“But it’s probably a total waste,” I told him. “Why bother?”
He put down the camera and looked at me, really looked at me, not through the lens, or from the side, just me and him. “That’s the big question, isn’t it?” he said. “That’s the whole problem here. I think they just might come out. Maybe they won’t be perfect-I mean, they could be blurred, or cut off in the middle-but I’m thinking it’s worth a shot. That’s just me, though.”
I just stood there, blinking, as he lifted the camera up and took one more shot of me. I stared straight at him as it clicked, letting him know I got his little metaphor. “I have to go,” I said.
“Sure,” he said, and smiled at me. “See you later.”
As he walked away, he tucked the camera into his back pocket, darting between cars as he headed back to Flash Camera. Maybe he would print out the pictures and find them perfect: my face, my feet, Joie rising up behind me. Or maybe it would just be black, void of light, not even an outline of a face or figure visible. That was the problem, after all. I wouldn’t waste the time on such odds, while he jumped to them. People like Dexter followed risks the way dogs followed smells, thinking only of what could lie ahead and never logically of what probably did. It was good we were friends, and only that. If even that. We never would have lasted. Not a chance.
It had been two days since the scene with Don in the front yard, and so far I’d managed to avoid him, timing my trips to our common area, the kitchen, when I knew he was either out or in the shower. My mother was easier: she was completely immersed in her novel, pushing through the last hundred pages at breakneck speed, and hardly would have noticed a bomb going off in the living room if it meant pulling herself away from Melanie and Brock Dobbin and their impossible love.
Which was why I was surprised to find her sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee beside her, when I came home to get ready for my date with setup Paul. She had her head balanced on one hand and was staring up at Don’s naked lady painting, so lost in thought that she jumped when I touched her shoulder.
“Oh, Remy,” she said, pressing a finger to her temple and smiling. “You scared me.”
“Sorry.” I pulled out a chair and sat down across from her, dropping my keys on the table. “What are you doing?”
“Waiting for Don,” she said, fluffing her hair with her fingers. “We’re meeting some Toyota VIPs for dinner, and he’s a nervous wreck. He thinks if we don’t impress them they’ll cut back on his dealer perk allotment.”
“I don’t know,” she said, sighing. “It’s dealership talk. This whole night will be dealership talk, and meanwhile I’ve got Melanie and Brock at a sidewalk café in Brussels with her estranged husband fast approaching and the last thing in the world I want to think about is sales figures and cut-rate financing techniques.” She cast a longing look into her study at her typewriter, as if being pulled there by some tidelike force. “Oh, God, don’t you sometimes wish you could live two lives?”
Inexplicably, or maybe not, Dexter suddenly popped into my head, watching me through a bent disposable camera. Click. “Sometimes, yeah,” I said, shaking this off. “I guess I do.”
“Barbara!” Don bellowed, opening the door to the New Wing. I couldn’t see him, but his voice had no trouble carrying. “Have you seen my red tie?”
“Your what, darling?” she called back.
“My red tie, the one I wore to the sales dinner? Have you seen it?”
“Oh, honey, I don’t know,” she said, turning in her chair. “Maybe if you-”
“Never mind, I’ll just wear the green one,” he said, and the door shut again.
My mother smiled at me, as if he was just really something, then reached over and patted my hand. “Enough about me. What’s happening with you?”
“Well,” I said, “Lola set me up with a blind date for tonight.”
“A blind date?” She looked at me warily.
“I already met him, at the salon,” I told her. “He seems really nice. And it’s just dinner.”
“Ah,” she said, nodding. “Just dinner. As if nothing could happen within three courses and a bottle of wine.” Then she sat there, blinking. “That’s good,” she said suddenly. “Oh, my. I should write that down.”
I watched as she picked up an envelope, an old power bill, and a pen. Three courses-just dinner-nothing could happen she scrawled on the side of it, capping it off with a big exclamation point, then slid the envelope under the sugar bowl, where it would probably remain, forgotten, until one day when she was totally blocked and found it. She left these scribblings all around the house, folded into corners, on the backs of shelves, acting as markers in books. I’d once found one about seals, which later turned out to be a major plot point in Memories of Truro, sticking out of a box of tampons under my sink. I guess you just never knew when inspiration would strike.
“Well, we’re going to La Brea,” I told her, “so it’ll probably just be the one course. Even less chance of it working out.”
She smiled at me. “You never know, Remy. Love is so unpredictable. Sometimes you’ll know a man for years and then one day, boom! Suddenly you see him in a different way. And other times, it’s that first date, that first moment. That’s what makes it so great.”
“I’m not falling in love with him. It’s just a date,” I said.
“Barbara!” Don yelled. “What did you do with my cuff links?”
“Darling,” she said, turning around again. “I haven’t touched your cuff links.” She sat there, waiting, and when he didn’t say anything else she just shrugged, turning back to me.
“God,” I said, lowering my voice, “I don’t see how you put up with him.”
She smiled, reaching over to brush my hair out of my face. “He’s not so bad.”
“He’s a big baby,” I said. “And the Ensure thing would make me nuts.”
“Maybe it would,” she agreed. “But I love Don. He’s a good man, he’s kind to me. And no relationship is perfect, ever. There are always some ways you have to bend, to compromise, to give something up in order to gain something greater. Yes, Don has habits that try my patience. And I’m sure I have plenty that do the same for him.”