Although I greeted and shook hands with the Talles duo next door in the first few days after I moved in, it wasn't until my sister Jesse (with Nanny, of course) waddled up in front of my house with the twins and Owen in tow that Bodie and Andersol were moved to really interact. Somehow they knew just by looking that Marca and Oesha were twins and they were immediately fascinated. (I felt sorry for them thinking that Marca was really a person and not a dragon in toddler's clothing.)
"Hell-OH, good afternoon! Are these twins?" Andersol asked. She was short, blonde, and beamy, that is to say, strong shoulders and what we would have called back east, 'an axe handle across the ass' -- quite wide of hip. She'd hunkered down in front of Nanny, her hands outstretched to Marca and Oesha. (Marca of course, glowered suspiciously, while Oesha smiled and held out her hand.) "We're twins, too, Bodie and me. Twins are just different, aren't they?" She was drinking in the sight of the two girls, looking from one to the other as though searching for something. Owen, thumb in mouth, was inching himself backwards to be between me and Jesse.
"So they say," said Jesse, a measuring look in her eyes. "And another pair on the way."
Andersol stood up, looking at Jesse like she was some kind of goddess. "A second set of twins? How beautiful!"
"Thank you," Jesse replied, a smile quirking her lips. "You and -- Bodie -- are very close?" Aaaagh! Jesse, not the right kind of question!!
"Yes," Andersol replied with straightforward intensity. "Yes, we are. We just like being near each other. Nothing weird or anything. We just always knew we didn't want to be separated."
"Then good for you," said Jesse, while Nanny and Owen and I stared, watching a new astronomical experience. Were stars falling out of the skies? Were the moon and the sun doing the cha-cha? My sister never was this familiar with strangers. Jesse put her hand on her big belly. "I wish my twins could always be like that. The first pair seemed so close for a while, but then they drifted. Somehow I felt it to be a loss."
"Hey," Andersol bubbled, "we're going to try to barbecue tomorrow. Weather should be warm enough. Why don't you all join us?"
"Oh, w-we wouldn't want to impose," I stammered.
"Oh, fiddle, come on over, even for a little while. What do these children eat? What do you like on the barbecue?" she directed her question to Marca.
"Drumsticks!" Lips pushed out, ready to pout if denied them.
"And you?" This to Oesha, who smiled, showing dimples and a tongue-tip, and hid her face in Nanny's skirt.
"And the young sir?" Owen was not even going to take the thumb out of his mouth; this strange chatty woman might snatch it away from him.
"They're all partial to legs and wings," I said. "Can I bring a few along for the grill?"
"Sure thing," said Andersol. "Then we'll see you around one in the afternoon, okay?"
The front door to Andersol's house whipped open and a tall, dark man hurried out and slammed the door behind him. He locked it and strode forward. "Bodie," said Andersol, by way of introduction. "Bodie, this is Sully's sister and her kids."
"Good afternoon," he said, then stopped. "Twins?"
"I'll fill you in on the way," Andersol said, rolling her eyes for our benefit. And to us, "See you tomorrow!"
They got into their F-250 and pulled out of the drive, and sped away.
Jesse turned to me and with lifted eyebrows said, "Nice looking Bodie you got there, wouldn't you say?"
I was not even the least bit interested in Bodie; or anyone, for that matter. When Adam decided to permanently take himself out of my life, my sexual drive just shut off. Bodie was good looking, tall and lean and dark and pleasant. But nothing stirred in me for him or, for that matter, for any man I met. And that was fine with me. I'd Had Enough. Just not enough of Adam's interest, I guess.
Actually I have no idea what he saw in the other women he chased or attracted. While I don't think I was the most beautiful woman in the world, I was good-looking enough to turn heads. What was the 'more' that he needed?
Adam would be home Saturday, and so Joan Maris and I thought getting together Friday evening would work out just fine. We hadn't been out for weeks, and we thought that a trip to Dack's for a nice long gossip might provide better entertainment than say, Friday night TV, which is, of course, a truism.
"No fighting," I warned her as we got out of her car and walked into the very pleasant Daiquiris R Us Bar and Grill. They are kind enough to keep the Grill separate, and as it's only about six tables large, no one at the bar misses those who might pop in for a lousy hamburger and onion rings. (Everything frozen, everything fried.)
The door to the place is on the right hand side of the bar, on a little porch where you can take your drinks if the weather is clement and if the barkeep believes you to be trustworthy. We walked in, and slid onto stools by the door. "Bud Light for me," I said, as the barkeep put down a coaster. "Seven and seven," said Joan, and I turned toward her and chuckled, thinking of a long-ago San Diego trip and past worries about her brawling in bars. She probably should have stayed away from bars and taverns completely in her youth; in a hazardous combination, multiple drinks made her cuttingly witty, indiscriminately garrulous, and as sensitive and sore as a brushburn. She'd mellowed a bit with age. She laughed back at me, with a big, easy grin as she looked along the bar to see if there was anyone there she knew.
Then her grin melted off her face and took with it her color. She grabbed my arm and pulled me off my stool towards the door. "We have to leave now, Sully!"
"Are you nuts?" I turned around to look at the rest of the clientele. Cowboy hats and baseball caps and bleached hair, and a small crowd watching one of those obnoxious noisy dice games, a fat young blonde with some player's arm around her.
A familiar arm. I slapped Joan's next try away from me, and sat on my barstool again, still looking at the fattie, who in addition to wearing a familiar arm, had her left arm around a clean-cut golden neck with a distinctive silver necklace.
"You ladies okay?" Asked the barkeep through the haze that was rising in my mind like tule fog.
At the sound of "ladies", the golden neck tilted back and my husband saw me looking at him.
"Gotta go, my wife just came in," he said gaily to his throng.
The chubwoman rubbed both her hands in his hair on either side of his head and exclaimed, "You say that every time some girl walks through the door."
I pulled money out of my wallet and paid for Joan's and my drinks, and walked the length of the bar. I thumbed my ID out and extended it for the chubby blonde's perusal. "No, this time it really is the wife," I told her, and watched her eyes darken with horror and surprise. Like a magic trick, she ducked for the restroom. I hoped she would puke and make her breath smelly for the next three days.
"I got in early and was going to surprise you tonight," started Adam. "I ran into Bob and we decided to have a couple drinks before I came home." The whole bar was preternaturally quiet, waiting for the thrown glasses and accusations, no doubt. I looked at his left hand on the counter. No wedding ring. He promptly jammed his hand into the pocket of his jeans.
I knew that when the left hand emerged, his wedding band would be back in place. I felt a deep sadness that he was so stupid that he'd think I believed him. He took the ring off when he was fiddling with the carburetor of my car a couple weeks ago, and I couldn't help but notice that in high summer, he was as tan under the ring as the rest of the skin of his fingers. My band left a snowy white ghost ring beneath it. He was uniformly golden. I smiled at him. "Honey, I'm glad you're home," and brushed a kiss past his cheek. No way am I going to risk picking up that fat chick's slobber. And no way am I going to make a scene in front of the regulars. As I embraced him, I gently and breathily said, "I don't really want to talk to you tonight. Stay with your ugly little bimbo there, or sleep in your truck, I don't care, but don't come into my bed." I leaned back. "Okay, honey?"
He cocked his head to one side and tried to look cute, but he was really 'way too drunk to carry anything off. His eyes were red, he was so shitfaced. "I'm sorry. Sully, what's wrong?"
There was a red haze haloing my vision. "Adam," I said politely, quietly, and slowly enough for a drunk to grasp my meaning, "I am going to finish my drink with Joan over there, and then I am going to leave. I don't want to see you until tomorrow. Do you understand what I am saying?"
He was so drunk that I annoyed him. He rolled his eyes up at the ceiling and said, "God, why can't you just get mad like normal people? You always have to be the little snob."
"Good night, dear," I said evenly and pleasantly. When I got back to Joan, she had already swallowed her drink. I took a long swallow of my beer and said to her, "So, how do you think life is these days?"
"Do you want to go to a different bar to drink yourself insensible, or do you want to go off someplace by yourself?"
"Neither, I think, my friend. I just don't want to go home. He'll show up there and I really don't want to see him tonight. I apologize for intruding, but do you have an extra blanket and a floor that I can borrow, just for tonight?"
"Sure, girl. Let's go get you a box of tissues and a soundproof room."
I packed up more than a box of tissues when we stopped by my house on the way to Joan's apartment. My makeup kit, a couple changes of clothes, and a work outfit. Joan kept waiting for me to cry, even furnished me with a few knick-knacks to throw and break. "Would you like me to tell you how big of a dirty rotten bastard he is?" She offered.
Shaking my head a little, I told her, "No, not yet. You know what's really bugging me? Everybody in Dack's knew what was happening. In walks Mrs. Berman and finds Mr. Berman with his pig. They all got to see that my husband would rather be out boozing with a pig than be with his wife. She was a pig, Joan! A goddamned pig!"
"A fat, greasy, stupid pig," Joan agreed.
"Thanks, Joan, that really helps." I said sarcastically. "So now we all know that I am less attractive than a fat, greasy, stupid pig."
"No, you're not," she said, "What everybody knows is that he's just a cheating son of a bitch." She stiffened, realizing she'd blabbed something I might not already have perceived.
"Do they." Not a question. More of a kind of sideways admission. Naturally people knew he was playing around with other women. But now people knew that I knew, and my pretense of ignorance was over. "Ah, hell, what am I supposed to do at this point?"
"Shoot him." Joan looked at me for approval of her suggestion. "No? Okay, shoot the pig."
Tears should have been coming by now, shouldn't they? Why was I starting to smile? Just the relief of not having to make believe anymore?
Encouraged by my little smile, Joan continued her list. "Divorce him. Sue him. Make him pay you for half the sale price of your house, and then burn it down. Pour orange soda all over the upholstery of his truck. Divorce him again."
"What if he was telling the truth, that he was going to come home, and just got carried away with the drinking and showing off?"
"We've been friends since we started at Houston's. Have I ever, ever lied to you? Do you want me to tell all the things I know that make me believe he wasn't telling the truth?"
Another wound. "No, please don't tell me anything more than I've seen tonight. I need some room to breathe, to decide what to do. If I'm crying all over myself, I won't be able to think."
Her phone rang, and she picked up the receiver. "Maris. No, she isn't. Go to hell." She hung up and clicked off the ringer. "My phone, my choice. If you want to talk to him, you can go back to your place, I guess."
"Do you see me leaving? In the morning, though, I'm going to head north to relatives. If Adam comes here demanding to talk to me, call the police, Joan, don't try to deal with him if he's mad or drunk."
"Is he dangerous?" she demanded. "Has he hurt you?"
"Physically, no, never. But he's big, and I've never left him like this before. Besides, wasn't having him thrown in jail on your list?"
"I was getting around to the ol' slammer."
After some boring TV and another beer, I stretched out on Joan's couch and slept, with surprisingly untroubled dreams of a high plateau, a limitless expanse of tall grass and scattered woodlands. The sky held a few small clouds in its light blue. A little path ran through the summer grass just beginning to dry to autumn's brown, and the solitude and the rustle of the leaves in the light breeze were enough to fill my heart to overflowing. There would be no end to all the trees to touch, drawing on their life to feed me, no fence to stop my movement toward each new copse or stream. The creeks and rivers would wash me, the sun dry me, and the long grass would cradle me when I needed to sleep. In the dream I knew that the location was Heaven, crafted for me by God, and that I could, if I was faithful, have this peace and freedom and wonder back again when my life was done.
I called my brother-in-law the next morning to ask him if I could visit until Monday; he enthusiastically welcomed me. Charles was always so cheerful and pleasant that at times I wondered if he was demented, somehow. Everyone else in the world seemed to be worried about things, critical about things, afraid of things, striving to get things. Not Charles. He was like some great dirigible, floating high beyond the troubling bits of life. Of course, he had it all, then, didn't he? Wealth, property, respect, a beautiful young wife?
Good for him, I say. He was a hell of a lot kinder a host than my mother would have been. She would have been yitching and digging to find out why I wasn't with my husband (and I would have lied to her and said he was stuck in Omaha) and if she somehow figured out why I wasn't at home (and she seemed to have some strange sixth sense about Jesse and me), she would have put me in intensive care with her unrelenting I-told-you-so's. "What were you thinking, marrying for looks? Didn't I teach you anything? Oh, don't tell me about love, you don't know anything about love, you've always been so wrapped up in yourself! All you ever did was go to school and then hide in your room or go traipsing off with your friends. Why couldn't you have listened to me when I told you to call it off and look for someone with class? A truck driver, for God's sake! What did you expect?"
What would Dad say, if I tried to tell him what had happened? I can't even imagine, because Mom was the one who decided what was to be said. He would listen, but Mom was the one who would reply. Could I try to catch him by himself? Hah! Mom was the first person up in the morning, and the last to bed. If Dad was awake, she was there with him. Did she ever even go to the bathroom?
Any trip to Sacramento to visit my parents was like a two hour prayer session each way, the mantra: Dear God, please don't let this visit be really crummy. Thank you, God, that I live close enough that I don't have to stay overnight! Thank you God that I'm far enough away to just write letters between widely spaced visits, especially after I took Adam to meet them.
First words out of my mother's mouth: "Adam Berman, weren't you one of Solange's college friends?" Even though I had told her that I met him in San Diego. "Solange was a straight-A student in high school and a 3.75 grade point average in college. She could have done better with her classes but she was too busy gadding about." Mom knew the sensitive spot in anyone, instinctively, and Adam, though he tried to charm her, failed and was targeted. You're a dumb loser and you're marrying above yourself, was her arrow that nailed him to the bullseye. "What was it you said you do for a living? Oh, a truck, that's right. And your family live in San Diego? No? Barstow? Doesn't it bother them, being that remote?"
Dad just shook Adam's hand and smiled, "Sully's a good ol' girl. We sure do love her." He stayed out of the conversations while Mom wielded her spears and arrows, and the closest to an opinion he evinced was a strange hard green glitter in his hazel eyes now and then when he watched Adam try to parry Mom's stabs. Back then I assumed Dad just hated to see his daughter married off, but now I wonder what he saw.