Her Second Letter to Kate

Her First Letter to Kate


Dear Kate,


I will lay our tardy postal service to waste for making me think you were too mad to write. I’m sorry for saying sorry so much, and I’m glad that Everett took all that about the Irish well. Your account of that winter ball is so romantic that it has opened my eyes – our stately public library, whose bookish smell I inhaled so happily, is just a drafty, ill-maintained nook, not to compare with fresh-cut evergreen boughs and spun snow. I’m truly, truly jealous and happy for you.

It is funny that I am back in Kent, armed with a university degree of questionable usefulness, only to be sequestered in another library. But there is some reading I should do for the dreaded little office job, and mother wanted some books too. I thought I would write to you while I am here, sitting at a wobbly desk in the corner, since it lends a desperate ambiance to the letter-writing, and since the steam coach will be another hour to take me home any way.

Irene is doing well as far as I know. Whenever I am home, and by some grace she is about, she has a lot of new things to say about Sufism and about the balance inherent in a proper essay, about the nature of the soul and about a ripping Australian named Dean. Except that she somehow doesn’t actually tell us much about Dean. My questions are fended off by the casual nature of their relationship – for if it is casual there is nothing to be said, correct? (If I had another colour of ink I would reserve it for all things sarcastic, and re-write that sentence in purple, or green, or something. I think that if it is a casual relationship there are probably many more things to be said than if it were the usual boy friend arrangement. Only the faeries know what my sister is up to and only the faeries are allowed to comment.)

Shallowly, I am less bothered by knowing very little about Dean than by the way Irene has changed her dress to that of the typical theology student. You know the paper fripperies that they like to make for themselves?

Bias is a wonderful thing, and I think that the absence of any style in the geography department is the true ideal. We shuffle from rocks to maps without any distracting flare. You must tell me if your psychology lectures are populated with a certain frame of eyeglasses, or collars, or bits of slang.

See, I wrote as if I were still a student. Do you think this means I miss it?

But I started this letter meaning to tell you a story about my return home from the university. There was an old lady on the train into Kent rambling on about her days as the town belle. I took it upon myself to act out of character and help her along in the telling, and I realized something. It’s a wonderful thing to be admired, and it is even more so when you have a boy of your own. You might garner all sorts of flattering attention, and (rightfully!) bask in it, but because your boy is not too far away, you needn’t worry about what any of your admirers are like.

You needn’t try to decide whether you could like any of them. You can have fun without a single care, and as a result you will probably be wittier, and more dazzling, than if you were actually looking to fall in love. Isn’t this a nice irony? But now that I have written this out, Kate, I imagine that it is nothing new to you, for you have your good Everett and you are quite three times lovelier than you would need to be to turn heads! I wish I had your knack for choosing dresses.

That garrulous old lady made me understand why married woman still go to parties when their husbands are sure to stay at home, or go to the club, or sit at cards for all the night. When the two are home together again they are content, each with their different passing of the time.

In the end I was exhausted by her, but still proud that I engaged in conversation with a stranger.


Your recluse,



PS. It is nonsensical that we can have a twirling ladder of genes, but we cannot have a round planet!

4 thoughts on “Her Second Letter to Kate

  1. How… Did you write that? It’s like you’ve totally become that character, slipped into her life, and written from her mind!! Amazing, I felt like I was reading one of the classics.

    1. Sorry for such a late reply! I had technology issues. Thank you so much for that comment, I’m flattered 🙂 I think that I am writing a character who is much like myself and my own inner dialogue, so that’s probably why it sounds like I have “slipped into” her!


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