No and Yes
by Susan Pepper Robbins
Wesley had not seemed angry because Aline said no, she was not interested in lying down on her bed with him and watching television, so he had said in his matter of fact way that he’d be pushing off. It was almost dark and night driving was getting harder. He’d spent a pleasant afternoon with Aline, his friend for many years. They driven over to Appomattox again and gone through the McLean House and re-commented on the ironies of being the house at the beginning and end of the war. They enjoyed going to Appomattox and thinking how Faulkner was right—the past is not dead, not past either. They hoped they had the words right.
Wesley had postponed his cataract surgery again, what his friends—the ones who were still around, and had been so kind when his wife Grace died—had told him about: go in to the doctor, come home, and the next day, he’d be reading the paper without glasses.
Then, Wesley, standing at her door saying again that he’d be pushing off, invited her to come to his wedding. Aline said no, but meant yes, because she went to the wedding a month later, a big church wedding, to see Wesley’s grown up sons acting happy, relieved that their dad would be out of their hair for a few years anyway. Louise was the bride with grown daughters, and they looked relieved too, though not as much as Wesley’s sons.
Wesley asked Aline to dance, but she said no. It was that kind of wedding, with a fancy reception at a country club. Louise was busy checking on the caterers when Wesley asked Aline. When Louise came back from the kitchen, she put her arm in beige lace around Aline’s shoulder and smiled, “Wesley has a problem with the ladies.”
“What do you mean?”
“Moths to a lamp, bees to honey.” Then Louise took Wesley’s hand and led him out on the little dance floor. For a widow in her late sixties, she was on it, holding her lacy arms over her head and waving them, like wild flowers who loved music. Very natural looking. Dance lessons, Aline thought, having heard that dance lessons were replacing casselroles as ways to get new husbands.
Aline wondered if Wesley’d come back to see her, dropping in on a Sunday afternoon, to go for a drive to a battlefield and then for a hamburger. Would he want to come in and ask her to lie down and watch the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War. This would be after his cataract surgery that Louise had gone with him to have, had driven him to the doctor’s office.
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Susan Pepper Robbins
Susan Pepper Robbins’ novel There Is Nothing Strange comes out this month from Holland House Books in London. Her collection of stories was published in 2014 and her first novel in 1993, when she was fifty, One Way Home. She teaches writing at Hampden-Sydney College and lives in rural Virginia where she grew up.