I first saw it around my aunt’s neck on 12th April, 1986. Even at six years old, I wanted it. Glittery, with an air of the mysterious east about it, the necklace was a wedding present from her husband Jamil, whom she referred to as a native of the Indian sub-continent. It consisted of seven ravishingly fabulous blue diamonds. The necklace was priceless, and so it was insured for an undisclosed sum and most of the time, it resided at the bank, which seemed to me to be an awful waste.
No one knew exactly how Uncle Jam had made his money, and I grew up believing him to be a thief. I imagined him tugging the necklace from the neck of an Indian princess after strangling her. The gold strands upon which the diamonds hung were of a reddish hue, as if tinged with her blood.
When I was nineteen and going off to college, I decided to ask my aunt if I could have it.
‘I don’t mean now,’ I said. ‘After you’re dead. Will you leave it to me in your will?’
‘Vanessa,’ my mother squealed. ‘You can’t ask things like that. It’s rude.’
‘I don’t see why. She’ll want someone to inherit it, someone who really wants it. Anyway, Aunt Sarah doesn’t have any children. Who else is she going to leave it to?’
I was not prepared for the bombshell. Nearly forty-six and Aunt Sarah was pregnant. The baby was a girl. Jamilla, after her father. Pretty in an Indian princess kind of way. I hated her. Not only was she beautiful, she was going to inherit my diamonds. I couldn’t bear it. I was going to have to steal it the necklace, as Uncle Jam must have done, with or without the strangling.
It took me four years of scheming, until their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary proved to be the ideal opportunity. The party was on the Saturday and the necklace was going to be out of the bank for a whole week-end.
Aunt Sarah wore it all day. I spent a great deal of time making sure that Jamilla had lots of jewellery to play with, all rubbish of course, but sufficiently shiny to intrigue a small girl. I also showed her how to hide pieces in different places, where the jewellery fairy couldn’t find them and whisk them away.
The rest was easy.
When everyone had gone to bed, I crept into my aunt and uncle’s bedroom, and took the necklace from the dressing table where it lay in a maroon silk-covered box. I put the box in Jamilla’s bedroom and the necklace around my neck. It felt warm, as if it had come home.
Of course, there was much hunting and many tears from Jamilla who insisted she had not taken the necklace. The police were called in. They searched the house and the garden and all the cars, but no one thought to search me. If they had, they would have found it nestling beneath my jumper.
Naturally, I can’t show it to anyone at all, but I don’t care. I don’t keep it in a bank vault. I wear it next to my skin and I love it. I simply couldn’t live without it.