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
    Jan 2017, 384 pages


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"Why do you want to make things difficult for me?"

"Why do you make things hard for me?" He takes a piece of my hair between his thumb and forefinger, rubs it once or twice, and curls it tidily behind my ear. "I play by your rules, don't I? I do what you want."

"Most of the time."

"All right, then. So let me handle this one."

He lowers his head to my neck. I place my two hands on his shoulders and push, without much result. "How can you kiss me at a time like this?"

"Because I'm your Boy, aren't I? You're my baby. Kissing you is what I do, after a hard day's work. It's what makes me tick. It's who I am."

The Boy is built like a reed, or maybe a rope—that's it—coiled neat and tight into a knot you can't break. If he wants to sit here kissing me, I'm not going to stop him, at least not by force. You can't force the Boy into anything, you have to uncoil him first. Only his lips are soft.

It's who I am, he says. But who are you, Boyo? I've been puzzling that for a year and a half, and I could go on forever, at this rate.

So I think of something. "I'm no baby. When you're sixty, I'll be eighty-two."

"Well, now. Here's what I figure. As long as I'm your Boy, you're my baby."

As long as he's my Boy. But then who am I, Boyo? What am I doing here, puzzling over you? How did I—Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue, Manhattan—become one half of you-and- me? I don't think I know the answer. Something is lost. Something has gone missing inside that you-and- me,

and I suspect it's me.

HE IS TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD, my Boy, and therefore a man, in the eyes of his almighty Lord God and of the law. He looks like a man, all the more now than when I first saw him. That was the summer of 1920, a year and a half ago, and he was a man in a boy's skin, let me tell you, a perfect pink-cheeked Boyo, young lips and old eyes. How he fastened on me. It's a heady thing, you know. And it was July, a late-night Long Island Fourth of July party, warm and slow and syncopated, dark and dreamlike, the sweat melting off the highball glasses and entering your palms. Someone told me he flew airplanes in France, had only just returned, the sole man in his squadron to survive, but then they always say that, don't they? The only man in his squadron to come home alive! He's never one of three survivors, or ten. All the other poor sons of bitches have to die, in order to render the cocktail conversation more breathless, the chitchat tip-top, the midsummer ennui less oppressive.

He was standing near the swimming pool. I thought he was much too young for me, but maybe that was why I was interested. As I waded through the air in his general direction, I became conscious of his puncturing gaze, and the wavelets glimmering on the skin of his face, the exact size and shape of a leopard's spots. This general impression—the Boy as predatory cat—aroused all my early interaction with him, and it was not until much later that I realized just how wrong I was.

By then, of course, it was far too late.

HE DOES HAVE A WAY of making me forget things, important things, like the fact that a man sits in an automobile outside our window, smoking a cigarette, possibly drunk, and that this man is very likely my husband. Or maybe it's part of the thrill, this terror of imminent discovery? Maybe I've been wanting a showdown like this all along, ever since I transformed that boy by the swimming pool into a fully grown lover, and I stopped sleeping with anyone else, including my own husband.

When my baby smiles at me, he croons.

"You're a terrible singer."

"That's why I only sing for you."

"Sweet boy, I want you to be serious."

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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