Islands by Anne Rivers Siddons

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Authors: Anne Rivers Siddons
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her dancer’s flat-footed stride, and she did not hear me.
    “Well done, Anny Butler,” Lewis said, and kissed me on the back steps down to the dunes.

    Lewis and I were married that September in the tiny white slaves’ chapel at Sweetgrass. There were not many people: the Scrubs; his daughters, looking pleasant and closed into themselves; my sisters and brother; Marcy from my office; Linda and Robert and little Tommy, beaming. Linda made her she-crab soup for the wedding party. Everyone stayed late and drank a great deal of champagne.
    When we were planning the wedding, Lewis had asked me where I would like to go on our honeymoon.
    “Anywhere but Sea Island,” he said, and I gathered that was where his marriage to Sissy began.
    “The beach house,” I said. “I want to spend it at the beach house.”
    And he laughed at me, but that’s exactly what we did. The rest of the Scrubs came out for the weekend, bearing food and wine and tawdry, wonderful gifts, never for one moment considering that they might be intruding. I did not consider it, either. I was a Scrub. We were a unit.
    Lewis had said that he thought perhaps we might want to open the big house on the Battery and live there, but on the last night of our honeymoon before the others came, I said, “Do you really want to?” and he said no.
    “Me either,” I said, weak with gratitude that I would never have to try and live up to that house. “I’ve been so scared of it.”
    “I’ve been so tired of it,” he said. “We’ll just live on Bull Street and Edisto and here, for the time being. You can take your time deciding where in Charleston you want to live permanently. Or even if.”
    “We’ve got to have some kind of reception or party for all your people—and that’s half of Charleston,” I said.
    “Well, we will. After we’re settled in. We’ll use the Battery house for that. Its last hurrah.”
    But somehow we never did it.
    I have always heard that marriage changes you, and, of course it does, but not always in the way the conventional wisdom would have it. With Lewis, the shape of my life did not change appreciably. The little house on Bull Street, though graceful and beautifully detailed, was not all that much larger than my apartment, so that from the very beginning I had no sense of rattling and creeping around in great spaces. I did not bring much with me to Lewis’s house, so it did not bulge with furniture. What there was, he had brought out of the Battery house after the divorce, and it was old and beautiful and lustrous with care, but he had no great baroque pieces, no hivelike crystal chandeliers hanging over the small English dining table, not a fringe, not a tassel.
    “Go over to the Battery anytime and pick out what you want,” he said. “The hysterical society won’t hassle you. Camilla’s on the board.”
    But as lovely as the old house was, I did not want to go into it. I did not even like to pass it on my sporadic jogs. The Battery stank of Sissy to me, if not to anyone else.
    “I don’t want anything except what I have,” I said, meaning it in all respects.
    “Me, either,” he said.
    Our external lives did not change. I continued to work early and late at the agency, ferrying around the Shawna Sperrys of my world and attempting to corral their feckless mothers; begging discreetly and sometimes not so on the telephone for funds, services, homes, treatments for my flock, making speeches, attending grindingly tedious meetings with my board, accounting for paper clips and paper diapers instead of young lives anchored. As I always had, I fretted about it at home.
    “Why don’t you just quit?” Lewis said. “You don’t have to work, you know. You could volunteer, or start a business of your own. We could have a baby.”
    I looked at him.
    “I have about twenty of them right now,” I said. “And you have two. Lewis, even if we started now, you’d be close to seventy when our first graduated from college. But you

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