Jim awoke at the usual hour, but this time to the sound of wire hangers scratching across the clothes rod in the closet. “Trying to figure out what you will wear with that coat, are you?” his voice was hard. “It had to be something to get you up this early, especially with a hangover.”
She turned to face him in her lace bra and gold hoop earrings that still dangled in her ears from last night. “I knew right away you resented me having the coat. How can you be so heartless? It’s such a wonderful gesture on Ted’s part. Why must you spoil it?”
“You would have been better off with the camera, at least it would have fit into our way of life. Jen, where do you think you could wear a full length fur coat? Certainly not to the union banquet, which is our big night out every year? It surely wouldn’t be appropriate to wear for church on Christmas Eve, with everyone else in cloth coats. Be reasonable, Jen.” He was sullen and quiet.
“Ted called back after you went to bed.”
“What did he want?” Jim laughed. “I can probably answer my own question. He wants you to pay the tax on the damned coat.”
Her head snapped up. “How did you know that?”
“Oh, Ted isn’t very hard to figure out. If he had the money to pay it he would have never given you the coat. I guess he already asked the show people if he could have cash instead of the prizes. When they refused he had to make it seem brotherly.” His voice held a bitter edge, but he laughed and sank back into the pillow. The laughter that came from his lips was caustic and dry.
Jenny’s face burned hot and red. “I’ll’ get a job to earn the money.” She threw back her head with a look of defiance.
“How much is the tax?”
She was quiet a long moment. “Ten thousand.”
“The secretary at the foundry makes $3500 a year, and she knows how to type.”
“I’ll keep the coat with or without your help, I’ll borrow what I can. It’s the first real thing I ever got in my life, that was mine.”
His face suddenly crumbled and he sucked in his breath. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Jen. I didn’t pick this time to ask you, but I have to ask you to get a job, but not for the coat. Mike and the foundry are losing jobs. He’s practically bankrupt. For the next few months we are in for some tough sledding.” His throat sounded parched. There was no expression in the eyes that stared at the ceiling.
Her first thought was to go to him. There had been other tough times when they were first married and he was going to trade school under the GI Bill, and Trish was a baby. They had survived, together. She stopped before she reached the bed. This time was different. Silence filled the room. She felt betrayed by Ted, recognizing his duplicity. She felt betrayed by Jim. Whenever they were in a crisis, he always told her how much he loved her. She wanted to cry, but no tears came. She was angry. Somehow, she would rise above all this.