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).
For the second consecutive morning, Evelyn is being stirred awake by household help. Which means, for the second consecutive morning, Evelyn is enjoying a really deep sleep.
“EVELYN!” Claudia says again, nudging her employer.
“What now!” Evelyn whines, covering her head with her pillow and knowing that Claudia’s response will not make her feel like the lowliest Alzheimer’s widow on the planet.
“Judy called,” Claudia informs her. “She says she’s running late.”
“And what did you tell her?” Evelyn asks, from under the pillows.
“I told her you were running late, too.”
“Judy!” Evelyn says, scooting into the booth at the diner on Kimball Avenue. “I am so sorry! Have you been waiting long?”
“Not long at all,” Judy replies, easily. “Not to worry. Just enjoying some down time and the view out the window.”
Evelyn then exhales, in one, long shot, and looks at Judy, smiling.
“You look good, Evelyn,” Judy comments genuinely. “Tired, maybe, but something’s different. Something’s going on.”
Evelyn shakes her head as the waitress approaches.
“Please!” says Evelyn, “And are you still serving breakfast?”
“Back of the menu,” the waitress replies, wasting no time with formalities.
Evelyn studies the back of the menu as Judy studies Evelyn. They both see something refreshing.
When Evelyn puts the menu down, Judy looks at her pointedly. “So, what’s going on? I saw you just over a week ago, and something has changed.”
“Oh,” Evelyn says, waving her hand, “I’m working on a project. At the house. I don’t want to talk about it yet. I don’t know if it will work or if it’s worth it. But, it’s been really helpful.” She pauses to take a breath, and then smiles broadly. “And! Joy was up for a few days!”
“Yes, and it was great! We had such a good time together. And she was so wonderful with Davy.”
“Coffee?” the waitress confirms, placing a mug in front of Evelyn and leaving a carafe on the table.
“Thank you,” Evelyn says to the waitress.
“And you ladies ready to order?” the waitress asks.
“Two eggs over easy, potatoes and toast,” says Evelyn.
“And you?” the waitress asks Judy, who is dumbfounded to be the one at the booth who remains undecided.
“Uh… let’s see… Um, you know, I guess I’ll have a tuna salad sandwich on wheat.”
“Fries, salad, or slaw.”
“Yes,” says Judy, to the amusement of none.
“Um, the slaw, I guess,” she adds, after a moment of silence.
The waitress retrieves both menus and walks away.
Evelyn smiles at her daughter-in-law, takes a long sip of coffee, leans her head back and closes her eyes for a second. “Ah. It’s good to be out.”
“I’m definitely enjoying the change of scene,” Judy agrees, refilling her mug from the coffee carafe. Then, as she adds some Splenda and stirs it in, she explains. “The vibe at the office was a little intense this morning. One of the agents hasn’t had a deal in a while, and it tends to bring out her nasty side.”
“I imagine it’s quite a competitive industry.”
“That’s an understatement…
“But, hey!” Judy says then. “I didn’t get in it to make friends. I have enough trouble keeping up with the ones I have. And keeping up with family… You mentioned Marilyn when you called on the phone yesterday evening. Said she was going through some histrionics.”
“So what’s going on?”
“It was bizarre,” Evelyn responds. “She was complaining about Sara, who is doing fine, as far as I can tell. And then, she was obsessing about some murders that took place a while back.”
“Oh. Right. I remember those. That was pretty scary. A few teenage girls. But weren’t those solved?”
“Marilyn didn’t seem to think so.”
“No, I think they were solved,” Judy says. “Of course, I try not to pay too much attention to the local news. If I did, I’d tie my kids down until they were thirty-five. Hmmm…. So, Marilyn’s obsessing about them?”
“Yes. And it’s just so weird. I mean, this is how she’s been for a long time, but for some reason, when I spoke with her yesterday, I had a different reaction.”
“Like you didn’t want to give power to it?” Judy asks.
“Something like that, yes.”
“It’s tricky,” Judy starts, essentially thinking out loud. “She’s your daughter. But, you know, there’s a lot to be said for brain chemistry, and Marilyn’s brain might just be wired a certain way.”
“How do you mean?” Evelyn asks.
“I mean, she might default to paranoia. Didn’t your mother have a bit of that? I know that Patrick doesn’t know much about your family, but what he’s shared with me—”
“Here you go, ladies,” the waitress interrupts, placing Evelyn’s and Judy’s orders in front of them.
“Just holler if you need anything else,” she adds, putting the check on the table.
Evelyn looks at her plate and immediately realizes that, in her haste, she ordered the most monochromatic meal known to man. She reaches for the ketchup, to give it a little more color.
Then, she looks up at Judy. “I’m sorry. Where were we?”
“Brain chemistry,” Judy answers, scooping up a forkful of cole slaw. “Didn’t your mom have some issues?”
“Oh, boy, did my mother have issues!”
“Was she paranoid?”
“As a matter of fact…God! I had forgotten about it!” Evelyn exclaims, as she gathers some food onto her fork and wonders when she might actually taste it. “There was this summer. Must have been in the late Forties. She wouldn’t let us leave the yard all summer. She said there was a rapist on the loose!”
Judy, who was about to take a second bite of her sandwich, puts it down. “You all had to stay in the yard? You and your four brothers?”
“Oh, no,” Evelyn responds, covering her mouth as she swallows her bite of eggs and potatoes. “Just me and the younger boys. At that point, Frank and Jonathan were out of the house.”
“And what did your Dad do?” Judy asks.
“My father?” Evelyn replies. “Oh, he was in the City most nights. I have no idea what he thought.”
They eat in silence for a minute or two. Judy feels more self-conscious than Evelyn, and the irony of that, appropriately, is one that Judy absorbs alone.
Taking a break from her lunchtime breakfast, Evelyn gazes out the window for a few seconds. “So, I guess my mom was paranoid. Brain chemistry, huh?”
“That’s what I hear,” says Judy.
“Hmm,” Evelyn says. “I guess we can’t really control what we pass on to our children. I just know that if Marilyn inherited paranoia, it’s probably my doing. She certainly didn’t get it from Davy’s side.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Evelyn. You don’t know. I mean, you know Davy’s character, and you knew his parents, but there was a generation before them you never met. They might have been totally fucked-up.”
Evelyn laughs at Judy’s statement. She laughs not because Judy could be right, but because she knows that Judy probably says “fucked-up” a lot. Yet, this is the first occasion on which Judy has chosen to say it in her presence.
Evelyn appreciates Judy’s timing.
It shows heart.
* * *
to be continued on April 2nd .
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.