knew about his DUI, if he ever finished his degree, if the back of the neckwas still his favorite place to kiss.
Instead, I asked, “And when did you become the praying type?”“Alc Anon. Met Rosalind’s brother there.” He held that even gaze.
“Cool. Sounds like a blast.”“You married?”“No. But I was engaged for three months once.”I’d meant it as a joke. He didn’t smile.
He looked down at my feet. “You still smoking?”
I shrugged, pushing the flattened stub away with my heel like I could
brush it under my car. It stayed next to my Keds. “I’m cutting down. I
don’t smoke in front of my mom or anything.”
I thought of that night when I was babysitting at the Cliffords’, my
first year of high school. Pete came over after the kids went to sleep and
found a pack of Camels wedged between the couch cushions. He taught
me how to smoke and exhale over my shoulder, how to shape smoke
rings with my lips. After, we snuck upstairs to rinse with Listerine, both
pretending we still had dads at home waiting to interrogate us.
“You want to go back?” he asked.
“Inside the house.”
I followed him across the lawn to the lighted steps, watching the
swing of his hips and the small love handles bunching above his jeans.
I wondered how the years had built up on me, how much of me he still
recognized, how much I had stayed the same.
“Nice seeing you.” He held open the door for me.
“Aren’t you going to stay?” I asked, as if he were the one entering myhome, but he was already walking away, toward the kitchen.
The women were still gathered around the fireplace, laughing nowwith their Bibles shut. Trays of deviled eggs, fruit, and candied pecanshad appeared on the coffee table.
“I’m so glad you’re back.” Rosalind reached for me. “Give us a chance,
please. We really do try.”
They welcomed me back, but I knew I wouldn’t sit there long. I would
listen to them talk about their kids and their husbands, the latest nu-
trition fads and the new one-pot recipe. I would smile and nod and eat
deviled eggs. We would say good night, and they would return to their
brightly lit houses, to husbands who kept the bed warm and children