The Secret Keeping
particular. “All the time,” she answered without turning her head.
    Jon fell silent. He blew air through his nose. “Then you’re a hopeless case.”
    They laughed at the diagnosis.
    “Good enough. Let’s change the subject, Jon.”
    “A fine idea. You want to talk about my love life instead?”
    (No, not really.) “Okay. And how is your young wife?”
    “Ex-wife, please.” He smiled pleasantly at her, knowing he had it coming.
    “Ex. That’s what I meant,” was all she said about it. She let him go on.
    “Expensive.” He sighed, laying his silverware on the plate and casting her his puppy dog eyes. “Very expensive.”
    “You should have taken my advice.” She emitted a quick laugh, but he scarcely smiled in return. She regretted saying it, afraid of his expression.
    “Really? But, my love, you never said a word about it. Not one word. In fact, you acted as if you didn’t mind at all.”
    Is that right? It sounded sort of like her. She offered a thin smile back to him. It was over with, what difference does it make anyway? She pursed her lips, looking through him. Didn’t mind? How could anyone have come to that conclusion? She raised her arm to signal the waitress, speaking in a constricted voice as she did.
    “Well, Jon, you only told me you needed more space. You never said you intended to marry her.” The waitress arrived. She faced her. “Water, please.”

    “That would have made a difference, Helaine?” He had revived, seeming to be enjoy this part of the discussion. “You would have fought then, Helaine?”
    Fight, oh brother. Her lovers always seemed to be after more than love. The waitress came back with the water and she gulped it. She was thankful Jon was not her lover anymore and set her glass down with relief.
    “I only bring it up now because you asked.” She smiled sweetly hoping to end it there.
    “Flatter me, darling,” Jon pressed, “tell me that you minded.” His eyes twinkled at her discomfort.
    She ignored him and pushed her food around awhile. A half hour later he asked her again, the corners of his mouth turning up as he pursued her answer. Helaine chuckled nervously.
    The waitress came back with the bill and they split it. She heard Helaine whisper through her teeth, “If you hadn’t been lying, Jon, then you would have known the truth,” but the girl wasn’t quite sure what it meant. The man only grinned at the blond. He looked like a cat with a mouse.
    After the waitress left the table Helaine extricated herself from the sticky conversation. “I don’t mind anymore, Jon. Can you be satisfied with that?”
    He drove her home and held her at the door. He had been an affectionate lover and had wasted himself on a gold digger. She wondered if she couldn’t let him in.
    “She is a disease,” he whispered into her hair, “highly infectious.”
    She let him caress her hips without commenting. He had hands as soft as a woman’s.
    “You’re safer in a leper colony,” he said, kissing her neck.
    Lips as soft as a woman’s. “I don’t want to discuss this,” Helaine said. She toyed with the idea of letting him come in. “Seduce me, Jon.”
    Her perfume was intoxicating. “What are you wearing?”
    She tried to remember. “Obsession, I think.”
    He laughed and held her at the waist, abandoning his plan. “I wouldn’t want to embarrass you, Helaine.”
    Obsession. She saw the humor in it and though the idea had left her now she let him kiss her mouth, press into her body.
    He was excited. “Ask me again.”
    But she didn’t. It was as hopeless as he had said.
    “I’ll sing at your funeral,” he taunted, leaving her at the unopened door.
    “Hah!” She watched him drive away. Above her there was no moon at all.

    None of her friends knew about the waterfront flat, only that she had once lived there, but not that she still kept the lease on it or that she had furnished it for Sharon, to Sharon’s liking, to be used as a home for the wayward

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