Teddy was home on leave before she had time to write a letter that sounded right, and she put off telling him; she didn't want to ruin the lovely way it felt to have him home. It was just before Christmas, and they had a party and all the couples came. Yvette wore orange sequined balls for earrings and a new white cocktail dress, and Teddy made martinis with onions, and everyone danced. The girls stayed up for Midnight Mass for the first time, and it was so beautiful, with the lights and the choir. New Year's Eve they went to the officers' party, where there was a full big band, and they didn't get home until three-thirty in the morning, even though Teddy had to leave at six to go back to Korea. She had been pretending he wasn't going to go, but as she took off her shoes and her dress, she knew he was leaving and she had to tell him. She checked herself in her slip to see if she looked too drunk, and then she went out to the bedroom.
"I have something for you, before you go," she said. She got the envelope from the night table and pulled out the prints to lay them on the bed.
Teddy sat down to look. He said, "Look at you. You're so pretty."
She thought for a second that she could leave the story out; he wasn't angry and he thought she was pretty. But she went on. "There was a photographer," she said. "I met him at the beach, when the girls were swimming, and he offered to take a picture for you, since you were away."
Teddy's jaw tightened and he looked up at her and waited.
Yvette had to keep talking or she would never say it. "He came over and took the picture, and then he wouldn't leave, and he tried to kiss me."
There was a pause.
"Did he kiss you?" Teddy asked.
"I made him stop."
"What kind of kiss?"
"I don't know," she said. "He grabbed me, and kissed me, and then I got away."
"So he touched you, too?" Teddy's eyes were hard and intent.
"Just to grab me."
"Where did he touch you?" Teddy asked, in a voice that was like a threat.
"I don't know!" she said. "Around the waist."
Teddy looked back at the picture and studied it. Then he looked up at her again. "Were you drunk?" he asked.
She paused, trying to answer.
"You were drunk," Teddy said, and his voice was sharp and military, but low enough not to wake the children.
"I'd had a drink. I made him a drink, and I had one. But I didn't kiss him back, I didn't want him to kiss me. I made him leave then. I sent him away."
Teddy stacked the photographs deliberately. "How did you get these prints?" he asked, tapping their edges straight against the envelope on the bed.
"He brought them to the house. I didn't let him in."
"But you accepted the photographs."
"I didn't want him to have them." Her voice sounded desperate and she tried to control it. "They were for you."
"Did you pay him?"
"He wouldn't let me."
Teddy slid the prints into the envelope and looked at it on his knees.
Yvette had her mother's rule with the girls, that they couldn't go to bed angry with each other. If they fought, they had to make up before they went to sleep. Teddy washed up and went to bed without speaking. He had never been short with her before, and now he looked so unforgiving.
"Teddy," she said as she got in bed and turned out the light. "You're leaving soon. Don't be angry. I only love you. I never want to see that man again."
Teddy rolled over and propped himself on his elbow, and her vision adjusted to the dark so she could see his serious eyes on her. He made love to her then but he was angry, she could feel it in his body, and he finished with a hard-looking glare over the top of her head. By then the sun had started to come up. He packed the envelope in his duffel, and before the room was fully light, he was gone.
From Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy. Copyright Maile Meloy 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Scribner.
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