• Jane

    It is 1930. We are eight.

    My father says to me-

    ‘Emma, this is your cousin Jane.’

    We are waiting to hear our Congressman finish making his speech so we can go home. I wear a frock of orange calico. Jane wears linen, lace, a pearl. Her shoes are neat black leather, with shiny buttons. Mine are brown. I resent her.

    The day is warm. I squirm in my seat. Jane looks at me and her small mouth smiles very prettily. Her eyes are distant. They flow over my blunt nose, my thick jaw. Her smile deepens. I hate her.


    It is 1940. We are eighteen.

    Graduation looms. We are sitting in a classroom, perhaps for the last time. It is time to submit our final papers, and to deliver our verbal reports. Both of us have read the other’s paper, and they are both perfect. She writes lightly and joyfully, without difficulty. I have not spent an evening outside of a library for almost two months. I resent her.

    The day has arrived. She stands. She is witty, graceful and incisive. If anything, her speech outdoes her paper. She handles challenges and questions with almost contemptuous ease. When she is done, there is applause. She smiles at me, encouragingly. It is my turn. I stand. Within a few heartbeats, I am lost. There are whispers, gasps, giggles. Jane looks at me. Disappointment. I hate her.


    It is 1942. There is war.

    I am invited to her wedding. Her Bill is tall, handsome, lively – newly recruited into the naval air force. They dazzle all during the ceremony, he in his blue uniform, her in her white gown. Bill is not as tall as my Tommy, nor as handsome, and he lacks Tommy’s sparkling humour. Tommy died in Hawaii in 1941, when the Harbour burned. Now Janie and Bill lead the room in a waltz. I resent her. I know I shouldn’t.

    I try to smile – I must stay cheerful, like Tommy would want. I have had my wedding, and this is hers. Bill’s brother asks to dance with me, and I assent. I last for half a circuit before I must apologise and move to the edge of the circle, alone. At a pause between dances, I see Jane looking at me. At first, I am shocked by the concern in her gaze. Then the moment passes, and I realise it isn’t sympathy, just pity. I hate her. I hate her. I know I shouldn’t.


    It is 2006. It is over.

    Jane is dead, and Bill preceded her. He survived the war; post-surgical infection triumphed where Zero fighters and kamikaze failed. They had many years of reasonably happy married life. I never remarried, and have spent my life alone, but this is an old bitterness, like an old friend. Their children soon take their share of property, relics, assets, heirlooms. To me is left only an empty house – empty, save for odds and ends too old or obscure or insignificant to mean anything to the children. I…am too tired to resent them for that.

    The house is large and seated on a lake. It is pleasant enough. I think the children hoped I could live out my life here in peace. I don’t know what Jane told them about me. I’m sure she knew how I felt about her. If she didn’t tell her children, then I won’t either. I won’t tell them that their gift has taken what peace I had left. Jane is everywhere here. The baubles that mean nothing to them mean everything to me. Every step reminds me of her, but I will live here nonetheless. I think I owe it to her.

    And I am too tired to hate her any more.