Sisters and Cousins

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Sisters and Cousins

Sally, the only sister with red hair, let curiosity get the better of her when she opened Cousin Maggie's notebook. Dear Cousin Maggie, eighty-seven and spry until her last breath, swapped a good yarn with the best of the younger gals. She never failed to amuse and intrigue we four sisters on her many visits to our home.

The first secret she told us was an account of her love affair with a marathon runner she'd met on Long Island.

Sally toyed with her hair, finger entwined, and asked, "Is Long Island really an island?"

Maggie laughed, "Look on a map, silly girl."

I wanted to ask how Maggie happened to catch a marathon runner. She was neither athletic, fast or attractive. But I decided it might be better to listen and learn. What good would be gained by pointing out the obvious. As it was, Cousin Maggie had a knack for letting the real truth leak as her stories took flight. Being the youngest sister, I had few tales of my own to share so I just soaked up the chatter, remained quiet and let the older sisters build dreams of their own based on Maggie's tales.

Sometimes she'd talk about her work during the war at a large factory outside of the city. She'd drive there every morning before dawn and return after the sun had gone down, she said. One time, she said, she woke up, took a shower and drove in to work with nothing on her mind but the full day ahead. When she arrived, it was two a.m. She hadn't bothered to look at the clock.

Sally asked, more interested than others, "Did they pay you overtime?" And fiddled with the sleeve of the cashmere sweater Maggie had given her oldest cousin.

"No, silly girl. The supervisor told me to go home. I went back and climbed in bed."

If Maggie had written her stories about life and love, she could have wallpapered her lonely bedroom. But I surmised early on there had been little demand for Maggie's affections.

Maggie died on Sunday. Two days later sister Sally opened her notebook. A sad love story covered those pages. One we had not heard before.

Maggie had been left at the alter. Twenty years old and pregnant. She wrote 'no one equaled Tom with his crown of red hair and infectious smile'.

We three hugged Sally. We knew she'd always been Maggie's favorite cousin.

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