From Chapter 3
It was a chilly night, but Amanda didn’t mind walking the three blocks to Thirtieth Avenue for the dessert and coffee Darrell had promised her. It gave her the chance to put on her new-for-fall sweater coat. Dusty powder blue, her favorite blue. They left the dogs behind. As they walked, she pointed out condo development after development, new buildings that had sprouted up since Darrell lived here. They’d always loved talking about houses together.
Her spirits lifted, and she noticed Darrell also sporting a grin.
“What are you laughing at?” she asked.
“Just thinking about your and Al’s future kids.”
“Oh yeah? What do you see?”
“Six boys, lot of black hair.”
Thinking of the cozy image, she huddled inside her sweater coat. The risotto was still warm in her stomach, the wine still supple on her tongue. “Sounds like heaven.”
“All of them named Louie.”
“I know,” he said, his tone teasing. “You like the name Charlie.”
Yes, he did know. They’d confided their dreams to one another many a time across the kitchen table.
“And you want four kids,” he went on. “Two boys and two girls, so each one will grow up with at least one sibling of the opposite sex and one of the same sex.”
She dropped back a step. “You remember all that?”
“Pork chop, I remember everything.”
They walked on. His tenderness surprised her. Usually, this was the part where he kidded her about spending too much time in school studying math problems or literature and generally living inside her head.
“We still have to decide your future career plans once your Knightley gig is done.”
“You already know my future career plans. Six boys, all named Louie.”
“Woman, you belong on a damn screen. There’s no reason you can’t…” he stopped, disgusted. “You mean to tell me you’re just going to up and quit?”
“But you can’t!”
Pleading wouldn’t work. “I might like to teach,” she said.
“Teach?” He said it with the repulsion of a ten-year-old ordered to eat his broccoli.
She gave him a look and he went silent.
“Al and I talked about it,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about opening a drama school. Maybe in another city. Maybe Seattle.”
Which was about ninety percent fabrication wrapped around one-tenth of truth. Al had once taken acting lessons (to help him with character development), and she had been thinking about Seattle, but only because it wasn’t New York, it wasn’t L.A., it was out of the way (and also the place where Edie Temple lived in obscurity), and Amanda would be shooting scenes there next week for Seismic Event.
“Drippy Seattle aside, you’d be very good at teaching,” Darrell said. “Except for one thing: You belong on a damn screen.”
“A moot point,” she said, choosing to steer the conversation away from that topic. “You know Al. He won’t be taken out of the five boroughs alive.”
“Al won’t be taken out of the basement alive.”
An ironic remark, considering the basement—not to mention the rest of the house—sat empty of Al tonight.
“You can’t go on living in your broom closet of a house in Queens and using your Oscar as a doorstop forever.”
“People all over this city live in broom closets,” she countered. “And as for the Oscar, why is everyone in this business allowed to have eccentricities except me?”
“A-ha!” He jabbed his finger in the air. “So now you’re ‘in this business.’ Two minutes ago you were getting the hell out.”
She held back a smile. “Figure of speech.”
Time to steer the conversation again. “What’s on your horizon?”
“Besides Swiss watch commercials and getting to gaze at your angel face for the week?”
“Getting to the church on time.”
Amanda froze in her tracks. Maybe she ought to have bundled up in more than a sweater coat. It was a calm night, but the shudder coursing through to her fingers and toes signaled otherwise.
“It’s time,” Darrell said. Then, after a moment, “Of course, Willow doesn’t know it’s time.”
She took a hesitant step forward, her heel scuffing the sidewalk. “And good luck with that.” She didn’t even try to disguise her irritation with his girlfriend around Darrell. He knew her thoughts on the subject.
Willow. She was always manipulating Darrell, treating him like something to be scraped off the bottom of her sling backs. Of course, she treated most everyone like something to be scraped off the bottom of her sling backs.
From their kitchen table talks, Amanda knew that Darrell took marriage seriously. In fact, he took it more than simply seriously; he took it permanently. And because he took it seriously and permanently, it would have to happen at the right time and with the right woman. Darrell was a risk-taker, but the risks he took were calculated.
Darrell rushed to Willow’s defense. “We agreed a long time ago that marriage meant sticking it out through thick and thin and that we would wait to undertake it until she was mature enough. We’ve been headed in that direction from the beginning. It’s always been understood. You know Willow. She’s always been mature beyond her years.”
“Like when she couldn’t decide whether she wanted you or not and dumped you for a year and then changed her mind and made it seem like she was doing you a favor by taking you back?”
Darrell shrugged. “That’s called being fickle. Cosi fan tutte, including you, pork chop.”
The rough translation of the Italian meant, thus are they all.
“Maybe,” Amanda said, overlooking his botched pronunciation. “But Willow more so than most.”
“See now, men…” Darrell began.
Amanda braced herself for a blanket statement. Her father wasn’t the only man she knew who liked to issue them.
“We men are simple,” Darrell said. “We either love you or we don’t. You’re either the kind we marry or the kind we don’t. But you women, you make everything complicated. You con yourselves into thinking that we love you but just don’t know it, when, trust me, if we did, we’d know it. Or you take too damn long to fall in love. Or you think that with time, you can learn to love a man, when, trust me, you can’t.”
She chose to freeze him out with an icy glare rather than reply with words. Darrell could say what he wanted about women in general being fickle and Michele in particular being an insecure dingbat, but Michele didn’t toy with people and Michele wasn’t mean. Not unlike some people mature beyond their years that Amanda could have mentioned.
We men are simple,” Darrell said. “We either love you or we don’t. You’re either the kind we marry or the kind we don’t. But you women, you make everything complicated.”
“All I need to propose to Willow is the right moment,” Darrell said.
“When will that be?” She spun her words with a neutral voice.
“That is what I have to figure out.” No neutrality on Darrell’s part. His voice brimmed over, full of supreme faith that such a moment would surely come.
“You don’t seem enthused.”
“I’m enthused,” she said weakly, brushing her hands across her upper arms for warmth.
“Funny, isn’t it?” he said. “Both you and I ending up with scribblers.”
“Al doesn’t scribble. Al pounds keys.”
“Yeah, gets his fingers stuck a lot too, doesn’t he?”
She narrowed her gaze at him. “It happens when you use an old machine.”
They arrived at the café in silence, Amanda still trying to absorb Darrell’s news.
“Well, there’s no need for you to worry your pretty little head about Willow using ol’ Darrell for a play toy,” he said, pulling out a chair for her. “That’s all over with.”
Amanda ignored the “pretty little head” comment. She was not about to be taken off point.
“You said that once before,” she said firmly, “and then she went and did it all over again.”
“This time it’s for good.”
Now who was making things complicated? Now who was trying to convince himself of things that weren’t so? Damn that Willow. Why couldn’t she have been nicer? Then Amanda could send Darrell off to marry with a clean conscience.
On the one hand, Amanda wanted Darrell and his previous puppy love for her off her hands. On the other, she felt a pang of guilt knowing it was coming at the expense of him having to share a lifetime with someone so warm and personable she was known as Chill Pill. Darrell was Amanda’s buddy, her best male friend. Of all the boarders she’d taken in, he was the most special. She did not want to see him taken off the market by just any old hag.
And certainly not a young one.
But maybe Darrell did know what he was doing. He had to love Willow. And in that case, who was Amanda to judge? But then again, it wasn’t Darrell’s love for Willow that caused Amanda to hesitate to embrace him and wish them well. What Amanda wanted to know was, how much did Willow really love Darrell?
“Willow’s grown up,” he said.
She gave him her most sympathetic smile and picked up the dessert menu lying on the table. “I hope so. For your sake, Darrell, I really hope so.”
Copyright 2016 by Karen Tomsovic
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