Shelley Domer 25

Shelley stood awkwardly in front of him, beginning to look happy and a little scared. She never had known what to do about greeting people. If she had been one of the girls he had dated after her, she would have come tripping up and shrieked, “For goodness sake!” and kissed him loudly on the mouth even if she didn’t remember his name. But not Shelley. Shelley stood straight before him, with her hands pleating little bunches of her skirt at the sides, and smiled at him.

“Mom said she saw you sweeping the front porch,” he said. “I’m home for a little vacation. I thought I’d stop by and see how you were getting on.”

“Oh, well, I’m fine. Just seems funny to see you, I think…”

She moved over almost soundlessly to shut the door behind him, and he turned to watch her. There were little changes in her; he could see that even under the dim light in the hallway. Her hair, which used to hang almost to her shoulders in such straight blond ribbons that it had made him think of corn syrup was bunched scratchily behind her head now and held there by a few pins, much like Gram’s bun. Her face was prettier and more clearly defined, but she still gave the impression of a waifish kind of thinness that made her seem more like fifteen than twenty-five. Partly it was because she was pale and without make-up, and her eyes were such a light blue; partly it was because she was wearing old clothes that must have been her mother’s and were far too big for her. The skirt was a dingy pink, accordion-pleated and very long; the sweater was an old bulky maroon one that somehow made her shoulders blades stick out more in back than her breasts did in front. But she still moved the same way – almost frightenedly and without a sound, and always in slow motion. Now she slowly opened her hands at her sides, as if she was consciously telling herself to relax, and looked down at her clothes.