The Complete Stories (Page 210)

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"What of it?"

"Georgette was a good friend of hers too, wasn’t she?"

"Yes."

"All right, then. You and Georgette would have gone to the party regardless of which one of you I had married. I would have had nothing to do with it. Let him show us the party as it would have been if I had married Georgette, and I’ll bet you’d be there with either your fiance or your husband."

Liwy hesitated. She felt honestly afraid of just that.

He said, "Are you afraid to take the chance?"

And that, of course, decided her. She turned on him furiously. "No, I’m not! And I hope I am married. There’s no reason I should pine for you. What’s more, I’d like to see what happens when you spill the shaker all over

Georgette. She’ll fill both your ears for you, and in public, too. I know her. Maybe you’ll see a certain difference in the jigsaw pieces then." She faced forward and crossed her arms angrily and firmly across her chest.

Norman looked across at the little man, but there was no need to say anything. The glass slab was on his lap already. The sun slanted in from the west, and the white foam of hair that topped his head was edged with pink.

Norman said tensely, "Ready?"

Liwy nodded and let the noise of the train slide away again.

Liwy stood, a little flushed with recent cold, in the doorway. She had just removed her coat, with its sprinkling of snow, and her bare arms were still rebelling at the touch of open air.

She answered the shouts that greeted her with "Happy New Years" of her own, raising her voice to make herself heard over the squealing of the radio. Georgette’s shrill tones were almost the first thing she heard upon entering, and now she steered toward her. She hadn’t seen Georgette, or Norman, in weeks.

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Georgette lifted an eyebrow, a mannerism she had lately cultivated, and said, "Isn’t anyone with you, Olivia?" Her eyes swept the immediate surroundings and then returned to Liwy.

Liwy said indifferently, "I think Dick will be around later. There was something or other he had to do first." She felt as indifferent as she sounded.

Georgette smiled tightly. "Well, Norman’s here. That ought to keep you from being lonely, dear. At least, it’s turned out that way before."

And as she said so, Norman sauntered in from the kitchen. He had a cocktail shaker in his hand, and the rattling of ice cubes castanetted his words. "Line up, you rioting revelers, and get a mixture that will really revel your riots- Why, Liwy!"

He walked toward her, grinning his welcome, "Where"ve you been keeping yourself? I haven’t seen you in twenty years, seems like. What’s the matter? Doesn’t Dick want anyone else to see you?"

"Fill my glass, Norman," said Georgette sharply.

"Right away," he said, not looking at her. "Do you want one too, Liwy? I’ll get you a glass." He turned, and everything happened at once.

Liwy cried, "Watch out!" She saw it coming, even had a vague feeling that all this had happened before, but it played itself out inexorably. His heel caught the edge of the carpet; he lurched, tried to right himself, and lost the cocktail shaker. It seemed to jump out of his hands, and a pint of ice-cold liquor drenched Liwy from shoulder to hem.

She stood there, gasping. The noises muted about her, and for a few intolerable moments she made futile brushing gestures at her gown, while Norman kept repeating, "Damnation!" in rising tones.

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Georgette said coolly, "It’s too bad, Liwy. Just one of those things. I imagine the dress can’t be very expensive."

Liwy turned and ran. She was in the bedroom, which was at least empty and relatively quiet. By the light of the fringe-shaded lamp on the dresser, she poked among the coats on the bed, looking for her own.

Norman had come in behind her. "Look, Liwy, don’t pay any attention to what she said. I’m really devilishly sorry. I’ll pay-"

"That’s all right. It wasn’t your fault." She blinked rapidly and didn’t look at him. "I’ll just go home and change."

"Are you coming back?" ?" "I don’t know. I don’t think so."

"Look, Liwy . . ." His warm fingers were on her shoulders-

Liwy felt a queer tearing sensation deep inside her, as though she were ripping away from clinging cobwebs and-

-and the train noises were back.

Something did go wrong with the time when she was in there-in the slab. It was deep twilight now. The train lights were on. But it didn’t matter. She seemed to be recovering from the wrench inside her.

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Norman was rubbing his eyes with thumb and forefinger. "What happened?"

Liwy said, "It just ended. Suddenly."

Norman said uneasily, "You know, we’ll be putting into New Haven soon." He looked at his watch and shook his head.

Liwy said wonderingly, "You spilled it on me."

"Well, so I did in real life."

"But in real life I was your wife. You ought to have spilled it on Georgette this time. Isn’t that queer?" But she was thinking of Norman pursuing her; his hands on her shoulders. . . .

She looked up at him and said with warm satisfaction, "I wasn’t married."

"No, you weren’t. But was that Dick Reinhardt you were going around with?"

"Yes."

"You weren’t planning to marry him, were you, Liwy?"

"Jealous, Norman?"

Norman looked confused. "Of that? Of a slab of glass? Of course not."

"I don’t think I would have married him."

Norman said, "You know, I wish it hadn’t ended when it did. There was something that was about to happen, I think." He stopped, then added slowly, "It was as though I would rather have done it to anybody else in the room."

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