“Time to talk to me, Carol.” Jenny pushed the cups and cookies aside and leaned her elbows on the table. “What can possibly be so bad in your life? I’ve never seen you like this.”
Carol closed her dark eyes for a few seconds. When she opened them she was staring at the wall. “I guess every marriage comes to this point at some time. I thought we were above all that.” She continued and her voice seemed to find strength. “I wanted to believe that all the years of struggling had been worth something. I know now that I was wrong.” The silence was long and deafening.
“You don’t mean that Hank…………?” Jenny sat back in shock. “I can’t believe that he would…..”
“Would fool around? Would have an affair.” Carol said the words like she had been practicing them. “Hank doesn’t seem like the type, does he? Well, there are a lot of sophisticated women in law school these days.” Her voice was flat. “They talk the same language, study the same stuff. I imagine it happened to him and he didn’t even know it. Until their hands touched or their eyes met”. She flipped her hair dramatically. ”What am I? Who am I? The housekeeper, keeping things smooth at home, cleaning up peanut butter and jelly, wiping snotty noses, and taking monotonous evenings in stride because he’s dedicated to being a lawyer, or a fool?” She began to cry hysterically.
Susie put a sticky hand on her mother’s slacks and looked at her with panic on her face. Her mouth quivered.
Jenny reached for the child and tickled her to distraction while Carol ran to the powder room. She loudly blew her nose and splashed water on her face. When she returned she was almost too poised.
“I didn’t mean to spill over like that. Sorry. Forget it, huh? It’s such a gloomy day and I’m full of self-pity and guilt. I’ll be okay now that I vented.”
“I only want to say that I think you’re wrong about Hank. There are few men I’ve met who are so wrapped into home and family. He is one of the finest men I’ve ever met, I just know he appreciates you, Carol. I’ve even heard him say it.”
Carol laughed nervously, “I have no proof, if that’s what you think, Jenny. It’s just when I’m alone I’m convinced there is someone else. I think ahead to when he has finally passed the bar, and I wonder if we will go our separate ways. I wonder if he’ll remember me. I suppose I’m being silly.”
“About your coat, Jen, I’d probably fight, tooth and nail to keep it. Nothing that fantastic will ever happen to me and if it did, I’d be too practical to do what I really wanted. I’m sure you will work something out.”
Jenny stumbled across the back yards feeling wounded and dismissed. She stood in the cold drizzle thinking of these impersonal yards and how they all merged into one. If they removed a few fences they could have a decent park. As it was, they were divided by play gyms and wash lines and spite fences. She caught a glimpse of a neighbor pulling away from her window, and she felt the unfriendliness. The neighbor had not responded to Jenny’s wave.
The phone was ringing as she entered the kitchen. She wiped the wetness from her hair and left her loafers on the throw rug.
“Hello?” Her voice was still thick with caring.
“Jen, can you come over to the hospital?”
“What is it?”
Jim’s voice sounded so far away. She had to strain to hear.
“It’s Mike, his heart. I have to stay.”
“Oh, Jim.” She ached for him. “I’ll be there. I’ll call a cab. I’ll be right there.”