art by Billy Sagulo
Why Women Turn To Stone
by Heather Morris
Tom tried to show interest in Miss Collingsworth's flower arranging as she blithered on about some dance in the next county, but he kept finding himself distracted by the statue under the arbor. Bent in a posture of world-weary resignation, the subject did not appear regal or refined; she was dressed in dowdy fashions of the last decade rather than of the classical era. Her face, broad and homely, was ill-cut, but the stone eyes seemed to stare Tom down clear across the garden. He'd heard brilliant things about his new neighbors, the Collingsworths, but if this was a mark of their taste, he wasn't sure he wanted to deepen the acquaintance.
"Mmmhmm," he muttered in Miss Collingsworth's direction, when it seemed there was an appropriate gap in the conversation. "Yes. Of course."
Eventually, she noticed his distraction. She tossed her pruning shears down roughly, shattering him from the dazed reverie. Caught, Tom tore his gaze hastily back to her, only to find her eyes sparking with mirth.
"What is it?" he asked, peeved.
"You were bespelled by the ugly statue, weren't you, Mr. Haversham?"
Her yellow curls and bow lips gave off the air of angelic innocence, but Tom sensed something sharp under that smile, and felt a new interest in the young woman. "A bit," he admitted. "It's strangely captivating."
"I must admit, I hardly notice her anymore. When Albert and I were children, of course, we clambered all over her like red Indians in the daytime and told bogey-stories about her at night. But I promise, if you put her out of your mind she'll stop bothering you soon enough."
"I don't understand. You speak as if she's a real person."
"Why, of course she's a real person, Mr. Haversham. That's Aunt Hephestia."