A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26, 2010. 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).
When Evelyn enters the “Quilt Room” that night, she brings with her four new folded-up sheets of paper, all blank. These will represent the boxes that contain Davy’s and her old clothes. And since she has already visited one of those boxes, she puts one of the folded-up blanks into the bowl that serves as her “out box.” She puts the three remaining folded squares into the bowl from which she will draw the next entry.
She settles into her chair and enjoys a slow sip of wine. She is glad to be in the room relatively early. It might mean she’ll get to bed earlier than usual. And that would be good, since she’s made a date to have an early lunch with Judy the next day.
“Okay,” she says to no one, as she reaches into the bowl, “where are we starting tonight?”
When she unfolds the square of paper, she isn’t really surprised. It’s Marilyn, of course, at the age range that Sara now falls within: 15 - ?.
“She just won’t leave me alone,” Evelyn says, laughing ironically as she retrieves the appropriate box, places it on the floor in front of her chair, and opens it.
As she sits, she holds up the rayon wrap-around skirt that tops the stack. The skirt features a subtle paisley print in a variety of green tones that always went well with Marilyn’s decidedly Irish complexion. Evelyn winces as she remembers the auspicious occasion for which the skirt was purchased.
“So, Daddy, what do you think?” Marilyn asked, walking back and forth across the kitchen, as if she were on a runway.
“Very nice, honey. The skirt has an artsy flair; not too conservative. And the black jacket works really well with it. Very nice.”
“Did you confirm your appointment?” Evelyn asked her daughter.
“Yup. Ten-thirty tomorrow morning. Can I use the car?”
“And Daddy, maybe I could meet you in the Dining Hall after? We could have lunch together?”
“I was just going to suggest that!” her father replied, sounding a bit jollier than the dialogue called for, and therefore arousing Evelyn’s curiosity.
“Ohhh,” Marilyn cooed, hugging her father around the neck, “I’m so excited! I can’t wait to go to college.”
“And any college would be very lucky to have you on campus, sweetie,” Davy replied.
“I better go take this outfit off and hang it up,” Marilyn said then, walking sassily toward the hallway and heading for the staircase.
As soon as Marilyn left the room, Davy looked at Evelyn, and the worry in his eyes was profound. Evelyn waited a full minute to speak, as she knew where the conversation might go, and she knew also that it must not be overheard.
“Which are you worried about, Davy?” she finally asked her husband, after she had heard Marilyn reach the second floor. “That she’ll get in or that she won’t?”
“Both,” he replied. “Both. I realize that we should have discouraged her.”
“How could we have done that?”
“I don’t know. But, she’s just not right for Sarah Lawrence. If she doesn’t get in, that will actually be a good thing, but I know she won’t see it that way. And if she does get in, I don’t even want to think about it. Most of the professors will eat her alive. Or they’ll ignore her. Or they’ll feel uncomfortable around her because of me. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just not a fit.”
Evelyn was not surprised to hear Davy’s statements. They had already shared these feelings with each other when Marilyn decided to include her father’s school among the five or six to which she would apply. But early on in the process, it seemed like such a long-shot, academically. Perhaps, for that reason, they both hoped their concerns were moot. But, they both also realized, particularly on this eve of her all-important interview, that Marilyn believed she was a shoo-in. Her father was on the faculty, after all. Admission was a done deal.
“Do you think,” Evelyn asked her husband, “that they’ll admit her against their better judgment?”
“I hope not,” Davy said, “I hope not.”
Evelyn never asked Davy to speak to anyone in Admissions, and in the weeks following Marilyn’s interview, Evelyn never asked Davy if he had intercepted of his own volition. Regardless, Marilyn was not accepted, and the college’s decision was a blow from which she never seemed to recover. For the first time in her life, her father had let her down.
Thinking about it now, Evelyn wonders why Marilyn ultimately chose to settle so close to them in Westchester. She had done well at William and Mary. She made friends quickly, and she enjoyed her classes. And when she came home during school breaks, she spoke positively about the location. She seemed to like Virginia and its southern ways. Evelyn wonders why Marilyn and Barry didn’t stay in Virginia. If nothing else, they would probably have been able to afford a house there.
Thinking about it now, Evelyn wonders why Marilyn chose to punish herself. Surely, in the course of an average week, she must drive by that college a half dozen times. And that has got to hurt. Evelyn does not want to feel sorry for her daughter. The prospect is too exhausting. And the problem should not be hers.
She is thankful that three of Marilyn’s folded squares are now in the “out box.” At least, that’s where they will be until Round Two.
* * *
to be continued on March 12th .
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.