Read Smart Women Online

Authors: Judy Blume

Smart Women (9 page)

BOOK: Smart Women
7.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

She picked up a WonderRoast chicken on her way home from the office and was preparing butternut squash when Sara came in. “Where have you been?” she asked. “It’s after six.”

“Out . . . riding my bike with some of the kids from school. What’s for dinner?”

“Chicken and squash.”

“Butternut?”

“Yes.”

“Mashed?”

“Yes . . . the way I always make it . . . with cinnamon.”

They sat down to dinner a few minutes later. “Um . . . it’s good,” Sara said.

“I’m glad you like it.”

They ate quietly for a while. B.B. was distracted, thinking about the office. Perhaps she should have gone with strong colors in the reception area instead of off-white.

Then Sara said, “I didn’t know Margo lives next door to Daddy. I was really surprised when I saw her there.”

“You saw Margo?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“This afternoon.”

B.B. lay down her fork. “What were you doing over there this afternoon?”

“Oh . . . I . . .” Sara’s cheeks turned red and she began to chew on her fingernails.

Caught in the act, B.B. thought.

“I forgot my library book when I was there on Sunday and I was afraid it would be overdue so I rode my bike over to get it, but I didn’t stay.”

“I don’t want you doing that again,” B.B. said. “Do you understand? You are never to go over there without my permission.”

“But Mom . . . I was only there for five minutes, maybe less.”

“I’m warning you, Sara. If I find out that you’ve disobeyed me you’re going to be grounded. And then you won’t be allowed to see your father at all.” B.B. did not want to punish Sara for Andrew’s foolishness, but what choice did she have? If she didn’t hold the reins tightly who knew where it all might end. “And you are never to lie to me again.”

“I didn’t lie.”

“You did and we both know it. You didn’t leave your library book over there.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just that for the rest of this week we get out of school at noon so I have all this free time and so does Daddy.”

“Use that time to get your room in order.”

“It is in order.”

“Go over your clothes and pull out everything that doesn’t fit. I’ll give you a box to stack them in.”

“Okay.”

B.B. got up to clear away the dinner plates. “So . . . did you introduce your father to Margo?”

“They already knew each other.”

“Oh?”

“Daddy said something about passing out in Margo’s hot tub.”

“Really?”

“Something like that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Not exactly.”

Sara must be mistaken, B.B. thought as she washed the dishes. Children were always putting two and two together and coming up with five. But she would give Margo a call and ask her to keep an eye on things. Margo could be on the lookout for Sara sneaking over to Andrew’s and it wouldn’t hurt to ask her to keep an eye on Andrew too. Anything B.B. could get on him, any leverage to use in court, if it went so far, would help.

But when B.B. phoned Margo and asked her to do just that, just a simple favor, Margo turned cold and said, “You’re asking me to spy on him?”

“Not spy. Just to keep an eye on things, especially Sara.”

“I can’t do that,” Margo said.

“What do you mean, you can’t?”

“It wouldn’t be right. I wish you’d stop putting me in the middle.”

“How have I put you in the middle?”

“By moving him in next door to me in the first place. And now, asking me to watch him. I don’t want to watch him. I don’t want to know any more about him than I already do.”

“What do you know?”

“Nothing. Very little. He seems like a nice man. That’s all.”

“I hear he’s already been in your hot tub,” B.B. said softly, hoping that Margo would deny it and ask where she had gotten such a foolish idea.

“It was nothing,” Margo said.

So, it was true. B.B. did not respond.

“Look,” Margo continued, after a moment of silence, “I’m sorry I can’t help you out. Try to understand.”

“Of course,” B.B. said coldly. “See you in Jazzercise.” She put the phone back on the hook. God, you couldn’t trust anyone, could you? She wondered if they’d worn bathing suits.

9

M
ARGO FOUND HERSELF THINKING
about Andrew Broder, found herself standing on her deck watching for his truck or hoping she might run into him on the Mall. If she did she’d say,
Oh, hello . . . would you like to get a cup of coffee?
And he’d say,
Sounds good to me,
and they would walk over to Pearl’s and sit at the outdoor cafe and order espressos. She would be wearing her heathery pink poncho and he would say,
I like the way you look in that. It brings out the color in your cheeks.

Fool,
she told herself. Find another fantasy.

She wished that B.B. hadn’t called, asking her to keep an eye on Andrew. When she’d told B.B. to stop putting her in the middle, B.B. had been pissed. Margo had heard it in her voice.

On Monday morning, at the office, Margo finished up the preliminary sketches for the cluster housing project and decided to drop them at B.B.’s office on her way to lunch. She told Barbara, the receptionist at Benson and Gould, she’d be back by one-thirty and if Michael phoned from Vail she had information for him on those Trocal windows. Then, as an afterthought, she picked up the phone on Barbara’s desk and called home. The phone rang twice before Mrs. Herrera answered. “Mrs. Margo Sampson’s residence . . .”

“Hello, Mrs. Herrera . . . it’s me,” Margo said.

Mrs. Herrera had been cleaning for Margo since Margo had come to town. She cleaned for B.B. on Tuesdays and Fridays and for another friend on Wednesdays. Today, Mrs. Herrera complained that with Stuart and Michelle back the house was a mess and it was going to take her at least two extra hours to clean it properly and was Margo willing to pay?

Margo told Mrs. Herrera that she was.

“Because I don’t do this for fun,” Mrs. Herrera said.

“I understand,” Margo said.

“And last week I left you a list and you didn’t buy one thing on it. How am I supposed to clean if you don’t buy the supplies?”

“I’m sorry . . . I forgot.”

“Mrs. B.B. buys two of everything so we never run out.”

“You’ll have all the supplies you need next week. I promise.”

Margo hung up the phone and smiled at Barbara, who relished the weekly conversations with Mrs. Herrera. “I shouldn’t have called home,” Margo said.

“She would have called here if you hadn’t.”

“That’s true.” Margo slung her leather bag over her shoulder, waved at Barbara, and left.

Benson and Gould’s offices were in a handsome red brick building on Chestnut, converted in 1973 from an old warehouse by Jeffrey Gould, before he discovered the Bahamas. When Michael Benson and Margo had been lovers they used to stay at the office until Barbara and Jeffrey had gone, lock the doors, and make love on the floor. Then Margo would go home and prepare dinner for her children. It had been a pleasant arrangement while it lasted. Twice married and twice divorced, with two sets of children, Michael was terrified of personal responsibilities, a trait that sometimes carried over into his professional life. By the time Margo introduced him to her children her feelings for him had fizzled anyway, so she was not hurt at his suggestion that they find other lovers and become friends.

Outside, the temperature was still in the eighties and Margo would not have minded if the weather stayed this way all year long. She walked a few blocks to Spruce, to B.B.’s office.

“She’s already left for lunch,” Miranda said, when Margo asked for B.B. “She’s at The James, with clients. She should be back in an hour.”

“I’ll just leave these with you,” Margo said, placing the folder on Miranda’s desk.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you dropped in and gave them to her yourself. She’d probably welcome the interruption. These clients are bo-ring.” Miranda fanned the air in front of her face to make her point. Miranda had come to work for B.B. fresh out of C.U. two years ago and now she dressed like B.B., wore her hair like B.B., and was even beginning to sound like B.B.

“I’m in a hurry myself,” Margo said. “So just give them to her when she gets back.”

“Okay,” Miranda said. “Sure.”

Margo walked from B.B.’s office to the Mall. Before she’d arrived in Boulder her idea of a Mall was Saks, Bonwit’s, and Bloomingdale’s strung out around a huge concrete parking area, either in New Jersey or Long Island, and swamped with career shoppers, like her sister, Bethany. In Boulder, which had once been a supply center for the mining towns in the mountains, the Mall was an area of renovated buildings, some dating back to the late 1800s, housing shops, restaurants, and galleries. The streets were cobblestone and closed to traffic. Some of the old-timers complained that it was too tourist oriented, but Margo disagreed. It provided a downtown shopping area for the locals and made it fun to work in the neighborhood.

She went into the New York Deli, ordered two pastrami sandwiches on rye—you had to specify here or you might get it on whole wheat or, worse yet, white bread—and two iced coffees to go. Then she waited outside, lifting her face to the sun. When her order was ready she crossed the Mall and walked to the corner, to Clare’s gallery. The gallery represented Margo’s most creative renovation in Boulder. She had left as much of the original bank building intact as she could, including the tellers’ windows, the winding staircase, and the balcony, which had become a sculpture gallery.

Clare had come to Boulder like Margo, following her divorce from Robin Carleton-Robbins, a West Texas banker who had run off to the Amazon or someplace like that—Clare wasn’t sure, it might have been the Nile—with one of his tellers. She was very young, Clare said, and smelled like doughnuts. Clare had come to Boulder with her daughter, Puffin, a classmate of Margo’s children, and her millions, some of which she used to open her gallery, one of the few in town that was not a front for drug traffic.
Strictly legitimate,
Clare would say, proudly.
I don’t wash anybody’s money.
And she had never eaten a doughnut again and swore she never would.

At first Margo found it odd that a woman whose husband had run off with a bank teller would choose a bank building for her gallery. One day during the construction phase Margo had mentioned that to Clare and Clare had laughed her big, booming laugh and had replied, “It is odd, isn’t it?”

Margo pushed open the heavy glass door to the gallery. “Lunch . . .” she announced.

“Be right with you,” Clare called. “Just let me wash up. Have a look at the balcony while you’re waiting.”

Clare’s fall show had opened on Labor Day weekend. It featured artists of the Southwest. The walls were hung with R. C. Gormans, Doug Wests, and Celia Ramseys. Margo went through the gallery to the vault, which served as Clare’s office space. She dropped the lunch bag on Clare’s desk, then ran upstairs where Clare’s assistant, Joe, was setting up a barnyard exhibit of carved wooden animals. “They’re wonderful,” Margo said, eyeing a brown pig complete with teeth. “How much does that one go for?”

“Ninety-five,” Joe said, “but if you’re interested . . .”

“I know . . .” Margo said.

Clare would be leaving for Europe day after tomorrow. She went every September, after the fall show opened, and it was always a lonely time in Margo’s life. The last time she and Clare had had a good talk had been on Margo’s fortieth birthday. Clare had taken her to dinner at John’s French Restaurant, had presented her with the silk robe, and had ordered champagne. Over dessert, a decadent hazelnut cake, Margo had confessed that what she wanted most for her fortieth birthday was a steady man. “One who’ll be there in the morning,” she’d said, feeling giddy from the champagne.

“I wouldn’t mind one myself,” Clare said, “but they’re not easy to find and if we should happen to find them, then we won’t be this close anymore.”

“That’s bullshit,” Margo said, draining her champagne glass. “Why should we have to choose between a man and a friend?”

“I don’t know. I suppose because it’s hard to keep that kind of intimacy going with more than one person at a time. While I was married to Robin I never had friends . . . real friends . . . did you?”

“I had friends,” Margo said, “but I never confided in them until my marriage fell apart.”

“You see?”

“But it doesn’t have to be that way.” Margo poured herself another glass of champagne. She knew she was going to be sick, but she didn’t care.

C
LARE CAME INTO HER OFFICE
and stretched out on the sofa. Margo handed her a sandwich and said, “I’m crazy about that pig . . . the one with the teeth.”

“He’s yours.”

“I want to
buy
him.”

“Consider it done.”

“For a fair price.”

“Of course.”

“Michelle’s always campaigning for a pet. Maybe this will satisfy her.”

Clare laughed.

“I’m going to miss you,” Margo said. “Who’s going to listen to me while you’re gone? Who’s going to laugh at my jokes?”

BOOK: Smart Women
7.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Lover in the Rough by Elizabeth Lowell
I'll Stand by You by Sharon Sala
Sentenced to Death by Barrett, Lorna
Mommy's Angel by Miasha
Spirits of the Noh by Thomas Randall
Gladiator by Kate Lynd
Charmed Life by Druga, Jacqueline