The Sister Surprise by Abigail Mann

The Sister Surprise by Abigail Mann

Author:Abigail Mann [Mann, Abigail]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published: 2021-02-23T17:00:00+00:00

Chapter 21

I’m in a conundrum. If I ring the doorbell and wait on the step, the curtain of ivy will force me to stand so close to the actual door that when Ross opens it, I may fall forward onto his face. Not the worst consequence, admittedly, but not smooth. On the other hand, if I stand partway up the garden path, I’ll look like a creepy lurker, which is more accurate. Is there a chance I’m over-thinking this?

As I hover by the bell, the door shunts in its frame and a muffled voice filters through.

‘Can you push it from your side? The rain has made the wood swell.’

‘Yeah, sure.’

I use my shoulder as leverage. When I step away, the spiderwebs strung on the latticed windows stick to my jacket.

‘Let’s try it together,’ he says, ‘one, two, and three for a big one!’

I shove, he yanks, and I stumble into the hallway, my boots slapping against the floorboards.

‘Ah, y’fucker!’

As the door wobbles on its hinges, Ross appears from behind it, cradling his left hand. ‘Ava, hi! That comment was aimed at the door, of course, not you. I really need to get it fixed, but I’m not so good with my hands.’

Is he sure we can’t test that theory?

Ross looks like he’s stepped out of a billboard in east London. The only thing he’s missing is an ironic form of transport, like an adult-sized scooter (or worse, a penny-farthing, which I did see once whilst walking up Dalston Junction). Ross wears a lumberjack shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow and corduroy trousers that are clearly new going by the packet folds either side of his knees. I hand over a bottle of wine that he takes it from me, brushing my little finger with his thumb as he does so. I’m overwhelmed by the scent of fabric conditioner. It’s like he’s spritzed it on as aftershave. Is he nervous?

‘Thanks! That’s so kind.’ He looks at the label and grins. ‘I’ll keep this apart from the cheap stuff we bulk order for Sunday service.’

‘You get wine at church?’

‘No, you receive the blood of Christ. Very different.’

‘Sounds … vampiric.’

‘That’s what Protestants used to say back when they were burning all the nuns.’ He claps his hands. ‘Right! I was a bit keen, so it’s basically ready to eat.’

I follow him through to the kitchen, where three separate cookbooks are open on the counter, scattered with potato peelings and spice jars. A clunky Eighties oven whirrs in the corner and the smell of warm cinnamon, apricots, and wood smoke hangs in the air.

‘Here, take a seat. This one’s best. There’s a draught that comes down the chimney. Christ, I sound so fucking old. Wine?’

‘Yeah, thanks.’

I sit down on an embroidered cushion, the edges stitched with bloated cherubs so pink it’s like they’ve succumbed to scarlet fever. I’ve barely recovered from The Locker, but there’s something subversively appealing about being offered alcohol by a priest.

‘Cheers,’ says Ross.

‘Cheers!’ I tap my glass


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