In the car, they were still friendly, though the air between them was always different when they were alone. She told him about the library and the children's room, and he congratulated her on her good deed. She said she hadn't been home for most of the day. She would have to warm up some soup for supper, but she had been to the market, and she could make a good salad, and there was bread. A light supper would be fine with him, he said. It wasn't the same, sitting down for a big meal now that the boys were gone, and yet they better get used to it. If they had a quick meal, he added, the two of them could go to a movie later, and see whatever was playing. Cora agreed, pleased with the idea. Hers was the only husband she knew of who would go see anything with her, who had actually sat through The Sheik without rolling his eyes at Valentino. She was lucky in that way. She was lucky in many ways.
Still, she cleared her throat.
"Alan. Do you know Leonard Brooks?"
She waited for his nod, though she already knew the answer. Alan knew all the other lawyers in town.
"Well," she said, "his eldest daughter got into a dance school in New York. He and his wife would like a married woman to chaperone her. For the month of July, and some of August." She rubbed her lips together. "I think I'll go."
She glanced at him only briefly, seeing his surprise, before she turned back to her window. They were already close to home, moving down the tree-lined streets, past their neighbors' pretty houses and neat lawns. There was much that she would miss while she was away: club meetings and ladies' teas, the summer picnic in the Flint Hills. She would likely miss the birth of a friend's fourth child, which was unfortunate, as she was to be the child's godmother. She would miss her friends, and of course, she would miss Alan. And these familiar streets. But her world would still be here when she returned, and this was her chance to go.
Alan was silent until he pulled in front of the house. When he did speak, his voice was quiet, careful. "When did you decide this?"
"Today." She took off her glove and touched a fingertip to the glass, tracing a raindrop's path. "Don't worry. I'll come back. It's just a little adventure. It's like the twins, going to the farm. I'll be back before they leave for school."
She looked up at the house, lovely even in the rain, though far too big for them. It was a house builtand boughtfor a large family, but given the way things turned out, they'd never used the third floor for anything but a playroom, and then for storage. Still, even now that the twins had moved out, neither she nor Alan wanted to sell. They both still loved the quiet neighborhood, and they loved the house, how majestic it looked from the street with its wraparound porch and pointed turret. They reasoned that it would be nice for the twins to be able to come home to a familiar place. They'd kept their rooms as the boys had left them, their beds made, their old books on the shelves, the better to lure them home for summers and holiday breaks.
"New York City?" Alan asked.
"Any reason in particular you want to go there?"
She turned, taking in his warm eyes, his cleft, clean-shaven chin. She had been just a girl when she first saw his face. Nineteen years they had lived together. He knew the particular reason.
"I might do some digging," she said.
"You're sure that's for the best?"
"I can speak with Della in the morning about coming in earlier, or staying later. Or both." She smiled. "If anything, you'll gain weight. She's a far better cook than I am."
"Cora." He shook his head. "You know that's not what I'm asking."
She turned away, her hand on the door. That was the end of the discussion. She'd made up her mind to go, and as they both understood very well, for them, that was all there was to it.
Excerpted from The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. Copyright © 2012 by Laura Moriarty. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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