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‘So I was… trying to realise… what…’ Isabel was struggling to unwrap her golden ball. ‘What they had in common.’


‘Mine. Yours.’

Anneliese shook her head in embarrassment.

‘I’d really rather not—’

If Anneliese insisted on abstaining from discussing men she would obliterate the possibility of any conversation with her sister. If she emphatically withheld her feelings when it came to her affairs their whole exchange would be unequal. She was trapped.

‘You know…’ Isabel pointed out. ‘They’re both killers, in some way.’

She was trying to be amusing. Anneliese only appeared shellshocked.

‘OK, OK.’ Isabel nodded. Her use of the two letters bothered Anneliese, together with other Americanisms her sister had picked up. ‘Actually…’ Isabel cleared her throat. ‘I meant to ask, during the reception – what does Susanna think of my predicament?’

If only Anneliese had grasped Susanna’s limitless capacity for lying. The latter’s view of Isabel’s ‘predicament’ was certainly among the numerous conceptions the psychiatrist had welded in her mind. But she cared not to divulge it – for that matter, even to herself.

‘She has nothing against it.’ was the phrase she flung off casually.

Isabel almost snorted.



‘The credence in your words…’ She sighed. ‘I was asking, because… I know what she has in her head.’

‘You couldn’t possibly divine what—’

‘I meant to say – she would know.’

‘About what?’

Isabel tossed a sweet to the side.


Anneliese despised these foul intrusions – even more so when they obviously derived from such uneducated guesses.

‘She doesn’t make the correlation, Isabel.’

‘He isn’t anything like her.’

‘I know.’ Anneliese confirmed. ‘But you can talk to me about it. I don’t want you to imagine that I missed your life.’

Isabel paused. When she opened her mouth she spoke wispily.

‘Liesa…’ She grabbed hold of a sweet immediately to play with it as if it were a gadget. ‘You were aware of the synopsis of my life; I wasn’t even aware of the outline of yours. So… so, now that this is where I am, and you’re not here… we’ll just have to speak more regularly.’

Anneliese blinked. That was something that she had inherited from Susanna, albeit unintentionally. She looked at the clock.

‘Oh…’ Quickly she scratched her neck. ‘My train leaves in forty minutes.’

‘I know.’

Anneliese stood up. Gradually Isabel walked over to her.

‘You should really come more often, Liesa. I mean… it’s so sunny here.’ She stroked her left arm with her right and sighed melodically.


‘And I miss you.’

Anneliese understood this to be a bad sign. Had her sister genuinely been exulting, if the spring in her heart couldn’t have resisted leaping, if she’d been engulfed by that extent of ecstasy it never would have been externalised in such a way. Isabel would have forgotten the words, ‘I miss you’. She would have replaced them with a future tense; twisted the phrase into a hypothetical addendum: ‘You know how much I’ll miss you!’

They hugged.

‘I’ll wait until the taxi comes.’ insisted Isabel.

They stood outside in pitch black darkness. The taller one barely discerned her sister’s silhouette.

‘We’re going to keep each other more abreast of everything that happens, Liesa; be more obedient in this way. Set up a regime. And call me… er… I’ll still be at home at seven. Call me then.’

‘I will.’

A few minutes later they parted, squeezing each other warmly.

Both of them already knew the truth. If Isabel called every day her news would be the distribution of a reportage: a linear account of what her girls had done. His name would rarely pop up in the conversation. And Isabel had no doubt that her sister would be reticent to unstitch sentiments she kept sewn-up with fastened knots. At the same time they wouldn’t settle for pretence and falsehood from each other. Instead they would glean substance from each other’s intonations. These would be the only packages they sent that properly conveyed their inner states.

After a journey that encumbered Anneliese with five stops, seven periods of waiting and the missiles of a bristling cold, she was at home at half past six. Thirty minutes later she dialled Isabel’s number.

Nobody picked up the telephone.

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