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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"I am serious. I only sing for you, Theresa, and you only sing for me. I think maybe it's time Mr. Marshall understands that."

Oh yes. He'll say things like that, my Boy, from time to time: statements of permanence that no civilized lover is supposed to make. Permanence is not what lovers are for, is it? But the Boy never does anything the way the others do. He packs more intention into a single word than the president drizzles into an entire inaugural address, and that's what snaps my bones when he enters a room, or a bed, or a car headed across the Queensboro Bridge at midnight. I stare a moment into those steady eyes and think about all those airplanes he must've shot down, the ones he never talks about. I think about a pile of lumber and shredded white fabric, smoking softly atop a frozen brown field, and the Boy's eyes looking down, circling, taking the whole mess in.

"I won't have you making scenes, Boyo, do you hear me? No scenes."

"I'm not going to hurt him. I'm just going to explain things."

"Explain what, exactly? He's my husband. He's got a right."

The Boy seizes my face in his hands. "He's got no right. How does a man keep a mistress, from the day he's married, and still call himself a husband? He's got no right at all." A soft bang rattles the window sash, but the Boy doesn't stop. He's got something to say to me. His thumbs make dents in the apples of my cheeks. "I'm the one who sleeps with you. I'm the one who dies in your bed at night."

"Did you hear that?"

"It was nothing."

I push the Boy away from my breast and leap out of bed. "He's coming in!"

"Let him come."

My dress lies on the floor by the door, my slip by the bed, my brassiere draped over a bedpost. I gather up these items while the Boy sits on the edge of the bed, hands braced on either side of his naked thighs, watching me like a Sopwith watches a Fokker. "What do you want me to do, Boyo? Get a divorce?"

"You know what I want."

"I'm not divorcing Sylvester."

"Why not?"

"There's no need."

"If we have a baby, there is."

My trembling hands will not operate the fastenings of my dress. I present my back to the Boy and say, "We are not having a baby."

"We might."

"I'm too old. Too old for a baby, too old for you."

He finishes fastening the dress and slides his hands around my middle.

"Not true."

The Boy wants me to have his baby. He thinks a baby will solve all our problems. I don't happen to think we have any problems, other than the fact that I've got a desperate, bone-snapping crush on a boy two and a quarter decades younger than me, but the Boy has something against adultery and wants us to get married. He wants us to get married and live together in some rinky-dink apartment on Second Avenue (he doesn't come into his trifling inheritance until he's twenty-five, poor thing, and I'm afraid a junior bond salesman is paid at the mercy of the partners he serves) and then somehow make miraculous new babies, one after another, while the snow sifts down like sugar outside our window. Like one of those O. Henry stories. Love and candlelight. Except I'm forty-four years old and have already borne three healthy, legitimate, bawling children, the last of whom departed for Philips Exeter just as the war was staggering to its sepia end, and I'm about as suited to caring for a newborn now as I am for tending a rinky-dink apartment on Second Avenue.

No, our present arrangement suits me just fine: trysts every Monday and Thursday, when I'm supposed to be playing bridge, at the Boy's shabbily immaculate place in the Village, perched on the fourth floor of a building smack between an aromatic Italian grocery and a well-stocked speakeasy, so that a lady and a boy can enjoy a little hooch and a dance on the sly, before retiring upstairs to bed. During the summer months, we shack up here in the old carriage house, because while Sylvester and I have always occupied separate bedrooms here at the estate on Long Island, we do maintain a certain informal code about receiving lovers directly under the matrimonial roof. Mutual respect is the foundation of a solid marriage, after all.

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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