Excerpt from A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Perfect Stranger

And other stories

By Roxana Robinson

A Perfect Stranger
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2005,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2006,
    256 pages.

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This Christmas we had arrived late. The drive was a long one, and by the time we got there, it was dark, and Grandmère and Grandpère had already had dinner. Our parents were to have trays in front of the fire in the living room, and we chil- dren were sent into the kitchen, where Molly would give us our supper.

Molly was Irish and fierce, with pale blue eyes and a cloud of fine white hair. She had slim arms and slim legs and a thick middle. Her hands and feet were small, and she moved fast. She wore a white uniform, a white apron, and brown lace-up shoes with thick low heels. She ruled the kitchen absolutely. We never did anything to make Molly mad. She would have our heads. That's what she told us, shaking her own wild white head fiercely, and we believed her.

Molly had a husband named Bud, but he was a mysterious figure, like the bobcats; we had never seen him. We did know Molly's son, Richard, who was my grandparents' chauffeur. He was fat, and moved slowly. We children had a poor opinion of him. We called him Ree-ard, which we thought was funny. When he wasn't driving my grandparents' long black car, Ree-ard sat on a chair in the kitchen, near the back stairs. He took off his black coat and sat in his shirtsleeves, his white shirt vast and billowy. He looked like a lump, and sometimes Molly told him that, whirling suddenly from the big stove and rounding on him, laying into him without mercy. Molly might do that to anyone, at any moment—erupt into a high foamy rage, and say things with her fierce, thin Irish lips that you never wanted to hear.

But Molly was nice to us, and we liked her. That evening we pushed through the swinging door into the pantry and filed into the kitchen. Molly turned at once from the stove.

"Ah, here they all are, then," she said, her Irish accent thick. Molly's mouth didn't smile easily, but her eyes did. "Come over here and let me have a look at you." We presented ourselves expectantly, waiting to see what she would find. "You're growing," she said warningly to Sam, as though this was something he should look out for, and to me she said accusingly, "Where's that tooth gone?" I had no answer, but I knew she was not angry. She put her hands on our heads approvingly, as though we belonged to her, then she moved briskly back to the stove. "I'm going to take this out to your parents first, so you all sit down at the table and don't make any trouble." We didn't need to be told that. Making trouble in Molly's kitchen was the last thing in the world we would consider doing.

We sat and waited for her to come back. Tweenie lay on a towel next to her bowl, which had milk in it. She eyed us disagreeably.

"I hate Tweenie," I said and made a face at her.

Jonathan always disagreed with me. "She's just a dog," he said scornfully. "Why would you hate a dog?"

"She looks like a snake," Abby said. "Look at her."

We looked at her. Tweenie looked back at us, ready to bite.

"Where's Huge?" Jonathan asked.

"In with the grown-ups," Sam said. "We can't bring him in here because he'll upset Tweenie."

"Oh, Tweenie," I said with loathing, rolling my eyes.

Molly pushed through from the pantry, her low bosom and portly middle preceding her. Her neat lace-up shoes pointed outward when she walked. "Now, then," she said energetically, "come get your plates and I'll put some food on them." We lined up, and Molly loaded our plates. We sat down again at the table. Molly was at the stove, her back to us.

Excerpted from A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson Copyright © 2005 by Roxana Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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