13 Little Blue Envelopes
    It had taken almost the entire ride to explain the basics. She’d had to go back to the very beginning of everything . . . back to New York, back to Aunt Peg’s “today I live in” games.
    She brushed quickly over the events of the last few months—the phone call from Richard, the horrible sinking feeling, the drive up to the airport to claim the body—and got to the interesting part, the arrival of the package with the envelopes. She waited for Keith’s big reaction, but all she got was: 115

    “That’s a bit crap, isn’t it?”
    “The artist excuse. If you can call that an excuse.”
    “You really had to know her,” she said, trying hard to make it sound light.
    “No, I don’t. That is crap. I know crap. I have seen crap before.
    The more you tell me about your aunt, the less I like her.”
    Ginny felt her eyes narrowing a little.
    “You didn’t know her,” she said.
    “You’ve told me enough. I don’t like what she did to you.
    She seems to have meant the world to you when you were a kid, and she just left one day without a word. And her entire explanation to you comes in the form of a few very odd little envelopes.”
    “No,” she said, feeling an anger rising suddenly. “Everything interesting that ever happened to me happened because of her.
    Without her, I’m boring. You don’t get it because you have stories.”
    “Everyone has stories,” he said dismissively.
    “Not good ones, like yours. They aren’t as interesting. You got arrested . I couldn’t have gotten arrested if I tried.”
    “It doesn’t take a lot of effort,” he said. “Besides, it wasn’t getting arrested that was the problem.”
    He drummed his fingers on the table, then turned and looked at her for a moment.
    “Okay,” he said. “You told your story, might as well tell you mine while we’re here. When I was sixteen, I had a girlfriend.
    Her name was Claire. I was worse than David. She was all I thought about. Didn’t care about school, didn’t care about 116

    anything. I stopped mucking about because I was spending all my time with her.”
    “Why is that a problem?”
    “Well, she got pregnant,” he said, flicking the edge of the table with his finger. “And that was a bit of a mess.”
    It was one thing to know Keith had had sex. That should have been obvious since he was Keith, and not her, not so painfully virginal. But pregnancy was a step beyond anything she could really process. That implied a lot of sex. So much sex. So much that he could say it all casually.
    Ginny looked down at the table. Obviously, she knew these things happened, but they never happened to her or to her friends. They happened on TV or to people in school who she didn’t know. Somehow, those kinds of stories always trickled down to the general populace months after they happened, giving the people involved a permanent, shiny veneer of maturity that she would never, ever have. She couldn’t even drive after ten o’clock at night.
    “Are you horrified?” he asked, glancing over. “It does happen, you know.”
    “I know,” she said quickly. “What happened? I mean, did she—?”
    She caught herself short. What was she saying?
    “I’m not a dad, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said.
    Well, yes. That was exactly what she was so cleverly asking.
    This was why nothing ever happened to her. She couldn’t handle the excitement. She couldn’t even make it through a conversation about something serious and sexual without blowing it.
    “It’s a fair question,” he said. “I offered to leave school and 117

    get a job. I was ready to do it, too. But she didn’t want to leave school, so she decided there was only one thing she could do about it. I can’t blame her.”
    They rode in silence for a few minutes, both rocking slightly in time with the train and staring at the poster for the train’s
    “Get some food!” promotion, which featured a picture of a bald man who was

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