Switchback
 



 

Nucleus

Laurence Klavan

"Maybe it's a phase," Sheila said. "Though it doesn't have to be. I only meant—"

"I know what you meant."

Sheila nodded, relieved that Amos understood, that she didn't have to say she wasn't a bigot or anything, that they just had a similar sense of distance (was that it?) from their daughter now. The whole house seemed larger, as if it were a hotel or little inn that they ran and not a home, a place where other people only stayed briefly—you saw them at breakfast and that was it, you never really got to know them. And Randa was their only child.

"We'll get used to it," Sheila said, trying to be pragmatic and not so emotional, which wasn't easy for her.

"Sure."

"Though the girl she's going with—Ashley?"

"Amy."

"Amy." They'd learned about it, in an email. "From the picture she sent she seems a little—sloppy, doesn't she?"

Amos was noncommittal, suspecting that Sheila was being critical of this girl because she couldn't judge Randa, it was taboo and would expose too much about herself. He hoped that Sheila would stop after the one comment, but as the week went on, she kept going, becoming more and more judgmental about this Amy—whose name she had "not known" intentionally, he figured—finding fault in every aspect of her from the one small photo that was their only evidence of her existence, like a detective trying to crack a case from a single clue. Randa would be gone for a month, and Amos was not looking forward to hearing this the whole time, but he kept his mouth shut (if there was one thing he had learned in marriage, it was when to do that; he was proud of that, other people never learned) and let her get it out of her system.

But that didn't mean he wasn't relieved when he got the phone call.

At first, it didn't quite sink in who the woman calling was; it was only what she wanted that appealed to him—which was to come see them and, he hoped, interrupt Sheila's unceasing sniping about this Amy, as well as enliven their newly and loudly quiet house, most of their friends in the suburb being gone for August and so unavailable for a dinner party, cookout, or game night. It was only after Amos hung up and explained to Sheila who it had been that it suddenly occurred to him how surprised, even shocked, he was by it.

"It was the donor," he said, inhaling as if to grab back and swallow down the word and the woman with it.

Sheila just stared at him, as if he had expressed a particularly crass vulgarity for no reason at all, was showing signs of early Alzheimer's or something.

"What did you say?" she asked in a tone which would have been a prelude to a punishment had he been a child, not a middle-aged man.

"The donor. Yolanda Smirnoff."

Sheila looked away then, as if slapped by the words, punished by them.


<< 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 >>