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time, she peers through the slit to see what Thomas is doing. He sits
at the head of a long table with eight other students, and they seem
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Anita Shreve
to be deeply engaged in discussion. Stacks of the Nantasket have
recently been delivered to the room from the printer and are in piles
on student desks.
She shouldn t be here at all. She should, she knows, have taken
the late bus home and closed the door to the bedroom and done her
homework. She has a calculus test in the morning and a paper due
on a book she hasn t yet read. With the job at the diner and the
hockey games (two a week) and her hours with Thomas (utterly
necessary), she has less and less time for studying. Her discussion
with Mr. K. in his classroom just now will be moot if she doesn t
keep up her grades. Before, school always seemed effortless, but
effortlessness is only possible, she is learning, if you give it time.
At the end of the corridor, the vice principal, who, months ago,
was her introduction to the school, is berating a sullen student with
long hair and a denim jacket. She can t hear what he is saying, but
she can guess. Get rid of the jacket. Cut the hair.
She thinks about her meeting with the priest, an utterly astonish-
ing event. So strange and so unreal, it might never have happened
at all.
But it did, she thinks. It did.

The door opens, and Thomas emerges, carrying a copy of the Nan-
tasket. He is reading as he walks.
 Hey, she calls.
 Linda, he says, turning.  Hi. I didn t expect to see you.
 What have you got there?
 Look, he says.
He has the literary magazine opened to a page on which is
printed a short poem by Thomas Janes. She reads the poem.  It s
very good, Thomas. And it is good. It really is.  Congratulations.
 Thank you. Thank you. He bows.  What are you doing here?
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The Last Time They Met
 Well, she says.  I ve been talking to Mr. K., and I think I m
going to apply to college.
 Yes? Thomas asks, smiling.  Yes? He backs her into the wall.
 Where?
 Middlebury, for one.
 Fucking Mr. K., Thomas says.
 And Tufts and B.C., maybe.
 No kidding.
 I ve passed the deadline, but he  s made some calls and
explained what he calls  my situation and they say they re willing to
consider my application. Well, Middlebury has so far.
 He  s a miracle, Thomas says and kisses her.
A voice calls to them from down the hall.  No fraternization
between the sexes during school hours. Thomas, with his back to
the vice principal, raises an eyebrow. The man stands with his hands
on his hips. Any minute, Linda thinks, he will stamp his foot.
 Something funny going on down there? he asks.

The parking lot is a sea of slush. The soles of Linda s boots are soaked.
 Now I ve got the chains on, Thomas says,  we  ll probably
never have another day below freezing. He unlocks the door of the
Skylark. The temperature is so freakishly warm that Linda takes off
her coat at once. Thomas turns on the radio.
 It s the same with an umbrella, she says.
 What is?
 If you remember it, it won t rain.
 Let s celebrate, he says.
 OK, she says.  Where?
He drums his fingers on the steering wheel and thinks.  There  s
a nice seafood restaurant called the Lobster Pot not too far from
here, he says.  We could go have dinner.
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Anita Shreve
 Really? It s a Wednesday.
 So?
 I have a test tomorrow.
 You can study later.
 I have to work.
 Not now you don t, he says, putting the car in reverse.

They drive along a twisting, narrow coastal route. Linda sits so
close to Thomas that he has to borrow his arm back occasionally to
steer. When he can, he puts his hand on her knee. Once, he hitches
up her skirt so that he can see her thigh. Then he snakes his hand
under the skirt. She doesn t push him away.
Thomas stops at a gas station so that she can call the diner. She
holds her nose and pretends to have a cold, while Thomas stands
outside the booth, banging on the glass and singing. Help me,
Rhonda. Help, help me, Rhonda. When they get back in the car,
Linda kisses him so hard and for so long, she leaves him gasping for
breath.
As they drive, the setting sun lights up the trees and the old
houses beside the road so that, for a time, the world seems happily
on fire.
 This is the best day of my life, she says.
 Really?
The water in the marshes turns a brilliant pink. Thomas reaches
below his seat and pulls out a bottle of what looks to be scotch or
whiskey. A shadow passes across the road.
 What s this about? she asks.
 You want a drink? We  re celebrating.
The bottle is only half full. Perhaps there are things about
Thomas she doesn t know.
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The Last Time They Met
 You ve never had a drink, he says.
 Thomas, can we stop somewhere? There  s something I want to
tell you.

 He used to have sex with me, she says, letting her breath out in a
rush.
She waits for the car to buckle in, for the air to billow out.
Thomas has parked the Skylark on a dirt lane in the marshes. They
are partially hidden from the road by a grove of trees, glittering and
melting in the setting sun.
 He raped you, Thomas says.
 It wasn t rape, she says.
This will be the moment, Linda thinks, when Thomas will have
to open the door of the car and get out, letting in a cool gust of air.
He will have to take a walk, get his bearings, and when he gets back
in, she knows, everything will be different between them.
 Often? Thomas asks.
 Five times, she says.
He lays his head back against the seat. Linda feels light-headed.
She needs to eat.
 I knew it was something like that, Thomas says quietly.
 You did? She is only a little surprised. And perhaps a bit
deflated. One  s terrible secret guessed after all.
 I didn t know for sure, Thomas says.  Actually, for a while, I
thought it might have been your father.
 My father left when I was five, she says.  I told you that.
 I thought you might be lying about when he left, Thomas
says. No judgment implied about the lying. It is understood she  d
have had to do that.
 Was it awful? he asks.
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Anita Shreve
 It wasn t awful or not awful, she says carefully. And after a
minute adds,  I don t think we should talk about this particular
thing anymore.
He nods. What good can come of details? Of pictures that can
never be erased?
 I love you, Thomas says.
She shakes her head. The words should not have been offered
now. She might always have to think they had been said partly out of
pity.
 I ve loved you since the moment I saw you walk into that
class, he says.
Yet words are momentous, she knows, and her heart lifts all the
same.
 I sometimes think, he says,  that we were meant to be
together.
 I agree, she says quickly. And it is true. She does very much
agree.
Elation makes him turn to her.

 Are you sure? he asks.
 I m sure, she says.
He draws back and studies her.  This isn t something he made
you do, is it? he asks.  Take all your clothes off?
She shakes her head and realizes that Thomas has images too 
his worse for being the worst he can imagine. What s imagined
always worse than what is.
She crosses her arms and removes her sweater, feeling more
naked than she ever has before. She hitches her hips up so that she
can take off her skirt. She hears Thomas s breath catch. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]