Jake could not meet his aunt’s gaze for long. The thick slapdash smudges beneath her cucumber green eyes, pencilled in as if with charcoal, had the effect of widening them into an expression of avid attention. There was a mineral hardness, a pinioning relentlessness about their staring quality.
“Such morbidity in a young man isn’t natural either, especially in the summer,” she said. “Perhaps you should seek psychiatric help? There have been quite a few loose screws in our family, you know. Poor Cynthia springs to mind.”
“Actually I was rather hoping you might reconsider loaning my friend Ivan that diary of hers you spoke about. He says he could have it back to you within twenty four hours.”
“That’s very considerate of him. Is he though, as a rule, as good as his word? Not that I care. You see, I don’t feel it’s up to me. It’s something Cynthia would have to decide.”
”She’s been dead for what, two hundred years?”
“Has he given any thought to contacting a medium? Cynthia, by all accounts, thrived on attention. She might react kindly to being awakened from her long sleep. I remember as a young girl I once participated in a séance.”
Lady Lydia finished her glass of gin and tonic and poured herself a new one.
“Someone, I recall, moved a glass about on some kind of board while we all closed our eyes and concentrated on an idea of infinity. Of course I had no idea of what infinity was in those days. And I didn’t like being told what to do either.” She stabbed her cigarette into the remains of the chicken wing where it continued to burn and ferment an eye-watering stink as the filter and fatty deposits of the dead bird smouldered.