Despite her reservations, Martha shows up at her parents’ home for cocktails and dinner. Excerpted from Interior Designs.
We arrived at my parents’ home around six o’clock, just in time for cocktails. Cocktail hour had been a part of their household routine ever since I could remember. Even though most people nowadays didn’t necessarily cling to such a ritual, James and Marie Scott stuck to it almost as if their lives depended upon it. But I didn’t think either of them had a drinking problem. They had their martinis, or sometimes my mother sipped a glass of sherry; they always had wine with dinner. When I thought about it like that, though, I realized that quite a number of drinks were consumed every day.
And when Hal and I had been married, we’d pretty much followed this same pattern.
I wonder what he and Amber do these days, I pondered idly, but then I caught my mother looking at me strangely. I tossed my hair defensively and met her gaze. “Why are you looking at me like that?” As soon as I said the words, I knew how I sounded and realized—again!—that I was behaving out of character. The good girl would not do any of the things I’d done lately.
Including having that tryst with Zach Lowenstein. With those thoughts, I could feel a blush flooding my cheeks, just as my mother decided to reply to my demanding remark. “I just thought you might be worried about something.” She shrugged, stood up, and gestured. “Dinner is served.” And she led the way into the dining room, where Ramona was just dishing up the meal.
As usual, everything looked marvelous. I decided to relax and pretend to enjoy myself.
Later that evening, after I’d tucked Meadow into bed, and once I’d made sure everything was in order downstairs, I curled up in my bed with a book. I glanced around surreptitiously, as if to reassure myself that my world was intact—as much as it could be, anyway. Over there was my favorite spot, the window seat, reminiscent of the one I used to adore as a child in my parents’ home. Mine now was more luxurious, with its bevy of needlepoint pillows tucked decoratively along the pale rose-colored cushioned seat. The windows looked out onto the backyard, another one of my favorite places.
My bed, with its pink and white floral Laura Ashley spread, shams, and assorted coordinating pillows felt like a queen’s throne.
So why did it seem as though the fairytale had ended? Just because the prince had dashed off on his white charger to rescue another damsel didn’t mean that I was the wicked queen in this piece. And maybe Hal wasn’t really a prince after all.
Which made me think of Zach again…I hadn’t called him back, but I’d tucked the pink message slip into my datebook.
My thoughts veered backwards in time to the moments, in the seemingly distant past, when I’d first realized that Hal was betraying me. A mysterious e-mail message from that horrible girl Miranda Templeton had triggered the downward spiral for me. My behavior had been less than stellar back then, and months later, when I’d realized how I had created that whole nefarious dark side, it was too late. I couldn’t turn back the clock, but I could certainly change how I reacted nowadays. I had to set a better example for my daughter.
Sighing, I tossed the book aside. Traipsing down memory lane seemed to be the order of tonight’s business. I could feel the pain all over again, even though I’d vowed to put it all behind me. Actually, when I compared my marriage to Hal to the newer relationship with Zach—even though that hadn’t actually been a real relationship, but more of a liaison—I realized once again that Hal and I had lost our connection a long time ago.
What had happened between him and Amber had almost been inevitable.
So why did I still feel the sting of betrayal? I wasn’t exactly suffering here. In the months before our divorce had actually happened, I had been busily squirreling away funds in separate accounts, just in case. And when we’d actually sat down to divide up the assets, Hal, in his eagerness to sever our ties so he could move on, had been very generous.
I would not be suffering like other abandoned wives, trying to make ends meet. I had retained the beautiful family home, a vacation home at Shaver Lake, some stocks, and a substantial trust for Meadow. So my feelings were really more about my wounded ego.
I likened the feeling to the one I’d grabbed onto earlier—that image of my parents in their own little world, cocooned, while I sat somewhere on the outside. Left out, excluded.
Was that a normal feeling? Or was I behaving badly again?
Frustrated, I picked up the book and tried to read.