affair with a colonel on Governor’s Island. “That,” Sam had said, “is unpermissible adultery.”
“Wait a minute, Sam,” Oliver had said. “What’s your idea of permissible adultery?”
Sam had put that solemn, close-mouthed expression on his face that he used when he was preparing to say something clever, and had said, “Permissible adultery is when you enjoy it.”
Oliver had laughed heartily then. She wondered if he would laugh now. It had never occurred to her that he might be unfaithful to her just as she was sure that it had never occurred to him to doubt her. Maybe, she thought, that’s what has been missing in our marriage.
Still, there was no reason to make any changes. There was no need for Oliver to know anything. She was so practiced in innocence that now, when she was innocent no longer, the habit and impetus of the years would sustain her. Also, she had lied from time to time to Oliver, always successfully. The lies, certainly, had not been very grave, fibs about overdrafts at the bank, purposely misplaced invitations to parties she did not wish to attend, forgotten appointments. But great or small, they had always gone undiscovered, and Lucy had forgiven and justified them to herself as part of the necessary lubrication to keep their marriage going smoothly. Now, if the lie to be told was more serious in nature, she was confident she could bring it off unhesitatingly and with even greater justification. Tonight, she felt, with a delicious tingle of power, she was capable of handling anything.
It couldn’t be too difficult. After all, she thought, look at all the women who manage it. Mrs. Wales, with her discreet week-end in the mountains and the two or three afternoons a month in New York. Claudia Larkin, with her golf pro, and the pro giving lessons, besides, every Saturday afternoon to Bill Larkin. Edith Brown, who was one of the silliest women alive, but even so appearing serenely on all occasions with her husband, despite the fact that everyone but her husband was certain about her and a chemistry professor in New Haven.
One thing she was sure of, Lucy thought righteously. She would never expose Oliver to anything like that. Her reticence would be complete, and she would make certain, too, of Jeff’s discretion. Whatever happened, Oliver would lose nothing, tangible or intangible. If anything, she felt, although she was a little vague in her own mind about the reasoning that went into the reflection, she would make a better wife than ever to Oliver. Oh, she thought comfortably, it doesn’t pay to make too much out of this. Fifteen years are a long time. There probably isn’t a single marriage we know of that’s lasted half that long without some kind of excursion on somebody’s part …
As for Jeff … She looked down at the thick, dark youthful hair crushed against her breast. Forever, he had said. Well, she thought indulgently, time will take care of that.
She lay still, pleased with herself. I’ve never figured out anything as completely and intelligently as this, she thought. I’ve never been in such control.
And, she thought, luxuriating in a new-found delight in mischief, the next time a young man watches me all summer, I certainly will notice him.
Jeff stirred in her arms, tensed, trembled. His head moved spasmodically against her and his lips opened as though he were trying to scream. She kissed him on the cheek and woke him.
“What is it?” she whispered. “What’s the matter?”
He stared at her. For the moment he didn’t seem to know where he was or to recognize her. “What is it, Baby?” she repeated softly, holding him tighter.
Then he relaxed. “Nothing.” He smiled and moved and lay back against the pillow, staring at the ceiling. “I guess I was dreaming.”
He hesitated. “Nothing,” he said. He ran his fingers slowly through her hair. “Anyway, thanks for waking me.”
“What about?” she asked again, curiously.