Emily watched Mark demolish the Cornish game hen in its entirety, and then offered him the remainder of hers. He accepted readily, complimenting her on the meal.
"You ate like you were starving," she told him as she cleared the dishes from the table. "Did you skip lunch?"
He nodded, wiping his moustache and mouth with a napkin, not looking at her. "I went to talk to Phil Henderson, and forgot about the time."
"So you had nothing all day? Mark, you know that really skews your blood sugar." Emily waited patiently, wondering when he would broach the subject of seeking a job in Michigan. "Did you tell him about Marcella cheating on him?"
Mark twitched as though he had been poked with a cattle prod. "God, no! I just want to forget about that."
What, you're not going to call Marcella a cheating bitch? Middi's a bitch because my father fell in love with her and married her, but Marcella getting sex from the football coach in your laundry room doesn't get that kind of mention? Her eyes narrowed.
Mark looked at her with a somehow frightened look, and to Emily's surprise, changed the subject. "I did the internet search you suggested. There were pictures of Schroeder's plaster casting with the ochre. That man in Carmel was right, the Stein Dwarf is a fake. What really pissed me off was that internet searches on Schroeder alone never mentioned ochre, just that he had a trademark plaster mix."
"I'm sorry." Emily was. She would have loved to have had the statue repaired and never have had to tell him he had been mightily duped. Mark was so very proud -- being embarrassed was like death to him.
"Can you call the police tomorrow?" he asked. "I'm booked with classes and meetings."
You just don't want to be the one to go and tell the cops, "Look, I got screwed because I thought I could make a killing and didn't want to listen to Nathan Storm when he told me to hire an art expert to look at the objet d'art." You don't want to have to tell the police your father-in-law warned you about internet scams. You don't want to have to admit that you were an obsessed, money-mad -- "What? Yes, sure I can. You had a file that you kept on documentation, didn't you? And our lawyer's info is current, right?"
"Yeah, let me get the file." He rose from the table and went to his den.
Not a word he said of arrows, Not a word of Laughing Water, thought Emily, remembering her Longfellow and his Hiawatha poem. He is hiding something major, not mentioning Western Michigan University. What the hell is going on? She rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, wiped the table down with a paper towel. Watching her husband through the doorway, she noted that he didn't lock the door this time. Perhaps tomorrow she would spend the time waiting for the cable person in a pursuit of knowledge of Mark's den's contents.
There was a question in her mind. Did all married couples carry secret baggage out of sight of their spouses? Although she hadn't really thought about it until lately, she and Mark did. She had her skunk orphans in the woods, he had his own hidden thoughts about his Playboy magazines. (The thought of him perusing that degrading magazine repelled her as much as her association with skunks would have disgusted him.) She didn't think it was originally intended to be secret, just something that occurred, not planned, per se, just became a part of day to day life.
But the Michigan thing was a whole different level. He was investigating employment halfway across the country, and hadn't discussed it with her at all.
He brought the file to the kitchen work table and laid it open. "Here's the contact, Edith Weber of Seattle, transcripts of the description of the collection, transcripts of the conversations I had with her, the notarized document of authenticity, the genealogy background of the family that owned the collection, and printed pages of the PayPal transaction."
"Okay, I'll talk to the police tomorrow." And, Mark? And ... and?
"God, I'm tired," he said. "I've got so much on my mind. Dad was really sounding old the last time I talked to him. Made me envious of you going to spend a weekend with Nathan."
Emily was glad she had turned away to put the salt and pepper shakers back by the stove. Next thing you know, you'll be saying you want to go visit your folks, too, amazingly coincidentally with the invitation to interview at your Secret Western Michigan University. She wiped down the stove and the counter beside it. Let's give you an inch and see if you take a mile. I'll make it easy for you. I'll grease the first inch. "You haven't seen your folks since last spring, why don't you just take the time and go? God knows you have enough sick days accrued."
Mark took her shoulders in his hands and turned her to face him. "Emmie, you're such a good woman. Do you mind?" he kissed her mouth.
You only call me Emmie when you want to have sex. "No, I don't mind. But the fish have to have constant monitoring in the winter, so why don't you make it a solo visit? Then you and your dad can go play golf in the snow, if you want."
He kissed her again. My reward for once again making your life easy. She let him lead her upstairs to his room, where he made love to her, and she pretended that he was some hero, some lecher, some incredible lover, obliterating from her mind the knowledge that he was a liar and a sneak and about to screw up the comfortable life to which she had grown accustomed.
* * *
When he had rolled away from her and begun snoring, Emily collected her clothes and quietly left the room. She crossed the hall to her own room, tossed the clothes into a hamper and walked to the bathroom. Another astonishing job of acting by Emily Storm Fatzer! The crowd goes wild as Emily heads for the showers! She showered, trying to wash away the feeling of being used, of being a furnishing for her husband's life instead of a partner.
What have I done to make him so secretive about this Michigan thing? Or is he having an affair with someone and just wants to have a place to escape to? How can he tell me I'm "fucking stupid" one night and call me "Emmie the Good Woman" the next, with no changes on my part, except that I made his life a little less stressful? Emily had a big problem with someone, anyone, especially herself being called "fucking stupid." She knew that she wasn't the most intelligent person in the world, but even the dumbest person she had ever met in her life didn't inspire her to tell him that he was "fucking stupid." Why not? Why not speak your mind at whim? If you're angry, shouldn't people know? If you're disappointed, shouldn't people know? Tell everyone, tell them all, on every encounter, every single time. Except people don't. There was some unwritten rule that indicated that people should try to work around each other, find euphemisms or some kind of polite language that said, "I'm sorry, I really don't agree with you on this point, perhaps you need to check your sources of information." The rule didn't seem to apply to husbands and wives. Why didn't it?
If you told the tall black guy who plays the sax in the alley beside Dollonger's downtown that he was "fucking stupid" he would pound you into the cement sidewalk. Is it a function of vulnerability? I get to be stupid because I don't want to fight back? What would have happened if I had screamed back at him, "I'm not fucking stupid! You're fucking stupid!"
Dried, Emily went to the closet and extracted the rich, heavy silk pajamas that she'd bought in Carmel. They slithered against her skin, soothing and caressing as she put them on. Oh, now that's what love should feel like. How old had she been when she stopped reading books about romance? Twenty-eight? Thirty? Whatever year it was, the time of life had been that of discovering gray hairs and barrenness, the realization of the need to choose friends for decorum and advantage, the resignation into apathy about spousal relationships and the path worn deeply into the soil from which the proprieties of a professor's wife grew in their myriad clutching vines. Unlike the heroines in novels, Emily did not feel her heart leap and her pulse quicken in desire when she heard her husband enter the house. She just checked all around to make sure that what she had done for the day was correct: tasty food, clean house, well-dressed and upbeat wife. And if satisfaction at a job done right was what made the little hearts come out of the cartoon house's chimney, well, that was part of life. She had just learned to read books about animals and travel experiences, and spend more time writing in her own journal about the imaginary experiences of people in France and Australia. She lifted the rose and amethyst necklace from its satin-lined case and held it up. If the feel of new silk was like the feel of love, then the glow and sparkle of the gold-set gems was what love ought to look like, too.
As she clasped the ends of the necklace around the back of her neck, she realized that the gift had been chosen for her out of love. So love really does look like that, after all.
She slid her feet into muley slippers even darker purple than the amethysts and went through the bath to her office on the other side. From the top drawer of her desk she took her daily notebook and a pen, and returned to her bedroom. Kicking the slippers almost under the bed, she crawled under the thick covers and propped herself up with pillows.
Now what all did I accomplish today? She checked off the dinner menu, the sink scouring, the dusting of her office, the letter to Adrienne. She hadn't gotten around to paying bills, having become distracted when she looked at the one for the credit card. She hadn't really listed a lot of chores in her daily work and appointment log for today, and her busy day, on paper, looked like that of a slacker. I can list all the things that took up my time -- in code. The thought amused her, and she began to write. "Cleaned linen closet" was so wholesome to write instead of "Threw out those grotesquely tasteless sheets." And "Took a donation to the thrift store" was nicer than "Got rid of things that I don't want any more." Her trip to the computer store became "Bought a notebook" (she giggled aloud over that one) and finding a hiding place for it was listed as "Rearrange drawers." She stopped short of listing "Having sex" as a chore.
Emily skipped to the next day, penning "Check cable connections" to mean "Yay! DSL!" and "Call police" to stand, in her mind, for "Try to save Mark's ass." Tomorrow was a fish training day, and she wondered if she would find time to go take a little squash up to her secret friends in the woods. The dinner menu was for a small baked ham (leftovers to be made into ham salad in two days, no more, no less) and sweet potatoes, which Emily hated with a passion that turned her stomach when she smelled them. But Mark liked them, and so she would cook them, never as well as his mother had, but well enough that it was regular fare. My dear, I am going to make everything as smooth as I can. Smooth as black ice on Donner Pass in January, and I am going to be just watching for you to slip. And if you decide you're going to divorce me and run off to Michigan with some tootsie, you had better get yourself one high-paying job. A thought occurred to her then, born of irritation at being played for a fool. He paid for those damned dwarves out of our household savings. He is going to have to reimburse me for at least half of the amount he paid for the -- "fucking stupid" things. So there.
Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-05-15
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.