“I didn’t mean anything,” Sander offers softly after a moment’s pause.
Penny blinks at him slowly. “I know,” she replies.
For a few minutes, they eat their soup in silence. Sander thinks about Victoria in Venice and the fact that he mentioned the cost of Christmas and wrestles with his sense of guilt. For they both know that he hasn’t contributed financially for years.
Yes, he still sells the occasional painting, but he hasn’t made any serious money from his work since the noughties. Continue reading
Part One: Two Sisters.
Penny glances at her buzzing mobile then, continuing to stir the soup, she leans over to study the screen on which a single word is flashing: Vicky.
She sighs. She probably has about eight buzzes left before she has to decide what to do. She loves her sister – forty-five years of shared history makes that a given. But it doesn’t mean that Victoria is an easy person to love, and it doesn’t make their relationship an effortless one, either. So Penny generally attempts, at least, to choose the most fortuitous moment in which to speak to her sister. She tries to wait until a positive outcome seems feasible.
She gives the soup another stir as she glances back at her husband, Sander, seated behind her. He raises one eyebrow. She returns her gaze to the phone, now vibrating gently across the worktop, slowly making its way towards the abyss. Continue reading
Christmas Eve, 1975, Margate.
Penny descends the staircase, banging the feet of her doll against the bannisters as she does so. They make a series of satisfying, almost musical, twangs.
The sun is shining through the stained glass window above the front door, casting colourful geometric patterns across the floor tiles.
At the base of the stairs she swings for a moment on the large final bannister. The lounge door is ajar and peering in she can see one edge of the television screen, her mother’s slippered foot, and a single branch of the Christmas tree. Continue reading