Maggie was, of course, the exception to this Whitmore business of leaving things unsaid. On one of her regular morning visits, she announced that her father would be coming to America at the end of the month.
“Your father will be coming here?”
“I suppose…not coming right here, that is, not right away. He has a lot of business to see to.” She lowered her eyes and raised the pitch of her voice a little. “Business interests may keep him in New York for a time.”
Lillian appreciated the phrasing, which, although obviously well-rehearsed, was clearly Maggie’s and not Carlotta’s. Carlotta wouldn’t have the energy, even if she had the inclination, for so many extra words. What was it all in aid of, she wondered. Why did she, Lillian, have to know that Maggie’s father was coming to the U.S. and why did the fact that he would not visit the Whitmore homestead have to be papered over so neatly? Did Maggie really believe that there was anyone within a hundred miles, give or take, of Ellen, who didn’t know she loathed her son-in-law?
“So, you’ll be going to see him in the city, of course?”
“I suppose. As time permits. His time, of course.”
Maggie seemed distracted. Lillian knew the signs. Another minute and Maggie’s voice would be issuing from the depths of the refrigerator as she let all the cold air out.
To head her off, Lillian put a few raspberries on a plate and added some goat cheese. Maggie would eat fruit and cheese, or anything milky, at any hour of the day or night.
“Maybe your father will be able to get away for a weekend. Princeton is not far from the city, and much cooler in the summer than the city can be.”
“He wouldn’t wish to intrude while Grandmamma is unwell.”
“Of course not.” Lillian considered a minute, than changed the subject. “What are you up to today?”
“Well, I thought I would go downtown later with Beth Ann. We might go for ice cream, go to the library. “
Lillian knew Beth Ann, a plain, polite, chunky child, who looked younger than Maggie but was probably about the same age. She had come over a few times in the afternoon and she actually swam in the pool while Maggie applied sunscreen, lounged, flapped a magazine, and never got more than her toes wet.
Lillian knew that this swimming, and the fact that she ate a cookie when it was offered, while Maggie merely looked remote, meant that Maggie and Beth Ann were not quite of the same class. Swimming was too effortful, too strenuous. Rich people merely had pools, maintained pools, sat by pools, looked at pools, wore clothes designed specifically for being near pools, but they did not swim in them.
Poor Beth Ann, water streaming from her straggling hair and solid thighs, would be left behind, eventually, when school started or even before if Maggie found more sophisticated, mature friends.
“Where do you two go for ice cream?”
“Oh, I don’t know. We could go to Thomas Sweets. Beth Ann likes the smoosh-ins, and I love the little iron tables, like metal lace. So ice cream parlor-y. Or we could go to Haagen-Dazs. The Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream is fabulous. And there are some earrings I want to look at right across the street.”
Lillian nodded. Princeton was an ice cream town, and Maggie seemed to consider ice cream a nutrient. She never mentioned the calories in ice cream, although she kept hers pristinely free of the vulgar “smoosh-ins,” macerated oreos and processed candy bits that Beth Ann so happily devoured.
Poor Beth Ann, Lillian thought. Her days are numbered.
“Well, that sounds like a nice day. I hope you girls have fun.”
“I guess.” Maggie seemed uncharacteristically hesitant. “Lillian, where do you go on your nights off?”
It was none of her business, and ordinarily Lillian would have no problem saying so, but somehow the knowledge of that picture in her nightstand drawer made her answer.
“Oh, out to dinner, sometimes to a movie, sometimes to Thomas Sweets.”
“Really. Try the chocolate peanut butter. It’s fabulous.” And the two of them giggled together.
From The Caregiver, Copyright Maria Theresa Casale 2014
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