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You are going to read the opening of a short story, in which two sisters meet after many years. Six sentences have been removed from the article. For questions 37 – 42, choose the correct sentence and move it into the gap. There is one extra sentence which you do not need to use.
A Strange Reunion
Nicola sat down on a yellow plastic chair, then immediately stood up again and took off her coat, hanging it on the back of her seat. The windows of the café were steamed up, making the street outside invisible. As soon as she sat down for the second time Nicola realised she was cold, but she could hardly stand up and put her coat back on, so she blew on her hands and tried to concentrate on the menu.
Or what if she did, but didn’t recognise her younger sister? After all, Nicola had changed a lot in the last 15 years. She was thinner, her hair was shorter, and her dress sense had definitely improved. The last time Gemma had seen her, Nicola had been a rebellious schoolgirl in a short skirt and too much make-up. Today she wore her nurse’s uniform, mindful of the fact she had a shift in two hours’ time. Please don’t be late, she thought. You were always late.
What would Gemma look like now? How might her life have changed? Nicola thought about all the events of her own life that her older sister had missed: her graduation, her marriage, the birth of her son. She felt a familiar flash of anger – how could you just disappear like that? – and then remembered that Gemma had contacted her, and only her. Not a word to their parents or brothers. She, Nicola, baby of the family and Gemma’s favourite, had been singled out.
‘Are you ready to order?’
Nicola had barely looked at the greasy menu, but asked for a cup of tea and a cake. As the waitress walked away she instantly regretted that, too; she’d probably choke.
The little bell above the door rang, causing Nicola’s heart to jump. A woman was entering the café, backwards, pulling a baby’s buggy behind her. Was it…? No, she was too short. Why had Gemma chosen this place, in such a strange and hostile part of the city? It seemed to belong to another era. And why on earth was she taking so long to arrive?
The bell rang again, and a coat came through the door. Yes, it was a woman, but she’d pulled the hood around her face . . . Gemma? As two gloved hands reached up to lower the hood, Nicola knew for certain. How could she have thought they might not recognise one another? The two sisters’ eyes met. But Gemma didn’t hurry towards her, or open her arms. She smiled uncomfortably, did a strange sort of wave, and turned to the counter to order.
Nicola could feel her cheeks burning as she picked up the chair. She looked at her phone, pretended to check her messages, pretended nothing had happened, until she could feel Gemma’s shadow standing at the table.
‘So, hi,’ said the voice she hadn’t heard for the last half of her life. Nicola looked up.
‘Hello,’ she said, sounding like someone else. ‘How are you?’
The kind of thing you’d ask the postman, knowing he’d say, Oh, fine thanks, and you? The questions Nicola wanted to ask were: Why did you leave us? Did you ever feel guilty? What have you been doing for 15 years? Where do you live and who is important to you now? Why did you get in touch after all this time? How does it feel to see my face again?
‘I’m fine thanks,’ Gemma said, still not sitting down. ‘You?’
- What a ridiculous question!
- How could she eat at a time like this?
- And now she would discover what had happened all those years ago.
- Her mother must have said something to make her run away.
- Nicola stood up too quickly, knocking over the plastic chair with a crash.
- What if Gemma didn’t turn up?
- The woman saw Nicola staring, and stared back.