Fall 2013 • Vol. XXXV No. 4 Fiction |

The Authoress

The autumn Bess and Maureen returned to the local high school, the Penwood rapist was released from prison. His crimes had been committed thirty-five years before, and now he was just Mr. Philbrick, an old man on oxygen. To Bess's and Maureen's surprise he'd moved back into the house he'd lived in before he was sent off—a deteriorating saltbox found on a narrow lane adjoining their family's property. One night after his arrival, Bess gathered their stories' loose pages off the dining-room table, and Maureen slid the latches on the old vinyl Tourister Vanity suitcase. Inside smelled of their dead mother's Joy and a dried sachet their older sister had years ago tucked into the suit case's satin pocket. Bess put in the pages, Maureen shut the suitcase and locked it, and then they began to circle the dining-room table, the sound of their feet in ballet slippers imperceptible. Bess said she was annoyed by the rapist's return. "Reformed rapist," Maureen said. "Still," Bess said.

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