Beth asked Peter to hold out his hands and close his eyes, then rushed quickly to the bathroom, to adjust the neckline of her dress.
“It’s taking a while,” Peter said.
“It’s worth it,” Beth called out, eyes fixed on the mirror. She pulled the lace of her slip up, so that Peter would just make it out above the line of the dress. It’s okay to show your bra, her old roommate once told her, as long as it’s special.
Beth came back to the kitchen and reached into a brown paper bag that she’d left in the sink. She pulled out sheets of newspaper, and crinkled them up on the counter.
“Come on,” said Peter, “you’re making me nervous.” Beth smiled; all surprises should make you a little nervous.
She pulled out a Select and held it still with both hands. She placed it in Peter’s palms and he opened his eyes before she told him it was time.
“Jesus,” he said, putting his hands back out for Beth to take it. “It’s a lobster.”
“Well yeah,” said Beth, pushing Peter’s hands back until he and the lobster were almost embracing.
“It’s alive,” he said. “It’s trying to crawl.” Beth shrugged and walked back to the brown paper bag, pulling a second lobster from it. She rubbed her forefinger along its back and put it gently on the kitchen floor.
“I’m naming this one Kermit,” she said, “because he’s got green rubber bands.” Peter followed Beth’s move and placed his lobster on the floor. He squatted over it, but kept his eyes focused on Beth, who sat with her legs tucked underneath her. “What are you naming yours?” she asked, eager.
Peter stared, and Beth felt quite nervous, which was something she did not expect. She had been so confident preparing for this dinner, the first meal that she was cooking for Peter. She’d spent so much time at the market staring into the tank, choosing the best lobsters to cook. The man at the counter tried to encourage her to get Jumbos — impress the guy, he said. But Beth knew that heavier lobsters were usually coarse and rough, and were hard to crack open. She knew, and she always told the customers at her family’s market — the little ones, the chickens, are too [End Page 678] much work for no payoff, easy enough to crack but not enough meat to be worth your time. The big ones were too much work for chewy meat. The medium ones — the Selects — those were the best to buy.
Peter had never eaten lobster before, Beth knew. Her stepmother told her that it was the perfect opportunity to let him in, to show him something about herself, where she came from. And a lobster dinner, that’s special.
“I’m making you lobster,” Beth said, averting her eyes to the floor where Kermit crawled lazily about, moving more in circles than in any direction.
“I can see that,” Peter said. “That’s really nice.” He reached across and squeezed Beth’s knee. She looked up and Peter smiled at her. “It’s really nice,” he said again. “I’ve never had lobster before.”
Beth picked up Peter’s lobster. “Yours is a girl,” she said, rising up higher onto her knees. She picked up her lobster and held them next to each other, their walking legs squirming in front of Peter’s face. “See how yours has a wider tail? That’s for holding the eggs.”
Peter reached out and took his lobster. “You know a lot about them,” he said.
Beth nodded. “I told you, my dad’s a lobsterman. We have a fish market.”
“Yes,” Peter said, “but you really know them.” He put his lobster back on the floor next to Kermit, who raised itself up higher on its tail. Peter’s lobster seemed to be too tired to move.
“But what will you name her?” Beth asked. Peter rubbed his temple with his knuckle.
“I don’t know, Beth. I kind of have a problem...