The Company We Keep by Frances Itani
English | 2020 |General Fiction/Classics| ePUB | 2.4 MB
On Tuesday nights in the backroom of Cassie’s café, six strangers seek solace and find themselves part of a “Company of Good Cheer”
Hazzley is at loose ends, even three years after the death of her husband. When her longtime friend Cassandra, café owner and occasional dance-class partner, suggests that she start up a conversation group, Hazzley posts a notice on the community board at the local grocery store. Four people turn up for the first meeting: Gwen, a recently widowed retiree in her early sixties, who finds herself pet-sitting a cantankerous parrot; Chiyo, a forty-year-old fitness instructor who cared for her unyielding but gossip-loving mother through the final days of her life; Addie, a woman pre-emptively grieving a close friend who is seriously ill; and Tom, an antiques dealer and amateur poet who, deprived of home baking since becoming a widower, comes to the first meeting hoping cake will be served. Before long, they are joined by Allam, a Syrian refugee with his own story to tell.
These six strangers are learning that beginnings can be possible at any stage of life. But as they tell their stories, they must navigate what is shared and what is withheld. Which version of the truth will be revealed? Who is prepared to step up when help is needed?
She stepped away from the noticeboard, forgot about buying bread or blueberry scones and left the store. She had to get home to finish an assignment for a popular science magazine. She was editing an article about bones, teeth and early tools discovered in a cave. She had a three-day window to deadline.
A wind had come up while she was inside. An outdoor geranium on display had tipped over, and crimson petals were trapped in an eddy between the front of the store and the parking lot. She tightened her jacket and stepped around petals that swirled about her ankles. Despite the wind, she was sorry she’d brought the car. She usually left it at home, unless there would be too much to carry. She walked most days, in an attempt to keep her heart (and brain, she reminded herself) healthy. She did the crossword every morning and dabbled at sudoku. She had a membership at the local gym—useful in bad weather—and stared at a muted TV screen while walking on the treadmill. She tried to stay abreast of the news and had learned multiple ways of averting her attention from American politics. She read the obituaries daily and was saddened by death—early death, any death. Too much cancer, too many accidents. She tried to keep her weight under control, knowing that many in her generation could no longer see their own feet. She was a strider, a fast mover. Lew had once referred to her as “fleet of foot”; she smiled, thinking of this. She liked to believe that she was wending her way through a life that was in no way sedentary, even though she spent hours at her computer while she worked at freelance editing jobs. She kept her hair dark and tidy, but she knew that despite her efforts, outside attitudes prevailed. People in their twenties and thirties had begun to address her as “dear.” She ignored this. She felt strong and, if anyone had bothered to ask—no one had—ageless.