A Fair Maiden

by Joyce Carol Oates

Young and under-appreciated summer nanny, Katya Spivak, is flattered by the advances of elderly gentleman Marcus Kidder. But is the relationship that grows between them a tragic fairy-tale of soul mates born at the wrong time or a sinister manipulation of loneliness, beauty and wealth? With rapidly rising stakes I wanted to believe in the best of human nature, but feared the worst.


And Mr Kidder embraced her, as you'd embrace a weeping child, to give comfort. And Katya held herself rigid at first, not wanting to be touched by the white-haired old man, for there was the faint fragrant smell of his cologne, and a drier smell of his skin, or his hair, that she did not like; a smell of his breath, a very slight smell, which is desiccated and mere bone. Yet she was lightheaded, dazed, for no one had held her like this in a long time, no one had spoken so tenderly to her in a long time; so Katya ceased resisting, slid her arms around Mr Kidder, and hugged his lean body in return, hiding her warm weeping face in the crock of his neck.


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