Sometimes songs flowed through her, like breath like blood like water. Yet she couldn't carry a tune, not like some women did, though she had sung well enough she supposed to suit Samantha, half whispering lullabies in her apricot ears, singing tickling rhymes of itsy bitsy spiders, the chained verses of diamond rings that didn't shine and mockingbirds that didn't sing.
Now it was a May song rang through her like a memory.
As a girl in Fort Erie she hadn't sung well enough to suit the wimpled nuns and so never mounted the choir loft beneath the wash of colored light from the rose window. (Once singing in the congregation an old woman hushed her and half-frantic she whispered a lie about being part of the choir, how sister had dispersed a number of them throughout the seats to spread out the sound of the hymns.) It was maddening to think a song could so pursue you, or for that matter any memory.
All day long she remembered the drowned boy in conjunction with the hymn from the May crowning: Hail Virgin, dearest Mary, our lovely Queen of May, Oh spotless blessed virgin.... (lingering over long notes on dearest and virgin).
"What is that you are humming?" Samantha demanded. "You're driving me crazy, I swear you're becoming an old lady."
Lisle recalled the white, white ankle socks of the girl, Mary Louise Dillard, and the pink of her calves stretched out atop the wooden stepladder, its steps swathed with blue crepe paper. She could recall as clear as yesterday the collective sigh of all the girls and nuns as the virgin's statue swayed and threatened to topple when the outstretched Mary Louise slipped with the crown of white, woven flowers, the baby's breath, carnation and lady slipper, half-grasping the virgin's head to steady herself. She remembered her satisfaction at this failing, how much she despised Mary Louise, the little saint, how much she envied her crowning dress, white lace bodice beneath the white lace veil, white crinoline above the flushed and trembling legs on the ladder covered in blue paper. How, briefly, she had hoped the girl would fall and drown in her awful goodness and the swirl of lace.