"Mom always said you. Could never park anyplace within ten. Blocks of the University of Chicago."
"You're going to be hot in that tight vest."
He ran a hand over his chest. In addition to his shirt, he wore an old leather vest he'd owned for years. He liked familiar things, never wanted anything new. The vest strained at the seams even though Jeffrey was slender, and that, plus its scruffy appearance, bothered Catherine. She wanted him to look good, especially this weekend, seeing people he had not seen in years.
He said, "I like things. To be tight."
"Well " Catherine paused. "Well, shall I pick you up on Sunday, then?"
He didn't dare look back at her. If he did, he'd turn right around and get in the car.
"That is the present plan."
Jane Macy walked slowly toward Hawthorne House. She'd had to park five blocks away, but that didn't bother her. She liked hot weather, even really hot weather, like this, and as she approached the building, she felt pleasantly warmed rather than uncomfortable.
Her little overnight case hung by its strap from her hand. She was rather proud of it. It was powder blue with stitching in a contrasting navy, soft-sided top-grain leather, round, like a huge pocket watch, and filled with thoughtfully-designed compartments.
At the junction of the sidewalk and the Hawthorne House walkway, she paused. The mansion rose up before her in the late afternoon light. It was so large that from her place on the walk it occupied almost all her visual field. The building wrapped its arms around her. The red brick glowed warm and inviting. Even the antique glass in its windows gave back a mellow amber shine.
She smiled at Hawthorne House.
It wasn't just the warmth of the old building that pleased her so much. She craned her head back and smiled at the whimsical pagoda-points of the lightning rods, the funny wrought iron decorative railing that ran along the roof peak. A wrought-iron fence, similar in style, surrounded the property on the sides and back. Then there were the gables, each with its own fancy little pagoda-like peak, and the slate roof tiles, scalloped like cookies at the edges. And the tall brick chimneys, five of them, that flared out at the top, almost as if they were upside down. Whoever saw chimneys like that these days? The architect must have been having such fun designing them.
Of course, she was well aware that her feelings toward the building were heavily colored by her warm feelings toward the six years of her life she had spent there. Psychiatric counseling had trained her to be conscious of the effect of emotion on perception. She was good at watching for these connections. Almost, she said to herself, doing it automatically by now. With a little bounce in her step, swinging her overnight case in expectation of a delightful weekend, she sashayed up the walk to Hawthorne House.
A hand-waxed black limo, longer than two Mazdas, slid to a stop in front of Hawthorne House, tires sighing on the pavement. The driver, wearing a two-piece gray uniform suit, got out and marched around to the right rear passenger door. "Dr. Schermerhorn," he said, opening the door with a white-gloved hand. Although the limo was air-conditioned, the driver had started to sweat the instant he stepped out of it into the street.
The man who exited the passenger seat was tall, with silver hair and a neatly trimmed silver Van Dyke beard. He wore a light summerweight three-piece English suit.
While the driver extracted the deerskin valises from the trunk, Dr. Schermerhorn studied the building before him.
Commanding, he thought. Elegant. A wonderful example of Midwestern faux Queen Anne. I knew the first moment I saw it that this was the place to establish my institute.
From Death of a Thousand Cuts by Barbara D'Amato. Copyright Barbara D'Amato 2004. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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