it right now was tucked invisibly under the cuff of her sweater.
‘We remember you girls,’ the woman said conversationally, ignoring Deeley’s words. ‘Three of you, there were. One married some MP . . .’ She spat over her shoulder, an impressive amount of phlegm spattering on the pavement. ‘And the middle one’s on telly. Married that rugby player, got a bit lardy. And you’ve done well for yourself too, eh? That isn’t hard to spot. You’ve got a bit of a nerve coming back here all dressed up like that, Deeley McKenna.’
Deeley couldn’t help it; she jumped at the mention of her name. The woman smiled slyly.
‘Oh yes, not much gets past me,’ she said. ‘Memory like an elephant.’ She tapped the side of her head with one garishly painted, long, chipped nail. ‘It goes in here and it doesn’t come out. Takes me a while, sometimes, but I don’t forget a name or a face.’
She leaned in towards Deeley, the beer and nicotine on her breath so strong that Deeley had to try hard not to gag.
‘So, Deeley McKenna, you turn around right now and go back where you came from. Somewhere a lot better than this, I’m sure. You stay away from us and we’ll stay away from you. There’s nothing left for you in this shithole. Is there?’
The last two words shot out like bullets from a gun; the woman’s head jerking forward on her neck like a turkey’s, shoving her face even closer to her target. Deeley gulped, taken completely by surprise, aware that the woman was staring up at her with absolute intent, taking in every nuance of Deeley’s response and analyzing it with a precision that would have done credit to a CIA interrogator.
‘No!’ she answered automatically, because it was the truth. There was nothing for her here. Nothing but a crumbling pebbledash semi with an overgrown sycamore tree in the back garden. Nothing but a few memories that she couldn’t trust anyway.
The head backed away. The woman nodded, the first smile Deeley had seen on her face momentarily twisting her lips. It wasn’t a nice smile at all. Deeley could happily have lived without ever seeing it.
‘Good,’ she said slowly, throwing the second cigarette into the street with a flick of her fingers. ‘So off you go, then. First left, left again when you see Burger King, and down the parade back to the station. Back to your nice smart life with all your money and your rich men buying you things. And you tell your sisters that one visit was enough. None of us wants to see you back here, walking around all dressed up like you’re better than us. If I see you round here again, I won’t be so friendly. You got the fucking red carpet this time, young lady. Don’t expect it again.’
She turned away, expecting no reply and getting none; her message had been delivered loud and clear. And Deeley, too, swung on her heel and walked back the way she’d come, concentrating very hard on not walking too fast, on not acting as if she were scared or intimidated.
Even though she was. That woman had scared the living daylights out of her.
Her warning had been, as far as Deeley was concerned, 100 per cent successful. She was never coming back here. The past was firmly put behind her now, and it was going to stay there forever.