August 23, 2007
"Kool-Aid, or coffee?" She stuck her head around the door between the kitchen and the livingroom.
"Coffee," I said, remembering how she watered down the Kool-Aid. I could hear the sounds of lids being unscrewed and taken off jars of peanut butter and jelly, and the crinkle of bread wrapper. She was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids--everyday, the same old thing for lunch, for the kids, and for Liz, too.
I asked her one day, if the kids got tired of it. "Perhaps," she said, wiping the stickiness from the table for the umpteenth time, "but they're just little, and with what Roger gives me for groceries, I have to stretch it as far as I can. He'd have a fit, though, if he didn't get meat every night for dinner."
"Here you go." She set the coffee mug down on the table in front of me. She sank down into her chair, and rested her hand across closed eyes.
"He didn't come home last night. Didn't call or anything. Last time I saw him yesterday, he was going to pick up that part for his motorcycle. Said he was going on to work from there, but he didn't come home after work, either." She leaned over and pretended to pick lint from the worn, braided rug she had just vacuumed.
"I bet he went to Fontana. A friend of his called the other day from there--said they were gonna have some cycle races, or something." She twirled a twig of long auburn hair around her finger, her brown, fawn-like eyes looked about to spill over.
I took a sip of the too-hot coffee--watered down, too, today. "Don't worry, Liz," I said, feeling sorry for her. "He's alright--probably be home before long." She had told me about the times he had cheated on her.
"Yeah, I know, but it's not just that." She twisted around in her chair so that she was looking at me. "You'll never guess who called me this morning. My mother," she said flatly.
"You gotta be kidding!" I knew her mother hadn't spoken to her since she had married Roger. Liz was from a wealthy family there in California. Prominent. Her father was a renown obstetrician/gynecologist. Her mother was very proper, and very "la-ti-da", as Liz described her, and it was she who had most objected to her marrying Roger. "He's just a sailor, Liz," she had said disdainfully, so they had dated in secret.
She was four months pregnant before her mother finally found out about it.
"How could you be pregnant?" she had asked. "I checked the waste basket in your bathroom every month, and I know you had your periods."
Knowing that her mother always did that, she had wrapped a sanitary item in newspaper, and deposited it in the waste basket, for five days out of each month at the appropriate time.
"I'm phoning your father's office for an appointment," she had said angrily. Liz had begged her not to, and she had been humiliated nearly to death as her own father conducted a pelvic exam.
"Well," he had said, slipping off the glove and dropping it into the waste can. "Looks like you are about as pregnant as pregnant can be! How many times did he do it to you?" Her face had burned with embarrassment, and she snapped, "What difference does it make--one time is all it takes, isn't it?" Her father had laughed then.
When her pregnancy was confirmed, her mother had asked, "How could you do this to me? What are people going to think?" She had cared more about what other people would think than how Liz felt, and she put her through the agony of a large formal wedding--white gown and all. "They'll know anyway, Mother, in five months," she had cried--to no avail.
After the wedding, her mother told her that she never wanted anything to do with her again--and she hadn't--not even through the births of three grandchildren. Her father called, occasionally, and always sent money for the kids' birthdays, but her mother had held her grudge. But now she had called.
"What did she want?" She looked up, as if startled. She had been lost in her own thoughts.
"Oh...my kid sister is getting married, and she wants me to be Matron of Honor--Mother said we might as well forget everything that's happened. She wants to come over tonight. I wonder if she knows my sister is three months pregnant? Father told me." She gave a harsh little laugh, "And wouldn't you know, it would have to be when Roger hasn't been home all night, and I don't know if he will be--and I don't even know where he is!"
She got up, slowly, looking more like an old woman in her movement, than the young, attractive woman that she was. She walked to the window and looked out.
"Maybe they were right about Roger--at least, now, Mother will get to say I told you so. I could hear the pain in her voice. I picked up the mug, taking the last swallow of lukewarm coffee.
In my vocabulary there was never any profanity--but at that moment, it was in my thoughts. "Damn you, Roger," I thought. "And damn you, Mrs. La-ti-da--damn you all, anyway!"
Posted by Jan at 2:05 PM