Welcome, newcomers. This is a weekly installment of a novel-in-progress, a misguided endeavor that you can read here.

In the dark, listening to the creak of old wood and the scrape of wind across the eaves of Mrs. Nowak’s house, I miss Edwina so badly I can almost see her shape in the best next to me.

“It was horrific,” I whisper to her.

“Worse than my predicament? It couldn’t be that bad.”

Well, not so bad. Not when she puts it that way.

“Awkward,” I clarify. “Horrifically awkward.”

“What happened?” She turns toward me now, her curiosity awakened.

“First we went for a long stroll around the town, so we could get to know each other. But we had nothing to talk about. We understand so little about one another that we didn’t even know what questions to ask. I asked about his work, and he said the mines were no topic for a girl. Then he asked about my work, and… I couldn’t very well tell him, could I?”

“What did you say?”

“I said I was a server in a large house, but I wanted to start my own life. And that was the end of yet another attempt at conversation.”

Edwina makes sympathetic sounds.

“That’s not the worst of it. When we got back to Mrs. Nowak’s house, he tried to kiss me.”

“He didn’t.”

“Right on the front stoop. It was even more awkward than the walking. First, he took both my hands. Then he stepped down a stair, so our heads were even. That felt strange, so I stepped down a stair. Then he stepped down another stair. Then I stepped down. Honestly, Edwina, we should have been in a travelling clown act.”

She giggles.

“He kissed me, finally, and our teeth scraped.”

My eyes have adjusted to the dark now and I can see the outlines of each blanket in the mound beside me. They’re just blankets. Edwina is disappearing into the darkness. I feel better for having told her, though.

“It was the worst feeling. Like the wrong note played on a fiddle… if the fiddle were right inside your jaw.”

I hear her laugh. Or I hear the rattle of the elm branches on the tiny attic window, just as I fall asleep.

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