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The wine coated the sides of the glass as she rolled th e stem slowly between her fingers. For just a moment, the wine-gloss hesitated b ehind the liquid current as it rocked downward each time she turned the glass. S he straightened it and stared as the colors darkened back into one deep, solid r ed, settling into the bowl. She had hated wine as a teenager. Hated the smell of the stuff—like rancid grape juice. Hated the sour vinegary smell when she opene d the pantry to get the cereal out for breakfast and there was a bottle in the b ottom of the trashcan from the night before. She reached for the wineglass, lift ing it to her nose. Her nostrils widened slightly and she breathed deeply and wo ndered why it smelled so differently to her now. Then, it had been the smell of her mother's unhappiness, discontent, regret. Regret over a life wasted on the m undane details of marriage and housekeeping—a life that could have been put to u se as a physician, or a psychiatrist, or anything but what she endured every day . Five kids. A workaholic husband. An unused education. But her mother had staye d—for a while. Edan took a gulp of her wine. It warmed her mouth, throat, stomach. She smiled i ronically and took another unladylike draught. She didn't want to enjoy it. She wanted to enjoy its after-effects—as long as she could avoid the draw-back of th e silent picture show of childhood memories that sometimes flashed and crackled across her mind in black and white and technicolor when she’d been drinking. She drank to avoid thinking about the past. Her past. Her parents’ past. Her childr en’s present. The days she’d spent traveling between parents with one sibling, t hen another. Her brothers and sisters would argue and beg to stay with one or th e other parent and end up a semi-permanent fixture wherever they were at the mom ent. But not Edan. “Eden, you know you can just stay the rest of the week here. I mean, if that’s w hat you want. I don’t mind driving you to school—if your mother can do it every day, I don’t mind doing a week at a time the same.” There was a pause. Eden knew she was expected to answer gratefully, excitedly, that yes, she’d love that—tha t it was exactly what she’d been thinking but afraid to ask. Instead, she looked down at her plate, toying with her food, and shrugged her shoulders. She only m eant to indicate that she didn’t really mind either way. That she didn’t want to hurt his feelings by refusing, or her mother’s by accepting. Irritated by her i ndecisiveness and lack of preference, her dad pushed his chair back from the tab le with a roughness unequal to the situation and stalked into the kitchen. “Neve r mind,” he called over his shoulder with a forced nonchalance, “I’ll just take you back over to your mother’s in a little while—I forgot I have a meeting early in the morning with a client. I wouldn’t be able to take you to school, and it’ s too far out of the way for your sister to pick you up.” He’d missed the hurt t hat settled on her face as he busied himself with the dishes, ignoring her attem pts to hand him the plates from the table. She finally set them on the counter, stood there watching him uncertainly for a few moments, then walked out of the r oom. Edan grimaced, remembering how placating, pacifying she had always tried to be w ith her parents. She was always afraid of hurting one of them by wanting to stay exclusively with the other parent. So she was shuttled back and forth, fending off pointed comments and questions and hints designed to shed the most unflatter ing light on the other parent while also gleaning as much information from her a s possible. She had said some horrible things about each parent to the other. Sh e had ended up the least favorite because she hadn t picked a side. Edan shifted in her seat, remembering. Well, at least she hadn t done that to her own kids. She could take some comfort in that. Her mother’s hair, floating for a split second after each swipe of the brush bef ore settling back down on her shoulders, reminded Edan of floating underwater in
the pool, looking up through the water as the sun glinted across the surface, h er own hair floating across her vision, featherlike. Edan could see her mother’s profile, but she was careful to sit just out of her mother’s range of sight in the mirror. She watched the rapid strokes of brush and hand, smoothing and coaxi ng and pulling just the right amount of curl here, height there, as her mother r eadied herself for another date. There was a bored detachment in her mother’s ex pression as if she only went out these nights as a token nod toward Edan’s dad, knowing she’d see him out. Edan admired the easy, natural elegance her mother in habited. She dressed for dinner, but it didn’t really matter. She would have bee n admired even in the jeans and tee she wore in the yard. She was beautiful. Eda n always felt gawky around her mother. People said she favored her mother more t han her sisters, but she was an awkward, amateurish copy. Her body felt like it was the wrong size and she never knew quite how to fold and unfold it the way he r mother instinctively did. Now, she uncurled her legs, pulling them slowly and painfully out from under her body, shaking thoughts of the past from her mind as she stood up and walked to the kitchen. She tugged on the cork of the half-empty bottle, rocking it gently back and forth until it popped back out of the bottle. With one hand, she carefu lly tipped the bottle down towards her glass, staring blindly at the red liquid as it tumbled eagerly into the glass. She took a sip and set the glass on the co unter. She took a long drink out of the bottle before she replaced the cork and set it in the ornate pewter wine rack beside the paper towels. She stood against the counter, annoyed at how tight her muscles had become in the few moments of sitting. Seemed like she couldn t even relax these days without aching. She was aging. She shuddered slightly and forced the thought from her mind, concentratin g instead on the physical reality of her movements. Taking another deliberate gulp of wine, she walked back to the sofa and stood in front of it, staring, forcing herself into the present. Did she want to sit the re? Maybe the oversized chair that had been her mother s would be more comfortab le. She glanced from one to the other and settled on the chair. It was her favor ite piece of furniture. It was hideous. A putrid mustardy green-yellow that made her think of an infant s bowel movement. She sat down, concentrating on the fee ling of release in her muscles as she settled against the chair. It was funny, r eally, how she could be so attached to a piece of furniture that had belonged to someone she had never felt close to. Someone who resented her for even existing . It would be easier to pretend she loved the chair on its own merit if it weren t so god-awful ugly. A unbidden shiver shook her and she curled her arms and le gs more tightly in on herself, allowing only the hand that held the wine free mo vement. For one silent moment, she thought of nothing but the relief of sitting and the warmth of her legs beneath her. “Mom! Come on!” Her oldest had sounded reluctant to tell her goodbye, even as he pulled back slightly from her hug and kiss. She could sense his discomfort and awkwardness as she told him she loved him and was proud of him, and that he was welcome to come stay with her, or even just visit, any time he wanted—no strings attached. She was very careful not to put the same pressure on her children tha t she had felt from her own parents. She had casually asked how their dad was, q uickly following the question with an offhanded remark that he had looked well t he last time she’d seen him, and that she was glad. She had felt the suspicious glances the kids passed when she’d first spoken the question, and she wanted to make sure they didn’t feel like she was fishing for incriminating evidence. Her own mother’s attempts to do so had flashed through her memory even as she spoke the question. “So, Edan, how is your father settling into his new place?” Edan felt the forced casualness of her mother’s voice even as she tried to second-guess exactly what her mother was trying to find out. She stared at her mother’s back, hypnotized by the rhythmic strokes with which her mother brushed her hair. Had her mother h
eard the rumor that her ex-husband had already moved a new girlfriend in with hi m, a mere six months after the divorce was finalized? He hadn’t, but Edan franti cally wondered if she should let her mother think he had, or dispell the idea. F rozen by indecision and self-doubt, Edan hesitated a moment too long. Her mother ’s hand froze; she calmly laid the brush down on the vanity and turned to look a t Edan who attempted to avoid her look but failed miserably. Edan sheepishly hal f-grinned, shrugging her shoulders the way her mother hated and answered that sh e guessed he was fine. After a cold, silent second, her mother turned back aroun d and indicated by her silence and continued unnecessary preening that Edan was dismissed. Edan stood miserably, mumbling something incoherent about calling a f riend for homework, then slunk out of the room. Edan took another sip of wine, shifted her weight, and rearranged her legs—stret ching first one then the other straight before tucking them back under her. Sett ing the glass down on the little table beside her, she leaned over to the sofa a nd pulled the throw off the arm. She shook it out and slung it around her should ers, knocking over the glass of wine in the process. Cursing, she stalked into t he kitchen for a rag and cleaner. She knelt on the floor and dabbed at the stain a few times after each spay of cleaner. Hadn t she read something in some magaz ine the other day about getting wine stains out of carpet? Damn it! What was it? She scrubbed furiously for another minute, sat back on her heels and sighed. We ll, what was one more stain?
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