Carole Rosenthal
Shells


Dorrie got lost on her way home from having coffee with her
friend Jennifer. Jennifer had just told her some shocking news.

"I know you suspected it anyway." She was having a love affair
with Bryant, their mutual dentist. "I slept with him twice. It's
so deep, the way we feel about each other. I broke it off because
of Stan. Stan is furious at me. This affair is threatening to
ruin my marriage. But being with Bryant has changed me. I can't
let go."

"You told Stan?" Dorrie was shocked that at their age
Jennifer regarded sleeping with a man as flirtatious as Bryant,
who often flanked her with his thigh or brushed her breast by
accident when she was reclining in the dental chair, as a serious
affair.

"I had to, he could see I'd changed. That's what I need to
talk to you about. Stan told me he talked to you when you
called."

"But I called to talk to you and got Stan."

Or rather Stan got her, as so many other people did. Got her
and told her things as if they thought she was wiser and more
concerned with their well-being than she was--or at least than she
wanted to be.

Dorrie, cautious, asked to hear more details before she gave
Jennifer feedback on conducting her life. So what if Jennifer had
a knack for getting into dumb situations? She realized now that
Jennifer only wanted to meet her tonight after they finished
teaching their painting classes to pick her brain about the weird
phone conversation she'd had with Jennifer's husband, Stan, a few
hours earlier. Her friendship with Jennifer was at a tender
intersection. After a casual five-year acquaintance, she had just
crossed the threshold of her natural wariness to count Jennifer as
a trustworthy friend. Beneath her open smiles and friendly
appearance--all dyed reddish hair and many freckles--Dorrie
imagined herself as a bit of a hermit crab, scuttling with stalk
eyes and alert amusement through social situations, but holding
her own secrets close, encased in a shell. She doubted that other
people, particularly Jennifer, would be interested in her secrets.
Her private life consisted of feelings and observations so hidden
she sometimes felt like she was even keeping them secret from
herself.

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