At 6 o’clock she greeted him with a whiskey sour on the rocks. And then she fixed herself a gin tonic while she listened, or pretended to listen, to all of the miffs and mutters at the office. He asked her about the children and as she rambled, he responded with a nod and an automatic agreement through closed lips. He never asked her directly about her day and she never shared, at least not right then. If she ever had anything important to share, she waited until they were in bed. If she let him do his thing, he would listen to her mental wanderings. It was the only place she felt like she has his complete attention.
And then one Thursday, there was no cocktail waiting for him at the door. At first, he thought it was some kind of joke. But she didn’t answer when he called to her, The children didn’t seem to be around either, which was fairly common for spring. He checked the calendar to find piano lessons ended at five, so it was possible she and Mrs. Royal had lost track of time chatting. But surely the children would have gotten impatient and urged her along. Or maybe there had been an accident and they were all in the hospital and no one could reach him on the train. And if they had the car, he would have to go next door to see if Charles could take him to the hospital and Peggy would have it all over the neighborhood before he even got to his family. The scenarios tumbled through his head faster than he could put the words to them.
He found her on the back porch reading a book. There you are, he said. Must have lost track of time, he tried to joke. She just looked up at him, smiled briefly and tilted her cheek for a kiss. Then she went back to her book. He stood there, still holding his jacket. He looked around the porch, perhaps to sit or set down his jacket, but she had the only chair.
Well, he said, I could use a drink. Would you like one?
Oh, no thank you.