How does she do it? Mattie wondered. What kind of radar did the child possess? Mattie hadn't said anything to Kim about her discovery of Jake's most recent betrayal. Nor had she said anything to anyone else, not to any of her friends, not to her mother, not to Jake. She almost laughed. When was the last time she'd confided anything in her mother? And as for Jake, she wasn't ready to confront him yet. She needed time to think things through, to gather her thoughts, as a squirrel stores away nuts for winter, to make sure she was well fortified for whatever course of action she chose to follow in the long, cold months ahead.
Mattie opened her eyes under the water, pushed her chin-length, dark blond hair away from her face. That's right, girl, she told herself. It's time to open your eyes. The time for hesitating's through, she heard Jim Morrison wail from somewhere deep inside her head. Come on, baby, light my fire. Was that what she was waiting for -- for someone to light a fire under her? How many hotel receipts did she have to find before she finally did something about it? It was time to take action. It was time to admit certain indisputable facts about her marriage. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, at this time I would like to submit this hotel receipt into evidence. "Damn you anyway, Jason Hart," Mattie sputtered, gasping for air as her head broke through the surface of the water, her husband's given name feeling strange and awkward in her mouth. She hadn't called him anything but Jake since their first introduction sixteen years ago.
Light my fire. Light my fire. Light my fire.
"Mattie, I'd like you to meet Jake Hart," her friend Lisa had said. "He's that friend of Todd's I was telling you about."
"Jake," Mattie repeated, liking the sound. "Is that short for Jackson?"
"Actually, it's short for Jason, but nobody ever calls me that."
"Nice to meet you, Jake." Mattie glanced around the main room of the Loyola university library, half expecting one of the more studious-minded patrons to jump up and ssh them into silence.
"And what about 'Mattie'? Short for Matilda?"
"Martha," she admitted, sheepishly. How could her mother have saddled her with such an old-fashioned, unattractive name, more suited to one of her beloved dogs than her only daughter? "But please call me Mattie."
"I'd like to...call you, that is."
Mattie nodded, her eyes focused on the young man's mouth, on the wide upper lip that protruded over the thinner one on the bottom. It was a very sensual mouth, she thought, already projecting ahead to what it would be like to kiss that mouth, to feel those lips brush lightly against her own. "I'm sorry," she heard herself stammer. "What did you say?"
"I said that I understand you're majoring in art history."
Again she nodded, forcing her gaze to his blue eyes, roughly the same shade as her own, except that his lashes were longer, she noted, something that didn't strike her as altogether fair. Was it fair that one man could have such long lashes and such a sensual mouth?
"And what exactly is it that art historians do?"
"Beats me," Mattie heard herself say, her voice a touch too loud, so that this time someone did say "Ssh!"
"You feel like going somewhere for a cup of coffee?" He took her arm and led her out of the library without waiting for her reply, as if there were never any doubt what her reply would be. As there was no doubt later when he asked her if she wanted to go to the movies that night, and then later, when he invited her back to the apartment he shared with several of his law school classmates, and later still, when he invited her into his bed. And then it was too late. Within two short months of that first introduction, two months after she enthusiastically surrendered to the seductive fullness of his lashes and the unspoken gentleness of his overbite, she discovered she was pregnant, this on the very day he'd decided they were moving too fast, that they needed to slow down, cool down, call the whole thing off, at least temporarily. "I'm pregnant," she offered numbly, unable to say more.
Copyright © 2000 by Joy Fielding
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