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kitchen, she put her hand out to Annie and said, "I'm Katherine
Widmer,
as Liza's probably told you, and that's Isabelle Stevenson."
"H-hi," Annie stammered. "My name is Annie Kenyon. I--I'm a friend of
Liza's."
Ms. Widmer smiled weakly and said, "You don't say," and we all
laughed.
We laughed again when Annie and I explained, a bit self-consciously,
about the saucepan helmets. But after that we all got very stiff,
Annie
and me hiding behind our cups and Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer hiding
behind their glasses. Ms. Widmer and Annie both tried to talk, but
Ms.
Stevenson just sat there, not exactly glowering but not very friendly
either, and I couldn't say a word. Finally after about ten minutes
Ms.
Widmer said, "Look, I guess we're all too upset to sort this out
tonight. Why don't you two go home for now and come back tomorrow,
for
lunch, maybe."
Ms. Stevenson glared at Ms. Widmer, and she went on quickly: "Or
after lunch--that would
be better. Say around two?"
Annie looked at me and
I nodded, and then Ms. Widmer walked us upstairs to the front door.
"We stripped the bed," Annie said shyly, putting on her lumber jacket
again.
"We could take the sheets to the laundry for you."
"That's all right," said Ms. Widmer, although she looked a little
startled. "But thank you." She smiled, as if she were trying to
convey
to us that everything would be all right, but I saw that her hand
shook
as she opened the door, and I hurried Annie out ahead of me. I walked
Annie to the subway, but we were both too upset to talk. Annie gave
me a
quick hug right before she went through the turnstile. "I love you,"
she
whispered, "Can you hold on to that?"
"I'm trying," I said. I'm not even sure I said I love you back to
Annie,
although I know I was thinking it, and I know I thought it all that
night when I couldn't sleep.
Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer seemed a
little calmer the next day, outwardly anyway, but Annie and I were
both
very nervous. Ms. Stevenson came to the door in jeans and a
paint-spattered shirt over a turtleneck; her hair was tied back, and
there was, I was glad to see, a brush in her hand.
"Hi," she said, a
little brusquely but smiling, and seeming more relaxed and like
herself,
at least the self that I knew. She put down
the brush. "Come on in. Kah!" she called up the stairs. "It's Liza
and
Annie."
"Be right there," Ms. Widmer called back, and Ms. Stevenson led us
into the living room. The
orange cat, who was lying on a neat pile of Sunday papers, jumped
into
Annie's lap as soon as she sat down; he curled up there, purring.
"He likes you," observed Ms. Stevenson awkwardly, taking off her
painty
shirt and throwing it into the front room.
"I like him, too," said
Annie, stroking the cat. Then Ms. Widmer came downstairs, in jeans
also,
and I thought again about their being two comfortable old shoes and
wondered if Annie and I would ever be like that.
"Well," said Ms.
Widmer, sitting down on the sofa. "I don't suppose any of us really
knows how to begin." She smiled. "It's funny, but the first thing
that
comes into my head to say is how did you sleep last night?"
"Horribly," said Annie, smiling also. "You, too, Liza, right?" I
nodded.
"Well," said Ms. Widmer again, "at least we're all starting out
equally
exhausted. How about some coffee or tea or something to sustain us?"
Annie and I both said yes, and then, while Ms. Widmer went down to
the
kitchen, Ms. Stevenson sat there with us for a few painfully silent
seconds, and then she went downstairs too.
"Oh, God," Annie said when
she'd gone. "This is going to be awful."
The black cat came into the room, tail waving gently, and tried to
nudge
his brother off Annie's lap. I found a catnip mouse under the coffee
table and was just getting it for him when Ms. Stevenson and Ms.
Widmer
came back upstairs with tea things on a tray and a big plate of
cookies
that none of us ate.
"What," asked Ms.
Stevenson abruptly when we'd each taken a cup of tea, "have you said
to
your parents?"
"Nothing," we both said at the same time.
"Do your parents know--er---about
you?" We looked at each other. "Not really," I said. "I mean, we
haven''t
told them or anything."
"Once in a while we've gotten yelled at for [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]