"What did Stan say about me?"

They were walking in the winter rain. Dorrie shrugged,
reluctant to get in the middle of a fight between husband and
wife. As usual, she wanted to hear Jennifer's story, but without
seeming eager for it. The Soho streets were deserted. Jennifer's
platform boots scuffed the sidewalk. She checked Dorrie's
expression by angling sideways. Dorrie wiped cold drizzle off her
glasses.

"If we're going to talk let's find a place to sit." She
searched the side street for a coffee shop.

"Jennifer is very withholding," Stan had told her.
Inappropriate, Dorrie thought, for someone she barely knew. All
she had asked was a polite how are you, unleashing a torrent. "I
guess you know we've been having problems." He didn't say what
kind of problems but he was fishing to find out if Jennifer had
already confided in her; if so, how much she knew. "We've been
thinking of bagging it. . . " His tone annoyed her. Poor me, I'm
being cool--a monotone. "Our marriage, I mean."

Dorrie was silent. She pictured somebody stuffing Stan and
Jennifer into a poacher's bag, rushing through woods.

"Withholding?" she sucked in breath. Exciting information
but dangerous territory. Squalling partners re-united. Whatever
you said could be turned against you. Her own husband would never
talk about her to anybody behind her back. He didn't even talk to
her anymore. He just came home from work, pulled on denim
cutoffs, and read the design journals. Wherever she was sitting,
she could count on him to settle himself somewhere else, across
the room. So in spite of herself, she felt a tug of pity for
Stan. "Jennifer is always generous to me as a friend."

"As a friend, yes. I'd love to have her as a friend. But as
a wife, no. If a man is with a woman he's looking for something
in himself, but Jennifer isn't fulfilling that role. And she
doesn't bring in any money either. It would help if she'd get a
better job . . . "

click on image to turn page