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The Other Woman

Sam Grieve was born in Cape Town, and lived in Paris and London prior to settling down in Connecticut with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Brown University, received an MA in English from King's College, London, and has worked as a librarian, a bookseller, and an antiquarian book-dealer. Her stories and poems have appeared in A cappella Zoo, PANK, and Southern Indiana Review, amongst others, and one of her stories was recognized as Notable Nonrequired Reading 2013 in The Best American Nonrequired Reading of 2014. She can be found at samgrieveauthor.com.

Enid sees him with the other woman in early spring, down near the magnolia trees, the flowers as pale pink as babies' tongues. He is holding her hand, and even from where she stands she can see he is laughing. The other woman wears a long grey skirt and a dark wool coat cinched at the waist, and an ugly hat.
Enid says nothing. Things are tenuous enough between them, stretched so thin she fears a breath of wind might snap their bond. Instead she resolves to win him back. She buys oysters, and fresh strawberries, puts on perfume and a red silk dress. When he gets home she hands him a martini like a 1950's wife.
"You've changed," he murmurs, his mouth against her cheek.
"Have I?" she says and in response he lifts her skirt, the silk crumpling in his palm.
Three days later, on the way home from work, she sees them again from afar. They are lying on a tartan picnic rug. The other woman has her head on his chest. His eyes are closed. From the grey swill of her dress, her feet emerge, effigial. They have been eating sandwiches. Enid can see the crusts.
She skirts them at a distance, gets home, runs a bath. When he walks in she lifts a bubbled hand in his direction, lures him in.
Things change between them. At night, he turns to her now, wraps his legs around her. They plan a holiday. He talks about the Mediterranean, the limpid green glare of the sea, the scent of wild thyme. She visits him at work, watches him scrutinize hallmarks through his jeweler's loupe. She loves this about him. His curiosity for things past, dead men's marks.
And then, just when she thinks the other woman is vanquished, there she is again. On a swing, her white feet stretched out as he pushes her. The air fills her skirt until she looks like a billowing grey jellyfish floating against the sky.
That night she turns her back on him. "What have I done?" he pleads but she will not tell him. This is the sort of thing he must figure out by himself. The next day she waits for him outside work. She hides behind a pillar-box, and when he leaves, she trails him on silent plimsolled feet. In Holland Park he turns into the trees. There, like a shadow, she is waiting, the other woman.
Rage overcomes her. She rushes forward but already they are embracing, and over his shoulder Enid sees her rival's face.
Her face. She staggers, dumfounded.
Her doppelganger smiles--a victor's smile. She clasps her lover's hand, leads him through dappled light towards the gate.
Enid tries to follow them but something is terribly wrong; long skirts now hamper her, it is as though she is wading through deep water. "Wait!" she cries. "Wait!" But already they are gone where she can longer go, the other woman skipping on stolen plimsolled feet into the world.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Author Comments

I cannot remember what sparked "The Other Woman." Something must have made me think of Holland Park, in London, and I cannot think of Holland Park without also thinking of the doppelgangers that pace within its walls. See your doppelganger and die, goes the theory, as Lady Diana Rich discovered, after encountering her double in Holland Park.

Thank you to that faceless individual of my past who shared this Victorian legend with me. Not only did you help bring Enid into, and out of, this world, but you have also ensured that every time I enter those beautiful grounds, I am accompanied by an unshakeable feeling of utter dread.

- Sam Grieve
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