We went to Shani's for dinner the next day, as invited, and she and Clara taught us how to play pool on their table. It was quite a new experience for me - I have always despised all forms of sport, apart from badminton, for the brief three weeks we had the pleasure of playing it one time at school, but snooker was a fresh awakening to the idea of exercise, and an enlightening one. Clara had soon invited us round for dinner the following Saturday, to practice at pool and get to know my parents better.

Yeah, they got on well. My mum was unusually talkative, and surprisingly friendly. Back in Douitchurch, and especially in Ireland, she had been undoubtably rather deranged in the mind, but since coming to America, and rejoicing in peaceful solitude - as opposed to the wacky and turbulent solitude she had been used to - the weak bonds of her mind had been healing, welding back together, and growing thicker.

My dad, similarly, had become a far more jovial person. Instead of swearing at nothing and immersing himself in his fruitless artwork, he was spending more time at home, helping (or attempting to help) me with my homework, and organising family card games, as he had done long ago, when Vere was alive...

We did not mention Vere. Nobody did. Clara had evidently warned Shani against mentioning the sister I had referred to, whom I had left behind, and whom I would never see again. Perhaps she, with her motherly instincts, sensed that there was more to the story, where Shani was blind.

That was why I did not love Shani. She was kind and cheery, and had the happy ability to uplift and inspire me when I felt numb and brooding - but she made me forget too much. She did not see suffering, because it was not a part of her nature, and she had never experienced suffering of the same kind as I. She had disappointed her dad, she said, but she had not seen her sister's life smashed apart.

Why, I hadn't even been given the option to watch Vere's life wither away like poison - it was just crushed in a single swipe of the blade, without justice or warning. It had just happened, and the shock to my system had been little short of the shock to Vere's own system. She had been killed; I had nearly killed myself.

Considering the situation, and the events of the previous evening, which I do not care to relate - not that they are of any more interest than where I left off, but may provide food for my embarrassment - it might have been awkward seeing Shani again. If respects had been left to me to convey, it would certainly have been strange and nervous. But Shani was never strange or nervous, and she greeted me with a squeeze of the upper arm and a radiant smile.

She liked me - oh, yes, she liked me. But I could not like her back in the same way, however kind and sweet she was, and however many encouraging lifts of the lips she directed towards me. I was immune. I was taken already. My heart had been stolen long ago, by a girl with dark hair and dark eyes, who had a slender waist and a full bust, and who moved like a sleuth in the black of the night.

Suddenly, I wondered why she had been there - creeping about at the back of our old house in the dark? Why had she been alone? Was she really that stupid? Why was she there at all?

It was another mystery to add to the many listed in the Notebook of Lists that was hidden in the secret wooden box on my bedside table. And it was not a mystery to be answered. Deanna Macpherson was still in England, like Vere. And, like Vere, I would never see her again.

Or would I? Somewhere, deep in the restless churning of my soul, I had the prophetic feeling that someday, somehow, I would meet Deanna once again. And this time, there would be nothing held back. The blackness of my soul I would pour before her, and she would cleanse it once and for all.

The End

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