I want to smilebut I have to hide it. Kitty cant abide being laughed at, any more than a cat. Mrs. Wilson cooks and cleans for me, I say. I need nothing more.
But you never venture out. Youre like a hermit. Or a ghost of the past, wandering around the room in the dark. Expecting him to turn up, perhaps? Kitty brushes the coal dust from her skirt and turns to pour more tea.
Im not at all like a hermit. I see you. I see ORourke.
Michael? Oh, but he s so thin, and old, and unexciting! He was like a skelington in a suit today. You might have thought he was the corpse himself got out of the coffin!
Kitty! How can you say such a thing? (But I cant help thinking that Kitty is, as always, wickedly apt.) If it were not for Michael, I dont know what I would have done these ten years.
Dont you? I cannot imagine what he s done for you, other than be two- faced about the whole affair!
Two- faced? I am a little angry with her now. Why do you persist in saying that? He s been my advocate with your father on every little matter: the rent, the bills, the laundry
She rolls her eyes.
And hes always been most faithful with the books. He gets me every new edition straight from the press.
Does he, though? She looks at me dully, as if it is no great matter.
Yes, I say stoutly. I think Im the first person in London to lay eyes on them. I cast a glance at the dark red line of Alfreds novels in the bookcase across the room, some of them so battered that they are about to fall apart. I still read a chapter every day, you know, Kitty. And when I finish each book, I start another. And when I finish them all, I start at the beginning again. When I read, I can hear your father talking to me exactly as if he were in the room; when he used to rush into the parlor, pen in hand: What do you think of this, Dodo? Does this make you laugh?
Or cry, more likely. Kitty stands by the fireguard, punishing it with her boot.
Indeed, I say. He was a master of every emotion. I knew that from the very first day we met.
Excerpted from Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold Copyright © 2009 by Gaynor Arnold. Excerpted by permission of Crown, 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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