The girl lay on a blazing white towel, short legs sprawled in front of her. Shadows, as black as her bathing costume, cast her into a negative. Hearing large feet crunching on the gravel path, she sat up, scowling. She ran her hands through her untidy bobbed hair as she called across the lawn.
“Where have you been? Bill will think you an ungrateful beast to disappear from his party for the whole weekend!”
“I’ve only been gone for a few hours, and nobody at all was awake when I left. I hardly think you’ve been missing me quite so much as you make out, my dear.”
George yawned, stretching his long body out on the springy yellow-green grass beside her.
This exaggeration was typical of his fiery, self-absorbed sister. There was nothing to be done about it though. Pauline absolutely refused to be squashed. Whatever was said to her, she bounced it off like India rubber.
“I suppose you were off with your camera, darling, so I shall forgive you. Mr Oliver arrives this afternoon, though, so you will have plenty to photograph here. Oh, I am longing to meet him!”
“I should say so! Bill pulled off quite the coup getting him to stop off in this sleepy corner of Devon.”
“I expect he’s terribly tired from raising such Hell in Paris.” Pauline lit the cigarette she had been dangling between two chipped, red-tipped fingers, and inhaled in her nervy way. She tossed the pack to George.
“You will photograph him, of course? It could be quite the coup for you too.”
“I’ve talked it over with Bill and he’s OK with me making a pitch, anyway. Said some jolly flattering things about my plates in June’s Vogue to boot.” He smoothed his hand over his already impeccable hair and tried without success to look modest.
“So he should, darling, they were splendid.” Pauline looked vaguely out past the house at the sea view, which looked, in the dazzling sunlight, as flatly pretty and unremarkable as any cheap magazine illustration.
“I shall be feted as a genius one day, like you and Edward Oliver.”
“It’ll never happen, my dear, you’re a woman. And a beautiful one too. Doomed never to be taken seriously.”
“Only you would think to mix such flattery and beastliness together! I mean to be a great artist, just you watch!” She threw a crumpled paperback in the general direction of his head, and, laughing, went in to dress for luncheon.