The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014 by Laura Furman

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014 by Laura Furman

Author:Laura Furman [Furman, Laura]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 978-0-345-80732-8
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2014-09-08T16:00:00+00:00

It wasn’t until the following term that Cecilia again saw the two women. Summer had come, the long, light evenings, the smell of grass just cut, the flower beds of Miss Watson’s brick-walled garden bright with Crocosmia and sweet pea, with echium and Geranium sanguineum. When she was younger, Cecilia had preferred the coziness of winter, but no longer did. She loved the sunshine and its warmth, her too-pale skin lightly browned, freckles on her arms.

She saw the women when she was returning from taking the afternoon letters to the postbox, a fourth-form duty that routinely came once a fortnight. She had called into Ridley’s when the letters were posted—honeycomb chocolate for Daisy, Mademoiselle’s bonbons. The women were on the path through the trees, coming toward her.

They must live nearby, Cecilia thought. Probably they went for walks and had found their way to the hockey pitch. But hockey was over now until September.

Sunlight came through the trees in shafts, new beech leaves making dappled shadows on the women’s clothes. How drab those clothes were! Cecilia thought. How ugly the taller woman’s features were, the hollow cheeks, her crooked teeth, one with a corner gone. Her friend was dumpy.

They had stopped, and Cecilia felt she should also, although she didn’t want to.

“What weather at last!” the dumpy woman said.

They asked her her name and said that was a lovely name when she told them. Violets were held out to her to smell. They said where they’d picked them. A dell they called the place, near the fingerpost. They could have picked an armful.

“We hoped we’d see you,” the taller woman said. “For you, my dear.”

Again the violets were held out, this time for Cecilia to take.

“We’re not meant to pick the flowers.”

Both smiled at once. “You didn’t pick them, you might explain. A gift.”

“Look this way, Cecilia,” the dumpy woman begged.

She had a camera, but the distant chiming of the afternoon roll-call bell had already begun and Cecilia said she had to go.

“Just quickly, dear.” They both spoke at once, saying they mustn’t keep her, and when she hurried away Cecilia heard the voices continuing, a monotone kept low, hardly changing from one voice to the other. She could tell she was being watched, that the women were standing there instead of going on.

“Who are they?” Elizabeth Statham was in her games clothes, returning from the run she went on every afternoon. “Friends of yours?” she asked.

“I don’t know them at all.”

“Funny, they’d take a photograph.”

Cecilia didn’t attempt to reply. Frightened of Elizabeth Statham, she was at her worst with her, never knowing what to say.

“Funny, they’d want to give you flowers.”

Cecilia tried to shrug, but her effort felt clumsy, and Elizabeth Statham sniggered.

“Poor relations, are they?”

“I don’t know them.”

She couldn’t hear the women anymore and imagined they must have gone. She didn’t look back. Elizabeth Statham would go on about it because she had a way of doing that, sitting on your bed after lights-out, pretending to be nice.

“Funny, they’d know your name,” she said now, before she continued on her run.


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