Home > The House We Grew Up In(6)

The House We Grew Up In(6)
Lisa Jewell

‘Look, Meggy,’ she said, her head appearing around the door. ‘Look. A rainbow! Quick!’

Meg glanced up from her revision, spread before her on the kitchen table, and smiled encouragingly. ‘In a minute,’ she said.

‘No!’ cried her mother. ‘It’ll be gone in a minute. Come and look now!’

Meg sighed and rested her pen on her notepad. ‘OK,’ she said.

She joined her mother outside, feeling the wetness of the flagstones seeping through her sheepskin slippers.

‘Beth!’ her mother called back into the kitchen. ‘Boys! Come quickly!’

‘They’re watching telly,’ said Meg. ‘They won’t be able to hear you.’

‘Go and get them, will you, darling?’

‘They won’t come.’

‘Of course they will. Quick, darling, run in and tell them.’

Meg knew it was pointless to argue. She sighed again and headed towards the sitting room. Her three siblings sat in a row on the grubby sofa with the dog lying listlessly between them. They were watching Saturday Superstore and eating carrot sticks.

‘Mum says there’s a rainbow,’ she said defeatedly. ‘She wants you to go and look at it.’

No one acknowledged her so she returned to her mother with the bad news.

Lorelei sighed melodramatically. ‘That’s a terrible pity,’ she said. ‘And look,’ she gestured at the sky, ‘now it’s gone. Gone for good. For ever …’ A small tear rolled down the side of her nose and she wiped it away with a bunched-up fist, the way a small child might do. ‘Such a pity,’ she murmured, ‘to miss a rainbow …’ Then she forced her face into a smile and said, ‘Ah well, at least one of you saw it. You can always describe it to the others.’

Meg smiled tightly. As if, she thought to herself, as if I will sit with my siblings and regale them with descriptions of the red and the yellow and the pink and the green, the awe and the splendour of the purple and the orange and the blue, the miracle of distant prismatic stripes. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Maybe, later.’

It was still raining the next day. Lorelei insisted on the egg hunt taking place regardless.

‘Let’s do it indoors, darling,’ Colin had suggested gently.

‘No way, Jose!’ Lorelei had countered. ‘Easter Sunday is egg hunt in the garden. Rain or no rain. Isn’t that right, kiddies?’

Meg looked out towards the garden, through the rain-splattered panes of glass, and thought of her hair, lovingly backcombed that morning into a fat quiff and sprayed hard with Elnett. She thought of the muddy lawn and the cold, wet grass and her canvas pumps, and she thought of her drainpipe jeans that she’d had trouble squeezing into this morning, and the date she was going on next week for which she planned on being able to wear said jeans, not to mention the troublesome spot forming on her chin.

The twins jumped into their wellington boots and cagoules, while Lorelei ran around in the rain, planting her eggs in the garden. Meg watched her through the window. She looked like a wraith, long and lean, in a cream muslin smock, faded jeans, green wellingtons and a floppy-brimmed straw hat, her long hair sticking wet to her back, her small breasts growing visible through the fabric of her top as it dampened. Her face was shining with joy as she hopped from spot to spot, plucking eggs from a straw basket held in the crook of her arm.

The boys stood in the doorway, bristling with anticipation. At just turned eleven years old they could still be held rapt by Lorelei with her enthusiasm and childlike charm. Her babies, still, just about.

‘Ready, steady, go!’ she called out a moment later, and the boys hared out on to the lawn, followed more sedately by Bethan in a pink polka-dot raincoat and rubber boots.

‘Meggy?’ Her mother stared at her curiously. ‘No eggs?’

‘I’ll leave them for the others,’ said Meg, hoping a suggestion of sibling-oriented kindness might prevent further urging.

‘There’s lots to go round. Tons and tons.’

Meg shrugged. ‘I don’t want my hair to get wet.’

‘Oh, for goodness’ sake. That’s no excuse. Put on a rain cap, here …’ She pulled a clear plastic hood from a drawer and forced it into Meg’s hands.

Meg stared at it aghast. ‘I’m not wearing that!’

‘Why on earth not?’

‘Because it’s an old lady’s hat.’

‘It is not! It’s my hat!’

‘Exactly.’

Lorelei threw her head back and laughed hard. ‘Oh, darling,’ she said, ‘one day, God willing, you’ll be forty too, and I promise you, you will not feel a day over eighteen. Not a day. Now put the hat on and come and have some fun with the little ones. Imagine,’ she said, her face turning serious for a moment, ‘imagine if something happened to one of us and there was no Easter egg hunt next year, imagine if everything stopped being perfect – you would wish so hard that you’d taken part today …’

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