Jim Martin leaned on his shirtsleeves on the dining room table. His dark hair seemed to stand out against his white skin, and his eyes darted back and forth between Gus Cavalieri and Hank Driscoll, and a few times bounced off Pete, to hint at including him in the conversation, which wasn’t easy. He and Gus and Hank strained when Pete came into their comfortable threesome. There was an unspoken agreement among the three that they wouldn’t avoid the gatherings, but rather stick together and try to out-last their adversary. The hostility was evident. Pete brought the worst of them and it showed.

Jim glanced at his watch, turning its face toward the living room lights. “He and G us and Hank strained when Pete came into their threesome. “Jenny’s brother called last night, Pete. He wanted us to watch the quiz show, so we figured he must be on it. To Jenny it was a good reason for a party,” he laughed.  “You know Jenny and parties. Glad you and Cass could make it.” The statement came out more sincerely than intended.

Hank added, “You remember Ted, Pete? He wouldn’t tell her why he wanted her to watch, kept it a secret.” Hank was boyish looking with sparkling blue eyes and an easy grin. His thinning auburn hair gave some truth to his age, but when he smiled, his youthful good looks disarmed the most reserved.. Hank was the one man in the room who was certain the Cape Cod was only a temporary residence. The GI Bill had helped him through law school, and now he patiently waited his time while finishing it, and clerking in a law firm. Of the three men, he was the most understanding of Pete. His scope of humanity was encompassed by his compassion.

The conversation fell again and the silence was uncomfortable. Pete sipped his beer and rubbed his rather hairy arm. In the dim light, the ruby in his college ring caught a spark of light and glimmered for an instant. Pete was comfortable with silence.

Hank tried again. “Gus, did you ever finish your patio? I can’t keep track of you on the other side of the street.”

Gus Cavalieri grunted a negative reply and took his beer to the edge of the living room, ”Better warm up the set, doll,” he called to Jenny as he watched her pass chips and drinks to the women, hitching up his pants with his wrists, being careful not to tip the beer can. “We’re ready for the countdown,” he announced dramatically. He was stocky and thick looking, slightly younger than the other men. Black hairs curled on his arms and at his throat where the colored t-shirt ended. Muscles rippled in his arms as he stretched and posed for the audience he had acquired.

“Show, off,” Emma Arner, Jenny’s mother, said sarcastically, and laughed at Gus and his profane reply. She held up her glass for a refill when Jenny passed her with the pitcher. “Best martini I had for a long time.”

Gus showed off his biceps, basking in the responses of the women, except for Carol, Hank’s wife, who watched with a steady glare. His body was a physical form of perfection was his constant source of pride. He was the neighborhood macho male and he loved it. He watched Carol, out of the corner of his eye  Her long blond hair fell across her light blue sweater as she reached for the set, and her black slacks conformed more closely to her shapely body. She looked for Hank, aware of Gus’s stare riveted to her behind. She saw his gaze shift to her face and she impishly licked her parted lips with a darting tongue. She loved to tease Gus. Though not a beauty, she had an earthy, sexy quality that made her attractive to men. If her nose was a little sharp and her mouth a little wide, the components of flaxen hair, large bright eyes, and a full breasted slender body gave her more than average qualities. Carol settled back into the sofa, not missing the look that was exchanged between Gus and his wife.

Jo Cavalieri, wedged between Emma and Carol on the small soda, was trying to ignore the way her husband had just ogled Carol. She liked the friendly neighbor but she was beginning to hate these little parties and their seemingly innocent flirtations. The fact that Gus’s eyes were being drawn to other women was becoming an issue between them. His lust for other women had turned her into a passive partner. Jo studied her perfectly manicured and polished nails and thought back over the five years of their marriage. She tried to be calm, though it was not in her volatile nature. The t v ads blared on, but she barely heard them. In the beginning Gus seemed to like her fiery personality. Lately it only provoked arguments. Jo ran her fingers through her jet black hair. It was her crowning glory, always teased and coiffed, and always the same. She took pride in her style and hoped this careful attention could be the incentive for Gus to pay more attention to his marriage. She was afraid of ending up alone and having to start over. She smiled benignly and accepted a refill, as Jenny enjoyed her role of hostess.