But India is more resilient than she thinks. And though it will take a broken arm, a lawn littered with engine parts, some creative uses for shoes, and a scandalous love affair of her own, she learns, much to her surprise, that her life hasn’t ended with her marriage.
tired of walking alone. I’ve started talking to myself, for God's sake. I’ve started talking to the dogs along the way.” She raised her arms like a conductor ready to strike up the band. “Get your hiney downstairs in five minutes or I will dress you myself.” She turned with runway model flourish and sauntered away. I do mean sauntered. Eva was nothing if not dramatic.
I should never have given Eva a key to my house. But I had, and she repaid my trust by yelling up the stairs, “Five minutes, India,” as though it were a curtain call.
Knowing that there was not the slightest chance that she’d give up and go away, I got up, dug my oldest sweats from the bottom of the hamper, and put on both sneakers.
“You look like misery’s leftovers,” Eva said when I came down the stairs. I gave her what I thought was a smoldering look, though in truth I don’t smolder well.
“Let’s just get on with it,” I said.
We walked the same route we’d walked nearly every day for twenty-five years, discounting my cha cha with Cherry Garcia. It was about two miles long, this walk, down Queen’s Boulevard, along Park Street to Third Avenue, down McKinley past the elementary
school, and back around to Easterly Street, where Eva and I resided in side by side Dutch colonials, mine with a maple in front, hers with a willow to the side, at numbers 140 and 142.
“You know what you need?” Eva said as we rounded the corner on McKinley. “You need a night out.”
“I don’t need a night out. I can barely handle in.”
We’d just passed the gold brick of McKinley Elementary where I had taught kindergarten for twenty years, ever since my daughter, Allie, had started school. We’d trekked out together, Allie and I, all those years ago. Up until my unfortunate fall in with Ben and Jerry’s, I’d kept trekking along, as trusting as those kids in my class.
“Mrs. Othmar!” Jenny cute-as-a-bunny Mantillo came bounding down off her porch as we walked by. “You’re feeling better! Mrs. Langtree said you’d feel better and then you’d come back to school.” Jenny started walking with us, backward, “Guess what? We got a new puppy. His name is Delmar and maybe, can I bring him in for show and tell?”
“Of course, Jenny. As long as someone’s there to take him home.”
“Oh, Mommy will. I know she will. And Mrs. Othmar? We made you a big card that says welcome back when you come back.”
“Are you going back?” Eva asked after Jenny bounded back up to her porch.
“Yes. Probably. I think so.”
“You know, I don’t envy you your job. God only knows how you deal with a roomful of snot-nosed carpet rats all day long. But you love that job.”
We walked past the tennis courts, where the Saturday morning enthusiasts were out enjoying the first of the warm weather. Where my husband, Tom, had played tennis on Saturday mornings with our son, Patch. My soon-to-be ex-husband, Tom. And my dear, soon-to-be-if-not-already devastated son, Patch. I walked a little faster, trying to outrace these last thoughts. Eva kept pace. I was glad she wasn’t a mind reader. In fact, she was on a different wavelength all together. “What exactly did you tell Lila Stroud as far as your little absence is concerned?” She marked absence with imaginary quotation marks.
“I told her I had tuberculosis.”
“You didn’t, not that old Lila couldn’t use a little shaking up. But India. Well, it’s brilliant, I’ll give you that.”
Actually, I’d told Lila, the principal at McKinley, that I wasn’t well and needed some time. Since Tamsett is a small town, where gossip travels faster than electricity, it’s not much of stretch to imagine she knew exactly why I needed time.
“Looking at you, though, I might think tuberculosis myself,” Eva said
“I’m just taking some time. I’m allowed to take some time.”
“So? What? You’re going to lie in bed scarfing saturated fat until you die? You have got to get yourself out of this funk. I can’t be dragging you out of bed every day.”
“I came, didn’t I?” I pointed to my feet. “See? Sneakers. I’m walking.” I did a couple of exaggerated marching steps to illustrate my point.
“Its a star,” Eva said.
Ute, who pronounces her name oohtah, was born in Germany and grew up in upstate New York. She and her husband reside in Nashua, NH. They have two grown sons. Ute enjoys hiking, skiing, and generally anything that involves being outside. She loves chocolate, wine, and, of course, books.