Joyce 1

Maude was dead. Joyce’s eyes darted over the print again and again, searching for a way to make it someone else’s tragedy. To say “How awful!” and turn the page. She stared stupidly around the dining room. Sunlight glowed softly on the warm wooden table. The breakfast set with the dandelions and daisies was laid out. Her tea was still warm. There were eggs. She gasped, making herself choke. Eggs!

Joyce had been absorbed in her own misery for so long. She was used to a dull ache of jealousy when she thought of her former friends. So envious of the easy relationship between Maude and her tall, fair-haired husband, with his light, teasing ways. Francis. Francis, who had shot Maude and then himself. Killed her. Because of money?

She stood up too suddenly and swayed. But it was unthinkable to give way in here. She steadied herself at the garden door, and, out of long habit, reached for a hat. She ran down to the end of the garden and wept ragged, hysterical tears of rage.

It was only after she was curled, hollowed out, on the bench, that she remembered Edith. The girl must be eighteen or nineteen. Had she been engaged? If so, it was likely that was over. Where was she living?

Humiliation rose red through her. She ought, for the sake of her childhood friend, invite the girl to stay, at least for a short while. Offer her a refuge in her time of trouble. But anywhere where Peter was was no refuge at all.

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