This Flesh, This Ghost

Had he not been rich, they would have said Annabel was throwing herself away on a blind man. They said so anyway, watching the way she had to lead him down Joubert Street like a dog. He should be marrying the older one, they said. How would someone like him know the difference between one girl and another?

Well, I could have told them how. The man had ears. Ever since Annabel was a child, they themselves had been remarking on the differences between us. She was tall and beautiful and she sang like a bird. I was shapeless and shy, with small eyes and a large thick nose. Next to her, what could I be to any man, even a blind one?

“Go and tell her he is arrived,” Ma said to me. “And don’t yell.” The sound of him shuffling up the front steps always put her into a bad mood, and today he was staying for lunch, an extra reason. “Why does he have to smile for nothing?” she would grumble. “One of these days I’m going to tell him myself there’s nothing to smile about with such an affliction.”

Ma had always been unsettled by an affliction greater than her own. All her life, from youth to widowhood, from one country to another, she had been followed by disappointment. Nothing except Annabel had ever come along to reward her expectations.

And now this.

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