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Elly M. Graff

Evelyn Marshall: she was always Evelyn Marshall, never Eve or Ev or Miss Marshall. She hated the first without the last. She thought names should stick together, like people, not that they always did. We all whispered about her dehydrated figure. A grade twelver in high school, Evelyn Marshall often appeared colourless in hallways. Her translucent hair was always tied into two tight braids against her scalp so that it appeared as if she had no hair at all. She had this deep river voice that we all loved and was lead in the senior girls’ choir where us youngers listened at assemblies. Bright eyes, blue eyes, my father said they were much too big for her head. I dreamed of scooping those beauties out with a large soupspoon; trade hers for my own dirty-rain browns.

That was the winter of my ninth grade when she died. Evelyn Marshall was three years older than me and expected to graduate come spring. I wish I had saved her. I should’ve dragged her by those white braids home to stay with me, but Evelyn Marshall never missed a family dance at the hall. None of us did. We loved the last Friday of the month where we’d all gather. Even my father attended most nights and I’d buy drinks for him at the stand.

Whenever I sat inside my father’s ice-fishing shack that winter, door open, Evelyn Marshall flew across the lake on her white ice skates not noticing me. Snow piled above gravel roads, pine needles split out of trees, and the sky swelled like a soft bruise above us. Hours mixed together unnoticed, like frazil crystals float to the surface, time bonded, hardened so fast you only noticed with a slip on new-formed ice beneath your boots. Air from my breath was filmy all winter; I could swirl my air clouds with my finger before my gulps faded and returned to the sky. Evelyn Marshall seemed so deep in thought when she skated, like trying to figure out where her she began and the sky would end. She took those skates everywhere. I watched her; I didn’t have ice skates. Sometimes she brought her twenty-three-year-old boyfriend Ned Jones and they’d skate into dusk, where their shadows held hands. Ned came less after a while, but Evelyn Marshall was relentless, a constant of Meadow Lake. 

I avoided Meadow Lake the summer after Evelyn Marshall died. Maggie Larson swam her laps in the water, an attempt to burn calories since her thirty-pound weight gain. One year before, she smashed her face into ice-covered pavement and doctors rebuilt her nose cartilage. Maggie and Evelyn Marshall were supposed to be in the same grade twelve classes, but Maggie was held back. She took the whole year off, sprawled in her hospital bed. Maybe that’s why she was friendless. It was typical of Maggie to position herself in doorways at school, to latch onto the next passerby and tell stories. Sometimes at lunch hours we’d listen. Her father was the police chief, after all, and Maggie overheard information about neighbours. Mostly she’d repeat herself. Father’s driven a car for the Prime Minister, Maggie would say. He’s been a bodyguard for an endangered falcon, he even carries a gun and I held it in my hand with the safety off. We don’t care, we’d tell her, and she’d leer at us behind her tinted, prescription glasses. . . .

 

 

Elly M. Graff’s fiction is featured in PRISM International and has been shortlisted in 2015 and longlisted in 2016 in PRISM International’s Fiction Contests. She graduated recently with a Writing degree from the University of Victoria, and she plans to pursue a MFA in Fiction. She comes from a farm in Ferintosh, Alberta.

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