Kate tried to put Clifford out of her mind. She was determined to make some progress, make some difference, in the chaos of her garden. But she was so tired. The scratch on her leg was bleeding, and it had begun to throb.
She sank into a chair like she had some internal injury, not just a scratch.
“In many historical cultures, palms were symbols for such ideas as victory, peace, and fertility.” Wikipedia
The kitchen looked odd to her, as if she were a stranger in her own home. Everything seemed to have shifted, colors were dimmer, the herbs in the window box were wilting, limp with the heat.
Where could she go from here? The familiar had disappeared. After the fight over the Center funding, George had moved into the guest room.
The sexual energy they had shared for twenty-five years had leaked out of the marriage long before the latest war, in any case. All of his passion seemed to be directed elsewhere – to the revival of his precious Adobe House.
Or were her suspicions true – was he actually having an affair with one of his students, using the Adobe House as a cover – a reason -- to be “away?” Hadn’t she fallen in love with him when she was a student?
He was patient and thoughtful, witty, and now gave off that paternal aura that could be a powerful attractor of young women. The full head of salt-and-pepper hair didn’t hurt either. She had seen him with his graduate seminar. He was ever the enthusiastic and supportive professor – scintillating, confident.
But when the students left, he collapsed in on himself.
Why hadn’t Clifford called?
A car crunched the gravel of the front drive. Damn and damn! Charlotte. Kate suddenly remembered they were supposed to go to a University lunch together. Now she would have to keep Charlotte waiting while she tried to pull herself together. They would both be late. Charlotte would hate that: it was already clear on her face as she came through the screen door.
Cool and polished Charlotte – no pit stains or wild hair – even when the Santanas were pushing 100 degree heat in off the desert. Behind her a strong gust picked up the rose branches Kate had just clipped and tossed them like a salad. So much for lessening the chaos.
Char was dressed in white linen, with sandals that showed off her trim ankles and pedicured feet. Her short dark hair was brushed smoothly back from her face, and her gray eyes were moving over Kate like radar. “I can’t believe you aren’t ready! We have to be at the Club in half an hour!”
Kate wanted to kick her, but instead grazed Char’s cheek with a swift peck. “I’ll only be a minute. I totally forgot about the lunch. Have a drink or something – you know where everything is.”
If only she would have a drink and not follow her to the bedroom and bath. But there she was, right behind her, stepping gingerly over a pile of dirty laundry.
Kate grabbed some clean underwear from the basket on the floor and went into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. That didn’t stop Charlotte. For one so fastidious, somehow privacy didn’t figure into the equation. She opened the door and said “I’m getting some ice water – you want some?”
“No, you go ahead.” Kate stripped and stepped into the shower, grateful that the glass was opaque. Char would be back, and the lock on the door didn’t work.
She turned on the faucet, and standing under the cool water was suddenly reminded of a day last summer when she had seen the green parrots sheltering in her neighbor's palm tree. Rain had fallen so suddenly, and the parrots had swooped up under the palm fronds chattering like crazy. She had felt such an inexplicable rush of joy when she saw those lovely parrots, so close together, pushing one another this way and that, as families will do on a park bench. She checked that palm tree often to see if the birds returned. She had not seen them again. And she hadn't felt that bubble of joy again, either, until Clifford.
[to be continued]