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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So I am more than capable, despite my shredded interior, of maintaining a purposeful calm as I pluck my lover's hands from my shoulders while my husband pounds and pounds on the door downstairs. "Get under the bed, Boyo," I say. "Now. And stay there."

His eyebrows are still up, and the brain behind them turns furiously, like an engine running fast under a placid hood. You can't see the color of his eyes, the air is too dark, but let me assure you they are a most engaging shade of pale blue-green, equally capable—depending on the light and his mood—of Mediterranean warmth or arctic frigidity. I can imagine which climate prevails now.

The pounding stops, the doorknob rattles—it isn't locked—and the hinges release a long and cantankerous squeak.

I point to the bed. "Now, Boyo." Or we're through. (I don't actually say those last three words, of course—no one likes an ultimatum, least of all the Boy—but you can feel them there, sharp-edged, dangling off the end of the sentence.)

The Boy shrugs his long, ropy shoulders and turns away. "If that's what you want," he says.

And that sound you hear, beneath the ponderous rhythm of a man climbing a set of high wooden stairs, is the hairline cracking of my heart, straight through the calcified left ventricle.

BUT THE MAN STANDING IN the doorway isn't Thomas Sylvester Marshall, after all, enraged or otherwise.

"Ox?" I exclaim. "What on earth are you doing here?"

My brother strides up to me, takes my by the shoulders, and kisses both cheeks. "Happy New Year, Sisser! Look at you. Haven't aged a minute."

"Oh, stop." I shove him away. "You gave me such a fright."

He steps back obediently, casts his eyes along the walls, and sends forth a slow whistle. "Sylvo said I might find you here."

"He did, did he?"

"I thought he was crazy. What are you, hibernating?"

Perhaps it's time for a chat with my husband.

"Something like that."

"This place have a lamp or something? I can't see a thing. And boy, is it frosty."

I turn to the sole piece of furniture in the room, other than the bed: a beaten-up pine dresser wedged between the window and a diagonal roof beam. The matchbook lies next to the base of the kerosene lamp. "I thought you said I hadn't aged a minute."

"What's that?"

"Well, how could you tell a thing like that if you can't see?" I set the dome back on the lamp, and the room illuminates slowly, chasing out the frozen dawn by concentric degrees. The smell of burning kerosene enters the air, and it makes me yearn for the Boy's nakedness, his coiled-rope muscle under my hands, lit by an oil lamp.

"All right, now, Theresa. Lay off a fella. How are you? What the devil are you doing in this old shack? You crackers or something?" He frowns. "Say, you're not here with some sheik, are you?"

"Of course not."

"Yeah, I guess not. Old Sylvo wouldn't stand for it."

He's such a dunce, my brother. A sleek, good-looking, bachelor dunce.

"Of course he wouldn't. I'm just hibernating, as you say. Taking the edge off the New Year with a little simple living."

"Simple's right." He cast another look, shivered, and burrowed deeper into his overcoat. "Think of lighting that old stove, maybe?"

"It is lit." I push away from the dresser and make my way to ancient cast-iron stove in the room's final corner, the relic of some long-gone coachman. A few small lumps lie overlooked in the scuttle, and I lift the stove's lid and drop them in. "I just forgot to bring in more coal, that's all."

Ox doesn't reply, and I rub my hands inside the feeble bubble of heat rising from the top of the stove, until his silence begins to unnerve me. I turn my head. "What is it?"

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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