from Lauren Groff’s short story “L.Debard and Aliette”

In this story, “L.Debard and Aliette,” published in The Altlantic, and set during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 in New York, Lauren Groff tells a gothic tale of love and loss..

“Before them sits a girl in a wheelchair. The swimmer’s glance brushes over her, and veers away when he sees her wizened child’s face, the diluted blond of her hair, her eyes sunken in the sickly white complexion. A nothing, he thinks. That he looks past her is not his fault. He doesn’t know. And so, instead of the lightning strike and fluttering heart that should attend the moment of their meeting, all the swimmer feels is the cold whip of the wind, and the shame at his old suit, holey and stretched out, worn only on the dark days when he needs nostalgia and old glory to bring him to the water.


And so, Aliette does something drastic: she unveils her legs. They are small, wrinkled sticks, nearly useless. She wears a Scottish wool blanket over her lap, sinfully thick. L. thinks of his thin sheet and the dirty greatcoat he sleeps under, and envies her the blanket. Her skirt is short and her stockings silk. L. doesn’t gasp when he sees her legs, her kneecaps like dinner rolls skewered with willow switches. He just looks up at Aliette’s face, and suddenly sees that her lips are set in a perfect heart, purple with cold.”