The Romantic

A Novel

Barbara Gowdy

Metropolitan Books

From The Romantic:

I fall in love with Mrs. Richter immediately, Abel the following summer. I know how unlikely it sounds, a ten-year-old girl falling in love at all, let alone with a middle-age woman. But to say I become infatuated doesn’t describe the gravity and voluptuousness of my feelings. I trail after her to the grocery store and touch the grapefruits she has fondled. I gaze at her flannel nightgown billowing on the clothesline and am uplifted, as if by music. Under the pretext of welcoming her to the subdivision or asking if she gives piano lessons, asking if she heard about the white-elephant sale at church—any excuse—I write letters advertising my availability and qualifications as a daughter. “Lend a Helping Hand!” I write on the back of the envelopes, as if this were my motto. Down the margins I draw pictures of a girl doing the dishes, scrubbing the floor, dusting.