• New short fiction, every week.
    The words you know and love . . .
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  • 28. The Loveliest Children

    By Kathleen Foster

    Our Week of Kathleen Foster returns in its second installment, with this story of long familiarities and sudden strains. I love the rangy physicality of Foster’s characters, her perfect instinct for how many times they might brush up against each other, in this tight uncertain space, before the friction
    throws a spark.

    And don’t forget Kathleen’s first story here, “The Teahouse of the Almighty,” still available (as always) just below.

    It’s past four o’clock and the gnats have come up. They swarm together in clumps, invisible until the boat reaches them. Jenny keeps her mouth closed as the vessel moves through the shallow, reedy channel so she won’t breathe them in. The halter strap of her bathing suit chafes against the back of her neck, and the skin on the bottom of her thighs sticks to the blue vinyl of the deck cushion. Beside her, David jiggles his long legs up and down. He wipes his freckled forehead with the back of his hand. The sun has burned pink stripes on his cheeks, just underneath his eyes. They motor through the water, passing tall reeds and green bushes thick with beach roses. An insect in the marshy grass repeats uunh—uunh—uunh.

    “I’m not ashamed of it,” Gretchen says. “It just didn’t work for me. Some people can’t, you know. Many people. And I completely resent the pressure.”

    “It’s not anybody’s business,” Jenny says. “You don’t owe an explanation.”

    Gretchen lies on her back on the deck with her knees bent and her clean, white sneakers resting on the rail. A delicate bracelet of freshwater pearls dangles from her thin wrist. “You feel like you have to, though. You have to justify the whole thing. It makes me uncomfortable. The baby hangs off you, and you feel like you’re some kind of animal. And you’re supposed to love it. You’re really supposed to just want to. Well, Sammy has a bottle and he’s fine. And Milagros can give it to him.” She looks at her watch, a slender silver disc with a madras strap. “She’s probably giving to him right now.” She sits up and looks into the cooler.

    Jenny wants to confess that she breast-fed Delia until last year, when the child was two. Instead she says, “There are more important things than what a baby eats.”

    “Like having some goddamn time to yourself.” Gretchen shuts the cooler with such force that the boat rocks.

    “My wife, the wet nurse,” Randall shouts, looking at them over the center console. Gretchen ignores him. He rests his forearms on the wheel and squints into the distance, hardly appearing to steer at all. He wears a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with metallic lenses. His nose is red and peeling, but the rest of his body is tanned light brown. “I can’t see when you stand up,” he says to David, who has just risen to his feet.

    “Seems like it’s taking us longer to get out of Town Cove than it took to get in,” David says. He steps over Jenny’s legs and moves toward the stern, steadying himself on the gunwale. The boat lists from side to side. “We didn’t come in this way.”

    “It’s no problem,” Randall says.

    “I’m not sure I remember anything like this.”

    “It’s no problem, for Christ’s sake.”

    “That was a nice lunch.” Gretchen tilts her head back and closes her eyes.

    “It was very nice,” Jenny agrees. “Thanks again. I enjoyed the wine.”

    “We should remember that wine. What was it again?” Gretchen sits up. “Randall, what was the wine at lunch?”

    “Some kind of pinot gris.”

    “So there you go.” Gretchen turns to Jenny and smiles.

    David and Randall stand side by side, squinting into the sun. The motor drones.

    “I think I’ll just turn around,” Randall says. “We’ll go back to the dock and start again. I may have taken us down one of the smaller channels.”

    “Well, one of them leads out. We’ll find it.” David glances over his shoulder at Jenny.

    Randall turns the boat around, and they go back up the waterway.


    Jenny and David are both taller than most people. David is well-proportioned, but Jenny’s arms and legs seem too long for her torso. She feels as though she has never outgrown the graceless stage of adolescence. Now, at thirty, she understands that she will always be awkward. She has developed the habit of drawing her arms in close to her body as she moves and bending forward to seem more compact. David encourages her to stand up straight. He is exactly her height and has the same pale white skin. They both have red hair, though David’s turns to copper in the summer, and freckles all over their faces and limbs. When they are together, people always assume that they are brother and sister and are often startled to realize that they are married. At their wedding, when David introduced Jenny to his cousin, Randall, and Randall’s wife, Gretchen, Randall laughed while shaking Jenny’s hand. “You two are the map of Ireland. You’re Irish twins.”

    “For God’s sake, Randall,” Gretchen said as she helped herself to a canapé, “that’s not even what that means.”


    Randall has taken them on a day trip to Town Cove in Orleans, where they tied up at the dock and ate lunch at the Admiral Inn. They lingered until the sun shone through the dining room windows at an orange slant and the other tables were empty. They are now winding their way out of the cove, along the broad, shallow channels that lead through a salt marsh to the ocean. Once they reach open water, they will follow the shoreline back around the point at Chatham. Randall will jam the throttle forward, racing down the coast to the harbor where he and Gretchen have a summer home. David and Jenny plan to stay the night and drive to the suburbs of Boston in the morning. Jenny pictures David taking the train into the city on Monday, while she pushes Delia in her stroller past the other houses in the new development. She imagines the sound of the carriage’s rubber wheels gliding over the fresh asphalt sidewalks, and the click and hiss of automatic sprinklers moistening recently sown lawns. Unless it’s raining, she will walk until Delia falls asleep and continue around the quiet neighborhood until the child has slept for an hour.


    The four of them met at Wychmere Harbor at nine o’clock in the morning and boarded Randall’s boat, Fair Fortune, a sixteen-foot Roballo big enough for eight adults. Until that morning, Jenny had never spent more than a few minutes with Randall and Gretchen, and then only in the company of many other people. Randall traveled frequently, and David kept in touch with him by e-mail. Jenny was nervous, but had agreed to the visit because David was looking forward to it.

    Jenny held onto the deck rail and swung a leg over. For a minute she hesitated with one foot on the pier and one foot in the boat, feeling unsteady.

    “On or off, Jenny,” said David. He stepped in and held her hand. She grabbed his arm and pulled her other leg over.

    “Do we have to wear lifejackets?” said Jenny.

    Randall dragged the red cooler off the dock. “Nope.”

    Gretchen untied the painter from a thick metal cleat. “There are lifejackets under here. Look.” She flipped back the cushion that covered most of the deck and opened a compartment underneath. Jenny could see a jumble of adult-sized orange lifejackets below. She thought of Sammy and Delia, tiny second cousins, back at the house with Milagros, Sammy’s Peruvian nanny. “You have a good time,” Milagros had said. “You do not worry.”

    The boat moved slowly away from the dock and past the commercial fishing vessels tied in a row: the Annabelle, the Marguerite, the Lucky Betty.

    “How come the fishermen aren’t out today?” Jenny asked.

    “The fishermen?” Gretchen pulled a rubber band out of her pocket and smoothed her pale yellow hair into a ponytail. Wisps sprang out and moved in the steady breeze.

    “They’ve already been out and back,” David said.

    “Do you know how much you can get per pound for an Atlantic Bluefin Tuna?” Randall turned the metal wheel.

    “No,” said Jenny.

    “Five hundred dollars a pound. A god damn pound. For a forty pound tuna, that’s, what, twenty grand?” Randall looked at Jenny. “Twenty thousand dollars.”

    “That’s a lot,” Jenny said.

    “Sure is,” Randall replied.

    “Maybe you should have been a fisherman,” said Gretchen.

    They puttered in between moored sloops and catamarans, and a few bobbing rowboats. Surrounding the harbor, houses with weathered gray shingles and white trim stretched from one end of their lots to the other. Smooth green lawns reached down to meet the edge of the water. It was a clear morning. The sun was already warm. The air smelled of newly cut grass, the sea, and the coconut-scented sunblock that Gretchen was rubbing onto her long legs. She wore a white tank top, a navy blue nylon windbreaker, and a red baseball cap.

    On their left they passed the Yacht Club with its multi-colored flags flapping in the wind. Families were already playing on the beach and children in yellow life vests were rigging up the club’s teaching skiffs for the Saturday morning races. Along the grey edge of the horizon, small white triangles fluttered in an even line. The blast from an air horn reached them, carried by the wind. Randall was excited. “See that? We just missed the start.”

    “I wish we could see more from here,” David said.

    Randall pushed the throttle forward. “You have to be in a good position at the start,” he shouted. “You can’t let somebody get ahead of you.”

    They roared along parallel to the coastline, close enough in that Jenny could see the houses along the beach with windows glinting in the sun. The wind blew around her. The bow rose and slapped down over small waves. White foam curls appeared and disappeared on the surface of the ocean. Jenny held onto her pink canvas hat with both hands. After forty minutes, they slowed until the engine was very quiet. David pointed ahead, where the grey outline of an island was visible to the east, low against the water. “That’s Monomoy Island. We used to camp there when we were boys.”

    “No girls allowed,” Gretchen said.

    “Not that it ever stopped you, Gretch.” Randall winked at Jenny.

    David put his arm around Jenny’s waist. “Look at how shallow it is here, between the coast and the little island. We need to follow these markers so we don’t run aground.”

    “Couldn’t we go around the far side of the island?” asked Jenny. “It doesn’t look big.”

    “There’s a very strong current on the other side.” David squeezed her hand. “It could pull a boat clear out into the Atlantic.”

    They followed the markers along a twisting route so clear and shallow that Jenny could see the sandy bottom. It looked only a few inches deep, but David explained that it was an illusion. The engine needed at least three feet of clearance.


    Jenny had seen Gretchen’s picture the first time she visited David’s apartment. He had taken her out to dinner at a restaurant in the city, where she ate lobster for the first time and got a little drunk. He lived in a one-bedroom on Beacon Hill, near the hospital where he was a resident. The picture, a five-by-seven black and white image in a walnut frame, was displayed on his bedside table, next to a copy of Atlas Shrugged and a bag of honey-lemon cough drops. Gretchen’s head was tipped back slightly, and her blond hair curled around her ears and neck. She was laughing, and her eyes were focused on something beyond the frame of the picture, as though she had been distracted at the last minute and had forgotten to look at the lens. The image had such an artful, candid quality that, for a moment, Jenny thought it was the picture that had been in the frame when David purchased it. She straightened the edge of the blue comforter, and he came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. The pads of his fingers were smooth and warm against her skin. “I should probably put that away,” he said.

    The photograph was still there the next time Jenny came to the apartment, although it had been moved to the top of his chest of drawers, behind a pile of neatly folded black socks. She didn’t ask about it, didn’t want to be the sort of person who needed to know. The woman in the picture, she thought, would never ask. Months later, looking through albums with David’s mother on the breezy screen porch of the summer house, Jenny turned a mildewed page and came upon the image of a group of adolescents clustered around a canoe. She recognized David, stretched out and lanky in the way boys are when their height has come on suddenly. Behind him stood a burly teenager holding the paddle above his head as though in triumph, and, in front of both boys, the girl who had unquestionably grown into the woman in the picture in David’s apartment.

    “Who’s that?” asked Jenny.

    “Oh, they were the loveliest children, dear.” David’s mother touched the picture gently. She wore a sleeveless blouse made of pink linen, and sinewy muscles, the result of doubles tennis played three times a week, were visible in her upper arm. Without meaning to, Jenny thought of her own mother, who cooked chili, taught piano lessons and wore lumpy, hand-knitted sweaters on all but the warmest days of the year. David’s mother went to the beauty parlor every Tuesday and Saturday and collected hummingbirds made of blown glass. She explained to Jenny that the three children had grown up together, spending each summer swimming and sailing in the water by the yacht club beach. They had fished for shiners, jumped into the harbor from the roof of the clam bar, and broken the neighbor’s plate glass window playing ultimate Frisbee. After college, David and Gretchen had been at Georgetown at the same time, he in medical school and she at the School of Foreign Service, although she hadn’t finished. “They had everybody fooled,” said David’s mother said. “We were all surprised when she and Randall went to Spain and came back married.”

    When Jenny and David moved into a condominium together in the Back Bay, Gretchen’s picture remained packed in a box of books and old school papers. That carton and many others were now piled on plywood in the eaves of their house. One day, while David was at work and Delia was sleeping, Jenny climbed the pull-down ladder to the attic and picked through the dusty containers, looking for the photograph. When she found it, she was struck again by the freshness and vitality of the woman in the image. Jenny sat cross-legged on the splintery planks, with dust-motes drifting between the stacks of cardboard. She studied the picture for a while, memorizing the contour of the woman’s smile, the tilt of her head. Then she slipped it back into the carton.


    Once they reached Town Cove, the ride was warm and pleasant. A natural salt marsh formed the entrance to the secluded harbor. They wound through quiet channels for fifteen minutes before they saw another boat. Gretchen looked for birds through a pair of small black binoculars. She insisted that she had seen an egret and consulted a tattered field guide she pulled from her jacket pocket. They tied up at the public dock and had lunch at the Admiral Inn, a white Colonial building with orange daylilies lined up in front like an obedient crew.

    “This is wonderful,” David said, as they waited for their food to arrive. “I’m so glad we could finally get together.” They had each finished a cocktail. The warm air slipped in through the open window, ruffling Jenny’s hair and bringing with it the smell of salt. Across the harbor, a bell sounded, and the wind carried the noise into the room.

    “We meant to have you sooner,” Gretchen said.

    “Is this your first time on a boat, Jenny?” asked Randall. “I understand you’re a city girl.”

    Jenny wondered what David had told them about her, how he had explained their relationship. “I’ve taken the ferry to Logan airport, but that probably doesn’t count.”

    Gretchen smiled.

    “I love this, though,” Jenny said. “It’s such a beautiful day. I’ll bet every day is like this here.”

    “Not really,” Randall said.

    “Too many beautiful days in a row and they all sort of run together.” Gretchen took a sip of the wine she had ordered.

    “You see, my wife is never satisfied.” Randall smiled, and his white teeth flashed in his ruddy face.

    “You understand,” Gretchen said, turning to David.

    A faint flush appeared high on the skin above his cheekbones. “I’m not sure I do.”

    “I don’t think I’m like that,” said Jenny. “I’m satisfied with things the way they are.”

    There was a pause, during which Jenny could hear the hum of the ceiling fan in the whitewashed rafters, stirring the humid air.

    “I meant about me.” Gretchen patted her lips with her napkin. “He understands about me. I’m not easily satisfied.”

    “I don’t know what you mean.” David looked over his shoulder toward the kitchen.

    “Let’s get the waitress over here,” Randall said.

    “Randall thinks I’m a dilettante,” Gretchen said. “Here’s a question for Jenny. What do you think you would have been if you hadn’t had children?”

    “What kind of question is that?” asked David.

    The waitress came to their table, took their order, and disappeared through the louvered doors that concealed the opening to the kitchen.

    “I’ve never really thought of it that way,” Jenny said. “I mean, I could still do something else, afterward. I don’t think it’s just one or the other.” Jenny had been a third-grade teacher at a Catholic school, but she and David had agreed that she would stay home once Delia was born.

    “Oh, but it is, when you think about it.” Gretchen shifted in her chair. “Your whole scope is narrowed. Everything is different. I would have been a diplomat. I would have lived abroad.”

    “But you decided against that years before you had Sammy.” David took a sip of his wine. “You can’t pin that choice on motherhood.”

    Gretchen twirled her water glass in her hand so that the ice cubes clinked against the side.

    “Sammy’s so beautiful,” Jenny said. “He’s so sweet. But it’s hard to have an infant, isn’t it? It can be so isolating. I remember taking a walk to the park in the early days and just wanting to run up to other women and say, ‘Be my friend, please.’”

    “Well, there you go, Gretch,” Randall said. “Women in search of women at the park.”

    Jenny blushed and wished she hadn’t said anything. “I think a lot of women feel that way. Men don’t always understand.” She pushed the ratatouille around on her plate.

    “So, no regrets, at all, Jenny? You’re completely satisfied?” Gretchen arched one eyebrow.

    Jenny looked up to see both men watching Gretchen, who folded and unfolded her napkin as though she weren’t aware of the attention. Randall picked up his bottle of beer and drank, tipping his head back. Jenny could see the Adam’s apple bobbing up and down in his throat.

    After lunch they left the Inn by the back door and walked down the wooden steps to the dock. Beach roses grew up wild through the openings between the wooden steps, winding over the railings. David untied the lines and gave the boat a push. They began to drift away from the pier, nose first. For a minute, Jenny thought David hadn’t jumped fast enough, that the gap between the boat and the wharf had widened too much. She felt a surge of panic that surprised her. Then his long legs stretched and the soles of his sneakers connected with the deck.

    Randall steered past slip after slip of fat white cabin cruisers with double engines on the back. Jenny saw one called My Lucky Day, with three chubby tanned women sitting on the bow, laughing and drinking wine from plastic cups. A man with a double chin leaned against the rail, smoking a cigar. He wore a white baseball hat with the words “Betty Ford Clinic” printed in green letters. He raised his hand and waved. Randall waved too. “You’re a funny bastard!” Randall shouted. The man smiled.

    “Why is that funny?” said Jenny.

    “It’s hilarious,” said Gretchen.

    “I don’t see what’s so funny.”

    Gretchen turned away and opened the cooler. Jenny looked down and traced her finger along the seam of the cushion. David sat down next to her. “How’re we doing?” he asked. His pale eyebrows, nearly transparent, drew together, wrinkling his forehead.

    “I’m fine,” said Jenny.

    “Fine?” he asked.

    “Oh, Jenny’s just taking the moral high ground,” said Gretchen, snapping back the top of a can of Budweiser. “This is the last beer.”

    “A tragedy,” said David. He smiled.


    They turn the boat around three times. Randall will not concede that they are having trouble finding their way out of the salt marsh. Each time, they meander back along a narrow channel until it opens into a larger one. They turn east, expecting to see the reeds and grasses give way to the open water of the sound. Their shadows stretch out ahead of them. Gretchen swats a mosquito that lands on her knee. The noise of the engine ceases and they stop short. Jenny slides forward on her seat.

    “I think we’re aground,” David says.

    “Aground,” repeats Randall. He lifts his hat and wipes his forehead.

    “When is low tide?” David asks.

    “Jesus, I don’t know.”

    “You don’t know?”

    “What difference does it make? Town Cove wouldn’t be a popular spot if you couldn’t get out of it at low tide.”

    “We need a tide chart.”

    “You’ll have to push.” Randall pulls his hat back down over his forehead.

    David looks around. He sits down and removes his socks and sneakers. Jenny takes them and holds them in her lap. He jumps over the side and lands in thigh-deep water. “Can you raise the motor?” Randall grunts and strains, and the engine tilts upward. David pushes with his arms braced against the hull, and the boat slides along until he is wet to his waist. Jenny helps pull him back over the deck rail. He stands, dripping, in front of her. Randall turns the key and the ignition catches. They motor along the waterway without speaking. Mosquitoes buzz and circle their heads. After five minutes, the path ahead of them narrows, and the boat can’t pass.

    “This is unbelievable,” David says. “We’re completely lost. How the hell do you get out of here? We can’t be a quarter mile from the cove.”

    Jenny stands up. Her head is even with his. The boat sways. She shades her eyes. “I think there’s a road over there. I can see cars.”

    “What difference does that make?” Gretchen says. She looks through her binoculars.

    “We could just, you know, swim to the road.” Jenny sits down.

    Randall turns the boat around again. Spots of sweat show gray on his white shirt. The channel broadens and he turns right. “All right, I know what my mistake was,” he says. The motor hums and above that sound Jenny can hear insects chirping in the grass.

    “Is there a radio in this boat?” David says.

    Randall doesn’t answer.

    “A radio?”


    “You’re supposed to have a radio.”

    “We don’t go very far.”

    “We didn’t go far today, but we could use a radio.”

    “We’ll figure it out.”

    Ahead of them, at the edge of the water, a man stands in black rubber boots that cover his legs to the thigh. He wears a long sleeved plaid shirt and his hair is white against his brown skin. He bends forward, peering at the mud where the grass and water meet. He looks at them as they drift by. Randall lets the engine idle. “Finding any clams?” he says.

    The man stares.

    “Are we near the ocean?”

    “You’re near the ocean.” The man bends over his metal bucket.

    “I mean, we’re completely lost. We can’t find our way out,” Jenny says. She realizes that this is true. They can’t get out of the salt marsh, and they have no radio.

    The man chuckles as he places something into his bucket. They can’t hear his laughter over the noise of the engine, but his shoulders jerk up and down. Randall pushes the throttle forward and the boat roars away from the clammer, spraying water out on either side.


    “It’s a maze,” Jenny says. “It wasn’t like this coming in.” She opens the cooler halfway before she remembers that it’s empty.

    “We’ll be all right,” Gretchen says.

    “Are the kids okay?”

    “They’re fine.”

    “Milagros does a good job?”

    “Of course she’s good. She’s with Sammy all the time.”

    “Gretchen isn’t the maternal type,” Randall says. Gretchen stiffens.

    “I was just wondering,” Jenny says.

    “Could you just quit criticizing Gretchen?” David asks.

    “Because you’re around so much, Randall, at home,” Gretchen says quietly. “So you’d know a lot about it.”

    Each time they come around a bend in the channel, Jenny expects to see open water. It seems as though the ocean should be just ahead. Every path, though, is impassable. They turn again and again, tracing the same route.

    “For God’s sake,” Randall shouts. “Does anybody have an idea about this?”

    “Getting in was so easy,” Gretchen says.

    “I think it’s dead low tide,” David says. “That guy was digging clams.”

    “Here you go with the god damn tide again.” Randall presses his lips together.

    “No, I really think this may be impassable at low tide. It was much higher when we came in. You should have checked the chart for Town Cove.”

    “Why didn’t you check?”

    “It’s not my boat.”

    “That’s right. It’s not.”


    They run aground again. David pushes them free and clambers, sopping, onto the deck. Randall doesn’t speak at all. He steers and looks at the water ahead of them. Gretchen sits on the deck facing away from everyone else, swatting at bugs. The mosquitoes are unbearable. They swarm around David’s wet legs, which are already covered in red welts. His toe is bleeding. The sun is low in the sky to their left and the horizon is tinged pink above the grass.

    “David,” Jenny says.

    He looks at her as though he has forgotten she is there.

    “The sun is setting.”

    “We’ve got an hour.”

    “An hour? Suppose we got out of here right now, in five minutes. We would still have to get all the way back around Chatham. Could we get through that shallow part in the dark, with the markers and everything? Is it lit up?”

    David is still for a moment, and then he stands. He paces around to the center console. He bends forward while he talks so his mouth is at the level of Randall’s ear. Randall faces him and yells, “What do you want me to do?” Gretchen turns around and looks, first at Randall and then at Jenny. For the first time, Jenny notices the fine lines etched in the skin around her mouth and eyes.


    To their surprise, Town Cove comes back into view around a bend in the channel. No one moves on the quiet docks. Sailboats sway on mooring lines and the metal stays clank against the masts. Lights are on in the windows of the Admiral Inn, and Jenny can hear laughter and piano music. She breathes in through her nose and the cool evening air fills her. David smiles and put his hand on her knee. “That was an adventure,” he says. “We can tie up here overnight and come back and get the boat in the morning.”

    “What are you talking about, tie up here?” Randall asks.

    “You know, rent a slip overnight. They’ve got guest slips.” David’s hand tightens on Jenny’s knee.

    “Not at this point in the summer.”

    “I’m sure the harbormaster would let us tie up. It’s a special circumstance.”

    “Why is it a special circumstance?”

    David pauses for a long time before speaking. Jenny can’t bear the quiet, the water slapping against the hull. “Because, obviously, no one would want us to try to get back to Wychmere now. There aren’t even any lights on the boat. Not that I would mention that to the harbormaster.”

    Randall takes off his hat and rubs his hand back and forth over the top of his head. “It’s very expensive to rent a slip overnight.”

    Gretchen sniffs, a quick intake of breath.

    “I’m happy to pay for it,” says David. “You all have been so generous with us today, the lunch. I’m happy to.”

    Randall lets the engine idle. He leans around the side of the console. He squints. “I’m not leaving the god damn boat here overnight. I’m going to get my bearings and head out.”

    “Jesus,” David says, “that’s crazy.”

    “Well, I’m not leaving my father’s boat here overnight.”

    “This is your father’s boat?”

    “So what, it’s my father’s boat?” Randall pounds the steering wheel with his fists. His face is red. “Something could happen to it here, overnight.”

    “It’s more likely that something will happen to it if you try to take it through the Chatham cut in the dark.”

    “I’ll go around the far side of Monomoy.”

    Jenny thinks of Delia, sleeping in an unfamiliar house. Panic fills her, and she does not want to leave the cove. “I don’t want to do that. I’m not comfortable with it.” She tries to match David’s even tone.

    “You haven’t been comfortable all god damn day,” Randall says.

    “Randall,” Gretchen says, without turning around.

    “Don’t you start. And she hasn’t been. She’s not comfortable with us.”

    “That’s enough.” David stands up. “You can do whatever the hell you want to do. We’re getting off. You can just pull up alongside the dock and drop us off.”

    “I’m not getting anywhere near the dock. I’m heading right out.”

    “You’ll drop us off at the dock first. We don’t want to stay on the boat. I bet you don’t even have enough gas to get back.”

    “So I’m not wasting any more. I’m not dropping you off at the dock. If you want to get off the boat you can fucking jump.”

    “Let’s not do anything hasty,” Gretchen says. “God knows we don’t want to make any rash decisions; nothing we’d have to live with.”

    David moves toward Randall, and Jenny thinks he might hit him. She is filled with wild excitement. She feels she could grab the wheel and steer on her own. What would Gretchen say about it? Randall? She’ll maneuver to the dock. They’ll never let her do it. David will suggest that she calm down. Better, though, to be rid of the boat altogether. She’ll jump. She’ll swim home, take Delia and run away. She’ll do it right now. Now. David will never let her come back. She never would. Delia is at the house—where? In Milagros’s arms? In a crib? Having supper? She’ll do it now. David will stay with Gretchen, whom he has always loved. Now. She is standing and lifting her feet. The boat vibrates beneath them. One foot is on the edge of the rail. She wobbles for a moment. She dives.


    Jenny breaks the surface with her hair in her eyes. She flounders for a moment and then gets her bearings. The white hull of the boat is in front of her. Small waves slap against it. There’s a cry and splash as David lands behind her. She swims around, and he grabs her arm.

    “Are you okay?” he asks.

    “I wanted to get off the boat.”

    “I guess so.”

    “They weren’t going to let us off.”

    A few feet away, the engine churns. Gretchen is looking at down at them. “I swear to god, I’m leaving in thirty seconds,” Randall says. David waves him on, and then he and Jenny are alone, treading water in the middle of the cove. They swim several yards until they can stand. Their feet squelch in the muddy bottom.

    “What’s the plan?” David says.

    “Can’t we just go up to the Inn and call a cab?”

    “We can do that.”

    They walk along the shore. Overhead, a few stars are visible, bright and strong in the deep blue of the sky. The reeds and cattails give way to mowed lawn and the long shadow of a house falls over them. David pulls Jenny down into the prickly grass next to the wooden lattice of a porch and draws her wet shirt up. As though they were teenagers, he touches her stomach and breasts. He kisses underneath her soaking waistband. She laughs and rolls and is thrilled to feel him inside her while the grass rubs against her back. The porch light clicks on and they freeze. A door squeaks twice and slams shut. Jenny tries to exhale without a sound. After five minutes have passed, they pull up their shorts and run, crouching, across the lawn to the water.


    They take a cab back to Randall and Gretchen’s house. The gray pebbles of the circular driveway crunch under the wheels of the taxi. The windows are dark, but hurricane lanterns on either side of the front door spill light onto the steps. Beside the house, Wychmere Harbor glistens as though slick with oil. Jenny goes inside to check on Delia and finds her sleeping in the playpen with a pink blanket covering her legs. Milagros is asleep in an easy chair, her feet propped up on an ottoman. Jenny picks up the sleeping child and carries her, wrapped in the blanket, out to the car where David is waiting. They pull away from the quiet house, and the whine of their tires on the road is the only noise in the easy darkness.


    © by Kathleen Foster. Used by permission.

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      Thanks for your story. I hope the family in the story will be better and better. Thanks!

    • Annmark

      Though its a nice story and i enjoyed much but it took enough time to read so please try to summarize it .

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