by Jennie Fields
Anna stands in front of Edith at her writing desk, her hands clasped, feeling all energy and intent drain from her. When she came into the study, Edith was writing a letter, and Anna's intrusion made her turn it upside down on her desk with childlike furtiveness.
"What on earth is the matter with you, Anna?" Edith asks. "Just say what you've come to say." Her voice is not harsh, her eyes not truly angry. But her brusque words send Anna even deeper into the morass of silence that provoked them.
"There's something I need to tell you," she says to Edith. "But maybe it would be best to come back later." She steps backward toward the door.
"Is this about Teddy?" Edith asks. "Because I've heard from him, just this morning. He's arrived in Hot Springs."
"Is he there at last? I'm so glad." She feels a breathtaking weight lifted from her, imagining Teddy bathed in warm, soothing waters.
"Of course, there's no word yet, but I have great hopes they can help him."
"Oh, I dearly hope so. He's so despondent, in so much pain."
"Yes, so he tells me again and again," Edith says. It hurts Anna to hear how dismissively she speaks of her husband. "What did you come to say, Tonni?"
Again, this morning, Edith didn't leave Anna a single page to type. Not one. And Gross said she didn't touch a bite of her luncheon. She looks high in color too. Keyed up.
"I've heard something," Anna finds the courage to say. "About Mr. Fullerton. I didn't want to tell you, but I decided you shouldn't . . . wouldn't want to hear it from others."
Edith's eyes fly to Anna's face. "What about him?"
"I got a letter from Kate Thorogood?"
"Kate . . . Thorogood?"
"Miss Norton's housekeeper."
"She wrote about Mr. Fullerton?"
"She said that he's . . ." Anna looks at her shoes, which need polishing. When she is done with this misery, she can polish her shoes. Then scrub the shoe polish from her fingernails. She would like to scrub the very skin from her hand. Edith will hate her when she reveals what she knows. Why did she embark on this terrible path?
"He's engaged to be married."
"What?" Edith bursts out laughing. "Mr. Fullerton? That's absurd. To whom? To whom does Miss Thorogood think he's engaged?"
"To his sister."
Every ounce of color drains from Edith's cheeks.
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