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 read more sooner, head over to Amazon (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).
Evelyn knows better than to go much longer without eating. So she goes to the kitchen, places a large helping of stew in a bowl, and puts it in the microwave. She is waiting for the beep that will tell her it is ready. She is waiting to take a tray back to the study. The stew. More wine. A chance to listen to the other messages.
“I’m going out now.”
It is Davy, at the door between the kitchen and the dining room.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“You can’t go out without shoes.”
“That’s what I’m saying!”
“Maybe you should watch television.”
“But I don’t know how!”
“Sure you do,” Evelyn says. “It’s right in here.” She walks toward the small family room that is off the kitchen. She approaches the low, round coffee table and picks up the remote. She clicks on the TV, and places the remote back on the table.
“Oh…” Davy says, with the awe-inspired tone one might hear on an archeological dig. “Oh my. Now that is very interesting.”
“It’s just cable, baby,” Evelyn says. “It’s just cable.”
Back in the study, Evelyn savors the stew. She takes her time slowly chewing the chunks of beef, the squares of potato, the slices of zucchini. She smiles as she picks up the hints of spice that only Claudia can explain.
And Evelyn makes sure to bring variety to the process. Between spoonfuls of stew, she tears off chunks of the fresh Italian bread, and she dips it into the thick liquid in the bowl.
She lets the juices run down her chin, but just for a bit. Then she quickly collects them with the remaining bread or her napkin. She will not let herself get sloppy. She will not allow a stain on her blouse.
No matter what, she will remain neat and clean.
Still, there is something almost Neanderthal in the meal. And she loves it. In a way, it frees her.
To put food into her mouth. To chew and taste and swallow.
After rinsing out her bowl and putting it in the dishwasher, Evelyn circles the counter to get a view of Davy. She is relieved to see that he is sound asleep in the chair that faces the television. She doesn’t dare go into the room and turn down the volume; doing so might wake him. Rather, she hopes he will stay there, stay asleep for as long as possible.
Evelyn returns to the study with the remaining wine—a bottle that was once half full is now half empty. She returns to the study knowing that she has yet to listen to the two remaining messages.
This time, she presses the correct button: New. And the message that plays is the message she is supposed to hear.
“Yes, hello, Mrs. Bennett?” The voice is mature, yet tentative. “My name is Ashley Morgan. I was one of your husband’s students. I’m, um, calling because I’m involved with a nonprofit that supports elder care and research. We’re putting together an event. I know that Dr. Bennett has been diagnosed with—oh God, should I be talking about this in a message? Jeez, I’m sorry. He was so dear to me…” (Ashley seems to be having a moment. Evelyn doesn’t know whether to feel for her, resent her, or think she is naïve.) “…I’m wondering, Mrs. Bennett, if we might include some of his work. I remember his amazing pen-and-ink sketches of architecture. I’m wondering if you might donate them. I’d appreciate hearing back from you. I’m in Manhattan. Two-one-two, five-five-five, four-nine-oh-one. Or you can email me at ashmor—that’s A S H M O R at A O L dot com. I hope I’ll hear from you. And if I don’t, please forgive me if I call you again in a few days. Thanks!”
Click. And then, again, the nasal-voiced man who lives in the phone. “Friday. Three-oh-three-p.m.”
Why does he always emphasize the “p” part? Evelyn wonders, as she waits for the next message to play.
“Hey, Ma. Adam here. Calling on Friday. How’s it going? Anyway. Got a demonstration in Albany tomorrow afternoon, so I thought I’d stop by in the morning. Might have a few people with me. Hope it’s okay. See ya then!”
“Friday,” the nasal-voiced man says. “Four-twelve-p.m.”
Evelyn looks at the clock on the mantle. Four-twelve is now history. Ancient history.
She wishes she were tired. She wishes she could sleep. But she knows better than to belabor that cause. And while she is glad she might see Adam tomorrow, she knows she doesn’t need to get rest for the event. He’ll have his mind on other things. He’ll probably not even notice her.
* * *
... to be continued on August 7th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.
Or, you can read the back story and more in the interview that was posted by book reviewer Kristin on July 28th. It's here. You'll also find on that site Kristin's July 23rd review of The Somebody Who as well as instructions for entering the book giveaway that will end this week. Hurry to enter, as the giveaway ends at 6PM EST, August 6th.