Sixteen by Jessamyn West

2678 Words Feb 1st, 2013 11 Pages
“Sixteen” by Jessamyn West

The steam from the kettle had condensed on the cold window and was running down the glass in tear-like trickles. Outside in the orchard the man from the smudge company was refilling the posts with oil. The greasy smell from last night’s burning was still in the air. Mr. Delahanty gazed out at the bleak darkening orange grove; Mrs. Delahanty watched her husband eat, nibbling up to the edges of the toast, then staking the crusts about his tea cup in a neat fence-like arrangement.

“We’ll have to call Cress,” Mr. Delahanty said finally. “Your father’s likely not to last out the night. She’s his only grandchild. She ought to be here.”

Mrs. Delahanty pressed her hands to the bones above her eyes. “Cress isn’t going
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And had she changed? Did she also look better to Edwin, almost slender now and the freckles not noticeable except at the height of summer? And with her new-found ability for light talk? They were passing beneath the eucalyptus trees and the silver drops, falling as the wind shook the leaves, stung her face, feeling at once both cool and burning, Meadow larks in the fields which edged the campus sang in the quiet way they have after the rain has stopped.

“Oh, Edwin,” Cress said, “no one in the world love the meadow lark’s song the way I do!”

“It’s not a competition,” Edwin said, “you against the world in an ‘I-love-the-meadow-larks’contest. Take it easy, kid. Love ‘em as much as in you lieth, and let it go at that.”

“No,” she said. “I’m determined to overdo it. Listen,” she exclaimed, as two birds sang together. “Not grieving, nor amorous, nor lost. Nothing to read into it. Simply music, Like Mozart. Complete. Finished. Oh, it is rain to listening ears.” She glanced at Edwin to see how he took this rhetoric. He took it calmly. She let go his hand and capered amidst the fallen eucalyptus leaves.
“The Gardener thinks you’ve got St. Vitus’ dance,” Edwin said.

Old Boat Swain, the college gardener whose name was really Swain, was leaning on his hoe, watching her hopping and strutting. She didn’t give a hoot about him or what he thought.

“He’s old,” she told Edwin. “He doesn’t exist.” She felt less akin to him than to a bird or toad.

There were lights
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