I wrote this story in 1995 and had it available on my personal web site for many years. Then I lost track of it and only recently found it again via the Wayback Machine on Archive.org. Many thanks to whoever thought to archive it there!
Angels in the Attic
by Amy T. Goodloe
copyright © 1995. 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
do not reproduce without permission
It was almost midnight when the train pulled into Beverly Station. Emily
stepped out into the brisk January air and realized that it was too late for
the taxis, and much too late to call Edward or Mrs. Wells, so she snapped out
the tiny wheels on her suitcase and headed towards Lothrop Street, taking only
those streets that were well lit. In the two short weeks she had been in
Georgia she had forgotten about the bitter cold of Massachusetts and wished
she had a pair of thermal underwear on under her skirt. The streets were
lined with mounds of dirty snow, but at least it was snow; in Atlanta December
had been milder than usual, and she had worn shorts on Christmas day.
The old, gray house looked dark and empty against the moonlit sky. Emily
stopped on the steps and looked out over the ocean, at the view she had missed
seeing every morning. As quietly as she could she turned the key in the old
brass lock and let herself in, careful not to bump the hard plastic suitcase
against the walls. Mrs. Wells and Edward would have been asleep for several
hours, she realized, but they may have left her a little note in the kitchen.
Sure enough, on the counter was a little jar of Mrs. Wells’ homemade fudge
with a red ribbon around the neck and a note propped up against it. “Welcome
Back, Emily! We missed you!” The note was signed by both of them but it was
written in Edward’s small, neat handwriting. She took a piece of fudge out of
the jar and nibbled it slowly, staring out the kitchen window at the starlight
twinkling on the ocean. “I’m going to miss this place,” she thought. She put
the jar away in her section of the cupboard and lugged her suitcase up the
At the top of the stairs she saw the little Christmas tree she and Edward had
decorated, leaning slightly to the left and shedding needles. As she opened
the door to her room the smell of vanilla candles greeted her. “That’s
funny,” she thought. “It’s been at least three weeks since I lit a candle in
here, yet the scent is still so strong.” She put her bag down in the middle
of the room and stepped towards the desk to turn on a light.
Emily gasped when she saw the angels. Stretched across each of her four walls
was an intricate garland made of white nylons and lace, decorated with
homemade angels, about four or five on each wall. Each angel was completely
different and Emily walked towards each one to examine them more closely. One
was made from an old barbie doll, its wings fashioned out of toothpicks and
aluminum foil; another was made of twigs tied together with red thread, a
cotton ball for it’s head and bows of lace for wings; yet another was made out
of black construction paper with silver glitter and fake pearls glued to it.
Emily backed slowly towards her small, twin bed and sat down, trying to take
in the whole garland at once. She reached out her hand for support and then
stood up quickly and turned around, her heart racing . She looked around the
room, at the open closet, under the bed, in the corners, and saw no one. But
the bed was warm, as though someone had just been sleeping on it.
The first time Emily saw Rebecca she had only seen her from the back, and in
fact had only seen a flurry of white fabric and glitter. She didn’t find out
until later that it was Mrs. Wells’ granddaughter.
She had spent the day on the beach, working on her tan, and was walking back
towards the house in nothing but her bikini. Edward and Mrs. Wells sat on the
porch, drinking tea, and Emily sucked in her stomach when she saw Edward. She
pretended not to notice that they were there until Mrs. Wells shouted “Yoo
hoo!,” and then she shielded her eyes and squinted at them.
“Oh, hi!” she said, tilting her hips slightly. “Lovely day, isn’t it?” she
asked, tossing her towel casually over her shoulder.
“Just beautiful,” Mrs. Wells replied. “Would you like to join us for tea?”
“Sure,” Emily said. “I’ll be right up.”
Out of the corner of her eye Emily saw something white and shiny fluttering
from the top of the house, from the tiny balcony Mrs. Wells called the
“widow’s walk.” She stepped back to get a better look, but whatever it was
“What is it, dear?” Mrs. Wells asked, following Emily’s gaze.
“Oh, nothing. Just birds on the roof.”
She had lived in the old house on Lothrop Street for several months before she
found out who was leaving her the gifts. Several times a week she would come
home from teaching to discover a little pile of shells by her door, or a
collage made from magazine clippings of roses and angels, or once a shoe box
with little plastic figurines pasted to the bottom. One time she found a pile
of white feathers surrounded by a delicate braid of pink tissue paper.
Underneath the feathers was a tiny plastic horse with a bit of lace tied
around its neck.
When Emily had moved into the house she had determined not to fall in love
with the other boarder, Edward, who was from South Africa and spoke with a
cheery British accent. But he was so unlike American men, so secure in his
masculinity that he had no need to show off for her, to prove himself. They
chatted easily over dinner, and sometimes sat together in his room watching
TV. She often heard herself laughing nervously in his presence, sometimes
asking his advice on matters she already felt confident about, and her
behavior both annoyed and excited her. But Edward was extremely conventional,
nothing if not absolutely proper, and the idea of him cutting out pictures of
roses from magazines and leaving them at her doorstep seemed silly.
And then there was the singing. Long after Edward and Mrs. Wells had gone to
bed, Emily would sit up grading papers and planning assignments, late into the
night. That’s when she would hear the voice, a soft soprano, singing words
and melodies that she couldn’t quite make out, but that seemed vaguely
familiar. For weeks she had wandered the house in the moon light, trying to
figure out where the voice was coming from, until she realized with a shudder
that it came from the attic.
One night Emily stayed up particularly late, working her way through a set of
essays and listening to her new collection of classical renditions of Ave
Maria. When she turned off the stereo the music seemed to continue, and she
realized it was the voice in the attic, singing the words to Schubert’s
version, softly, sweetly, but clearly audible. She stood out in the hall and
listened, sure that Mrs. Wells or Edward would wake up and come out to see
what the noise was, but their rooms remained dark.
The next day at dinner she decided to ask Edward if he knew what was going on.
“The woman in the attic?” he asked, not in the least bit surprised. “Oh,
sure. That’s Mrs. Wells’ granddaughter, Rebecca. Didn’t you know she lived
Emily had no idea.
“You mean she lives in the attic?”
“Not exactly. She lives in the house. Or rather, she comes and goes as she
pleases. Sometimes she stays in the attic for weeks.”
“But why haven’t I ever seen her? What does she do during the day?” Emily
only taught two classes at the community college, so she spent quite a bit of
time at home. She had never seen or heard anyone else in the house in the day
time, except for Mrs. Wells of course.
“I’m quite sure I have no idea,” Edward said. “But no doubt you have seen
evidence of her around. Tea cups with eight bags of Orange Spice tea in them,
children’s books propped open on the stairs, little lace bows tied to
everything. The child is very fond of lace, and of all things white. Take
care you don’t leave your sugar cubes where she can get to them, as she rather
enjoys making castles out of them.”
Emily realized that she had seen those things around the house, but had just
assumed… what? That they belonged to Mrs. Wells? She wasn’t sure what she
had thought all those times; her mind had simply rationalized them away, and
she had never asked anyone about them.
“Child? How old is she?”
“Not much younger than you,” Edward said. “Twenty five, I believe.”
Why was a twenty-five year old woman living in her grandmother’s attic,
singing sad, sweet songs late at night and cutting pictures out of magazines?
“The little gifts, then,” she said. “Those must be from Rebecca?”
“What gifts?” Edward asked.
“The little collages and figurines and things I find at my door every couple
of days. I have a whole collection of little things, mostly of them white,
now that I think of it, and involving lace in some way. I have them in a box
upstairs in my closet.”
“Why haven’t you mentioned this before?” Edward asked, as though she had been
keeping an important secret from him.
Emily didn’t know. She didn’t want to admit her fantasy that they were from
Edward, because she knew how absurd that was, but she hadn’t really given it
much thought beyond that.
Mostly Emily thought about teaching, about her students and the ways she
could help them build self esteem through their writing. Almost all of them
had given up on college on the first go around and were back now only because
the New England economy forced so many factories out of work. She had taken
the job, her first after graduate school, under the assumption that she would
help the kids learn to deconstruct the dominant culture. She had looked
forward to showing them how the “five paragraph theme” structure that had been
drilled into them in high school was nothing but a type of thought control, a
way of limiting the free expression of ideas by sacrificing meaning to form,
but she discovered that most of them didn’t even know what a paragraph was.
And in their late twenties, thirties and even forties, they were hardly kids.
Her contract with the college was only for a year, and then she planned to
move back to Atlanta to start work on a ph.D. at Emory University. Nothing in
her master’s program had prepared her for the students at North Shore
Community College, in a city known best for the jingle that everyone sang
about it: “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin; you won’t come out the way you went
in.” Emily wasn’t sure what that meant, but she knew from the taunt, worried
faces of her students that life in Lynn wasn’t easy, and that first year
composition meant more to them than an excuse to party and goof off. Even the
younger students were serious about the work, determined to make a life for
themselves and, in most cases, for their children. Before moving to
Massachusetts Emily had never seen a pregnant teenager before; on the North
Shore they were everywhere.
“Why don’t you come sit with me on the porch,” Mrs. Wells asked her one day,
“And tell me about your students.”
The porch, along with all of the other rooms except the kitchen and their own
bedrooms were off limits to Emily and Edward, but occasionally Mrs. Wells
would invite one or both of them onto the porch for afternoon tea. Emily
often told her stories about her students, about their lives and their
aspirations and the things they would write about. Mrs. Wells and Edward were
both fascinated by her tales of student angst.
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll be right there.”
“So, dear,” Mrs. Wells asked, as Emily settled into her chair with a cup of
cranberry tea and a plate of oatmeal cookies. “Are you feeling any better
about that poor Lisa?”
Lisa Munroe had been one of her most promising students, a bright, bubbly girl
of nineteen, with a three year old daughter and dreams of becoming a legal
aide. She had hand-written a little note with her first paper, explaining
that she had never written an essay before and was afraid that this one would
disqualify her from the class. The assignment had simply been to use
description, the most basic of the five modes of rhetorical analysis Emily was
required to teach, and Lisa’s essay had been fantastic, easily among the best
in the class. She had described the process of giving birth with such vivid
detail and delicacy that Emily had dreamt for weeks that she, too, had
experienced it. But when Lisa’s father found out she was in school, rather
than working a second job, he threatened to fight for custody of Lisa’s
daughter and Lisa withdrew. Nothing Emily could say would change Lisa’s mind,
and she had never felt so helpless.
“Not really,” Emily said. “I still wish there was something I could have
done, some way I could have convinced her that her father had no right to
threaten her like that. She had so much talent, has so much talent, that it
just breaks my heart to think of her working in some fast food place, with no
future and no time to read or pursue the things she loves. What kind of life
does that man want for his daughter? For his granddaughter?”
“Sometimes parents think they know best,” Mrs. Wells said. “But of course
they often don’t.”
Emily wondered why some people chose to have children, if indeed they had
chosen it. Or was it just an accident for some? Simply the by-product of
youthful couplings? She envied her friend Jane, who would only have children
when she and her partner, Margaret, were ready for it, and not a moment
sooner. There was no need for them to worry about “accidents.”
“What could be ‘best’ about working two dead end jobs?” she asked, wishing she
had the chance to ask this of Lisa’s father. “At least with a college degree
Lisa has a chance of earning above minimum wage, and of maybe working regular
hours. I don’t know how she does it, now. Who takes care of her Mandy, I
“There are some day care centers funded by social services,” Mrs. Wells said.
“My Diane had to send her children to one when they were young, when that good
for nothing Jack left her without so much as a dollar to her name. Mind you
they aren’t in the greatest shape, and I have reason to believe they don’t
look after the children properly, but it’s better than nothing.”
Mrs. Wells didn’t talk much about her family, but Emily knew that she had two
daughters, Ruth and Diane, and that Diane lived only a few miles away. Ruth
and her husband and their four kids lived in Iowa, on a farm, and came to
visit during Christmas, but she saw Diane nearly every week. Rebecca was
“How old were the children when Jack left?” Emily asked cautiously, worried
that this might be too personal a question.
“Well let’s see,” Mrs. Wells replied, cupping her chin in her small, bony
hand. “I believe Jeff was about four, so Rebecca must have been, what, six or
so? When she was ten she ran away from home, and again at thirteen and
fifteen, but then she seemed to settle down. She met her friend Mary about
that time, and they were inseparable.”
Mrs. Wells paused and took a deep breath. She closed her eyes and Emily
wondered for a moment if she had nodded off to sleep.
“That girl has given Diane no end of grief,” Mrs. Wells continued, opening her
eyes. “She works so hard for her children, trying to provide things for them,
to make a better life for them than she had growing up. Not that Ralph and I
didn’t do the best we could, mind you. But those were hard times. Ralph made
a few bad business decisions and we lost everything when the kids were still
so young. I don’t think Diane has ever forgiven her father for that, rest his
Emily had never really given much thought to married life before, other than
the little fantasies she sometimes had about having a home and a family with
Edward. Listening to Mrs. Wells she realized that she wasn’t at all sure this
was what she wanted, that she enjoyed the fantasies but couldn’t imagine the
reality. The only thing she had ever really wanted to do was teach; it was
the only thing in her life she was sure of.
The morning after Emily came back from Christmas in Atlanta she awoke to the
familiar smell of eggs, bacon and coffee. And ginger. Mrs. Wells liked a
little fry little pieces of ginger in butter and spread them on her toast.
“Oh, my dear,” Mrs. Wells said, grasping Emily’s shoulder with one hand, “it
is so good to see you again.”
“What a pleasure to see your lovely face,” Edward said, standing up from the
table and taking her hand in his. She knew that he had waited to say hello to
her, that he would be half an hour late for work, and she was flattered. He
took one last sip of his coffee and took the cup to the sink.
“We’ll have to catch up later this evening,” he told her, as he zipped up his
parka and opened the door to the garage.
“Careful you don’t get caught in the storm, dear,” Mrs. Wells said as he left.
“What storm is that?” Emily asked.
“Oh, a big one. They say it should be here by tonight or maybe some time
tomorrow morning. I’ve got to get to the grocery store right away. Diane
should be here to get me in a few minutes.”
While they waited for Diane Emily told Mrs. Wells about Christmas in Atlanta,
about seeing her family and her sister’s new baby, the presents she had
received and the meals they had, her mother’s excitement over her moving back
to Atlanta in the summer.
“And how was your holiday?” Emily asked, knowing that Mrs. Wells had worried
about where Rebecca would go on Christmas day. She and her mother didn’t get
along at all, and Rebecca refused to be in the same room with Diane.
“It was nice,” Mrs. Wells said, smoothing her gray hair with her hands. “We
had a nice, quiet dinner on Christmas day, Jeff, Diane, Edward and I, and
played a couple of games of cards. Jeff played his guitar a little and Edward
and I sang.”
“And for New Years’?” Emily asked.
“Ah, uneventful as always. I watched TV and fell asleep at 10:30!” Mrs.
Wells giggled softly. “But on New Years’ Day there were a few surprises.”
Her expression changed suddenly, deep wrinkles creasing across her brow.
Just then the side door opened and Diane walked in.
“One minute, dear,” Mrs. Wells said, and began collecting her things. “I’ll
be right there.”
For two days all of New England waited for the big storm to hit, and just when
everyone decided it was a false alarm, it happened. In the space of several
hours the ground was covered in three and a half feet of heavy snow, with
drifts piling as high as five feet in some places. That night, as she sat in
her room plotting assignments for next semester and listening to her new Bach
CD, Emily heard a loud cracking noise outside and suddenly the lights went
out. She looked out the window and sure enough, all the street lights had
gone out too, although the smooth, white snow glowed brightly in the
Emily loved candles, and had at least a dozen of them place around her room,
but she had run out of matches. She knew Mrs. Wells kept a box in the kitchen
so she wrapped up in her new dark green flannel robe and wool socks and walked
down stairs. Edward and Mrs. Wells were both asleep and the house creaked as
the cold, ocean wind blew through it.
She was reaching into one of the kitchen cabinets trying to feel for the box
of matches when she heard the voice. At the window, by the little wooden
kitchen table, stood a young woman, with long, wavy blond hair piled on top of
her head, a child’s plastic diamond tiara perched on top. She was wearing a
frilly white prom dress, with bits of lace and silvery fabric tied in little
bows all over it. The dress looked dirty and ragged, but it shimmered in the
moonlight, casting an eerie glow on the woman’s face.
“Rebecca?” Emily asked.
Rebecca was singing very softly, words that Emily didn’t recognize, and she
held her gaze out the window, towards the ocean. She took one step towards
the window and the light splashed across swollen belly.
Emily didn’t know what to say. She had wanted to meet Rebecca for months and
had begun to believe she wasn’t real, that Emily was just imagining the
singing, the little gifts, the white dress fluttering on the roof. She had so
much she wanted to ask her, so much she wanted to share with her. “Maybe
she’ll come up to my room and talk,” Emily thought, and took a step towards
Rebecca turned to face Emily, her eyes wide with fear.
“Ooooooo,” Rebecca said, pursing her lips. She hummed a tune that sounded
vaguely like the theme from Sesame Street, but Emily couldn’t quite be sure.
“How was your Christmas, Rebecca?”
Rebecca took a step towards Emily, and Emily saw that she was wearing red
cowboy boots, badly scuffed at the toe. Rebecca took Emily’s right hand and
placed it on her stomach.
“Baby,” she said.
“Baby,” Emily repeated.
“Gabriel what?” Emily had just assumed that Rebecca could carry on a normal
conversation. Her heart raced as she tried to think of what to say next.
Rebecca closed her eyes and moved Emily’s hand in circles across her belly.
“Baby,” she said again.
“Would you like some cookies?” Emily asked, not at all sure what to do now
that she had Rebecca before her, Rebecca who could sing like an angel but
spoke like an infant.
Suddenly Rebecca looked up at the ceiling and gasped. The tiara on her head
slid to the right and several strands of hair shook loose. “Ooooooo,” she
said again. “Mary! Go, go, go!” She gathered her long skirt in her hands and
ran out of the kitchen. Emily stood still for several minutes, trying to hear
Rebecca’s footsteps, but the wind against the windows drowned out all other
“Are you ready for next semester, dear?” Mrs. Wells asked Emily the next
morning, as they sat eating bread and honey for breakfast. The power was
still out but the kitchen was bright with sunlight. She could hear Edward
stamping around upstairs, cleaning his room, restless without somewhere to go
and something to do. The secondary roads wouldn’t be cleared for another day
or so, and Edward resented having to miss several days at work.
“I’m getting there,” Emily said. “I think the second semester will be easier,
and I’m sure I’ll have some of the same students again.”
“Diane tells me that Jeff is going to sign up for classes this semester,
finally. I think he’s already had first year English, though.”
“Oh? What does he want to study?”
“Nothing, really. Guitar. Girls. The boy is twenty-three and has no greater
ambition in life than to drink expensive beer.”
Emily wanted to tell Mrs. Wells about seeing Rebecca the night before but
didn’t know where to start. She wondered if Mrs. Wells even knew that Rebecca
was pregnant. Or maybe that was what she had alluded to earlier, the big
surprise on New Year’s Day?
“Has Rebecca ever taken classes?” Emily asked.
“Oh, sure,” Mrs. Wells said. “Rebecca is a very bright girl. She started
over at Endicott and did very well, a few years back. But that was before she
“My poor little darling. Rebecca has been in and out of mental hospitals for
several years now. They say it’s schizophrenia but I don’t believe that.
Rebecca says it’s the angels.”
“Angels?” Emily was reminded of her one word conversation the night before.
“She says they talk to her. poor dear.” Mrs. Wells took a sip of coffee and
stared out the kitchen window. From the side Emily could see the Rebecca had
her grandmother’s profile, although she was at least half a foot taller than
Before she could decide on the appropriateness of the question she heard it
come out of her mouth. “Do you know how she got pregnant?”
Mrs. Wells smiled at Emily and raised her right eyebrow. “Well of course I
know how, dear. One doesn’t become a grandmother by magic, you know!”
Emily smiled back, relieved that her question hadn’t offended Mrs. Wells. “I
mean, is she dating anyone? Do you know if she’s going to keep the baby?”
“Rebecca never did care much for boys,” Mrs. Wells explained, looking back out
at the ocean. “In fact I think it was when her best friend Mary died that she
took a turn for the worse. Diane and I have no idea who the father of
Rebecca’s child is. She won’t say. And we have no idea what she plans to do
“When is she due?”
“I’m not sure. In April, maybe? If you want to know what I think, I think it
was one of those orderlies in the mental hospital that did this to her. Diane
thinks it was one of her ruffian friends, the drop-outs and vagrants she
shacks up with in Boston, but I don’t believe that for a second. When Rebecca
isn’t on medication she may seem incoherent and confused, but she knows how to
defend herself. I think it happened when she was too drugged up to know the
Back in her room Emily thought about her promising student, Lisa, and her
theories about why teenagers get pregnant: because they want something to
love, or they want their boyfriends to stay with them, or they need something
to give their lives meaning. Lisa explained that she had never been able to
hold down a job before she had Mandy, but that now she had purpose, direction,
a reason for going to work every day. And a reason for going to college,
Emily thought, and felt renewed anger at Lisa’s stubborn father.
That night Emily went to bed early, unable to get much work done by candle
light. She slept deeply for several hours and then awoke with a start, a dull
pain in her stomach. It felt strangely like kicking, she realized, rubbing
her hand over her smooth, flat belly. For the two years she had dated Robert
she had had a recurring dream, that she would wake up in the middle of the
night and discover that she was pregnant. But she hadn’t been with a man in
years, and she wasn’t dreaming. She also knew she couldn’t be pregnant, but
the sensation was so real, and her heart raced. She sat up and looked out the
front window, at the snow covered street. The smooth surface was broken up by
strange shapes, and as her eyes focused Emily realized what they were.
Someone had been making snow angels just under her window, in a large, neat
Rebecca’s baby was born in late April, a big, healthy boy with blonde hair and
green eyes, just like his mother. When they asked her what she wanted to name
the child she said “Lord Jesus,” so they asked her again. Again she said,
“Lord Jesus,” and Diane agreed to have the name entered on the birth
certificate. Mrs. Wells told Emily this on the porch one morning, as they
enjoyed their tea in the morning sun. “And then Rebecca ran away from the
hospital,” she added. “We haven’t seen her since.”
The semester had just come to a close and Emily had begun packing her things,
preparing for the move back to Atlanta. Over dinner she told Edward that he
should come visit her, that he would probably love the South, and he said he
would see what he could do.
“We’ll sure miss you,” he said, gripping his mug of tea with both hands.
“I’ll miss living here,” she said. She was planning to leave the following
Thursday but couldn’t bear the thought of going without saying goodbye to
Rebecca, without at least seeing her one more time. She missed hearing her
voice late at night, in the attic, and it had been months since she had
received any little gifts.
“Did I tell you about the gifts my students gave me?” she asked Edward.
“No! Don’t tell me that American students give their teachers presents even
“Not normally,” Emily explained. “But I guess some of them just felt like it.
I think this was an important class for some of my students.”
“You must feel really good about that, knowing that you probably made a
difference in their lives.” Emily did feel good about it, although she still
felt guilty for not being able to help Lisa. And, she realized suddenly, she
felt the same guilt over Rebecca.
“Barbara gave me a little porcelain box with my initials engraved on it,” she
said, smiling as she remembered Barbara’s serious face, and her long note
thanking Emily for giving her the courage to finish school. “And Carrie, the
woman with six grandchildren, the one I told you about who had been laid off
by GE? She gave me a little rose pin and wrote a poem to go with it. She had
never even read a poem before my class!”
On her last weekend in Massachusetts Emily took the train into Boston and went
so see everything she had missed on her other trips into the city. Edward had
loaned her his guide to the city’s historical monuments and she followed it
through Beacon Hill and beyond. The old churches in particular fascinated
her, although she wasn’t much interested in organized religion and had vague,
unpleasant memories of revivals and church picnics from her southern Baptist
upbringing. Then she remembered something Mrs. Wells had told her many months
ago, about Rebecca’s love of churches. She and some friends had once been
caught living in the storage room of the Old North Church, among the figurines
used in the annual nativity scene, and Rebecca had been known to follow
priests around, asking questions.
Emily stopped in one of the old Episcopal cathedrals and sat in the back row,
enjoying the cool glow of the stain glassed windows. She closed her eyes and
the image of her room the night she came back from Christmas eased into her
mind. The garland of angels along the walls, the smell of vanilla candles.
For a moment she thought she heard singing, a familiar female voice, but she
opened her eyes and saw no one.
The last box to go in the car had been carefully packed, to protect the little
homemade angels. Emily had saved one special box for all of the gifts Rebecca
had made for her, and she had wrapped each one in pink tissue paper. As she
eased the box into the last remaining space in the back of her car, she felt
her body tingling all over. Her room was empty now, and tomorrow morning she
would begin that long drive south, away from her life in Beverly, away from
Mrs. Wells and Edward and the ocean view she loved so much.
She closed the hatchback and leaned against the car, looking out over the
ocean. Rebecca was almost right in front of her before she saw her.
“Hi,” she said. Emily had never seen Rebecca wearing regular clothes, cut-off
jean shorts and a purple polo. Her eyes were clear and she smiled brightly.
“So, you’re leaving tomorrow?”
Emily’s eyes widened and she smiled. At last, a normal conversation, she
“Yep,” she said. “Driving home to Atlanta.”
“That’s where I’m from. And I’m going back for graduate school.”
“I’m going to work on a ph.D. in English, at Emory.”
“English?” So much for normal conversation. Emily sighed and looked down at
her legs, badly in need of a tan.
“Your grandmother tells me you used to love English,” she said, “that you
wanted to be a writer.” Rebecca furrowed her brow and looked out over the
ocean. She began twisting her fingers.
“So, gotta light?” she asked.
“No, Rebecca, I don’t smoke.”
Rebecca took a deep breath and looked Emily in the eye for a full minute.
“OK,” she said.
Emily returned the stare and her heart fluttered.
“OK,” Rebecca said again, and turned around quickly. She was gone before
Emily could think of anything to say.
“I never thanked you for the angels,” she said finally, into the wind.