Her hands warming on tea looked like chunks of knitting a child had felted in grubby palms. Enough decades and a body slowly twists into one great cramp, but there was a time once, where she had been sexy and if not sexy, at least odd-looking enough to compel. Through this clear window she could see how good it all had been. She had no regrets. That's not true, Mathilde. The whisper in the ear. Oh, Christ, yes, there was one. Solitary, gleaming, a regret. It was that all her life she had said no. From the beginning she had let so few people in. That first night, his young face glowing up a hers in the black light, bodies beating the air around them and inside there was that unexpected sharp recognition, oh, this. A sudden peace arriving for her. She who hadn't been at peace since she was so little. Out of nowhere, out of this surprising night with its shatters of lightning and the stormy black campus outside, with the heat and song and sex and animal fear inside. He had seen her and made the leap and swung through the crowd and taken her hand, this bright boy who was giving her a place to rest. He offered not only his whole laughing self, the past that build him and the warm beating body that moved her with its beauty and the future she felt compressed and waiting, but also the torch he carried before him in the dark, his understanding, dazzling, instant, that there was goodness at her core. With the gift came the bitter seed of regret, the unbridgeable gap between the Mathilde she was and the Mathilde he had seen her to be. A question, in the end, of vision. She wished she'd been the kind Mathilde, the good one, his idea of her. She would have looked smiling down at him, she would've heard beyond marry me to the world that spun behind the words. There would have been no pause, no hesitation. She would've laughed, touched his face for the first time, felt his warmth in the palm of her hand.'Yes,' she would've said. 'Sure.
Lauren Groff