As the waiter refilled our wineglasses, I realized that while we'd been talking, I'd finished my wine. Usually I was able to make one glass last all evening.
It was time to turn my attention to Tom Foley, so it wasn't until after the main course that I spoke with Sam again.
"I've been watching you, Julia. You're damn good at deflecting questions. Too many secrets?" he asked, as the waiter cleared our plates.
"No. None at all," I said.
"How sad," he said, feigning a sorrowful smile. Obviously he didn't believe me.
I wanted to turn his question back on him, trade him one of my secrets for one of his, but he didn't give me a chance.
"I've been thinking that all those radical things we're doing at the institute deserve to be written up in a big, fat book. Would you be interested?" Sam asked.
"Yes, I'd love to read it," I answered.
"Fuck no. I want to know if you'd be interested in writing it."
While I listened in dazed silence, Sam went into more detail including what he'd expect to pay me if I agreed to take on the project. Before I got a chance to respond, Paul, circulating again, came up behind me. Sam wasn't shy about telling Paul how much he was enjoying my company.
"Yes, Julia's very special," Paul said, as if I weren't there. "I'm very proud of her."
"Please, Paul," I said, blushing. "You're embarrassing me."
Ignoring me, my husband continued. "When I first told her I'd been offered the directorship of FIT, I warned her my working for a nonprofit would mean us making sacrifices, but Julia never complained. She rolled up her sleeves and started taking as many freelance jobs as she could get to make up the difference and she hasn't slowed down since."
"Well, she's done a damn good job for us and I'm hoping our association will continue with a book I've been thinking about. I think we both could get a lot out of it."
Beside me I saw Tom Foley's head swing around. Paul noticed it too.
"A book?" Tom asked. "I thought I heard someone talking about a book. Who's writing this book?"
For reasons I didn't understand until later, Paul deflected the question and got Tom talking about his publishing company's newest offerings.
"Is Paul supportive?" Sam asked, once my husband had returned to his seat.
"You heard him bragging."
"Yeah, but he was saying what he wanted me to hear. What I'm asking you is how he really treats you."
"Why would you think he wasn't being straight with you?" I asked.
"You didn't answer my question," he said.
"What was your question?" I'd used the therapist's old trick of answering a question with a question and hoped Sam would be polite enough to back off, but he didn't. The truth was, Paul supported my efforts when it suited his purposes; the rest of the time, he worried I pushed myself too hard.
"You should know better than to try that with me," Sam said.
"And you should know better than to pry." We both laughed.
Across the table, Paul was deep in conversation with Georgia Menken, leaning close to her, listening intently, a smile poised on his mouth for the moment it would be appropriate. Unconditional attention. Nonjudgmental responses. It was his good-father role, his sales spiel, practiced so often it was second nature to him by now.
Well coached by Paul not to reveal anything personal or controversial with his business associates or donors, I changed the subject as the waiter poured coffee. "Sam, how is Nina liking Harvard?" I asked.
"She's having a ball, but that's typical. She loves new situations. At heart she's an adventuress."
"You must..." I fumbled over my words and started again. "It must be exciting to be married to someone like that."
Copyright © 1998 by M.J. Rose
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