Maybe it was time for a change. A commuted sentence. Margaret had no difficulty knowing what was required. Daniel stared back at her, without forgiveness, but without condemnation, either, his eyes alight with the detached, loving wisdom of a little monk. Margaret tucked the photograph back into her pocketbook, sipped her tea, and waited until Nose Ring hung up the telephone.
"Excuse me, dear," she called across the room. "Have you a pen I might borrow?"
"Sure. Are you a writer?"
"Oh, no," Margaret said automatically. "Im . . ." Im anything I want to be, she thought. Anything at all. "Im the woman who invented the garlic press!"
"Ah." Nose Ring handed over her pen. "Ill get more hot water for your tea."
"Thank you, dear. Thats very kind."
Margaret turned over the bill and began writing. "Room for rent in large Capitol Hill home. $250. All utilities included. Month-to-month. Private bath . . ." By the time she was satisfied with the ad, her appetite was back. She started with the crème brûlée.
Magnifique! she thought, not minding that the café had begun to fill up with customers and she was no longer alone. Cest parfait.
Before she actually placed the ad she would have to ask permission. Of course she would. She couldnt just willy-nilly start taking in boarders without consulting her housemates. After all, theyd lived together practically forever. Shed tended their needs, kept them pristine and perfect, sheltered them. With the exception of those few intervening years when Stephen and Daniel had shared the house, theyd had her completely to themselves. Her devotion was unquestionable. Still, she knew theyd feel threatened. Theyd never stand for a unilateral decision. It would take finesse, skill, and diplomacy to pull this off. What she intended would be a hard sell.
Of course, theyd want to know what was in it for them. Theyd have a point. Shed have to come up with something.
Praise? Admiration? That might be an incentive. Theyd be in contact with another set of human eyes. What could be the harm in that? Theyd be ogled and applauded by someone besides her. That should be enough for the vast majority. Most of them were a bit shallow anyway. Fools for flattery. Yes, that could work. And shed never take on anyone clumsy or bullish, that was certain. The more diffident among them could be reassured about that. Theyd be in no danger.
So there. That was settled.
The next question was, how would she broach the subject? And who would she speak to first? Who would be the most receptive to change?
Not the soup tureens; as a group, they were consistently unimaginative and stodgy. The game pie dishes at least had a sense of humor, but they were cowardly, and always took sides with anything lidded. Which eliminated the teapots and casseroles and so on. It was very tricky, as the lot of them were quite cliquish. All of the figurines were out; in spite of her best efforts, she could never manage to address them without sounding condescending, and they resented her for it. One or two of the teacups might be sympathetic. She also considered the gold-encrusted inkstands, who, for all their decorative excess, had always struck her as fair-minded and sensible.
But, no. The others would never be convinced by anything so diminutive as an inkstand. Shed need an ally that was at the very least physically impressive. Objects responded to things like size and blunt speech. Margaret roamed the rooms of the house in her minds eye: the Aviary Suite, Bonbon Dish Room, Smoke and Snuff Room . . .
Aha! She had it. The pair of Qing Dynasty garden seats. Theyd be perfect. Large and commanding, with their sea-green celadon glaze, they were not only elegant but wise and plain-speaking. The fact that they once sat in the open air had given them more free-thinking views. And if all that werent enough, there was the added prestige of their appraised value: eight thousand dollars each. The other garden seats were worth five thousand or less. If she could win over the Qing twins, Margaret knew, theyd get everyone to give her a fair hearing.
From Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos, (Chapter One, pages 5-12). Copyright © 2004 by Stephanie Kallos. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.
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