And they want us to come back?
I told Marge we wouldn’t be staying.
“You know how it is,” I told Mrs. Baker. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow.”
Poor blubber-faced Mrs. Baker was so put out I knew then we would not receive an invitation to her daughter’s graduation in June.
I minded this so much I struggled to keep the joy from showing while I manufactured a remorseful expression.
Marge dug the tips of her fingers between my ribs as if excavating for the missing one.
“You’re drawing blood,” I whispered in her direction.
“Not nearly enough,” she whispered back.
She didn’t agree with my move, but dreaded public conflicts, preferring perform her massacres behind closed curtains.
“Our children will worry,” I explained to Mrs. Baker, although avoiding her gaze by staring at her display of crystal where I met my own reflection in the mirror behind them, so full of guilt was my expression I needed not confession of my distaste for her or her social occasions.
“But I thought both your children are at the university?” Mrs. Baker said, prompting Marge to strike an even deeper assault of my rib cage for my getting caught in the lie.
The mention of the university drew up the needle nose of Professor Dinsley, who ruled over all discussion of education at these affairs like a tyrant, growing enraged at anyone treading on his turf.
Mrs. Baker, despite being a snob, was not stupid, snorted at catching me in my fib, and turned away, leaving me a glare of rage from Marge that promised a miserable ride home and perhaps days of unceasing wrath after that.
I took her hand. She snatched it away. I took it again, then cringed at her grasp.
“Really, we must go,” I said again in Mrs. Baker’s general direction though she was engaged with some poor fool from the country club she had suckered into coming on the pretense he would meet social equals when really she needed him to show how superior she was to the rest of us.
My hand, firmly in Marge’s grip, would need major surgery by the time we reached the car.
Others gave faint protest, saying how we really ought to stay a little longer, how much we were appreciated, one even called us “the life of the party,” nearly giving Mrs. Baker cardiac arrest, but increased the injury to my palm when I mistakenly allowed my amusement to show, Marge hissing warnings of later and greater injury. I swallowed with difficulty, then steered Marge towards the door.
Mrs. Baker’s butler – hired whenever she gave one of these affairs – greeted us with our coats and cold comfort, wishing us safe passage home.
I wondered if I should ask him to call the medical center to have an ambulance waiting for us at home when we arrived, but Marge yanked my hand so hard in her effort to get me to the car I had no time.
Then, floating behind us in a cheerful tone meant for others to perceive as sincere, Mrs. Baker called coolly, “Do come back soon.”
“They want us back?” I said bewildered.
“Don’t be a bigger ass than you already are,” Marge said, and dragged me towards my waiting doom in the car.