The Unknown Bridesmaid. by Margaret Forster
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When Julia was eight, she was asked to be a bridesmaid at her beautiful cousin Iris' wedding. Her mother saw this as a chore - expensive, inconvenient - but Julia was thrilled. When the time came, even the fact that her bridesmaid's dress didn't fit, and was plain cream rather than the pink she'd hoped for, couldn't ruin the day. But after this, things began to go wrong for Julia, starting with an episode involving her cousin's baby, a pram and a secret trip round the block. A lifetime later, Julia is a child psychologist who every day deals with young girls said to be behaving badly. Some are stealing, some are running away from home, some are terribly untidy, some won't eat or get out of bed. Julia has a special knack with these girls. She understands which really are troubled, and which are at the mercy of the way they are seen by the adults around them. But one day, Julia's own troubled past starts to creep into her present. And as she struggles to understand her childhood self, she must confront the possibility that the truth may not be as devastating as she feared.
as you have been behaving?’ ‘I can’t help how I behave,’ Hera said. ‘Oh, but you can,’ Julia said, ‘saying that is stupid.’ This could go on forever or at least for the rest of the remaining twenty minutes. ‘Have you ever been hit, Hera?’ Julia asked. ‘Slapped? Smacked? Pushed around?’ Hera shrugged. ‘What does that shrug mean?’ Julia asked. ‘Yes? No? You can’t remember?’ ‘I suppose,’ Hera said. ‘Suppose what?’ ‘Well, I expect I was smacked when I was little, how should I know?’ ‘Your
said out loud, just as her mother was in the habit of doing when a minor catastrophe was averted, and again, ‘phew.’ She put the brake on the pram and peered at little Reggie. He had come free of the white cotton cover (a lacy affair, very lightweight because of the heat) so she put it over him again, very neatly, and then carried on pushing the pram back to the garden. She went at a quicker pace than before, anxious now to get the pram back in the position it had been in when she had decided to
coffee it produced a bit strong. So did Iris, but she persevered bravely and came to like it. Julia went with her sometimes to buy the coffee. She’d imagined the man who managed it would be foreign, Italian or French maybe, and old, but he was young and English, and though not conventionally handsome (in Julia’s opinion) he was tall and strong-looking and had black curly hair, worn quite long. He gave Iris a great welcome, and Julia saw how she blushed and smiled and, on the way out, hummed. ‘Do
of this to Julia. ‘Painless’ was a word used frequently. ‘There would have been no time,’ Aunt Maureen assured her, ‘to worry about you.’ Julia resented this, but said nothing. She said nothing for days. There was plenty of talking around her, but she didn’t take part in it. Everyone was kind, but she hated them all. She longed for them all to go away, but that was the one thing they would not do. She must, they said to each other, never be left alone. There was no doubt about it: she needed her
of her character for Elsa to have managed. So Julia reckoned she would have had to have been accused of, in some way, casting Carlo in a bad light, without Carlo being responsible for whatever was alleged to have happened. What could she have done to Carlo that Iris refused to believe, but now, with him lying in hospital dying, she had decided to believe, and why? Why, at this late stage (in every sense), change her mind? By dawn, the light creeping greyly through the window, Julia had come to a