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“I don’t know. Emily said the Old Man shouted at Betty.”
At that moment, the door snapped open and the landlady stood right in front of Briony, so close to her that she c nike air max 95 ould smell peppermint on the woman’s breath. She pointed at the front door.
“This isn’t a railway station. Either you’re in, young lady, or you’re out.”
Cecilia was getting to her feet without any particular hurry, and was retying the silk cord of her dressing gown. She said languidly, “This is my sister, Briony, Mrs. Jarvis. Try and remember your manners when you speak to her.”
“In my own home I’ll speak as I please,” Mrs. Jarvis said. She turned back to Briony. “Stay if you’re staying, otherwise leave now and close the door behind you.”
Briony looked at her sister, guessing that she was unlikely to let her go now. Mrs. Jarvis had turned out to be an unwitting ally.
Cecilia spoke as though they were alone. “Don’t mind the landlady. I’m leaving at the end of the week. Close the door and come up.”
Watched by Mrs. Jarvis, nike canada Briony began to follow her sister up the stairs.
“And as for you, Lady Muck,” the landlady called up.
But Cecilia turned sharply and cut her off. “Enough, Mrs. Jarvis. Now that’s quite enough.”
Briony recognized the tone. Pure Nightingale, for use on difficult patients cheap nike air max trainers or tearful students. It took years to perfect. Cecilia had surely been promoted to ward sister.
On the first-floor landing, as she was about to open her door, she gave Briony a look, a cool glance to let her know that nothing had changed, nothing had softened. From the bathroom across the way, through its half-open door, drifted a humid scented air and a hollow dripping sound. Cecilia had been about to take a bath. She led Briony into her flat. Some of the tidiest nurses on the ward lived in stews in their own rooms, and she would not have been surprised to see a new version of Cecilia’s old chaos. But the impression here was of a simple and lonely life. A medium-sized room had been divided to make a narrow strip of a kitchen and, presumably, a bedroom next door. The walls were papered with a design of pale vertical strips, like a boy’s pajamas, which heightened the sense of confinement. The lino was irregular offcuts from downstairs, and in places, gray floorboards showed. Under the single sash window was a sink with one tap a nike air max nd a one-ring gas cooker. Against the wall, leaving little room to squeeze by, was a table covered with a yellow gingham cloth. On it was a jam jar of blue flowers, harebells perhaps, and a full ashtray, and a pile of books. At the bottom were Gray’s Anatomy and a collected Shakespeare, and above them, on slenderer spines, names in faded silver and gold—she saw Housman and Crabbe. By the books were two bottles of nike air max sale stout. In the corner furthest from the window was the door to the bedroom on which was tacked a map of northern Europe.
Cecilia took a cigarette from a packet by the cooker, and then, remembering that her sister was no longer a child, offered one to her. There were two kitchen chairs by the table, but Cecilia, who leaned with her back to the sink, did not invite Briony to sit down. The two women smoked and waited, so it seemed to Briony, for the air to clear of the landlady’s presence.
Cecilia said in a quiet level voice, “When I got your letter I went to see a solicitor. It’s not straightforward, unless there’s hard new evidence. Your change of heart won’t be enough. Lola will go on saying she doesn’t know. Our only hope was old Hardman and now he’s dead.”
“Hardman?” The contending elements—the fact of his death, his rel cheap nike air max evance to the case—confused Briony and she struggled with her memory. Was Hardman out that night looking for the twins? Did he see something? Was something said in court that she didn’t kn nike air max 90 sale ow about?
“Didn’t you know he was dead?”
“No. But . . .”
Cecilia’s attempts at a neutral, factual tone were coming apart. Agitated, she came away from the cooking area, squeezed past the table and went to the other end of the room and stood by the bedroom door. Her voice was breathy as she tried to control her anger.
“How odd that Emily didn’t include that in her news along with the corn and the evacuees. He had cancer. Perhaps with the fear of God in him he was saying something in his last days that was rather too inconvenient for everyone at this stage.”
“But Cee . . .”
She snapped, “Don’t call me that!” She repeated in nike air max 90 a softer voice, “Please don’t call me that.” Her fingers were on the handle of the bedroom door and it looked like the interview was coming to an end. She was about to disappear.
With an implausible display of calm, she summarized for Briony.
“What I paid two guineas to discover is this. There isn’t going to be an appeal jus nike canada online t because five years on you’ve decided to tell the truth.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying . . .” Briony wanted to get back to Hardman, but Cecilia needed to tell her what must have gone through her head many times lately.
“It isn’t difficult. If you were lying then, why should a court believe you now? There are no new facts, and you’re an unreliable witness.”
Briony carried her half-smoked cigarette to the sink. She was feeling sick. She took a saucer for an ashtray from the plate rack. Her si cheap nike air max ster’s confirmation of her crime was terrible to hear. But the perspective was unfamiliar. Weak, stupid, confused, cowardly, evasive—she had hated herself for everything she had been, but she had never thought of herself as a liar. How strange, and how clear it must seem to Cecilia. It was obvious, and irrefutable. And yet, for a moment she even thought of defending herself. She hadn’t intended to mislead, she hadn’t acted out of malice. But who would believe that?
She stood where Cecilia had stood, with her back to the sink and, unable to meet her sister’s eye, said, “What I did was terrible. I d nike canada store on’t expect you to forgive me.”
“Don’t worry about that,” she said soothingly, and in the second or two during which she drew deeply on her cigarette, Briony flinched as her hopes lifted unreally. “Don’t worry,” her sister resume nike air max 1 d. “I won’t ever forgive you.”
“And if I can’t go to court, that won’t stop me telling everyone what I did.”
As her sister gave a wild little laugh, Briony realized how frightened she was of Cecilia. Her derision was even harder to confront than her anger. This narrow room with its stripes like bars contained a histo nike air max classic ry of feeling that no one could imagine. Briony pressed on. She was, after all, in a part of the conversation she had rehearsed.
“I’ll go to Surrey and speak to Emily and the Old Man. I’ll tell them everything.”
“Yes, you said that in your letter. What’s stopping you? You’ve had five years. Why haven’t you been?”
“I wanted to see you first.”③

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