Extract from end of the first chapter: Make The Best Of A Bad Job
The wardrobe smelt of lily of the valley, of dust, mothballs and furniture polish. And it smelt of the past because it had always smelt of these things. She was shocked to feel a sense of guilt on opening it. Its contents were secret and forbidden, more so even than those of the letters she had read. Clothing is more intimately personal, perhaps, being of the body not of the mind. She saw a summer dress she remembered - a full cotton smock hand made and worn by her mother sometime in the seventies when such things were briefly fashionable. It saddened Georgie that her mother had kept it long after she could have worn it, and that no-one would wear it now. She took up the flowered cotton in her hands and buried her face in it, stroking her cheek with the cloth that her mother had chosen, cut, sewn and worn, that had touched her and moved with her. She breathed in its scent as if she might smell her living mother, but it was faintly chemical, it was only an object after all. She let it go, smoothing out the crease she had given it.And that was when, with a shock of recognition that made her gasp, she saw the cello case. 'Oh my God, ' she whispered, staring in disbelief. 'Oh my God, they kept it.' Without ever mentioning that it was there. Expecting her to retrieve it? Willing her to ask about it? They kept it in a place where they might see it every day, but Georgie never would.
She reached down for the handle. Awkwardly she manoevered the case out of its home amongst shoes and bags, tugging it between dresses and jackets, polythene sliding over polythene, coat hangers jangling. The case was in perfect condition, just a little dusty. She rested it on the floor, tentatively undid the catch and lifted the lid. There lay the cello like a sleeping beauty, unconcerned, shining, waiting for its moment, beside the bow which was still secure in its velvet loop, though it had lost some hair. Gently she lifted the instrument from its coffin. She drew one finger down the glossy burnished surface of its belly, and let it rest on the fattest string. The string was rusty, but it murmured - bottom C, very flat. She adjusted the endpin, sat down on the bed, wedged the cello's wooden body between her thighs and hesitated. How long ago? It must be thirty-five years. Oh so many! No it couldn't be so many! The knobs creaked as she adjusted the tension of the strings, gingerly testing each with a finger tap.
For a moment she thought that nothing would come to her hands. Silently she decided she must lay it down, she must forget again what she had already so studiously forgotten. But without her willing it, some unconscious force came to her aid. Something touched her left fingers and placed them against the strings, something leant against her right arm and encouraged the bow across them. Sounds came out, scrapey and ancient, but singing, just about.
It was the first tune she had ever played properly, taught by someone who had taught her so many things. It caught at Georgie's heart, confusingly. She hadn't thought about that someone for a long long time.
'Full fathom five, thy father lies. Of his bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were his eyes. Nothing of him which doth fade but doth suffer a sea change into something rich and strange. Sea nymphs hourly ring his nell. Ding dong ding dong ding. Ding dong ding dong ding. Ding dong ding dong ding. Dong dell.'
Through decades of rust the cello's plangent tones called everything back to her, all at once and as it was. The pinks and creams of her bedroom, her dolls, Silas, the dark wood flooring and the home-made rug, the view from her window of silver birch and elms, her satchel, annuals, fountain pens and dog-eared exercise books, French and Latin, the smell of talcum powder and lemon soap, the wobbly landing, the glossy wooden staircase and the front hall full of coats and hats and wellies, the glass shelves, the kitchen table, the Welsh dresser, parquet floor, bookcases, sofas, huge sliding windows and the garden, the apple trees, the pool, the summer house. Will.
Her mother, her father, fixed in that special time and place. Swimming in gold, drenched in heat. She could picture it all so clearly it seemed absurd and impossible that it had gone. And that strange person had gone - blotted out of memory.
Come on Geegee don't waste time, she thought. This is nothing to do with anything at all and there's work to do.She laid the cello carefully back in its case, and knelt down beside it, wrestling with unnameable feelings.