There are memories that haunt Irma, now. After. The girls at school, that final day – and the near-riot that had greeted her ill-considered visit. The haunted look on Dianne’s face.
And yet nothing will haunt Irma in quite the same way as the morning that Miranda told poor little Sara that she must learn to love other people.
It had been all Irma’s fault, after all. She’d been the one who gone to Miranda; told her that Sara loved her too much. Told her – whispering in Miranda’s ear at the end of a hazy afternoon in the grounds of Appleyard College – that she had to let the girl down easily now, rather than hurting her more, later on. Threatened Miranda, even later, between kisses and gentle nips at her neck and earlobes, in the room Irma had to herself. ‘I’ll lock you out,’ she said. ‘You have to tell Sara that you can never be hers. You’re mine, Miranda. All mine. She can never have you,’ Irma said, her fingers swirling over Miranda’s hipbones and dipping a little lower, and then lower.
Miranda gasped, pushing against Irma’s hand, not to deflect it, but rather to encourage her explorations. ‘I’ll tell her,’ she promised. ‘I’ll tell her. I’m yours, Irma, forever,’ she babbled.
‘Mine!’ said Irma, victorious. And as Sara gave Miranda her card on the morning of St Valentine’s Day, Irma was there when Miranda told her. ‘You must learn to love other people, Sara. You can’t love only me; I won’t always be here. I’ll be going home.’
‘But I’ll still love you,’ Sara said. ‘I’ll always love you.’
‘Oh Sara,’ said Miranda. ‘You must.’
‘No,’ Sarah said. ‘I can’t.’
She had said the words so simply, as though they were simple truth.
And now Irma is left alone with those words. Miranda is gone. Sara is gone. There is only Irma, and the remembered sound of Miranda’s gasps, light and ticklish against Irma’s ears, in that fairy-tale existence that was their past.