“A bit,” she replied, standing up. “Peter told me. About my… about Marie.” Sylvia smiled, just like a cat, thought Carey.
“Dear Marie. Such a pretty girl. They’re always the type to fall, you know.”
“She was in love!” Sylvia waved a dismissive hand.
“Oh, I’m sure she thought she was. But it didn’t work out like she wanted. She didn’t get him. He was mine.” Her voice had taken on a harsher edge.
“Well, there we are then,” said Carey. “Turned out pretty badly for everyone. I-I think I’d better go back, now.” She made to return down the path, but Sylvia caught hold of her arm, sharp fingers digging in.
“Back where? To *her* lot? They won’t welcome you any more than my sister did. You, the child of a slut. And she thought she was good enough for him! Thought that he’d want her more than me!” Something flitted through her eyes, and Carey remembered what Peter had said.
“But… you thought that too, didn’t you?” she said, the realisation dawning. “You were terrified that he would want her and not you. That’s why you made that deal with her – you’d help her if she didn’t contact you.” For a moment, Sylvia’s expression was uncomprehending, then she nodded, eagerly.
“Yes! Yes, we had a deal. She just had to be quiet, just for a while. It was all so new; she couldn’t be allowed to ruin it.”
“I don’t understand. What was so new?”
“If he’d known – then – he’d have left me, you see. I knew he would. Conniving little bitch she was, with her fancy airs, and so pretty. And that would be wrong. He deserved something better than a second rate *dancer*. You know what that sort are like! But he’d married me! He’d had to. I made sure of that. That summer, I made sure. And he did it; I didn’t have to force him. He’s a gentleman, you see. He had to do the right thing.”
“That summer? But you were already…” The light dawned, and Carey stared at Sylvia, and realised that Peter had been right when he said she wasn’t quite rational. She felt those fingers dig deeper into her arm.
“You weren’t, were you? My father wasn’t married to you when he met Marie.”
“He should have been! Everyone knew it was only a matter of time!”
“But he hadn’t. And then he came back from Paris and… you must have been pregnant then. Was that why he married you?”
“It was only a matter of time! We were right for each other!”
“But then my mother appeared. And she was pregnant as well.”
“He was married to me! He was my husband!”
“You were afraid he’d leave you. So you made a deal.”
“She just had to be quiet, just for a while. But she wouldn’t, the little bitch! You wouldn’t.” Sylvia made a keening sound, and she shook Carey by the arm. “So positive, weren’t you, that he’d take you over me! And it wasn’t so bad, was it, the house? I looked after you.” Carey tried to pull away, but either her strength had gone or Sylvia’s had grown, because she couldn’t. She could only listen.
“I looked after you, made sure everything was just right. I was nice to you, more than you deserved. I found a home for your baby. But you had to come back.”
“I’m Mrs Shawcross. *I’m* Mrs Shawcross. Why did you come back, Marie? You know I can’t let you.” Sylvia wasn’t just a bit irrational, Carey realised, terrified. She was outright insane. She opened her mouth to scream, but Sylvia slapped a hand over her mouth, and hissed into her ear,
“You shouldn’t have come back, Marie.”
Hmm. I always wonder whether it's a plan having people *actually* barking mad, but never mind.