While this may not be Elizabeth Taylor’s best story (I’m still working my way through them, slowly but surely), it’s certainly one of her most memorable. A lonely middle-aged woman named Emily is preparing to meet a man she has been writing to for the last ten years. Over the years, she has confided such intimacies in Edmund – he had always seemed so approachable and attentive at a distance, perhaps overly so. As she waits for Edmund to arrive at her cottage for lunch, Emily worries that their meeting will be a mistake. Can she live up to the impressions created by her letters? Will Edmund be disappointed by the real Emily once he meets her in the flesh? Will he ever write to her again? Somewhat inevitably, the lunch is rather strained – the atmosphere made all the more difficult by the most awkward of starts and the interference of a nosy neighbour, the pushy Mrs Waterlow. The story itself is quietly devastating, and yet there is a glimmer of hope at the end.
First published in Cornhill Magazine. Collected in The Blush and Other Stories, Peter Davies 1958, republished by Virago Modern Classics, 1986. Also in Complete Short Stories, Virago, 2012