I was born in the mortuary. Topsy-turvy, I know, but that’s the truth of it. My mother said the slab was cold and hard, but that she was in no fit state to quarrel at the time. They named me Violet, for the flower – the twin to my mother’s name, Iris. I think they were hoping I would be a Shrinking Violet, modest and shy, but it was soon apparent that I was not.
My middle name is Victoria, after the queen. They said she was in mourning for her husband these days, roaming the palace dressed only in black. I didn’t see anything unusual about that. Father had clothed us in dark and sombre colours for as long as I could remember. ‘We’re always in mourning for someone,’ he’d say.
Being on the edge of life and death was a funny thing. Sometimes, out among the graves, I could sense the dead. It was just a feeling – an echo of emotion, a scattering of words. It was just a part of me, and I had grown used to it – grown used to keeping quiet about it too, because all I got were strange looks and shushes from grown-ups if I were to mention it.
Often the dead didn’t have much to say. But I was soon to encounter a dead person who had a lot more to say than usual.
The day of the miracle, I had recently turned thirteen years old, and I was out collecting apples in the cemetery. I took a bite of one and it was as crisp as the autumn air. My black greyhound, Bones, ran circles around my feet, sniffing the ground with his long nose.
Bones was a fairly recent addition to the family. I had found him wandering amongst the headstones. As soon as he’d spotted me, he wouldn’t leave me alone. He wore no collar and looked skinny – but then all greyhounds do.
I named him Bones, because growing up as the daughter of an undertaker and living, as we did, beside a graveyard, it just seemed fitting. I fed him scraps and begged Mother to let me keep him. She said no. So I asked Father, who said maybe. Mother finally gave in and said I could have him, but all the same, she made Bones sleep outside.