Clarissa walked through the coffee-house doors with two blonde women behind her; her face lit up with happiness when she saw Jennifer waiting for her. Jennifer sat down her latte, and waved her over eagerly.
“Clarissa!” said Jennifer, “Oh my God—you’re so big! When are you due?”
“January. If I can make it.” They laughed.
“Sit down,” said Jennifer. “Its kinda cramped here at this table. I would have sat at a bigger table, but when I saw Megan sitting here I thought, ‘Isn’t this just perfect, its like a highschool reunion. I can meet up with the girls, and even Megan is here.’ Well you remember her, right? She was in the poetry book that you guys helped organize.”
Megan sat down her book—Clarissa didn’t recognize the author, something foreign—and Megan looked up. “Hello” she said. It was neither a greeting nor a dismissal.
“Hello Megan,” said Clarissa. “Well Jennifer, you haven’t seen me since before…” she smiled, gestured to her belly, “…You know! How have you been.”
“Wonderful,” said Jennifer. “Things have been really good. Wonderful.”
“We’re going to order, but its so tough avoiding caffeine. Things just keep going faster and faster, and its no fair I don’t get my caffeine fix.”
“Well if you have a little, your little one won’t tell,” said Jennifer.
“Oh she’ll let me know if she’s upset. She’s going to be a soccor star at the rate she’s going.”
They ordered and returned.
“Teddy has moved up to head manager,” said Clarissa. “The bank has him working over-time every day. I tell him ‘thing are going to change by January,’—and he still seems to find time for bowling, so he is really without excuse.”
“Oh they all have a million excuses. Sometimes I can’t tell my Fred from young Freddie: they both want to have their fun and its up to momma to whip them into to shape when things need to be done.”
“Yeah, I know, I know,” said one of the blondes. “I tell Mike that if he wants to stay up so late on Saturday night, I don’t want to hear him complaining on Sunday morning when we have already obligated ourselves to daycare at church.”
“Clarissa, you finally fit in with our little mother’s club,” said one of the blondes. “You can finally see that your advice isn’t always so clever as you think.” But she bit her tongue. She had dared a little too much.
“Rather,” said Clarissa, “I can show you how to raise a good little boy who listens to his mom and knows how to behave, unlike your Wendy.”
“She’s just in that phase.”
“They all go through those phases. If you make a big deal of it, then the little dear will do it on purpose.”
“So what is yours doing for work now?” asked Jennifer to a blonde.
“He’s still working his way up at the insurance company. And we’re going to move up ourselves this autumn—he’s practically promised me.”
“And the kids?”
“Oh their great. Joshua played Moses in the play, and he’s so smart. When he forgot his lines, he made his own up, and they were even better. The other kids didn’t know their cues, and so he spoke their lines too. And we have it all on video!”
“Well give me a copy!”
“And me too!”
“You should all have been there. But its decided: copies for everybody.”
“We should come over this weekend and see it together.”
“I can’t. You know Teddy and how he likes to know everything in advance.”
“I have aerobics on Sunday. It is like a religion to me. Don’t I look thinner?”
“You do!” they all agreed.
“We should just move into the same neighborhood,” a blonde suddenly burst out. Then added, “It would be easier for our kids to hang out.”
They all applauded that remark. Except Megan. Then they became a little embarressed. She was sitting a little backed up, not reacting to anything they said.
“So Megan. You just have to tell us how things have been with you. Are you married? Do you have any little ones at home?”
Megan looked up. “No.”
“Well give it time,” said Jennifer.
“Don’t rush her!” said Clarissa. “I just wish I had some more time to be free and not tied down to keeping track of my husband.” They laughed.
“We still manage to have our fun,” said a blonde in a conspiratory tone.
“These are my happiest moments,” said Jennifer. “You know, they always say that when your child is born, or when you marry your husband, that’s your happiest time. Well maybe. But aren’t these fun too?”
They murmered agreement.
“Its good to finally be able to talk. Men have such little minds. I think the deepest thing John has ever said was that he hopes heaven has football.”
“Oh he did not!”
“Did so. And he prayed about it to.”
“That’s so silly.”
“Well mine said I was the most consistent sex he has ever had, if not the best.”
“The jerk!” they agreed.
“Well he was mad. What they say when their mad doesn’t count.”
They looked around each other approvingly.
Megan cleared her throat. They looked at her.
“My partner told me that his first death within me excelled even the death of God in his heart.”
The girls looked confused.
“Did you tell him it is innappropriate to…” began Clarissa.
“Our children—for such our writings are—we have thrilled daily to perfect. It has brought me exctasy, and also the rust of depression. Perhaps you have felt this? Have you felt the paradox of passion—the ripping raw of it? The needing thirst of it? We can sit for hours, in silence, and that is heaven. And we can sit for hours, arguing over prepositions and definitions, and that is heaven. But we don’t care a sliver about board-meetings and church leagues. Do I waste my breath here? I think I do.”
The girls looked to Clarissa. She, in turn, looked stung.
“It is a free country, Megan. Its like we said in highschool, you can say and write what you want, because you have that freedom and we give it to you—“
“That word is an abomination on your lips. You are not free. Do not talk of what you do not know.” Megan held her eyes. Clarissa looked away. Megan opened her book, found her place.
“Well let’s let Megan read,” said Clarrisa, and then triumphantly: “She has her own issues to sort out.”
They walked away to the other end of the coffee shop, whispering and laughing the whole way.