Strawberries in the Sea

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Authors: Elisabeth Ogilvie
from twigs down her neck, and wondered if there was anything in the fishhouse she could use. She’d be damned if she’d borrow; she’d come out here to be left alone, and that worked both ways.

CHAPTER 7
    L ying by her feet was a spray of wild honeysuckle, its fragile blossoms pale yellow and ivory. She took it into the house and put it in a broken-nosed pitcher. This used up her water, and she was just about to go to the well for more when she heard voices and saw movement past the kitchen’s side windows. Before she could escape, someone was knocking gently at the back door.
    At least this time she didn’t expect Con, she thought with an attempt at cynicism. “Come in!” she called.
    Instantly the place filled up with young girls, all looking exactly alike with streaming hair, shorts, long legs, and bare feet. After a confused moment the throng shook down to three. She felt enormous. She made a weak gesture with the pail. “I was just—”
    A tall girl with yellow hair said, “There’s a telephone call for you. For you to call back, I mean. He called up yesterday.” She frowned, and it made her look familiar in some way. “No, last night, really.”
    Another girl had thick black bangs and round dark eyes, like a Shetland pony, and a pony’s way of moving head and feet. “Young Mark came up to tell you, but there was no light and he was too bashful to knock. He wanted to get the first look at the new lady.”
    â€œI’m sorry I disappointed him,” said Rosa, and they laughed with relief, so she wondered if she’d looked grim, wild-eyed, or vacant. Then there was a self-conscious silence, a shifting of bare feet and of eyes, and Rosa’s mind was quite blank of anything except Con waiting for her to call.
    She started to say, “Well, thank you for—”
    The blond girl said at the same time, “Well, we’d better be going—”
    There was another little burst of nervous laughter, a general movement toward the door, when the third girl stopped and said, “Is that your guitar?”
    â€œYes,” said Rosa, so anxious to get them out that she began to sweat.
    â€œIt looks as if it’s been played a lot.” She had sharp, freckled features and elbows to match. She had a brusque, choppy manner except when she reached out and touched the guitar delicately with one finger.
    â€œThat one’s been played for about ten years,” Rosa said, trying to get them in motion again.
    â€œGosh, you must really know how to play, then.”
    â€œI’m pretty good,” Rosa admitted.
    â€œVic’s a pretty good piano player,” offered the blond girl, smiling affectionately at her friend.
    â€œVic for Victoria?”
    The freckled girl, diverted from the guitar, became jerky and self-conscious again. “Isn’t it awful for somebody who looks like me?”
    â€œRosa’s just as awful, especially when you’re hefty,” said Rosa. “It makes people think of baby elephants, for some reason.” She was amusing them, and she felt better. “What’s your name?” she asked the blond girl.
    â€œLinnea Sorensen, and this is my cousin Holly Bennett”—the Shetland pony—“and my friend from school who’s spending the summer with me. Vic Marchant. I mean Victoria Imogene Marchant.”
    â€œHow’d you like to pick this out of your eye?” Vic doubled a fist. All three burst into laughter.
    How easy they were, luxuriously foolish, spendthrift with summer. She didn’t resent that; they were children, and hard times came soon enough, not only to the fat ones and the fidgety ones with awkward elbows. Look at Phyllis, pretty as a money kitten; she must have put in some sick hours knowing she couldn’t pass the baby off as Adam’s and scared that Rosa wouldn’t divorce Con in time.
    Well, she’s safe enough now, Rosa thought,

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