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The Last Night in London

“One thing you should know about me is that I’m very good at noticing details about people. Why does Colin call you Madison if your friends call you Maddie?”

I considered evading the truth, but knew that her sharp gaze missed nothing. If I wanted her to be frank and open with me, I needed to do the same. “Because we aren’t really friends.”

She raised an elegant eyebrow. “And why is that?”

I felt her discerning gaze upon me again, seeing the truth behind my smile. I took a deep breath. “Because I dated some of his friends.”

She frowned. “Did Colin never ask you for a date?”

“Actually, he did. We even went out once.”

She didn’t say anything but continued to look at me as if waiting for me to say more. I sighed, deciding to be candid. “We had a great time. That’s when I realized that Colin is the kind of guy a girl could really fall for. In a permanent way. So I never went out with him again even though he asked. More than once. With his buddies, there was no danger of anything permanent.”

She was quiet for a moment— digesting my answer, I supposed. “And now?” she asked. “Do you still only date temporary men?”

I met her gaze. “Yes.”

“In my day, they had a word for girls like you.”

I swallowed. “Yes, well, if that makes you uncomfortable, I’m sure Arabella can find another journalist.” I began to slide off of the small chaise, my legs bumping the table so the liquid in the glasses sloshed over the sides.

“Wait,” she said, the force of the word surprising us both. “Don’t go. I’m the last person in the world to judge.”

I stopped and looked at her, trying to decipher the emotions crossing her face.

“Did you lose someone you loved?” Precious asked, and I knew she wasn’t speaking of misplacing someone or leaving someone be­hind. And I wondered if that was one of the details she was in the habit of noticing.

“Yes,” I said. “A long time ago.”

She nodded. “Whoever said time heals all wounds is a liar. Grief is like a ghost, isn’t it? Haunting our reflections.”

My eyes prickled. “I’m sorry,” I said again, standing, my hands on the table to keep it from moving. “I’ll leave now. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

“Goodbye, Maddie. Please take the tea and tell everyone that I’m going to rest for a bit. We’ll speak again tomorrow after lunch. We can talk about the clothes then. And how they transformed my world.”

“But . . .” I stopped. She’d closed her eyes, and although she couldn’t possibly already have been sleeping, it was clear she was done speaking.

Knowing I’d been dismissed, I walked to the door, then turned to look at her again, admiring the beautiful lines of her face and wondering at the stories I knew lay hidden behind her closed eyes. Grief is like a ghost.

Yes, there were stories there. I just hoped there would be time to hear them all.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Miss Dubose,” I said to her still form, then shut the door quietly behind me.

The Last Night in London
by by Karen White