Frank told Jennie he was happy to see her having such a good time with her friends. He thanked us both for seeing that everyone behaved so well while we were playing in the dance studio, and offered to be the one to drive her to Skye’s house on Friday. He suggested that it might be fun to see the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. He said he wanted to do something with her before Thanksgiving, because he knew he would be getting busy again with his e-card project.
Frank returned from bringing Jennie to Skye’s house a few minutes after nine on Friday night. I had begun to wonder if he was planning one of his disappearing acts.
“The lights must’ve been beautiful.” I said as he walked in the door. “I tried your cell phone.”
“I must’ve turned it off, battery was low, I think.”
“I was worried,” I told him.
Frank hung up his coat and held me in the vestibule; he put a strand of my hair behind my ear and looked me in the eye. “Now, Lucy,” he said, “do you really think I’m going to waste an opportunity to have an evening alone
I kissed him and mentioned that, with Jennie gone, we could make love on the living room floor if we wanted to. He said while that was true enough, he still preferred our bedroom. “The floor’s a little uncomfortable for me,” he said. “I’m not as spry as you.”
I grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him gently toward the bedroom telling him to follow me so I could demonstrate my spryness.
“I have a better idea,” he said. “You go. You can come back out and model that dress you bought for Thanksgiving.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” I said. “You’re not getting to me that easy.”
“Ah, come on, Luce,” he whined. “Why not?”
“I want it to be a surprise.”
“You have plenty of ways to surprise me,” he said.
This was true, but I wasn’t going to give in. I approached him again.
“How about, I try on the dress, and you give me a key to your art studio?”
Frank backed away. “I don’t do blackmail, Lucy.”
“You’re exaggerating,” I told him. “If you’re not up to something, I don’t see why I can’t have a key to that room.”
“Because you don’t need one, Lucy,” he said.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Everything. I have important files, and art supplies everywhere. I can’t take the chance of losing things, and the more people who have access to that room, the bigger chance there is that something will go wrong.”
“But you never locked that door before Jennie got here. I’ve always respected your privacy. I know how important your work is to you.”
“Don’t you see, Lucy?” he said. “I’ve made you suspicious. It’s my own fault, I know, but there’s nothing I can do about. If I gave you a key, I know damn well you would make a beeline for that room the second I walked out the door. Besides, I thought I might do a little remodeling. I might want to surprise you too.”
“So you don’t trust me.”
“No,” he said. “I guess I don’t. But you don’t trust me either, so we’re even there. I still think you’re beautiful, though.”
“So?” I said. “A lot of people think I’m beautiful.”
“No, Lucy,” Frank told me. “A lot of people think you look beautiful. I think you are beautiful. There’s a difference.”
I turned away and looked down at the floor. “I’m tired,” I said. “I’m going to sleep.”
Frank walked toward me and turned me around to face him. “Come on, Hon. There’s no surprises here, let’s not waste the night. I’ll forget the dress, you forget the room.”
I agreed for the moment, but I still wanted to protest. In less than a week Frank was going to see me in that dress, but as far as I knew he intended to shut me out forever.
Frank and I didn’t talk about Thanksgiving again until late that Wednesday night when Susie called to let us know Denny had arrived early, he said he felt restless after work and he didn’t see any reason to wait until morning to head up to Minneapolis. Jennie was in bed already, thankfully. As it was, she got us up at six in the morning, and wanted to call out to Susie’s as soon as she heard me mention that Denny had already arrived.
“He’s probably still sleeping,” I told her, and I’m sure Susie’s busy with the dinner. We’ll be out there at noon, you’ll have to wait patiently like the rest of us.”
“I know I can barely stand it,” Frank said, rolling his eyes.
I looked at him. “Frank,” I said. “It is a holiday.”
“I know, I’m sorry, I’m fine now,” he told me, but I knew he wasn’t. “Just think in a few hours I’ll be getting into that dress.”
“You’re still not letting me see it, are you?”
I shook my head. “Not until it’s on me, but you have been good so I will tell you it’s black.”
“Black?” Frank said. “We’re not going to a funeral.”
“I wouldn’t wear this dress to a funeral, and that’s enough hints. I should find something for breakfast.”
The kitchen was sparse. Neither Frank nor I had been able to find the courage to brave the pre-holiday crowds at the grocery store. The options were reduced to a half loaf of wheat bread, a little honey, and three brown
spotted bananas, that, given another day would have to either go into banana bread or be thrown out-and I wasn’t about to do any baking. Nobody minded, though. We would be having a big dinner, so honey toast and a
banana was plenty to fuel us until then.
I let Frank and Jennie have the first turns in the bathroom, and they were both ready before 10 am. I timed myself to the last possible minute, fixing my hair and make up from my slip and bathrobe. I made Jennie come
in and help me with the zipper. It was past 11:30 before I unveiled myself. No time to change anything. I came out of the bedroom.
“That’s the dress you bought?” Frank asked. I loved the dress more than ever. The cashmere felt wonderful against my skin, and I loved how the sequins glimmered just a little in the light. It was form fitting, but not tight,
and cut just low enough, but not too low.
“Now, Frank, don’t start with me now,” I told him. “Remember, we both promised-no lectures, no nagging during the holidays. It’s stressful enough as it is.”
“I’m not lecturing,” he said. “I thought you might be cold. Let me find you a sweater.”
“I’m fine, Frank,” I laughed as I reached into the closet and started pulling out our coats. Jennie had hers on before I could even get mine off the hanger. “Susie keeps her apartment plenty warm. Play your cards right and I’ll see that you have something to be thankful for.”
Frank started to put his arm in his coat sleeve. “You’re sure you’re not cold? You have a closet full of beautiful, warm dresses.”
I helped Frank with the other sleeve. “Don’t worry,” I said. “You’ll be right with me the whole time.”
Frank fastened a few of his buttons while I finished putting on my own coat. Jennie was already outside waiting by the car. “Count on it,” he said. “Let’s go, she’s going to freeze out there.”
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