Catherine’s Castle - The Story
The continuing adventures of the Colorado Girls.

Chapter 3


Catherine’s Castle © Linda Pilkington

Autumn had been determined to give summer a beautiful end; October had ended in a blaze of color.

With a few glimpses of the glories that nature had painted, and then exhibited for her admiration, Catherine Emerson had rushed-headlong into November.

She ran, and ran fuming at her favorite season’s disappearance, as she raced from class to work, and from work back to the apartment.

Catherine fumed, but she could not stop.

Every day had been so full of classes, facts, papers, discussions and tests that Catherine was sure that she had hopelessly confused them all and that if she were suddenly given a test on history she would have answered based on what she had learned in anthropology. And she was convinced that for the rest of her life she would muddle what she had learned in Biology with Psychology. The classes ran back to back and she had no time in which to separate her notes or her thoughts about what she had just learned in between them.

She marveled at the frenzied lives her friends lived. They went from party to party, and seemed determined to involve themselves in whatever decadence was available to them, -how they ever managed to do class work - and still have time for iniquity- Catherine didn’t know.

 But she sighed and acknowledged that they must be “better managers than I am.” She was not doing a good job at anything. She had decided that any tasting of forbidden fruit must be put off till some time in the future; she had no time, or any appetite for sin in the present.

 Besides, there was another, and at the moment, a more pressing question.

At her office job, the subject of time off for the holidays had come up, and since one of Catherine’s duties was to fill in for those employees who were gone on vacation, the Office Manager began the process of setting up the holiday vacation schedules.

 This process took several days and was only accomplished after several private-but not-so -quiet interviews between the O.M. and the other employees. These interviews brought on tense silences within the entire office.

Angry looks, loud sniffles, and the sudden banging of desk drawers accompanied these uncomfortable silences by her co-workers.

Catherine soon understood that the drawer crashing was a substitute for angry words and arguments. No one felt secure enough in their job to actually say what they thought, and so the drawer crashing was the only way of showing their dissatisfaction. Sometimes, these crashes sounded in succession, as if a crash by one worker required an answer in kind from across the room. She found herself listening for nuances and finding unspoken meanings, in the sound-, just as she listened to spoken conversations.

 “Mary is commenting on the fact that Renee always does get the very best of everything in this office.” She would interpret.

 “Renee gets the best, and plans on getting the best and doesn’t care if Mary sees her obnoxious grandchildren at Christmas or ever again- and by the way, she hates Mary’s dress.” Catherine noted- at the answering crash from Renee’s corner.

 Despite her interest in this new mode of communication, the crashing drawers caused Catherine to jump, and lose her place in whatever document she was preparing. And if everyone else had their nerves jarred, as hers were- she was sure it caused an epidemic of headaches.

Then Catherine’s own schedule was written, revised, and rewritten to accommodate any uncovered work times, until it was finally slapped on her desk accompanied by an angry look-from the O.M., as if the annual scheduling ordeal was all of Catherine’s fault.

 Along with the schedule, Catherine was given the advice (in a shaky voice and with a shake of the schedule- almost in Catherine’s face) that if she had any plans to travel back and see her family, then it had to be before the holidays ever began. As she had talked, the O.M. had grown more agitated and red -faced, feeling perhaps, the resentful stares from her employees that had continually bombarded her back.

 Before she turned back to face the backs of the heads of the other employees, all of them suddenly intent on their computer screens, the office manager had demanded the dates of Catherine’s possible absence, in one- days- time, ” or it would be impossible to cover her time off.”

Catherine spent a desperate night on the phone with her family and online with the airlines, and finally had been lucky enough to book a cheap flight, for a brief pre-holiday visit at home. Until the O.M’s outburst, Catherine hadn’t realized that she needed to see her family- but the tides of war that surrounded her at work made the thought of the quiet, and of her generally, peace-loving- relatives- more than welcome.

 It had only been a matter of weeks since she had seen them, but she had realized, once safely on the plane, that she had missed them all.

 Suddenly, she yearned to hear her mother’s low quiet voice and to feel the comfort of her touch. She knew that she had longed for her father, and the sense of safety and protection she had always felt in his presence. She had missed Melinda’s irony and quirky sense of humor; she wanted to talk to Gwynie and to hear the way that she unconsciously called Catherine- “Cathenon” whenever she was in a confiding mood.

 After the hurry and the relief to be off, these tender thoughts about her family soon left her digging in the pockets of her jacket for tissues to stem a flood of guilty tears that suddenly rushed down her cheeks.

 She turned her face to the window until she could control the deluge, the feelings that had brought it on, and the lump in her throat that threatened more emotional havoc was to come.

“This is too much!” She thought, irritated, in spite of her sentimental turmoil- “why couldn’t I have cried like this last night when there wasn’t a plane load of strangers to stare at me?” But by the law of contraries- the night before Catherine had been a master of reason and logic- packing only the bare necessities, and being worldly-wise and witty- somewhat at her family’s expense- and for the entertainment of her roommate.

 Looking back from the sentiment of the moment, she felt as if she had betrayed all that was dear to her for a bit of shallow laughter. And so when she embraced her mother at the airport she had felt as if she owed her an apology instead of a hug.

 When she had met her father, and held the callused hands that had worked so many hours for her and her sisters- she had felt her own disloyalty, and had to leave the room quickly to wipe away the tears that started to her eyes.

 But of course, this tenderness could only survive the first few hours of her visit. Then her view of and her feelings for her family had gone back to an uncomfortable variability.

 How pretty Melinda had grown! Melinda’s skin had the clarity that Catherine had always longed for, and her sister’s hair gleamed with health. Along with these generous thoughts, Catherine who had always been content with her own appearance now felt a sudden spark of envy.

 Gwynie was a darling, as usual, but Gwynie now seemed tongue- tied around her oldest sister. It was as if a few weeks had made them strangers- and this put Catherine out of patience. After all, she had written her sister letters, and had worked herself silly over Gwynie’s Story.

 No, she certainly had not neglected her family, she had called them, making a special point of talking to Gwyn- so why did her little sister smile shyly, and silently, and then edge closer to her mother?

The thing she had wanted most was the comfort of her mother’s presence. But her mother was so busy trying to make the house perfect, and intent on bringing a premature sense of holiday atmosphere to the visit- that Catherine seldom talked to her.

 Her father was preoccupied too- he seemed always to be working in his office, and worrying over bills, or outside repairing the wooden fence in the back yard.

 “Last week there was quite a wind,” he explained, ” And we are going to lose that fence if I don’t do some work on it.”

 So Catherine stood at the upstairs hall window and looked down at him, as he worked, pulling out boards- bracing that old fence as if he were totally absorbed in the task.

 “I won’t even be here at Christmas- you would think the fence could wait until after my visit.” She thought-feeling neglected.

It was strange to her, because her father had always been the parent that had kept them together as a family. Like the hub in a wheel- they had all been spokes circled about him-gathered together because they knew that he loved and valued their time together. And they had always accepted his plans for family activities, for his sake, even when they wanted to be off on their own.

 It was her mother who was interested in her children’s individuality-she had been most anxious that they grow. For their own protection, they must learn and master all that would help them to have better lives. It had been most important to her mother for them to develop good character and personal strength, while their father was interested in the families’ identity, and the survival of that identity.

 “Now he is just interested in the survival of that old fence.” Catherine said, somewhat petulantly- and nearly under her breath.

” Yes, -well he had better be- that old fence doesn’t have a thing but Popsie’s will power holding it up and hasn’t had for the last six months,” Melinda said.

Then after a silence, while they both watched their father dislodge a rotten fence post, Melinda began.

“Catherine, what did the kids do at lunch when you were in high school?”

 Catherine smiled, “What do you mean- `do’?” She asked. Then she turned into her room-with Melinda a close step behind.

 Melinda went to lie on Catherine’s bed, and quickly dislodged Catherine’s irascible, elderly cat from his favorite spot. He scowled at her as he stalked away.

 “Did they meet, I mean did they get together at different places over lunch hour?”

 Catherine felt a little nervous. Even if Melinda seemed off-hand about it-, she knew that the question was serious.

“Tell me what’s going on.” Catherine said. It was easy to fall into the comfortable pattern of talking things over, that the girls had established years before.

“Like I said, did the kids go to each others houses over the lunch hour? You know, to be together…”

“If you are asking whether couples used their parents houses when no one was home- over the lunch hour- yes. Yes, a lot of that went on in high school.”

 “In fact, lots of my friends did it when they were only freshmen,” Catherine said.

 ” I bet that you didn’t.” Melinda said. But she said it tentatively, -since she had entered high school she had found that the people you least suspected did all kinds of things- but…Catherine?

 Catherine smiled at her younger sister’s averted face. Melinda might act like the most practical and worldly wise fifteen-year old- but now she looked very much like a little girl asking if there really was a Santa Claus.

“No, I didn’t,” Catherine said.

She sighed; it was good to relieve her sister’s mind-but it set her to wondering about herself.

 ”I guess you could say that I didn’t fit into my friends world,” she said. Her words came slowly, and she looked more unsure of herself than Melinda had ever seen her. 

 “But you have always been popular-how could you still be popular and not go along with what was going on?” Melinda said.  She waited. She knew that it was hard to get anyone to really tell the truth about the things you needed to know about growing up.  

“Well, - I don’t know about the popularity. Sometimes, I think the word gets around that a person is popular- and it becomes an accepted fact before it is a reality.”

“If my supposed popularity is real then I’d explain it by saying that it was because I had some confidence in myself-or at least I looked as if I did.”

 Melinda, examined her nails, and thought that it was more than seeming confident that had made Catherine popular. Then, as usual, she gave up trying to define or understand the quality or charms that her sister possessed- but she sighed and wished that she could acquire them.

 “You are popular, and you have been since you were at least fourteen. Do you remember those boys in Iowa who followed you around chanting, ‘Colorado Girls- you are so fine- Colorado Girls make me lose my mind.’ That kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone except movie stars- but it happened to you.”

 “I remember that – but I remember something else that you were too young to realize- all of those guys were insane about our ‘Iowa cousin-Natalie’- especially Martin Williams- they were probably doing that hoping to get Nat’s attention.”

 “Beauty and popularity-I’m sick to death of hearing about them. People pay too high a price for them. Doesn’t the world care about anything else?”

 “Oh yes,” Catherine replied. Her voice, usually so sweet, was chilled, and sounded mature. “The world also cares about conformity, money and power- at least that’s what the majority of people care about. And if you don’t have most of those things- or at the very least money- then you don’t count for much or get very much in this life.”

 “Why Catherine, you sound bitter!” Melinda exclaimed – studying her sister’s face.

“Not exactly bitter..I’m just tired of the stupidity that goes on.. Or maybe I’m just jealous of Natalie,” she said. She smiled briefly and then looked away.  

And then, both girls sighed, because their “Iowa cousin- Natalie” was two years older than Catherine, and was a startlingly- beautiful woman, that they couldn’t hope to equal. And because they both recalled that Martin Williams was the most gorgeous hunk that they had ever seen.

“But, about the noon hour thing, it’s hard when you’re a teenager-it’s hard not to do what your friends do- even if they are doing something stupid. But there are lots of things that I didn’t do, and not because I was good-or even wanted to do the right thing,” Catherine said.

” Actually, I felt as if I was cursed to do right. I’m afraid I am a little like Manna- we are both scared of vice-you know. Believe me- I tried to be like my friends, but I never could somehow,” Catherine said. Her tone was discouraged, as if her exertions to be sinful had been exhaustive as well as futile.

 Melinda hid her face in the bedspread and smothered a laugh as she thought of Catherine’s failed efforts to copy her friends’ sinful ways. She stayed quiet to see if her sister would say more. She was encouraged when she took a peek and saw the thoughtful look on Catherine’s face.

 “When Mother says that this is the City Castle- and the land that separates us from our neighbors is the `dry-moat’ of that castle- I think that she is right. Something kept me apart- and still keeps me apart from the way my friends think and live. It’s as if the distance of space- in this neighborhood- made us stand apart. I’m not sure what it was- maybe we just read more, and thought things out better-or maybe we are really non-conformists.”

 “And those were the only reasons you didn’t go off with some guy to his tacky little bedroom?”

 “Are you being pressured by some guy?” Catherine asked. She waited for a moment, although she knew that Melinda seldom answered personal questions- no matter who asked them.

 Melinda didn’t answer; instead, she seemed intent on exploring the pattern on Catherine’s bedspread with her fingernail.

 “If the moat wasn’t the only reason… what else was there to stop you?”

 “I haven’t thought about this for a while…” Catherine said. She wasn’t sure what was going on in her sister’s life but she knew that what she told her was important. 

 ” First of all, I knew that I didn’t really matter to any of them, so why should I let them do that to me? I mean, really!” Both girls laughed.

“Probably, the second biggest reason was that I had known all of the guys in our group since we were little kids. I remembered, in detail, their personal habits, and so I tended to shudder - whenever they made what –for them- passed for ‘romantic’ suggestions.”

“I thought that John Allan was cute… I was crazy for him,” Melinda said. She sat up and grinned. “So what icky habit did he have that turned you off?”

 “First, I only went with him for someone to date. You know- you can’t always stay at home.”

 “But what icky thing did you remember about him?”

 “Alright, I’ll tell you but it still makes me sick- so I probably won’t be able to eat one bite of dinner…it was his nose…when he was nine or ten he couldn’t keep his hands away from it- and he didn’t use a tissue.”

 “But later on he was sixteen or so- I imagine he kept his hands off his nose by then…Ugh…I think Manna is making peas tonight.”

 “Well probably,” Catherine replied, still speaking about John Allan’s nose at sixteen, ” but you never can tell what people do in private. So since I couldn’t be sure about that I just made sure he kept his hands off me- believe me it was not easy. Let’s not talk about John Allen, and please, don’t talk about food.”

 Bored with John Allan, Catherine tried harder to remember that long, strange summer.

 “Maybe I haven’t taken to sin because of The Talk.” Catherine laughed, referring to the thorough, and lengthy “coming of age” talk that their parents had given to both girls before their thirteenth birthdays.

 “And you always say our parents are so sensible. That talk! It has scarred us both for life. Kids from messed-up families are lucky compared to us-I bet that they don’t have some version of “The Talk” inflicted on them. They are left free to pick up whatever ’facts of life’ they can- from the streets. Not us- we had a two-day sermon on morals, manners, biology, philosophy, religion and money management-all rolled into one. I’ve forgotten all of it just out of spite- or because they had totally exhausted me.-Really, mind control-I’d call it,” Melinda said. She scowled.

 ” Well, there were a couple of things that I still remember- the part about how much more important it was for kids without money to apply themselves.”

“Come on, if our parents wanted to control our minds- they wouldn’t have filled the house with books with all kinds of views, and encouraged us to read them-would they?” Catherine said. Suddenly she was laughing.

“I don’t remember that practical part about kids without money-and that would have meant something to me. Instead, I got to hear about Emerson and Compensation- at twelve- ‘the systole and the diastole of the heart.’ ” Melinda groaned.

“Listen, what they said was that if I messed up-in any, or in all of the ways a kid can mess up- that I didn’t have any way to recover. That kids with money had resources, something that could get them out of a mess, -that usually, they got another chance. But I didn’t have that luxury and so I had to be careful and not make bad mistakes if I wanted a better and a happy life. I remember Mother saying, ‘ You must be smart. You mustn’t let someone or something get control of you or your life or maybe you won’t ever get them back.’ “ The girls were silent.

“Anyway I think I was lucky that whatever did stop me- stopped me. Lots of bad times came out of those noon time get togethers.”

 Melinda, eager for a bit of gossip-as long as she felt secure that Catherine wasn’t involved in any of it- waited. And finally when Catherine had paused to think and seemed troubled, felt that she must prompt her- or her own curiosity would never be satisfied.

 “So what happened? Did any of the girls … well did anybody get caught?” She stopped-not sure how to go on without sounding too eager.

 “I’m not sure- since I wasn’t involved- I didn’t hear very much about it- just a word or two here or there. But yes, I know at least one girl who was hurt really badly.”

 “It wasn’t anything-well not the usual consequences that you expected to have happen- I mean she was always a lucky one. Things always went well for her.”

“Well, then tell me what happened-none of the obvious- what then?” Melinda demanded- her patience gone.

 “Well, after an entire spring of that, of guy after guy- she fell in love with one of them…and she was nothing to him. She tried to make him care. But she couldn’t. Melinda, I can’t explain this to you- but she meant nothing at all to him. He didn’t care what happened to her. She was just another girl to be with- nothing special at all. And this girl-who never took anything seriously, who laughed and ran and never stopped… well it was a terrible time for her. It was as if hope went out of her. As if she couldn’t believe in anyone again, let alone believe in love…I don’t think that she ever recovered from it…”

Then the girls were called to dinner; they had never finished the conversation.

But Melinda had had her suspicions about which of Catherine’s friends had been “the girl”. In the weeks to come- Melinda, although not prone to long periods of deep introspection, thought of the conversation. And she thought about the look on Catherine’s face as she had talked. If Catherine had been able to follow her sister around-, she would have seen the results of that introspection and been gratified.


After her trip, Catherine had come back, and promptly gotten a cold. She had fought it valiantly; while finishing two projects at work, which had been carelessly, abandoned, by those responsible for them-as they left the office for their holidays.

 And then just as she was breathing a sigh of relief-and trying to settle into some kind of normalcy, she had found that an instructor in her philosophy “talks and salon” series- who had almost promised not to assign an essay, had reversed himself and had assigned an essay for the one class that she had missed.

And so one Saturday morning she sat at one of the dinette tables in the kitchen -dining room, thumbing through her notes, while struggling to think of something interesting, and something that made sense, to write about “philosophy and character.”

 Brittany had taken pity on her friend’s situation and offered to do all of the Saturday work. Catherine was grateful, and a bit relieved, because Brittany had been busy the previous two Saturdays and Catherine had had to do all of the chores alone.

 Both of the girls knew that it was “pay back” time. It was an unwritten rule with them that too much giving and too much taking could strain even the best of friendships and since they valued their friendship they tried to maintain some balance in their obligations to each other.

 “Catherine, the bathroom…” Brittany, stood at the kitchen door holding a bottle of bathroom cleaner and with a sick look on her face.

 “Yes? - What about it? Are you done?”

 “It was awful. I will never go in there again. I am never going to get over it. I’ll see it all of my life.”

 “What…the stools not over flowing!” Catherine jumped up to take action-but Brittany motioned her back.

 “Well, what is wrong with you- you look sick.”

“Listen, I picked up the toilet brush, and this slithery bug came sliding up out of the holder. Catherine, just imagine, creatures living in the toilet brush holder! It was awful. How could it live there? And, what if there are others? What can be done about it, Catherine?”

“Well, first of all, are you done with everything?” Catherine asked- suspicious that Brittany might be trying to get out of the work-after-all.

 Brittany had buried her face in the dishtowel that hung near the kitchen sink.

 “Yes, I’m done,” she said.  Her voice was muffled by the towel.

 ” You cleaned the living room, our bedroom, and the bathroom?” Catherine ticked off the chores before she would let Brittany go on to another subject.

“Yes, everything, even the kitchen- the whole deal. You were so deep in your notes you never paid a bit of attention. And the kitchen, I did that while you were on the phone. You never even looked up.” Brittany’s voice, still coming out of the towel, sounded weak with disgust and martyrdom.

 “What can we do, Catherine, that creature there- living in a toilet brush holder… disgusting, awful…”

 “Well, there’s no accounting for tastes, peoples or bugs-obviously this bug has lowered his standards-or has major issues with self-esteem. There, there,- I don’t have time for any crisis other than to recommend therapy for the bug, and hurry for you- or vice-versa. I thought that you were supposed to meet some people at the mall.”

 Brittany, peeked out at the clock, and then disappeared for a few minutes during which Catherine heard the sounds of hurried washing, and the closet door squeaking.

 “I’ll be back when I get back, Oh, Hi Liam.” Brittany said. She had opened the front door-just as Liam was going to tap on it.

“Come in, probably Catherine won’t talk to you or pay any attention to you, but step in anyway.” Brittany said, and then raced down the stairs her spirits rising at the thought of lunch and shopping with friends.

 “Hi Liam.” Catherine said. She poked her head around the corner and smiled.

“I will too pay some attention to you… I haven’t seen you since I was sick.”

 Then Liam stood grinning down at her. As he had stepped through the door-he had put his hands behind him.

 ”Pick a hand, choose right and gain the prize, Pretty Lady!” He said – seeming to grow taller as he assumed a famous drawl.

 “Liam, nobody does John Wayne anymore, no one- take my word for it. Most people don’t even know who he was anymore,” Catherine said.  She was solemn, trying to impress him with her good advice.

 “Come on, little lady, don’t you be shy now…”

 “Ok, ok- if you will stop. But you must trust me on this-no one will understand that imitation- not in this or the next, century, Liam. I pick that hand.”

 ” A malt, and a chocolate one too- you remembered that I liked it.”


She hugged him with a rush of gratitude, was hugged back- and received a flurry of silly kisses, aimed at her chin, cheeks and forehead, and finally was presented with a small vase of flowers.

 “And red carnations with baby’s breath-very pretty.”

 Liam, held her away from him. 

 ” You look better, at least I think that you do-I can’t compare. You wouldn’t even let me through the door when you were sick. How could I help you if you wouldn’t let me come in? I would come over here, and knock and you would only talk at me through the door. There I would be lurking outside- talking at the door; you couldn’t reply above a whisper-and then your neighbors would go by and stare. It happened twice-me talking to an apparently uninterested and unresponsive door; I expected them to call the police.”

Catherine laughed.

 ”You couldn’t help me… I had to get well on my own, and all I could do for you was to give you my virus… and it was a killer. Brittany slept on the sofa, and wouldn’t even use the bathroom unless she had decontaminated it with lots of lethal chemicals. She nearly annihilated me with all of that spraying… but she didn’t get sick.”

 “I see that you have lots to do-but give me an hour – then, I have to go to work. I’ll soon be out of your way, and I’m sure Brit won’t be back until late so you can work and catch up without us bothering you.”

 “Go rest on the sofa, little patient, and I’ll make you some tea, and me a sandwich- if you have food.”

 Catherine sipped the malt and rested until Liam brought a steaming cup of tea to her, and then she sipped from the teacup and the malt- inter-changeably.

“The malt tastes good… I am much better… but I’ve been working harder than I want to work.”

 ”Just as usual, Sweetie, just as usual,” Liam said.

” I haven’t asked, what happened with your term abroad?”

Catherine asked this last question lightly, but she stared into her tea while waiting for the answer.

 “Still don’t know…everything was sent off- but it was late-and the program fills up fast.” Liam sat, staring at his sandwich.

 “Six months ago, man… six months ago all I could think of was ending this year of college with that term abroad…France… I thought about it for so long, and saved every penny. I didn’t think that I would ever make it, and now…” He trailed off.

 Catherine took a chance look up from the cup, just as Liam took a chance look at her.

She quickly looked away.

 “Well, I know that it would be wonderful for you, Liam. Something that you would never forget.” Catherine said. She  tried to put some enthusiasm into her voice. But to herself, she thought, “he will get accepted, and he will go. He won’t want to leave me-but it’s his dream-and he can’t give it up.”

 “There are many things that are unforgettable, Catherine. Some of them are a long, long, way from France.” Liam said, and for a minute, they looked at each other.

All the lightness and ease between them had suddenly disappeared, and they waited for something to replace it. 

Unsure about what came next, they looked away from each other, back at the coffee table. If they had known each other longer, and if they had been less reserved, or cared less about each other- the next scene might have been as predictable and as thoughtlessly and as carelessly played out as millions such scenes are between young couples.

There can be no certainty as to why the predictable and obvious did not occur. They were young and each had strong feelings for the other. But they were also the oldest children in their respective families, and had always been responsible. To Catherine what was important was that Liam’s thoughts were unspoken…and so they sat silent and uncomfortable. The predictable scene moved off into time, and the silence had stretched too thin until one of them was forced to speak.

 “Catherine, let’s talk about something else- anything… tell me about your trip home.”

 Catherine took a sip of tea, in order to think, and to calm her feelings.

 “What,” she asked herself, “is there to do-except to talk about something else? We can make this a big crisis—some sort of scene, but the timing seems to have past for any theatrics.”

And so, Catherine, fearing embarrassment for herself, or for both of them, and eager to spare them both- began to talk about her family and forced herself to act happy when she felt tragic.

She laughed and was surprised at how natural it sounded.

“Since I got back, I have been complaining about the trip and work and everything, but Brit always holds me to our rule. We can tell a whole litany of bad things, but no matter what our  mood is, even if we are down– we are forced to tell something good at the end.”

 “It wasn’t exactly fun- that trip…” She got up and went to the kitchen, as if warming her tea was the only thing on her mind. As soon as she was around the corner, she quickly stepped into her bedroom. She smiled at herself in the mirror, bit her lips – closed her eyes to focus on the story she had to tell-all this in the manner of an actor putting on another character- and then she returned calmly.

“On the whole- the visit wasn’t what I expected, but the one good thing that happened was that we talked about my mother’s book club- and that is always a treat.”

 Liam looked a little lost.

 “It started this way, we had company, and during the conversation my mother referred to her book club, and she said-”the present club is all that I wanted it to be- so much different than my former club.”

“ Mother always says that in exactly the same formal way-trying to be explicit and entirely renounce-‘my former club.’ It always sets Melinda, my father, and myself off- we must leave the room; which we did-straight away- without any explanation-leaving my mother, the company, and Gwynie alone at the dinner table. We fumbled our way out of the house into the back yard and stood there clutching each other- in hysterics- like we always are at the mention of “my former club.”

“But why?” Liam asked, beginning to smile.

 “Years ago my mother got involved in a book club full of people who were absolutely unsuited to each other-and most of them were absolutely unsuited to clubs, or to reading, for that matter.”

Catherine’s face took on a look of real delight as she began her story- and in a moment-, Catherine, the writer, so calm and in control- and not at all like the romantic young woman that he cared for and felt he knew, sat beside Liam Sonders.