Maybe because the whole house was meant to suggest sitting outdoors, there was no patio—no deck, no place to keep an ashtray.
So on Sunday Andrew found a straight chair and a tiny round table in the downstairs bedrooms and moved them outdoors. He stared at them for a few seconds, thinking about how you got used to being alone, a single social unit. Then he moved a second chair to the table, in case Annie ever wanted to sit out here too, with him.
He lit a cigarette and sat facing the trees, the car in back of him, on the short path in from the road. He had brought the business section of the Sunday Times with him, having bought all the papers this morning, but just as in Upstate New York you got the early edition here—yesterday’s, or even last week’s news—and it didn’t really matter, because it was the same story every day, violence and greed, greed and violence, and he wasn’t even feeling bitter about it today, amazing how sex with a woman you cared about could change your perspective, or did it just turn you into one of the sheep?
No, look at Rosendo and Caroline, the economist and the dancer, but Rosendo was driven and drove Caroline to be driven and here was he, Andy, trying to copy them again, wasn’t he, without their brilliance. But he had written a good book, it had won the damned prize, and Annie had written a good book too, he had read her first novel in one sitting, to learn about her, yes, but also impressed with the story, and the sex scenes.
Andrew tapped his ash into the small saucer he had brought outdoors, pleased with his effort not to set the woods on fire, and he thought about Annie, about her curves and valleys, like some kind of desert painting, and the marvel of her teenaged hormones, and his relief that he too, after all his attacks on his body, still had hormones. He thought of the peace of the time that still stretched before them, noticing that he didn’t worry about whether it was too much time, or too little, it was just time, granted to them by someone he didn’t know.
And he wondered if anyone around here sold barbecue instead of fish, and whether he should call Warren tomorrow afternoon and the radio station in the morning. He wished he and Annie could walk to dinner but there was no diner / dinner here in the woods, and his mind again touched on Ed, who apparently liked to go from the middle of nowhere in one state to the middle of nowhere in another state, and he wondered if he could talk to Annie about possibly, back home, someday, not living in the middle of nowhere. He was contemplating this when he sensed motion in back of him.
He turned to see a young man walking up the path. About 6 feet tall, slim, boyish, probably older than he looked, dark hair, clean-shaven, chinos, dark sweater draped over his shoulders.
The man halted as if Andrew’s stare had stopped him. “Hi,” he said, smiling. “I’m looking for some friends. They were going to be staying around here, but I’ve forgotten which house.”
“Hey,” said Andrew, deciding to lay on the drawl. “We’re here for this week. My wife and I. You’re doing this search on foot? Have a seat, maybe I can help.”
“My car’s down the road. Thanks, I won’t bother you. Have a good evening.”
He turned and left. Good posture . . . once he was out of sight, Andrew stood and moved for a different view, but couldn’t see him. He listened in the silence, then heard a car engine. A couple of quick steps took him halfway down the path in time to see a blond woman drive by in a gray Volvo wagon, with a yellow Lab sticking his head out the rear window.
“Were you talking to someone?”
Annie, showered and dressed, came out the door.
“Guy. Had the wrong house.”
Annie stopped mid-step. “What did he look like?”
“—Like a guy who was in the wrong place.”
“Seriously! Was he blond? Red-headed?”
“Dark curly hair?”
“—His hair may have had some body to it.”
“OK, I’ll stop. What was the main thing you noticed about him?”
“. . . A sense of confidence . . . combined with beads of sweat on his upper lip. He declined my offer of a chair, but why don’t you sit down, I’ve made us a patio.”
So they sat outdoors for a while, shoulder to shoulder, arms intertwined, their backs to the road, both of them thinking that Ed had been gone for ten months and during that time no one had heard from him. Or, as far as they knew, tried to reach him at home.
Finally, Andrew, who always had the whisper of Warren on his shoulder, said it out loud.
“Still,” said Annie, “it’s a coincidence.”
“Yes. A coincidence.”
“He might have been curious.”
“Might have been.”
“We never know everything, do we.”
Andrew shook his head. “Never.”
Copyright © 2014 Debby Mayer