Today is about Marianne proving Julia wrong. They are packed, with passports, contact names, and phone numbers. A plane leaves at 4:30 tomorrow morning for arrival first in London, and then Berlin, at a time that neither of them can remember.
Julia, after speaking with her mother, had hung up the phone. She turned to Marianne then and said, “Have you told your parents where you’re going, what you’re doing?” She corrected herself: “Your grandparents, I mean?”
Marianne did not take her eyes from the computer’s monitor. “They won’t care.”
“No,” Julia persisted. “You need to tell them, tell someone.”
And so they take the subway from the city headed south to Marianne’s house, a forty-minute ride past two shopping malls and one university, but mostly through otherwise wooded areas. They have both been invited for lunch by Marianne’s step-grandmother and step-grandfather, the two people who had spent their mid-forties and early fifties, respectively, raising Marianne.
Inside the house, nothing has changed. There is the same old navy blue couch with the ornamental wooden arms, the same tiny black and white television on a TV tray. Her grandparents’ house smells, as always, like wood stain and cedar chips, like cat litter and fried food.
They are greeted by her grandmother’s cats, slinking out from the bedroom.
“That’s Cagney and Lacey. They’re the models,” she says.
There is a table covered with plastic bags from hardware stores, crafts and art supply stores. There are seven, ten-foot wooden beams beneath it. Marianne points, says, “He cuts those up and then carves them into heads.”
Marianne surveys the house, looking from ceiling light fixtures to the front parlor windows stained from heavy winter weather. She looks at the open bathroom door, can see beside a pink towel draped from its hook the fist-size crack left there by Kate years ago, remembers her knuckles split and splintered, but doesn’t remember the reason why.
Marianne takes her hands from her pockets and, feeling suddenly alone, turns to Julia. Julia stands only inches behind her, feels the blow of Marianne’s shoulder in her chest.
Marianne says, “Sorry.”
“Which room is yours?” Julia asks, rubbing.
She takes three quick steps in its direction, the door with an ornament tacked dead center of Snoopy lying flat on his back on the peak of his doghouse’s roof. Marianne says, “This one was ours.” She shifts her weight, leaning forward to look inside the room, the floorboards protesting. “Looks like it’s storage now.”
Julia identifies the “our.” She points at Snoopy. “Did you put that there?”
Marianne turns again, looks. “I can’t remember,” she says. “But what did I tell you? No lunch.”
Julia slips her hands into her back pockets, forcing her legs apart and hips forward in a way that distracts Marianne from all that’s around her, that makes her focus not on more promises not kept, but just on Julia, on every curve of her body. From her parted lips and chin to the bent elbows of her winter jacket, the weight on the hands in her pockets repositioning her belt lower on her hips, her hips. The first time Marianne met Julia, she felt overcome with a need to touch her without asking. She wanted inside her room, dresser drawers and closet doors open, hands on everything. At first it wasn’t so much the desire she feels for her now, that heavy, crushing want, but more of an inconspicuous (unnamable?) hunger to be her, to be in her head, her skin, her clothes. To smile the way she does when people make conversation with her, teeth hidden, looking like she is off, millions of miles away.