Before the ceremony began, the woman with hairy legs and an air of having just abandoned a cigarette wandered as though at a party to the coffin where – though it was impossible and not so – Clelia’s mother, Margaret, was. Three days ago, four days ago, Clelia had said to her mother, ‘Come and see the blossom I’ve brought back.’ She had just returned to Sydney after a three-week absence in the mountains.
‘Can’t it come to me?’
‘No,’ she said gaily, insistently, not thinking really, never wondering. ‘No, you’ll have to come out here. It’s so tall. I can’t move the vase.’
So her mother left her chair in Clelia’s sitting room and walked through to the kitchen, where the bower of japonica and peach and pear blossom was.
After the two-hour weekly visit permitted by Theo they said goodbye beside the car in the black soft night.
‘I’ll hear from you before you go away next week?’ her mother asked, knowing, saying nothing.
‘Of course. Naturally.’
‘I do feel old tonight,’ her mother said, knowing.
‘No.’ She smiled and hugged her. ‘No, you’re not.’