Demosthenes in Pink
The paper was palely pink, delicately translucent. Onionskin, Jerry thought, though it was a prosy name for something so exquisite. The letter rustled in his hands, its many pages slipping over and through one another, whispering.
There was a pink monogram at the top of each page, demure and tidy, like her script. Of course she had monogrammed letter paper. If Jerry had thought to imagine it, he might have guessed that. But instead, it had been a surprise, falling out of the envelope and into his hands, accompanied by a single breath of lily-of-the-valley scent.
It wasn't an intimacy; she must use this same paper to write to her parents and to the headmaster of Queen's and to the Charlottetown Guardian whenever she quibbled with an editorial decision. But Jerry knew something about her that he hadn't known yesterday, and that felt precious, even if it wasn't secret. He wondered what sort of pen she used.
He had read the letter already, of course. Three times, now, or was it four? There was no more to learn from her words, but that didn't stop Jerry wanting to read them again. He settled himself into the old velveteen sofa in the boarding house common room and began again.
So far lost in this reverie, Jerry did not notice Jem until a lean, brown hand plucked the letter from his very fingers.
"And what do we have here?"
Jerry sat up sharply, but affected indifference. "Just a letter."
"A letter from Nan?" Jem raised one ruddy eyebrow and make a show of stifling his smirk.
"Just school stuff."
Jem cleared his throat theatrically and began to read: "Dear Jerry, You put the question all wrong. It doesn't matter whether Demosthenes' political strategy was sound; it is the quality of his rhetoric that . . ." Jem fanned the pages in his hands. "Good grief, it goes on like this for ten pages!"
"I'll have that back, thank you," Jerry said, reaching for the letter.
Jem held it away. "Why on earth is Nan writing you tomes about . . ." he squinted at the prim handwriting, ". . . Demosthenes?"
"It's for an assignment."
"Nan's doing your coursework, is she?"
"No," Jerry said, beginning to feel heat blossoming in his cheeks. "We're just discussing it."
Jem grinned. "Oh, ho! In ten-page letters? Dollars to donuts the assignment isn't more than five, if it exists at all."
"I had a question . . . I thought she would have an opinion . . ."
"Well of course she would have an opinion," Jem chortled, "and if she didn't, she would find one in a hurry. But I'm sure we aren't short on opinions around here, are we? No other pretty girls with opinions on Demosthenes?"
"Not that I've met, no."
"We'll have to get you out more."
Jerry had been caught flat-footed by Jem's sudden arrival, but he sensed an opportunity to regain his stance here. "Oh? I would have thought that correspondence was infinitely more fascinating than Redmond social doings these days."
Jem adopted an exaggeratedly thoughtful pose. "Come to think of it, my letters have gotten awfully interesting lately. I had one from Miss Cornelia the other day . . ."
"Miss Cornelia, my foot," Jerry muttered. "I know Faith's handwriting well enough."
"Ever since we got back to Kingsport, you've had a letter a week at least."
"And none of them ten-page essays on Demosthenes, I assure you."
Jerry had to smile at that. No, only Nan would send a ream of petal paper, written small and close, on Athenian oratory.
"May I please have it back?" Jerry asked, standing on his dignity.
Jem rolled his eyes and offered up the papers. "Does this mean that the two of you are going to be insufferable when the girls come out to Redmond?"
Jerry folded the letter back into its envelope and tucked it safely away in the interior pocket of his jacket. "I can only hope."