A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing 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 has always been a fool for routine. And less than a year ago, she quickly established a routine for her trips to the mall. For the first forty-five minutes or so, she is just impulsive, going into whatever large store or specialty boutique happens to intrigue her in that moment. She never has a shopping list in her hand or in her head. She just lets the chips fall where they may. Sometimes, she just browses. Sometimes, she buys more than a few things. Regardless,
after no more than an hour, she heads to the nearest large bookstore chain—whichever one has a coffee bar. Her legs growing tired at this point, she takes a basket, quickly fills it with five or six books of interest, and heads to the café. There, she orders a latte and a scone and ultimately finds a comfy seat where she will relax for as long as it takes.
Today is no different.
Although the café is quite crowded when she arrives—and still crowded once her order has been filled—she doesn’t have to wait long for a chair. And she thanks the young man who gives up his chair for her. The appreciative smile she shares with him belies the thought she was entertaining as she approached him—the thought that said, You seedy little bum! Why are you lounging around in the middle of the day! Who’s supporting you? Don’t you have a job? But Evelyn doesn’t say this. Instead, she just smiles and thanks him.
There is a table beside the comfy chair that the “seedy bum” just surrendered, and Evelyn places her cardboard tray there. Her precious latte. Her precious scone. Bending uneasily, she puts her basket of books down on the floor. And then she sits.
And her exhaustion sits with her. And so she exhales. And she closes her eyes for a nanosecond.
In that nanosecond, she hears the chorus of Strangers in the Night.
It is her cell phone.
Evelyn digs through her ridiculously large purse to reach the noise. Within moments, she retrieves the phone and reads the screen. It is Marilyn calling. And because Evelyn is a mother, she has no choice but to take the call.
“Hello, Marilyn,” she says lovingly enough, the phone cradled between her cheek and shoulder as she lifts the cap off her latte.
“Men are such fucking jerks,” is Marilyn’s salutation.
“Mmm…” Evelyn’s response might seem inappropriate, but it is also barely audible. She knows, because she knows Marilyn, that it isn’t necessary to respond. All she needs to do is continue with her process. So she reaches for the packet of pure raw sugar, opens it quietly and pours the contents into her latte. She slowly stirs the softly steaming brew, and she waits…
“Barry’s such an asshole!” Marilyn continues. “And I have tried so hard. But he’s still not ready to buy a house. It’s like he’s afraid or something. Sure, he hasn’t got the promotion that he thought he would get two fucking years ago, but still! And! He’s done nothing about it! He’s like a fucking wimp around his boss!”
Evelyn enjoys a sip of latte. Still a little too hot…
“And now,” chants Marilyn, “no thanks to him, Sara is having major problems in school. I don’t even know if she’s going anymore. And I have really tried with her, I swear. I just don’t know what to do!”
Evelyn breaks off a small piece of scone and lets it melt in her mouth.
Marilyn lets out a noise that might best be described as histrionic exhalation—the kind of respiratory gesture that could extinguish candles in other states. This is typical. This is the sign. Marilyn will now be moving on to cheerier topics.
Evelyn takes another sip of latte and anticipates the predictable.
And so it comes: “All I can say is thank God for Matthew!” Marilyn’s voice now adopts a tone that sounds maudlin in its effort to convey pride. “Oh, Mom, he did the sweetest thing the other day. Oh my God. He told me that they had a talk in class about heroes? And they were specifically talking about women heroes? God, I love that teacher of his! Really focuses on the women! Yea, teach! So, they were talking about what makes a hero and what defines a hero and, you know, all that shit, and Matthew said he raised his hand and said, ‘My mom is a hero!’”
Evelyn wants to ask Why?
“Isn’t that so sweet?”
Pause. Oops! Evelyn didn’t know, when she had taken that rather large chunk of scone and had begun letting it dance with her taste buds, that her turn was pending.
“Mmm…” (gulp) “Sorry. I had something in my mouth.”
“Isn’t that sweet?”
“That’s sweet,” Evelyn says, reaching for another chunk of scone. “That’s very sweet.”
“Yeah, well. I should probably go now. I got a lot to do. I just wanted to fill you in.”
Evelyn has begun to eye the books in her basket, and she is anxious to open them. “I’m sure you’ll work things out,” she says to her daughter.
“Yeah, well. I’m a hero, right?”
“You’re a hero,” Evelyn says, in a flat, non-effusive tone that might be insulting to someone who is listening.
Their goodbyes exchanged, Evelyn turns off her phone. She doesn’t want any more interruptions. She wants to enjoy her latte and what is left of her scone. She wants to look through the books she brought with her to the coffee bar.
She has a few more hours of peace before she will have to go home.
* * *
… to be continued on July 10th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.