From the Antipodes to Here- Part 4

Mrs. Simmons watches her courses very carefully. She has a diary where she writes down whether she bled or not, and whether she thinks she could have conceived. I look at it, sometimes, when I’m reading and she falls asleep. I know it’s sinful of me, but I’m curious.

I was shocked by how plain she puts things. She writes when she and Mr. Simmons have been intimate, and at what time. Sometimes she describes it. She also keeps a list of names she likes in the corners of each page. These days, her favorites are Margaret and Daniel.

Once, she thinks she may have conceived, but she begins her courses later that week. She draws up inside herself and won’t talk to anybody for an entire day. She won’t even let me read to her from the Anne books. I want to tell her that I know why she’s so sad, but I can’t.

Not so many months after we talk about Anne Shirley and swans and fish, Mrs. Simmons gives me one of her most expensive dresses, the one made of a pink rose shantung. When I ask her why she doesn’t give me one of her old dresses, the ones that aren’t in fashion any more, she just says, “I won’t be needing this soon.”

“But why?”

“Swans don’t need dresses, you fool,” she says, but lightly, so I know she’s only teasing. “Didn’t Christ himself say, ‘Consider the lilies of the field, for they neither toil nor spin?’”

“I’m no lily,” I tell her. I feel the slip of the fine fabric between my fingers.

“Oh, Ada, don’t worry about that. You most certainly are,” she says. She dabs rouge on her cheeks in spots so bright she looks like a raging consumptive. “And so am I, darling. So am I.”

Read Part 5