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datatime: 2022-09-25 15:10:10 Author:UtjtEonL

For one moment, he couldn't make out what he was seeing a tall gray-haired woman in a flannel gown. Sunken cheeks, bright eyes, a high forehead. Her white hair was loose over her shoulders. Her gown hung to her bare feet. The twinge in his chest became a pain.

It's Cecilia, she said mercifully, patiently.I know. Some of us Mayfairs were born looking like ghosts. I'll come in and sit with her if you like. I've just slept a good eight hours. Why don't you lie down here for a little while?

He was about to resume his old position when he spied a movement in the bedroom at the end of the hall. Must be the other nurse, he thought, but he didn't like it, and he went down the hall to check.

I told you, we can't make a baby, she said.It just won't work.

She must have been a beautiful woman, said the nurse, shaking her head.

Come on, honey.

Come on, honey.

But you remember.

And then he thought of that shining spirit,the man whom he had once seen behind the crib at Christmas, and staring at him in the garden below. He thought of that radiant countenance.

He sat down and closed his eyes. He was drifting. Julien said something to him, but he was just remembering, the long story, the image of Marie Claudette with her six fingers. Six fingers on the left hand. Rowan had had beautiful and perfect hands. Hands of a surgeon.

That's just fine, darlin'. I don't mind at all about not making a baby. Come on, now, you're my sweet little thing. What if I turned off the music? And here, I got you some milk? Some fresh milk. Said you wanted some more milk, remember? Look, I got you ice cream too.

HE WANTED to do it again. Emaleth didn't want to stop dancing. The building was empty; no one else came this evening. And she wasn't dancing, except in her sleep. She opened her eyes. There he was. The music was playing, she'd been hearing it in her dreams, and now he was so insistent. Do it. He wanted to take off her long pants again and be inside her. She didn't mind it, but she had to be going to New Orleans. She really did. Look, it was dark again, positively late-night dark. The stars would be hanging low over the field outside, over the swampland, over the smooth highway with its silver wires, and its dreamy white lights. Got to start walking.

He went back in to take up the vigil as before. Rowan, my Rowan.

It's Cecilia, she said mercifully, patiently.I know. Some of us Mayfairs were born looking like ghosts. I'll come in and sit with her if you like. I've just slept a good eight hours. Why don't you lie down here for a little while?

What if she had done what Carlotta Mayfair wanted? What her mother had wanted? What if she had never come home?

Hmmmm, that's good, she said.Turn down the dial on the music.

Only then could she move. The music was little and tiny and thumping on her brain, kind of like a fish splashing in a tiny pool, trying to get bigger. It was grating, but it didn't engulf her.

He sat down and closed his eyes. He was drifting. Julien said something to him, but he was just remembering, the long story, the image of Marie Claudette with her six fingers. Six fingers on the left hand. Rowan had had beautiful and perfect hands. Hands of a surgeon.

Oh, must be a little water, said the nurse, pressing a dry wash cloth to Rowan's breast.I was wiping her face and moistening her lips. Do you want me to massage her now, just move her arms, keep them flexible?

It's Cecilia, she said mercifully, patiently.I know. Some of us Mayfairs were born looking like ghosts. I'll come in and sit with her if you like. I've just slept a good eight hours. Why don't you lie down here for a little while?

He stopped at the door of the bedroom. All was as he had left it. Hamilton reading. The nurse with her chart. The candles giving off the sweet good odor of expensive wax, and the shadow of the Virgin's statue dancing behind them, the shiver of the shadow thrown across Rowan's face and giving it a false life.

What's that spot on her gown? he asked the nurse.

It's Cecilia, she said mercifully, patiently.I know. Some of us Mayfairs were born looking like ghosts. I'll come in and sit with her if you like. I've just slept a good eight hours. Why don't you lie down here for a little while?

He stopped at the door of the bedroom. All was as he had left it. Hamilton reading. The nurse with her chart. The candles giving off the sweet good odor of expensive wax, and the shadow of the Virgin's statue dancing behind them, the shiver of the shadow thrown across Rowan's face and giving it a false life.

I told you, we can't make a baby, she said.It just won't work.

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