Issue 194, Fall 2010
Jake hadn’t meant to stare at her breasts, but there they were, absurdly beautiful, almost glowing above the plunging neck-line of the faded blue dress. He’d read the press releases, of course. He recalled, from an article, her description of nursing her last child only six months before her first radiation treatment. Then he noticed she wasn’t wearing a bra.
What did they have inside them: saline or silicone? And how did these feel, respectively? He probably stared too long. (But how could she expect people not to stare when she wore a dress cut like that?)
Had his wife noticed? Doubtful. She noticed so little about him these days.
“This is some place you have here,” he said too quickly.
Though they weren’t exactly friends, she’d come into his office before, with her little girl, and they’d talked about her plans to sponsor a mobile mammography unit. They’d formed a connection, it had seemed to him then, and their time together lingered taut as a problem in his mind. But now she’d definitely seen him staring at her breasts, about which she must have had extraordinarily complicated feelings, and she was annoyed.
“What does that mean exactly?”
“I just meant you have a nice home,” Jake replied.
“It’s too big, isn’t it?”
He didn’t know how to reply: the house, miles from the road and framed, on this spring evening, by an almost otherworldly lushness of green, was in fact an old plantation estate that included detached quarters for both servants and slaves; of course it was, technically, too big, but what could he say? “It’s lovely,” he managed.
Dissatisfied, she turned to his wife. “Wouldn’t you say a house this size is way too big, even for a family of five?”
Sheila, surveying the foyer, tilting her heart-shaped face up toward the high, vast ceiling, seemed actually to be considering the question. Jake was mortified.
To his relief she replied that she was sure the children loved all the space.
“Actually my children seem to crave small spaces,” the hostess said. “The twins once spent an entire day inside a packing crate. When I was their age I hated tight spaces. I screamed when people shut the door to my room, which I shared with my brother and was about the size of a closet. I’m afraid we’re doomed to want the opposite of what we have.” She looked back at Jake and seemed in that moment to forgive him. “Well, you two should go on in and have a drink. Don’t you look adorable, like newlyweds!”