meeting’ never much appealed to me.”
When their mutual laughter subsided, she went on to tell him of the various free-lance pieces she’d done, including a memorable one of a car wash. “You know, the type where you sit in your car and watch the long gray fingers slither up and over your windshield,” which had given her nightmares for weeks afterward. “I created a verbal monster in that piece—it came back to haunt me. I’ve never been one for horror flicks.”
Much later, when they returned to Dover, Amber invited him in for a nightcap. “Ah, you’d better make that coffee,” she apologized, as soon as the invitation had left her lips. “I don’t keep a supply of liquor around the house.”
His eyes warmed her as much as a drink might have. “That will be fine.”
Mugs in hands, she led him through the kitchen to the back porch, an open veranda with a long wooden bench-type swing. A gentle breeze had begun to stir, bringing with it the only hope of coolness that the night would offer. Aside from the chorus of crickets, all was still and peaceful. The swing rocked gently beneath their joint weight.
“Tell me about your marriage,” he suggested softly. The faint light of the kitchen cast a golden glow to his profile, yet she didn’t need it to tell her that his eyes were on her.
Her marriage and its failure were the last thing that she wanted to discuss, the last thing that she expected Zachary to want to hear about. “You don’t really want to listen to that melodrama, do you?” she chided doubtfully.
His answer was blunt. “Yes.”
There were few people with whom she had discussed her past. That she should even consider doing it now, with Zachary Wilder, a relatively new acquaintance, bemused her. Yet, from the very first, she had sensed the understanding he had of her experiences, as though his had been very similar. It seemed perfectly normal that she should tell him everything.
“Ron and I were childhood friends, then sweethearts,” she began, staring off into the darkness as her mind traveled back in years. “We came from the same town; our parents were friends. We went to school together, right through high school. When his family moved from Maryland to the West Coast, it was understandable that we should both apply to schools there. By some miracle ”—she emphasized the word, wondering what the future would have held had that “miracle” not occurred—“we were both accepted to Stanford. We were young and very idealistic. Despite our parents’ objections, we eloped the summer before our freshman year.” Her blond head turned toward Zachary as she sought to justify her actions. He sat quietly, listening closely, watching intently. Strangely intimidated, she lapsed into silence.
“Go on,” he urged softly.
Breathing deeply, she looked down at her coffee mug. In hindsight, she had been so foolish, so shortsighted. “It seemed to make sense at the time. You know, economical. Less expensive for us to live together than apart, type of thing.”
“Why didn’t you just live together?” When Zachary had been an undergraduate, one didn’t “live with” someone. The sexual revolution came about while he was in medical school, but he had been too busy to pay it much heed. And, anyway, he had already met Sheila.
“I was raised in a very strict home. It was bad enough that we eloped, depriving my parents of their only daughter’s big extravaganza of a wedding. Had we decided to live together without benefit of marriage, I would have been disowned.” But to blame her parents, totally, was unfair. “And it was me, too. I would have felt … uncomfortable…” That she felt old-fashioned was absurd, considering the status of sexual mores today. But she would have made the same decision over again. “As it turned out, it was a lucky thing that we did marry. I was pregnant within three months.” A sad laugh slipped through her lips. “We were so naive. Everything was
Reshonda Tate Billingsley