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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Sometimes, for a special treat, the Boy and I will meet out of town at this lovely grand hotel by the sea, one that won't blink an eye at a boy and a well-preserved lady of a certain age checking into the honeymoon suite as a married couple. (The Boy always writes our names in large, neat letters in the register—Mr. and Mrs. Octavian Rofrano, Junior—and insists on paying the bill from his own pocket, the dear.) We stay for two or three nights, ordering room service and drinking poisonous gin and skinny-dipping in the ocean at two o'clock in the morning, sleeping and waking and sleeping, and most of all fucking. Sweaty, glorious, tireless, honeymoon fucking. Fucking two or three times a day, sometimes even four or five when the Boy is fresh and hasn't drunk too much gin. We haven't done that in a while, not since the end of summer. Autumn's such a busy time, after all. But my God, when we do, I feel like a new woman. I feel irresistible. As we drive back to the city, my skin glows like a debutante's.

So really, taken all together, Village and carriage house and naughty hotels, it's been most satisfactory, this past year and a half: the Year of the Boy, and then some.

Until now. I don't know what possessed us to jump into the Boy's Model T and head out into the tundra last night. Maybe it was the endless racket of Christmas parties and New Year dos, maybe it was the champagne. Maybe our little affair has settled too comfortably into routine, and we need a taste of excitement. "Let's go somewhere we can be alone," said the Boy, leaning back against the headboard, and I lifted my head and said that we were alone, silly, and he said he wanted to be more alone: he wanted to go out to Long Island and breathe in a little clean air, you know, just make a little New Year whoopee without all the lights and people and sirens and smoke, just sunshine and frozen air and me. So what am I supposed to say to that? I said all right.

And now look. Mr. Marshall has gone and followed us all the way here, has taken the trouble to track down Mrs. Marshall and her Boyo to a little love nest above a carriage house a hundred miles from the city, an act of jealous possession that was entirely out of character, made no sense at all, unless—"

The children!" I exclaim, and run to the window.

The Boy's eyes must be better than mine, or maybe it's youth. Under the trees below, I can just discern a shadow that might or might not be a car, and when I press my fingertips against the old glass and narrow my eyes to a painful focus, I see something more: a masculine figure leaning against the hood, possibly smoking a cigarette.

Behind me, the Boy is making noises. "Can you see him?" he asks.

"He's out of the car now. I think he's smoking. Oh God." I turn around. "Where's my coat?"

The Boy is dressing himself, rapid and efficient. "You're not going out there. It's too cold."

"Oh yes I am."

"The kids are fine, Theresa."

"How do you know?"

He takes my shoulders. "Because he would have gone straight in if something was wrong, wouldn't he? Let me handle this."

"No, please. Please. Go in the cupboard.

"There is no cupboard, remember?"

"Under the bed. Let me—" A knock sounds on the wood below.

The Boy's eyebrows lift a little. "That's polite of him."

It has taken me decades of marriage to learn the sangfroid the Boy acquired in his paltry few months in France—or maybe he always had sangfroid, maybe he came out of the womb a cool, collected infant—and I'm still not as serene as I'd have you believe. My insides are all flighty, all riddled with fear and instinct. The children! Once you bring forth a baby into this world, God help you, the terror instinct takes up residence in your blood, like a chronic disease, and never leaves. When my Tommy quit Princeton to join the army in the spring of 1917 and had the nerve to turn up on Fifth Avenue a fait accompli in his second lieutenant's uniform, I nearly vomited into a Ming vase. Nearly. But I didn't! I held out my hand and shook his, and said he had better get a valet to look after those shiny buttons, and he laughed and promised to maintain his buttons as the shiniest in the service. Which was all our fond little Fifth Avenue way of saying how much we adored each other.

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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