Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas in Luxembourg, Part 10


It was an evening of traditions that were new to Jill. “Quennedey’s Dance Recital” turned out to be more than just the recital. It was the dancing, and the traditional dinner at Gino’s afterward, and the traditional watching of the video back at Mother’s house after that. Why it was necessary to watch a video of a recital they’d all just seen in person was unclear to Jill. Perhaps it was a thing that wouldn’t make sense to her until she had kids of her own — a phrase which both Mother and Reagan had used on her several times this week alone.

“You’ll love Gino’s!” Reagan gushed as they waited for their table. “It’s authentic Italian food — you just can’t get this quality from a chain.”

Jill was ready to appreciate some good Italian and some good wine. A loneliness was stealing upon her, perhaps fueled by the biological clock Mr. Singh had set ticking. He was here at the family dinner, attending upon Reagan and Quennedey with an impersonal courtliness. Reagan was basking in the reflected glory of having both a man and a child in her wake. Del and her little husband — what was his name? Scott? — sat cozily in a corner, discussing whatever it was they discussed in low voices. And of course Mother had all of them, her descendants, dancing attendance on her, and didn’t she know it.

In all this, Jill was solo, without partner or prospect. In Los Angeles that didn’t matter so much — she had plenty of friends, and at work no one cared that she was the middle child as long as she was competent at what she did. Back in the bosom of her family, she seemed never to have left. Twelve years of independence, of college, of professional certification, of successful career, and she might as well have still been a tantrumming 18-year-old, for all the weight anyone gave her opinions or her expertise. Of course I didn’t act like an adult then! she wanted to shout. But I’m acting like an adult now, here, in this town, at this restaurant, by myself.

As the falling action from the recital had dragged on — flowers, photos, dressing, packing up the costume and make-up — Jill stood in the auditorium, a single island among a seething sea of families and friends. And then Garrett, who she thought had left, reappeared by her side with a look of apology that transformed her island into a shared retreat.

“Did you find your family?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Smoke break.”

“Next time take me with you.”

“For a smoke?”

“For the break.”

They stood and waited together, and while they waited they talked, and Jill found herself pouring out what had been consuming most of her days: the accounting, the taxes, the valuations, even Heath and the garage. she had laid out the case that the Inn was more profitable than it looked on paper, based on the real expenses instead of the padded profit-and-loss statements with which Daddy had warded off the tax man. And this villainous investor, Mother’s arch-nemesis, asked intelligent questions and understood the scale of the task she’d undertaken, and accepted that she was a professional. He responded to her not on Mother’s terms, but on her own. By the time that the others were ready to leave, he’d accepted that he’d undervalued the Inn and needed to raise his offer. 

“Would you like to keep discussing this over dinner?” he asked her.

She did want to, very much, or at least she wanted the dinner with him. But she had already committed to go to Gino’s with the family. She felt her chance of real conversation slipping away, and with it her very self, somehow, and suddenly it was intolerable.

“Later, we’re all going back to my mother’s house to watch the recital video,” she said in a rush. “I know it’s awkward for you there, but at least there are snacks and drinks and plenty of rooms and nooks for conversations. That way I’d be at the family event, which will keep the peace, but we can still talk. It can’t be too exclusive — Mr. Singh will be there.”

“The dark horse,” said Garrett, eyeing the implacable Mr. Singh still dancing attendance on Reagan and Quennedey. “What is he playing for, I wonder?”

“Maybe he loves small town life,” Jill snickered.

“Maybe he loves watching dance recitals,” Garrett sniggered.

“Maybe he loves Quennedey,” Jill almost howled, and they would have collapsed on each other in giggles if the possibility of brushing against his cheek with her own had not suddenly sobered her up. 

But at the restaurant she observed Mr. Singh closely. He did seem to pay particular notice to Quennedey, and Quennedey warmed to the attention, talking rather too loudly about herself.

“I was almost rich,” she bragged, between gulps of a noxious neon soda. “Grandpa was going to give me some land for my college fund. But I don’t want go to college. College is for the elite.”

“You would like to live on the land?” Mr. Singh asked.

“My mom talks about building a house on it,” said Quennedey. “But I don’t think she’ll ever get around to it. She needs a man to take care of all that stuff for her.” 

“Your mother seems more than competent to me, and I have no doubt she can make wise decisions on her own,” said Mr. Singh, gracing Reagan with a judicious smile. Reagan oozed all over the place. 

“There, Jill, what did we tell you?” said Mother, pawing through the bread basket. “Isn’t Gino’s divine? We just scarf these breadsticks. Gino bakes them himself, you know.”

Jill, who had been to several high-end Italian eateries in Los Angeles, could believe that Gino’s culinary skills extended even to the baking of frozen breadsticks. Everything around her — the basic pasta, the undistinguished red sauce, the food-service ingredients, the cheap house wine, the happy family content with a facsimile of good food — suddenly pressed upon her. The creeping loneliness seized her again, and only the thought of seeing Garrett later in the evening gave her the warmth she needed to smile and laugh and breathe.


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