The glass slipped out of her hand. For a brief moment she was brought to life. She turned her head and watched the glass fall. How slowly it fell. Inside, her mind was consumed, but outside, she only thought—how slowly it fell. It seemed she could catch it if she only reached out, but somehow she could only watch it fall.
She hadn't planned on coming at all. Beth had said she must. It would be just fabulous, and besides, she just didn't get out enough. She preferred to stay at home. It was such a big house for just herself, but it never seemed lonely to her. She liked the house so much better now, still and quiet. She rather enjoyed being home alone; there were no needs to meet but her own. She would never tell anybody, but she could not imagine a single reason why she should be worse off now. She wished she had stayed home tonight. But Beth was a friend of the family (what a strange way to put it) and had a way of making her feel like she was wrong. So she had come. Come to some people she didn't know, to some house she didn't know, to spill wine on their carpet.
On the way to the party, Beth didn't stop talking. At first (a little over a year ago now) when Beth would come over to talk, she didn't mind. Always sympathetic, always with a cake or flowers, Beth would come. Beth was truly sorry, seemed to want to help her, to be a friend, though she needed none. In truth, Beth was no more a friend than anyone else, just more tolerable. But it became annoying when Beth would say, "You don't go out enough; you should come to lunch sometime; really, are you feeling okay?"
Like Beth, everyone had said she was taking it so well, that it was easier because they hadn't had children. She heard their voices; she would respond, but she was distant. And now, now she only existed for herself. She would have been perfectly content to be by herself, live her life as she'd have it lived—unaffected by others. But Beth had said that she must go, and she cared too little to argue. She never argued with Beth's assumptions—it seemed too much trouble. She was careful though, not to let Beth see her too happy. "That dress," Beth had said only days after the funeral, "You haven't worn it in years." She had mumbled some explanation, not knowing herself why she'd chosen to wear it, but remembering what she'd always known—how important it was to keep up appearances.
Beth, of course, would think going to this party the best way to keep up appearances. Beth who said, "It's been a year now, you've got to get on with your life." Beth who tended to say many of the right things, for all of the wrong reasons. Beth who now said, "How good it is for you to get out," as they drove to the party. "It will be just fabulous. An old friend of mine—William Kerns—is going to be there. I really think you'll like him. He's divorced, no children, a doctor. How nice it will be, or," Beth questioned, "is it too soon to talk like that?"
On the couch, he sat down and began a conversation with her. He was a doctor. Yes, she nodded. How was she getting along? Fine, it had been over a year now, she was fine. He touched her shoulder, consoling, condescending; reflex—she pulled away. He continued to speak and she wondered at how male his voice was. Commanding and persuasive. It meant little to her. Why was everyone so concerned with her? She was never concerned with them. As he spoke her hand moved to rest on her knee. She remembered a scrape she'd had there. She had fallen in the bedroom; she thought of how nicely it had healed. She thought of how much the human body endured. How many times small children will fall, but always their scrapes and bruises heal. It was amazing to her, that so much could ever heal. When she was a child she had broken her arm on the swingset. Her father pushed her so high; she called for him to stop but he must not have heard her for he pushed again. Her small, frightened body shuddered and slipped—she landed on her arm. Such pain, yet now she easily used that same arm to lift her wine to her mouth. Her arm had healed—this amazed her. It amazed her that her bruises always healed.
Again, she noticed he was speaking. She would nod, or say a word or two; it was all that she wanted. His voice could have been any man's voice—they all seemed the same to her now. And as he spoke his eyes moved over her; she would not think of this though; she would think of other things, and she would not look at his eyes. She felt the curve of her glass, how fragile it was. She remembered, as a child, breaking a glass—and being very afraid. Of what she could not say, but it still frightened her. She could hear the sound of breaking glass, from not long ago, breaking glass and an angry voice. How could so many bad memories be caught up in a glass, and she thought, why? Last week she had broken a plate. It was wet, and she had dropped it. Her entire body had flinched; a chill had run through her, but then she remembered and almost smiled. Now it was only a plate, she had thought, so she broke another to convince herself of the safety.
But now she was at a party, and there was a man talking to her. She did not much like him; she couldn't imagine how she would. She was thinking of leaving when he turned to her and said, "Your eyes are beautiful." Her body shuddered; a familiar chill enveloped her; she dropped the glass. She turned to watch the glass fall as those words rippled through her. Your eyes are beautiful. She'd heard those words before: as a child, as a wife. She could not stand to hear those words again. Memories she'd kept hidden for too long rushed on her; like fire they spread and engulfed her in a silent horror. The glass did not shatter; only the wine spilt, leaving a streak of red.