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The Seamy Side
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"Honestly," his wife Audra said. "You are just driving me crazy about this."

"Why?" Graham asked. "Because I don't want to have dinner with my ex-wife?"

Graham and Audra lived in the city now. They were walking up Broadway from Zabar's. They each carried a paper bag of groceries.

"Not just dinner," Audra said. "A double date! She lives with someone now. It would be the most natural thing in the world."

Well. Graham was not so sure about that, not sure at all. "You seem to be forgetting," he said, "that you were the cause of my divorce in the first place."

"Oh, but that's ancient history," Audra said. "That was all twenty years ago."

"Thirteen," he corrected. She had a tendency to round up. It was almost a way of life.

"Well, whatever," she said. "Surely she's over it by now. She's living with this other man, this Bentrup. Aren't you the least bit curious to meet him?"

"No," Graham said, knowing full well that she would find this attitude incomprehensible. Audra groaned. "But I'm dying to meet her. Just think, you were married to her for a decade"—it had been eight years—"and she and I have never even laid eyes on each other!"

That was only half true. Elspeth had seen Audra once but Audra didn't know that. He and Audra had been on their way to Macy's to register for wedding gifts and they'd come up out of the subway on Thirty-Fourth Street, and dashed across Seventh Avenue into the store, and in those brief moments, Elspeth had seen them. Graham knew because she told him the next day on the phone. (This was when they were first separated and still talked bitterly on the phone every few days.) I saw you and your girlfriend going into Macy's yesterday, she'd said. Graham still remembered what Audra had been wearing that day: jeans and a silk blouse and a little rabbit-fur vest she'd bought in a secondhand store. She had looked unbearably pretty and young, so young. He'd seen her through Elspeth's eyes and felt guilty all over again.

"Maybe that's for the best," he said now.

"Why?" Audra said. "Are you ashamed of me? Ashamed of her?"

"No, neither," he said, realizing as he said it that it was true.

"Then, please, just ask her," Audra said. "The next time you speak to her, just mention the idea and see what she says."

"OK," Graham said.

Audra looked so excited he was afraid she might drop the bag of groceries and the bottle of olive oil would break and ooze all over the sidewalk. "Really? You'd do that for me?"

"Sure."

And then she hugged him, there on the corner of Broadway and Ninety-Ninth Street, and Graham marveled that not only did neither of them drop their grocery bags, but that Audra did not seem to realize, even after all these years, that he would deny her almost nothing.

Graham would not even be in touch with Elspeth except that last month Elspeth's Aunt Mary had died at age eighty-eight, deep in dementia, and in her will, which had not been updated in almost twenty years, she had left a joint bequest to Elspeth and Graham.

Graham had gone over to the estate lawyer's office at the appointed time and met Elspeth in the lobby of the building. He had only seen her a handful of times in the years since their divorce, and in a way she looked older this time, which was natural, they were both in their fifties now, but in a way she looked exactly the same. Her lips were thinner than he'd remembered, and she massaged one wrist as though it hurt. But her eyebrows were still perfectly shaped (he knew she never plucked them) and there was no frown line between them. Her ash-blond hair was still pulled back in a French twist, and she wore a tightly belted pale pink coat over a matching pink turtleneck and white wool pants and...



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