A little while after Mary and Sean returned to Tina’s house, Mary took Tina aside:
“Tina, do you have time to talk about something?”
“At my age, all I have is time. It’s my only possession of value,” said Tina. “We can go in the parlor. Can I get you anything? I’m having tea. What’s Sean up to?”
“Tea would be fine. Sean is looking through his college things.”
When Tina returned with the tea Mary was reclining on the sofa, one hand covering her eyes. The intensity of her perceptions had not abated, even with her eyes closed; she was still in a state of hyper-awareness. The aroma of the tea was almost overwhelming.
“Your tea,” said Tina, “What did you want to talk about?”
“I met Edwin Duddle today,” said Mary.
“Oh dear,” Tina said as she stared into her tea, “What did he tell you?”
“He knows, doesn’t he? About Emily, about what I’m going through?”
“He… um… he knows some… things… ” Tina’s gaze remained fixed upon her teacup.
“Emily spoke to him, through me,” Mary said, “Then he gave me one of Emily’s books.”
“I see,” said Tina.
Mary looked at Tina. She became aware of a halo that had engulfed Tina’s head in a faint blue aura and cascaded down over the old woman’s shoulders. After a short pause, Mary spoke: “I asked him to be a witness to our marriage. He said that I should talk to you. What is it that I should know about Edwin? About Edwin and Emily?”
“Edwin and Emily, and me,” Tina said, looking up, “Edwin and I were in the same grade in school. When he was only 12 or 13 he started to come over here from time to time. At first, it was just to help Henry—he was good with his hands—and he always enjoyed learning new things. But by the time we were in high school, well, you know how it is, when the hormones kick in. I liked being around Edwin, although at the time I probably couldn’t have articulated why. He was fair and tall. Sexy, you could even say, in his rough, unpolished way. A young woman didn’t talk about those things at that time. Then, when Emily came back to give birth to Sean’s mother, Marylin, she took an interest in him. He could draw fairly well, even before Emily began to ‘teach him.’ After Marilyn was born, Edwin would come over for ‘art lessons.’ I was more than a little miffed at the attention he gave to her—I thought he should be paying attention to me!”
“How long did this go on?” asked Mary.
“Oh, a little over half a year. Marilyn was born in August. The lessons started in late October, I think. Yes, it was October; the leaves had turned. After school he’d ride the bus home with me and then he and Emily would go up to her attic studio for an hour or so. I’d watch the baby. Then he’d walk home—his parents lived over the hill—he had a short-cut out back, through the pasture, at least until the snow got too deep.”
“There was more to it than that, I take it?” Mary said, “Something happened?”
“It really doesn’t matter anymore. I just want you to understand why Edwin and I aren’t close. Don’t tell Sean about what I’m going to tell you, it would only make him unhappy. There isn’t anything he can do about it now.”
As Tina sipped her tea Mary could sense that whatever the incident was it had affected Tina deeply.
“Tina, if you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll understand,” said Mary, “It’s quite alright if you don’t.”
“No, it’s not alright. I’ve got to tell you the whole story, now that you’re aware that something happened between Edwin and me… and Emily. You’re in too deep already,” Tina took a sip of tea. “In the spring of ’47, it was early May, in our senior year of high school, and Edwin was taking his lesson in Emily’s attic studio. Henry and Alice had gone into town, so I was alone with Marilyn, the baby. She was sleeping, and I was bored—and more than a little jealous of the amount of time that Edwin spent with Emily. I… I crept up the stairs to the attic, to see what Edwin and Emily were up to,” Tina paused again. “When I got to the landing, I could hear moaning and a muffled thumping. I wasn’t naive, I grew up on a farm, I knew what sex was. But it hadn’t dawned on me that Edwin and Emily would… ”
“You don’t have to continue,” said Mary.
“No, let me finish what I’ve started,” said Tina, “I looked through the keyhole, I saw them together, naked, in the throes of passion. I fled, I think they heard me go down the stairs. Later, after Edwin had left, I confronted Emily.”
“What did she say?” said Mary. She noticed that Tina’s aura was changing, morphing from pale blue into a deep violet.
“She said: ‘Don't judge me.’ And that was the end of it. She returned to New York a few days later. I had to go to school, to finish my year, and Edwin was always there. I couldn’t even look at him anymore. He knew that I was aware of what he had done with my mother. We’ve hardly spoken since.” Tina put down her cup and saucer and then said, in a voice barely above a whisper: “My own mother.”
“But you reconciled with Emily? You can ‘see’ her, and ‘feel’ her presence?” said Mary.
“She is still my mother. Now that I’m older, and I realize what kind of woman Emily was, I can understand, sort of understand that is, about what she did. But since then I’ve never wanted to risk loving a man and then losing him to another woman. It would always be in the back of my mind whenever a man would try to become ‘friendly’ with me. It isn’t realistic, I know, but I just can’t help it. I feel the way I feel. Now, don’t let me be a damper on your life, Mary. Why don’t you talk to Edwin. Let him tell you his side of the story. He isn’t a bad man, and he did know Emily, it might help you to understand her. As far as your feelings about Emily are concerned, well, that’s between you and her.”
Mary sat quietly, thinking about what Tina had said. The room seemed to be quivering; everything in it seemed to possess an ineffable meaning.
Tina’s aura had faded. Mary’s tea was cold. Sean came into the parlor.
“What’s new?” he said.