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M
Y $I $TER RO$E lives on the mantelpiece. Well.
some ot her does. Three ot her tingers. her right
elbow and her kneecap are buried in a gravevard in London.
Mum and Dad had a big argument when the police tound
ten bits ot her bodv. Mum wanted a grave that she could visit.
Dad wanted a cremation and to sprinkle the ashes in the
sea. That's what lasmine told me anvwav. $he remembers
more than I do. I was onlv tive when it happened. lasmine
was ten. $he was Rose's twin. $till is. according to Mum
and Dad. Thev dressed las the same tor vears atter the
tuneral - tlowerv dresses. cardigans. those tlat shoes with
buckles that Rose used to love. I reckon that's whv Mum
ran ott with the man trom the support group seventv one
davs ago. When las cut ott all her hair. dved it pink and got
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.B indd 1 10/01/2011 15:29
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her nose pierced on her titteenth birthdav. she didn't look
like Rose anv more and mv parents couldn't hack it.
Thev each got tive bits. Mum put hers in a tancv
white cottin beneath a tancv white headstone that savs
!"# $%&'( on it. Dad burned a collarbone. two ribs. a bit
ot skull and a little toe and put the ashes in a golden urn.
$o thev both got their own wav. but surprise surprise it
didn't make them happv. Mum savs the gravevard's too
depressing to visit. And everv anniversarv Dad tries to
sprinkle the ashes but changes his mind at the last minute.
$omething seems to happen right when Rose is about
to be tipped into the sea. One vear in Devon there were
loads ot these swarming silver tish that looked like thev
couldn't wait to eat mv sister. And another vear in
Cornwall a seagull poohed on the urn just as Dad was
about to open it. I started to laugh but las looked sad so
I stopped.
We moved out ot London to get awav trom it all. Dad
knew someone who knew someone who rung him up about
a job on a building site in the Lake District. He hadn't
worked in London tor ages. There's a recession. which
means the countrv has no monev. so hardlv anvthing's
getting built. When he got the job in Ambleside.#we sold
our tlat and rented a cottage and lett Mum in London.#I bet
las tive whole pounds that Mum would come to wave us ott.
$he didn't make me pav when I lost. In the car las said )'*+,#
-(."#/#0-". but she couldn't guess 012'*34%&#5'&4%%4%&#64*3#7.#
even though Roger was sitting right on mv lap. purring as it
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.B indd 2 10/01/2011 15:29
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he was giving her a clue.
It's so ditterent here. There are massive mountains
that are tall enough to poke Ood up the bum. hundreds
ot trees. and it's ouiet. 81# -'1-(' I said. as we tound the
cottage down a twistv lane and I looked out ot the window
tor somebodv to plav with. 81#!9,(42,#Dad corrected me.
smiling tor the tirst time that dav. Me and las didn't smile
back as we got out ot the car.
Our cottage is the complete opposite ot our tlat in
Finsburv Park. It's white not brown. big not small. old not
new. Art's mv tavourite subject at school and. it I painted
the buildings as people. I would turn the cottage into a
crazv old grannv. smiling with no teeth. The tlat would
be a serious soldier all smart and souashed up in a row ot
identical men. Mum would love that. $he's a teacher at an
art college and I reckon she'd show everv single one ot her
students it I sent her mv pictures.
Even though Mum's in London. I was happv to leave the
tlat behind. Mv room was tinv but I wasn't allowed to swap
with Rose 'cos she's dead and her stutt's sacred. That was
the answer I alwavs got whenever I asked it I could move.
71,'+,#:112#4,#,.;:'<=#>.2',?#@1%+*#&1#4%#*3':'=#>.2',?#/*+,#,.;:'<?#
I don't see what's sacred about a bunch ot old dolls. a smellv
pink duvet and a bald teddv. Didn't teel that sacred when
I jumped up and down on Rose's bed one dav when I got
home trom school. las made me stop but she promised not
to tell.
When we'd got out ot the car. we stood and looked at
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.B indd 3 10/01/2011 15:29
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our new home. The sun was setting. the mountains glowed
orange and I could see our retlection in one ot the cottage
windows - Dad. las. me holding Roger. For a millisecond
I telt hopetul. like this reallv was the beginning ot a brand
new lite and evervthing was going to be okav trom now on.
Dad grabbed a suitcase and the kev out ot his pocket and
walked down the garden path. las grinned at me. stroked
Roger. then tollowed. I put the cat down. He crawled
straight into a bush. tail sticking out as he scrambled
through the leaves. A12'#1% las called. turning around at
the porch door. $he held out a hand as I ran to join her. We
walked into the cottage together.
las saw it tirst. I telt her arm go stitt. @1# "19# 6.%*# .# ;9-#
1B#*'. she said. her voice too high and her eves on something
in Dad's hand. He was crouching on the lounge tloor.
his clothes thrown evervwhere as it he'd emptied his
suitcase in a rush. C3':'+,# *3'# D'**('# she asked. trving to
act normal. Dad didn't look up trom the urn. He spat
on it. polishing the gold with the end ot his sleeve 'til it
gleamed. Then he put mv sister on the mantelpiece.
which was cream and dustv and just like the one in the
tlat in London. and he whispered C'(;12'# *1# "19:# %'6#
312'=#,6''*3'.:*?
las picked the biggest room. It has an old tireplace in the
corner and a built·in wardrobe that she's tilled with all her
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.B indd 4 10/01/2011 15:29
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new black clothes. $he's hung wind chimes trom the beams
on the ceiling and thev tinkle it vou blow on them. I preter
mv room. The window overlooks the back garden. which
has a creakv apple tree and a pond. and there's this reallv
wide windowsill that las put a cushion on. The tirst night
we arrived. we sat on it tor ages. staring at the stars. I never
saw them in London. All the lights trom the buildings and
cars made it too bright to see anvthing in the skv. Here
the stars are reallv clear and las told me all about the
constellations. $he's into horoscopes and reads hers everv
morning on the Internet. It tells her exactlv what's going
to happen that dav. @1',%+*# 4*# ,-14(# *3'# ,9:-:4,'# I asked in
London when las pretended to be sick 'cos her horoscope
said something about an unexpected event. E3.*+,#*3'#-14%*#
she replied. getting back into bed and pulling the covers
over her head.

las is a Oemini. the svmbol ot the twins. which is strange
'cos she's not a twin anv more. I'm a Leo and mv svmbol
is the lion. las knelt up on the cushion and pointed at it
out ot the window. It didn't look much like an animal.
but las said that whenever I'm upset. I should think ot the
silver lion above mv head and evervthing will be all right. I
wanted to ask whv she was saving this stutt when Dad had
promised us a Fresh New $tart. but I thought ot the urn on
the mantelpiece and I was too scared ot the answer. Next
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morning. I tound an emptv vodka bottle in the bin and
I knew that lite in the Lake District would be exactlv the
same as lite in London.
That was two weeks ago. $ince the urn. Dad's unpacked
the old photo album and some ot his clothes. The removal
men did the big stutt like beds and the sota. and me and
las did evervthing else. The onlv boxes we haven't unpacked
are the huge ones marked $ACRED. Thev're in the
cellar covered with plastic bags to keep them drv in case
there's a tlood or something. When we closed the cellar
door. las's eves went all damp and smudgv. $he said
@1',%+*#4*#51*3':#"19 and I said 81 and she said C3"#%1* and
I said 71,'# 4,# <'.<. las screwed up her tace. @1%+*# 9,'# *3.*#
61:<. >.24'.
I don't see whv not. Dead. Dead. Dead dead dead.
F.,,'< .6." is what Mum savs. G1%'# *1# .# 5'**':# -(.;' is
Dad's phrase. He never goes to church so I don't
know whv he savs it. Lnless the better place he's talking
about is not Heaven but the inside ot a cottin or a
golden urn.
Mv counsellor in London said I was /%# <'%4.( .%<# ,*4((#
,9BB':4%&#B:12#,31;D. $he said /*#64((#34*#"19#1%'#<."#.%<#*3'%#
"19# 64((# ;:". Apparentlv I haven't since $eptember 9th
almost tive vears ago. which is when it happened. Last
vear. Mum and Dad sent me to that tat woman 'cos thev
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thought it was weird that I didn't crv about Rose. I wanted
to ask it thev'd crv about someone thev couldn't remember.
but I bit mv tongue.
That's the thing no one seems to get. I don't remember
Rose. Not reallv. I remember two girls on holidav plaving
lump The Wave. but I don't know where we were. or
what Rose said. or it she enjoved the game. And I know
mv sisters were bridesmaids at a neighbour's wedding.
but all I can picture is the tube ot $marties that Mum
gave me during the service. Even then I liked the red
ones best and I held them in mv hand until thev stained
mv skin pink. But I can't remember what Rose wore. or
how she looked walking down the aisle. or anvthing
like that. Atter the tuneral. when I asked las where
Rose was. she pointed at the urn on the mantelpiece. H16#
;.%# .# &4:(# B4*# 4%,4<'# ,12'*34%&# ,1# ,2.((# I said. which made
las crv. That's what she told me anvwav. I don't reallv
remember.
One dav tor homework I had to describe someone
special. and I spent titteen minutes writing a whole page
on Wavne Roonev. Mum made me rip it out and write
about Rose instead. I had nothing to sav so Mum sat
opposite me with her tace all red and wet and told me
exactlv what to put. $he smiled this tearv smile and
said C3'%#"19#6':'#51:%=#71,'#-14%*'<#.*#"19:#64(("#.%<#.,D'<#
4B#4*#6.,#.#61:2#and I said /+2#%1*#-9**4%&#*3.*#4%#2"#I%&(4,3#
511D. Mum's smile disappeared. Tears dripped ott her
nose onto her chin and it made me teel bad so I wrote it
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down. A tew davs later. the teacher read out mv homework
in class and I got a gold star trom her and teased bv evervone
else. !.&&1*#@4;D. thev called me.
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece.B indd 8 10/01/2011 15:29

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