They were two sisters of youthful middle age with three breasts between them and a history that might be summed up as “much left unsaid”. Maggie, the elder, who’d had an operation eighteen months before, rarely alluded to the fact in her younger sister’s company and spoke with an air of startled reproach if Esther brought up the subject of her health, as if Maggie’s breast cancer were a symptom of a moral weakness, a deficiency of character, about which Esther had no right to know.

Eighteen months before, after the removal of Maggie’s left breast Esther had driven 370 miles to see her sister and was immediately rebuffed by Maggie’s steely good humour, just as, when they were girls, she’d been outplayed on the tennis court by Maggie’s remarkable cannon-ball serves and vicious returns. In her hospital bed, in the presence of Maggie’s husband Dwight, Maggie had assured Esther, indicating the bulky- bandaged left side of her chest. “Hey, sweetie, don’t look like a funeral. It’s no gross loss, I wasn’t planning on using it again”.

Was this funny? Esther had managed to smile weakly, wanting to slap Maggie’s face.

Now it was the late spring of another year. The day following their elderly father’s funeral. Four days after their elderly father’s death. Esther had returned to their home town too late by forty-five minutes to see Dr. Hewart before he died: of a heart attack, after a long illness.

Esther had returned to the town hurriedly. Esther had returned, it had to be admitted, reluctantly. For twenty years, in fact for more than twenty years, Esther had avoided the place as much as possible for no reason she could name, not wanting to concede even to herself that it was Maggie’s territory.

Of course, Esther didn’t hate her sister. Esther was in terror that Maggie would die and leave her as the surviving Hewart sister.

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