By noon, Emily was in possession of a slim laptop computer with wireless technology built into it, a wireless computer router, and a surge-suppressing power bar. The cable people would be by the house the very next morning to hook up a cable modem in her bedroom, and she would be connected. As she unpacked the machine, her hands shook with eagerness. A toy! All her own! No one to tell her how she might or might not use it! A secret garden of information and entertainment! Well, I needed a new secret to replace the impostor Mr. Frank and Stein.
For a start, she knew that to keep her new little secret, she had to find a hiding place for it. She didn't have to think very hard. The one place that Mark would never pry into was her underwear drawer. When they were first married, possibly the very first annoying habit that she discovered in her new husband was his penchant for opening cabinets and drawers at will as though inventorying the contents of each. He wasn't above commenting upon the stuff he found, either, or on how it was folded. He liked his clothing folded a certain way, put away in designated places. In the early days, they shared a dresser, and it appalled her to see him open her lingerie drawer and have a prolonged look at her flimsies. With pride she had seen her solution work: she packed a little drawer divider into a front corner of the dresser drawer, and into it she put some kotex napkins, tampons, and a tube of vaginal lubricant, which she did not need to use, but seemed as though it would be incredibly gross to come across by surprise. For good measure she included a small bottle of Massengill douche. She had been present the next time Mark opened up the drawers of the dresser, his top left, middle left, bottom left, then her side, top right -- his eyes bugged and he slammed the drawer quickly shut. Emily's eyes had teared with the effort of not laughing at how quickly he left the room without bothering her other drawers. She had seen him perform this checking contents ritual plenty of times since, but the one thing he did not do was open her underwear drawer again.
Emily dragged all the underwear things out of the drawer and onto her bed. The laptop would fit in the drawer, cord and all, like a dream. Good. The computer's packaging materials and the wireless router fit neatly into the closet on one side, nicely hidden by the long dresses she wore to formal dinners. Very good. Now the underwear.
Two of the most disappointing aspects of growing older in body along with years were the deterioration of attractiveness while wearing only underwear, and the ever-increasing size of the underwear needed. And the increasing ugliness of the underwear, so let's make that three aspects. First of all, there was the flab. Emily hated energetic exercise with a passion. She always had, ever since she was in high school, and had never been able to muster better than a "C" grade in physical education. Her lack of enthusiasm gained her no points at all with the gym teacher, who was also the girls' basketball, soccer, and softball coach and therefore expected to motivate young ladies to excel in athletic activities. Emily was glad to sit on the bench and applaud, but could see no worthwhile point in racing about madly getting sweaty and sprained. As a result, she did tend to put on weight in blobs here and there over the years, in spite of trying to rein in her appetite every day of her adult life. So there were no six-pack abs on this girl.
And as the years progressed, size 8 (that's 'Extra Large' in women's underpants years) underwear were made smaller and smaller. That was obvious. She'd gone through a stage of snipping the elastic of the leg holes of her undies to keep them from cutting into the tops of her legs, hoping that she wouldn't be in an accident and be found to be wearing mutilated briefs. The embarrassment alone would do her in.
When she turned 45, she gave up on shredding the skivvies, and just started buying size 10's, which fit comfortably for a while, before they would start to shrink and the lace would begin to pucker. She bought cheapies, so that if she did slit the sides again, it was no great loss. But the selection was horrible. Emily loved satiny, lacy things, and had no trouble at all finding lovely underwire brassieres in her size, hefty though it was. But underwear in satin and lace in a size above an 8? Forget it. All that seemed to be in the department stores was what she thought of as "institutional underwear." And almost all of it was pale, dusty-looking pink or yellowed-looking off-white, or just plain old ugly white.
Oh, there was an alternative. She could go to a "Women's Size" store and pay twenty dollars and some for each pair of underpants, underpants that were simply larger versions of the jinky little funky styles the skinny department store dummies wore. How stupid. If you had a big sloppy ass, why couldn't you just treat it nice? It wasn't interested in being fashionable, or being a parody of teenybopper style.
Emily sorted through the pile of undies on the bed. The brassieres were all good ones, black and white and beige, utilitarian colors. There were two crumpled camisoles, which really should be hung on hangers in the closet anyway. She slipped their shoulder straps over the neck of a hanger, beige on one side, black on the other and stuffed them in amongst her blouses. All the socks in the mess she put to one side.
Now the ugly underpants, and uglier pantyhose. God, it was hard to look at the baggy, deformed things. Maybe I'll just do without underwear except when I wear a skirt until I can get a chance to make my own. It can't be all that hard, can it? She could probably make do with two or three pairs of Fatwoman Store underpants for dressing up that way. Emily put aside every pair of slit-sided briefs into a little heap. Now pantyhose. She tended to take them off and jam them into the drawer, and now there was a knot of them in there that she had intended last November to cut into strips to bind greens onto a wreath frame for Christmas. But she had been busy with other things, and simply bought a reel of florist's wire for a dollar fifty and used that. She preferred to reuse what she had in the house, but a dollar fifty versus an hour's worth of cutting and winding just didn't add up. She started systematically checking each leg of the pairs of pantyhose, this one has a run, that one doesn't. A run or a snag earned the slippery things a trip to the cut underwear pile. Last, socks. If they don't match, out they go. If they have bald heels, out they go. If you'd be ashamed to offer them to a friend to wear, get rid of them! How good it was to be alone when half the contents of your underwear drawer were good only for the refuse bin!
There was plenty of room in the drawer for the laptop and the remaining unmentionables. She laughed to herself. Even the laptop is "unmentionable!" -- leading Emily to ponder the cleaning out of unnecessary things in the linen closet and the lingerie drawer. Less things mean more room. She stuffed the cut underpants and the ragged pantyhose into the computer store bag. I'll dispose of the evidence in the trash can at the end of the supermarket parking lot. God, the time!
She picked up the phone in her office and found no messages on the voicemail. Now did that mean that Mark was working his regular hours, or that he was simply not speaking to her? After all, she had wronged him mightily by telling him not to tell her she was "fucking stupid." That's a great excuse for the silent treatment. Emily decided that she would continue to play stupid, and just plan the dinner for when he would normally arrive home at the end of the day. If he worked late and didn't tell her, why, he'd find cold Cornish game hen in the refrigerator.
She went buoyantly down the stairs to the kitchen, unable to remember when the last time was that she felt so giddy and cheerful. If she saw a mirror, she would probably have been surprised to find that a chubby gray old woman was her reflection. She got the hens out of the refrigerator and set them out beside her biggest cutting board. Next, chop onion, apple, and celery, throw them into a pan to simmer with butter, tear up a third of a loaf of bread. After she rinsed the Cornish hens with water, Emily rubbed them with salt and coriander. The onion, apple and celery she tossed with the bread pieces, and then stuffed each little chicken, securing the cavities with bamboo skewers. She rubbed the fowl with some of the remaining butter and stuck them in the oven. The rice was next, a dark wild rice with an almost crunchy texture and nutty flavor. Rice nuts. She giggled. She set her timers and darted upstairs -- nearly an hour to play with the new toy!
She set it on the dresser and plugged in the power cord. What if it doesn't work? Please, oh please let it work! Holding her breath, she pushed the power button. With a whispery hum, the machine came to life, the Windows XP logo appearing like magic on the screen. It's so beautiful! She typed her own name as the owner and administrator. This machine belongs to Emily Fatzer! No wait. If Mark is planning to divorce me, I'm sure as hell not going to continue using his name. She erased "Fatzer," and reluctantly typed in "Storm." She sighed, feeling a sense of shame at not knowing if she would be cast aside, shame at maybe having to take back her father's name.
Then the main screen loaded, loaded with little icons for media players and word processors and the browser, which would not yet work, no, not until tomorrow. Emily clicked on things and looked at them, in awe and delight. Had she ever had any inkling of how delightful this would feel, she would have bought herself a computer years before. But maybe it had to wait for this model. The images came up fast, far faster than the computers at the public library. I'm in love. Emily took a book she had placed in the bottom of the lingerie drawer, titled Windows XP for Dummies. She opened it, and stepped into a world beyond house and garden.
When the timer went off loudly in the kitchen, Emily put her new pet away in its kennel with the book, covered it tenderly with underwear, and locking her bedroom door (Two can play that little game) she returned to the kitchen to make a fruit salad of cantaloupe, grapes, and oranges, to baste the hens, to scatter a few pellets of food for the koi, and to await her husband's arrival and the unfolding drama of the day.