She sometimes watches 6:30 sunlight turn the cheap salt and pepper shakers above her sink into crystal. There are mornings she watches the retired couple on the bus share a single doughnut and tries to hide her envy. (Do they notice it?).

Some afternoons she stops on the way home and pretends to look at her briefcase-when she is really watching best friends sing a rap version of a jump rope song-shared friendship bracelets and switched shoes (I'll wear my left and you'll wear my right, ok??, ) She thinks about what she would say if they would ask her to join in.

At least once a week she stops into a local deli to order some lunchmeat and listens to the varied accents behind the counter and the scent of so many different foods on the shelves. Is she the only one who closes her eyes and imagines she is in Parma?- in Nice?

She goes to music stores and looks over the shoulder at people at the headphone kiosk and listens to what strangers are listening to -just because, She goes to the library and reads the first chapter of any book left on a table unattended, because she had a teacher in college who recommended it.

"Forced randomness" he called it.

It's an apt description of her life. She knows it fits her, but she's just a little curious why she hasn't found the other members of her civilization.

for grundoon

For a long time the only sensations she had been aware of had been the smell of her own hand, resting on it in contemplation, and the motions of a butterfly on the other side of the glass, now summoning her by the window, now touring the moted air of the garden. Behind it was the glitter of sunlight broken through trees.

On her desk the textbook she had been revising and the notes she had been making, cell walls and organelles. The life in the butterfly had drawn her to it, liquid colour.

At her writing hand, abandoned with her pen, a punnet that had held redcurrants, of which only the stalks and burst rejects were left. It was early afternoon; Susan had a class at four, and needed to leave in an hour to get there, if she chose to go.

Susan padded downstairs and into the kitchen. Her mother was making fruit salads in jelly, and to make room for them had a dozen or so glasses of chocolate mousse ready to go back into the fridge once she could rearrange the shelves. Susan hovered over the mousse then asked whether she could have one, and her mother told her no, and could she take a plate of garlic bread out to table six.

She poked her head around the corner into the bar. "It's a vicar!" she said.

"They're allowed in now."

"One of Martin Luther's bright ideas, is it?"

"Just take him the garlic bread while it's hot and try not to argue with him," her mother commanded. "Or me," she added in an undertone, as Susan went out after one more reluctant, disapproving scrutiny.

When Susan came back she remarked, "Plenty of hot food where he's going. Okay, Mum, I need to go to biology soon but I'm going to go for a walk first. If Jenny asks, I haven't unpacked anything else yet. Oh, this one's got a finger-mark in it."

"Has it? Oh drat. Well I can't sell that, you might as well have it. Jenny's probably out with Michael tonight so I doubt we'll see her."

"Thanks, Mum," said Susan, taking her chocolate mousse and a little spoon from the drawer. She made it as far as the bar before her mother got time to think.

"I didn't ask whose finger-mark it was, did I?"

"Well it was my finger, if that helps," Susan conceded. She continued on her way with her prize, and her biology book, and found she had a cat in tow. Furdekin had been nervous and restive since the move and of course hadn't been let out yet, so was more than usually under the feet of the family. Susan settled in an armchair by the fireplace, and tried to arrange herself in the space allowed to her by the cat on her knee.

She found she was comfortable enough there that either her walk or her class would have to go. From time to time she gazed into the logs, imagining a fire, and so Marina saw her, approaching to clean another table.


"No. Just thinking."

"We'll need the fire soon."

"I like winter."

At that, the rain began to fall, just lightly enough that half-hearted trips outside should be postponed, a fire should be lit against the coming darkness, a drink of some kind brought to her table to warm and lull her and delay her; but she was under-age and preferred tea anyway, real tea from a pot.

Marina leant forward, stroked Furdekin, who gazed at her with approval, and went back to see to the order. When she returned to the bar she paused a moment just to look at Susan, who was once more lost in thought, still, serene, against the rain and torn hearts of busier worlds.

The cat enfolded its head under its paws and settled down to sleep.

< Earlier | Tales of the Green Dragon | Later >

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.