A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to hold the book in your hands, head over to Amazon and order a copy (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).
OR: go here to enter the book giveaway at Kristin's "Always With a Book" blog, where she posted a review yesterday.
Evelyn is uncorking a fresh bottle of Cabernet when Claudia appears in the door of the dining room. “Do you want to eat now?” she asks Evelyn.
“No, I’ll eat later. Please feed Davy, though, turn off the stove, and just put the rest in a tupperware in the fridge. I’ll heat it up later. Is Davy in the kitchen?”
“Yes. He’s reading.”
“I’ll bet he is.” Evelyn can say this to Claudia in a tone they both know is flippant, and Claudia can receive the statement without feeling uncomfortable. It is symptomatic of the odd friendship that has developed between them, a friendship that Evelyn is starting to value more than she ever could have imagined.
“Would you like a glass of wine?” Evelyn asks Claudia.
“No, thank you, I’ve got to get home.”
“Hubby’s waiting, right?”
“He better be there!” Claudia says, laughing (because she knows that Gabriel will be there and because she can’t wait to see him).
Evelyn holds up her glass of wine. “Enjoy him while he lasts.”
Claudia tilts her head and smiles in the awkward way that occurs when a part of the mouth desperately wants to frown with sadness or pity. “Anything else, then?” she asks her employer.
“No, dear. We’ll be fine. See you Monday.”
“Have a good weekend, Evelyn.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Drawn that night to the comfort and soft light of the study, Evelyn knows she has two more messages to listen to. And she is bound and determined to hit the right button when the time comes to listen to them. But, she isn’t quite ready. She is still bothered by Angie’s call (make that, calls)—by Angie’s incessant apologies and consistent unavailability.
They had been enjoying such a good friendship over the past several years. Angie was fun and funny—a wacky rightbrain type who always wanted to try new restaurants and go to esoteric movies. She was an inquisitive spirit and didn’t seem to sweat the small stuff. And her attitude about men was unbelievably refreshing to Evelyn. Though only eight years younger than Evelyn, Angie seemed a generation apart when it came to men and relationships. Angie had no desire to be married or even to settle down. Exclusivity didn’t matter to her. She just had fun. That was all she wanted.
Hmm… Evelyn wonders, the thought only now dawning on her. It doesn’t sound, from her messages, like Angie’s having a lot of fun right now.
Evelyn picks up the phone and calls Patrick’s house. Maybe Judy will go to the concert with her on Sunday.
Two rings later, a darling voice fills Evelyn’s ears with joy.
“Bennett residence. Zoe speaking.”
“Zoe! My beautiful girl!”
“Granny! Granny! Hi, Granny!”
“How are you, my sweetheart?”
“I lost another tooth!”
“You did? Are you going to try to find it?”
“You’re funny, Granny!” she says.
“Oh, honey, I try to be. I really try.”
“So—do you wanna talk to Dad or to Mom?”
“I would love to talk to either of them, but I actually have a question and an offer for your Mom. Is she there?”
“Hold on.” Zoe puts down the phone and calls for her Mom. Evelyn can hear, at the other end, snippets of a conversation—about dinner and dolls and a sleepover the next night. Then, the rattling of the phone being picked up.
“Hello, Evelyn!” Judy says, with a warmth that most mothers-in-law can only hope for. “How are you?”
“I’m managing. You know, same-old-same-old.”
“Bless your heart. God, I think of you so often.”
“Thank you,” Evelyn responds. “I appreciate it. So—what’s new there?”
“Well—where do you want me to begin? Let’s see, I am thrilled because I finally closed on a house today.”
“My God, Judy, that’s fabulous!”
“No kidding! I’ve had that real estate license for, what, three years now?”
“That really is wonderful.”
“It is. We’re going to do the final paperwork the beginning of next week, and then, damn, a nice chunk of change for the former stay-at-home Mom!”
“Good for you! I bet Patrick is proud!”
“He will be as soon as he gets over his jetlag!” Judy says, with mock irritation. “He just got back from the ADA Convention.”
“Oh, that’s right. Where was it this year? California, right?” Evelyn shakes her head in bewilderment. Her son—at an ADA Convention! Her son—a dentist! (It makes her teeth itch.)
“San Francisco.” says Judy. “He said it was great. He actually thinks we should take the family out there for a vacation. Maybe next summer.”
“That sounds like a wonderful plan.”
Evelyn can hear Judy’s distractions in the background, and she appreciates her daughter-in-law for not caving to them. Evelyn knows, as she sits there in the warm, low-lit study, sipping her wine and needing to eat, that Judy is waiting for her to speak. That Judy is attentive in that way.
“So, Judy, I have a proposition.”
“That sounds intriguing.”
“You know, I have these season tickets to Lincoln Center—the Philharmonic—the Sunday matinee. And my partner-in-crime cannot go. She’s going to bring her ticket by tomorrow. I was wondering if you’d like to go with me.”
“Wow. This Sunday, huh?”
“I know it’s short notice,” Evelyn says, “but I just heard from Angie this afternoon.”
“Oh yeah. Angie. Hmm… I would like to go. So: let me just check around here and make sure no one needs me Sunday afternoon. Can I let you know tomorrow?”
“That’d be great.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do.”
“You’re an angel, Judy.”
“Tell that to my kids.”
“Well. They’re angels, too.”
“Okay,” Judy says, with her fabulous homespun sarcasm, “now I’m starting to wonder about your criteria!”
Evelyn smiles, starts to laugh even. “We’ll talk tomorrow,” she says to Judy.
“You got it. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Judy. Kiss all the babies for me.”
* * *
… to be continued on July 31st .
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.