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 the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
“Mom! God!” Joy blurts out, sounding panicked.
“What, sweetie?” Evelyn replies, continuing down Main Street.
“That light was almost red!”
“Yes, and almost red is still yellow. I had the right of way.
“Joy?” Evelyn says then, appreciating that her daughter is acting distraught. “Does my driving make you nervous?”
“No. I mean, not usually. I would have stopped. That’s all.”
Evelyn smiles as she approaches the next intersection. And she slows, because the light is yellow. “I know it’s an issue—” she says then, “old people driving.”
“You’re not old!”
“You don’t think so?” Evelyn says. “I don’t know. Sometimes the household makes me feel old.”
“Old, or under some kind of surveillance?” Joy asks, glad to be returning to Brooklyn the same day that Mrs. Krosky’s two-day stint begins.
“Hmm???” Evelyn asks, genuinely perplexed.
“I don’t like your weekend help.”
“Oh. The Krosk.” Evelyn says, accelerating back to suburbia’s tame thirty-five miles per hour. “She’s something, huh? I’m not wild about her, either. But, it’s just two days a week. And, if nothing else, she makes me extremely grateful for Claudia.”
Joy smiles at her mother in that moment—appreciates her mother’s sense of relativity. “Sorry if I’m sounding short, Mom.” Joy says then. “I think I’m PMS’ing.”
“It’s okay, sweetie,” Evelyn replies. “If you’re PMS’ing, then you’re not pregnant, and that’s a good thing.”
Joy gazes out the window for a moment, appreciating the abundance of foliage that Brooklyn will never know. “I’d like for you to meet Chuck,” she then says to her mother.
“Oh my God! I completely forgot to ask about him! So this is the man who is not making you pregnant?”
“That’s the guy,” Joy replies, smiling at her mother’s ease with her lifestyle (feeling lucky that she was born after Marilyn). “Chuck’s great. I think you’d like him.”
“Then—” Evelyn says, pulling into the parking lot of the train station and trying desperately to squelch tears that want to speak through her voice, “I think I would like to meet him.”
“Oh, fuck!” Joy says quickly, looking toward the platform. “I think that’s my train! Can you open the trunk really fast?”
“Sure,” says Evelyn, as she reaches for the trunk release and simultaneously gets out of the car without turning it off.
The ding-ding-ding of “keys-in-the-ignition” provides an anti-melodic background to their quick hug.
“I love you!” Joy cries out, as she races to the train.
“I love you, too,” Evelyn says quietly, watching her daughter return to a busy and fulfilling life.
Evelyn stops at the grocery store before returning home, and when she enters the kitchen with the two, quite-full double plastic bags, The Krosk offers assistance.
“Thank you, Mrs. Krosky,” Evelyn says, as The Krosk places the bags on the counter and surveys the contents of one.
“What’s this?” Mrs. Krosky asks, extracting the first of many bags of candy. “Miniature Kit Kat?”
“Halloween, Mrs. Krosky. The kids will be coming around tonight.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” Evelyn responds, resenting the feeling that seems to permeate her home on the weekends.
While The Krosk continues to extract bags of candy, ultimately reaching the more gratifying cans of soup at the bottom of the grocery bag, Evelyn quickly takes the second bag into the dining room. There, she quietly pulls out the four bottles of wine, careful to create no clinking sounds as she places them in the dry bar.
Returning to the kitchen, Evelyn feels safe about letting The Krosk do the rest of the putting-away. The second bag now holds items that cannot possibly be deemed prurient: aluminum foil, whole black peppercorns, and olive oil cooking spray.
Placing the bag on the counter and heading for the coffeemaker, Evelyn asks, “Everything okay with Davy?”
“He exercised,” The Krosk replies, holding up the jar of whole black peppercorns as if she needs to read its contents.
“He showered,” she adds, placing the jar of peppercorns in the appropriate cupboard.
“And now he sleeps,” The Krosk states, looking at Evelyn with a coldness that is not at all personal but always gives a chill.
“And were there any calls?” Evelyn asks next, her smile strained at best.
“I believe you have a message,” Mrs. Krosky replies. “I was busy with Mr. Bennett and had to ask her to call back and speak with the machine. I believe it was Angie.”
“Angie?” says Evelyn, in a tone that sounds confused.
“Your friend, yes?”
Evelyn goes to the study to listen to Angie’s message, and immediately after listening to it, she calls Joy.
“Mom!” Joy says. “I’m still on the train. Everything okay?”
“Sure. I mean, yes. I mean, I just wanted to, um, run something by you.”
“Okay, but be quick,” Joy says. “We’re approaching the City, and I might lose you.”
“Okay, well, um, Angie called—”
“And she wants to come over tonight. Wants to join us for the trick-or-treaters on our street.”
“Right,” says Joy. “She wants to not be home for the trick-or-treaters on her street.”
“Hmm,” Evelyn says, fully understanding Joy’s train of thought. Maybe even agreeing with it.
“So?” she asks her daughter. “What should I do?”
“What do you want to do?”
“Well, I would feel bad if I said ‘no,’ but I—”
“But you what?”
“I don’t really want to see her,” Evelyn confesses.
“That’s okay, Mom. She probably doesn’t really want to see you. She’s just going through some motions.”
“So what should I do?”
“If I were there,” Joy says, with a clarity of tone that is refreshing to Evelyn, “I would invite her over simply for the opportunity to observe her. I think it would be quite fascinating.”
“I don’t know if I’m strong enough for that, sweetie.”
“I… think you are.”
“But it just seems so—Joy? Joy?”
A crackle. Then deadness.
Evelyn can tell that they have lost their connection.
And yet, when she places the handset back in its cradle, she smiles thoughtfully. Because, in actuality, their connection feels stronger than it has ever been.
* * *
to be continued on January 22nd.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.