The Last Girl

The Last Girl by Stephan Collishaw Read Free Book Online

Book: The Last Girl by Stephan Collishaw Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephan Collishaw
help, but he won’t listen. He put it in a drawer. He won’t speak about it. He says that it’s no good.’
    â€˜Have you read it?’ I asked.
    She nodded again. ‘When he was at the university I took it out and read it. I don’t know.’ She shook her head and pressed a palm to her forehead. ‘To me it’s really good,’ she said after a pause. ‘But he won’t listen. He says I don’t know anything about what’s good and what isn’t. Perhaps…’ She hesitated. ‘Perhaps if you could take some time to look over it?’ She left the question hanging in the air.
    The waiter re-emerged from behind the heavy wooden door carrying our dinners. I waited for him to serve us painfully correctly. Jolanta looked away from me, across the room at the other diners. She seemed tense. The muscles in her face were taut. I realised then that it had taken some courage for her to speak to me. That it was for this purpose that she had agreed to lunch with me. I softly stroked the page that rested on the top of the pile and smiled, remembering the feel of her delicate fingers on the back of my hand.
    â€˜Well, certainly I can read it,’ I said. ‘If you think that my comments will be of any value.’
    â€˜Well, you are a writer, you know what is good writing, what is publishable and what isn’t?’ she said.
    She was looking at me beseechingly. I gazed into her eyes. Yes, this was what I had wanted. Ever since I had caught a glimpse of those eyes in the church I had been filled with the desire to see them turned on me as they had been before, so many years before. I had to pick up from that moment and carry on. I had to make the long journey back across the years, to find that moment and twist the course of our histories. I would not turn my back on those eyes once more. I would no longer feel them pleading to my back as they had done for the last five decades. I took her hand between my own and smiled.
    â€˜Of course I will look at it. I will see if this husband of yours is a genius or not. Whether we have here another Donelaitis, another Shakespeare. And I will tell you truthfully what I think. That is the least I can do. More than that,’ I continued, ‘I don’t have that many contacts left in the publishing world, but there are still one or two. I’m not entirely forgotten,’ I laughed. ‘And I promise you that if I think it is worth while I will try my best to get it published. No, don’t thank me,’ I said, holding up my hand. ‘It really is the least that I can do.’
    The tension had disappeared from her face. She smiled at me, relieved.
    â€˜You must think it very odd a stranger coming to you with a request such as this,’ she said.
    â€˜On the contrary,’ I said. ‘It feels quite natural. In fact you do not feel a bit like a stranger to me. It feels like I have known you for fifty years.’
    She laughed brightly. ‘I don’t think so.’
    â€˜No,’ I said then, ruefully. ‘How old are you? Can an old man ask that question without it seeming ungallant?’
    â€˜Twenty-four,’ she said.
    I nodded my head. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘perhaps we should eat?’
    When she left I found a small café in the ghetto and drank glass after glass of vodka. I opened the manuscript she had given me, spreading the pages carefully across the surface of the table. My eyes flicked across the lines of text, but they jumped from word to word unable to take in the sense. And then a phrase caught me. The passage was about a young man serving in the Soviet army in Afghanistan. I read. ‘Morality: In some other world – some other landscape – that word might yet resonate with meaning. But here there is only the need to survive. I hold your letter as though it will anchor me, but outside I can hear the crackle of flames and the sound of crying and know that I

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