Excerpt from A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Certain Age

A Novel

by Beatriz Williams

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams X
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 384 pages

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Still, the very suggestion is enough to awaken me, lathered and breathless, from a state of abandoned repose. The room is heavy with that charcoal light that arrives just before dawn, and since it's a small room, unheated, unpainted, perched above the dusty remains of a pair of carriages made CertainAge_viii_328_1P_LS_0512.indd 3 6/12/15 11:00 AM 4 Bea t r i z Wi lli ams redundant by the ilk of Mr. Ford, I can't quite decide where I am, except that the place feels like home.

A mattress sags beneath my hips, and the sheet is flannel, musty, like an Adirondack cabin. I'm borne down by the weight of a thousand wool blankets, and someone is smoking a cigarette.

I roll on my side. "Boyo?"

The Boy stands by the window, matched in color to the smoke that trails from his hand. His shoulders are the exact width of the sash, and just as level, from clavicle to humerus. I have forgotten the substance of my dream, or why it terrified me; my breathing returns to normal at this indisputable proof of a male companion. Without turning, without even twitching—he is absolutely the stillest man I've ever known—he says: "I keep wondering, are you going to call me that when I'm sixty?"

Yes, the room is dark and cold, and the blankets are heavy, and underneath those blankets I'm as naked as an innocent babe, though the resemblance to both babes and innocence ends there. I sit up anyway and hold out my arms. "You'll always be my Boyo. My lovely laddie."

He steps to the bed and sits down on the edge, entering obediently into my embrace. His skin is icy, the flesh underneath as hot as blazes. "There's a car outside," he says, after kissing me, as if this piece of information is of no consequence whatever.

I sort of startle. The Boy's arms, which are planted on either side of my hips, prevent me from startling too much.

"A car?"

"Yes."

"What make?"

"Can't tell. It's too dark." He picks up my arm and kisses the skin of my inner elbow.

"Saloon or coupe?"

"Coupe. Sit still, will you?"

I struggle to drag my arm away from his lips, and he won't let me. "For God's sake, Boyo, have you gone loony in the night? Where are my clothes?"

"Why? He's not getting out." I swear. The Boy, who doesn't like me to take the name of his Lord in vain, applies the pad of his thumb to the center of my lips. I open my mouth and bite him.

"Ouch!"

"It's Sylvo. It's got to be Sylvo."

"So what?"

"So what? My husband's at the door, and you have to ask?"

"He's not at the door, Theresa. He's sitting in the car. Smoking a cigarette. Probably lit."

"But he's going to come out eventually."

"Maybe." The Boy shrugs. "No need to rush him, though."

There is little purpose to stirring up the Boy when he won't be stirred. His cold nerves kept him alive in France, and I guess they'll keep him alive now. It's Sylvester I'm worried about now. I sink back into the pillows. The Boy follows me. "You have to hide in the cupboard when he makes up his mind," I tell him.

"I'm not hiding in any cupboard."

"Yes, you are. I don't want a scene, Boyo."

The Boy finishes the cigarette at his leisure, exhaling the smoke directly from his mouth into mine, and crushes out the stub in the sardine tin on the floor next to the bed. (The Boy is awfully clever at improvising ashtrays from the raw materials at hand.) He knows exactly where the target lies, and his gaze remains on my face throughout this little operation. I think that's one of the little tricks that drew me in, all those months ago: his concentration. His refusal to be hurried. "There's only one reason your husband's here," he says, "and that's because he knows I'm here. So there's no point hiding in cupboards, even if we had a cupboard, and even if I were inclined to hide. Which I'm not."

Excerpted from A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams. Copyright © 2016 by Beatriz Williams. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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