Everyone watches the change on Kate’s face, as though a curtain has been dropped to reveal a half-dressed stage actor, shocked and annoyed, but professional enough to pull it all together and quickly move from view.
“Enough”—Marianne’s grandmother to Marianne.
“That’s good for business,” Julia says, with meekness. “An Internet presence.”
“It is,” says grandpa, in oblivion. “Our cats are going all over the world now, thanks to Chris.”
“Thanks to Chris”—Marianne to Kate, with identical inflection. She is forgetting all good advice.
Julia is looking down at her new doll, her fingers on its plastic whiskers, its pink nose.
To Kate, Marianne’s grandmother says, “Take Julia inside. There’s a menu on the refrigerator—get whatever you want,” her eyes fixed on Marianne in such a way that most would assume it’s the reason Marianne hasn’t moved from her spot on the garage floor, not even if only to shift her weight from foot to foot.
But Marianne moves back then, spell instantly broken, and says, “I can go with her.”
And grandma, “No. You stay.”
Marianne is left to only make eye contact with Julia, who looks perplexed, embarrassed perhaps (these are the wrong words), but for whom Marianne’s not sure. It is a familiar look, one similar to when Marianne had first worked her way against Julia’s body, moving slowly those stiff arms, and pressed her lips against Julia’s, feeling only the slightest resistance dissipate into an electric warmth. This look frames Julia in innocence, feigned or otherwise, exempting her from all responsibility, Marianne thinks, as though Julia is only a bit player in this scene, in her life, and she’s not. Anger returns as she feels Kate move past her, the suction of the door opening, that dry winter burst. Then Julia, with her look, moving it from Marianne’s grandmother to Marianne, and then saying, “I’ll be back,” but she won’t. Julia knows that Marianne hates this, all of it, but she will leave her here. She will wait for Marianne to seek her out, to find her in the old house sitting closely with Kate, sharing a laugh, lips wet from talk or otherwise. She will leave her.
“Follow me,” says grandmother, and Marianne does, past her grandfather’s woodworking area and beneath the line of cat clothes that hangs across the depth of the garage to her sewing area. Little flannel shirts and pink corduroy skirts for little feline bodies. “Can you believe it?” Marianne’s grandmother points at the neatly pressed garments. “People actually want us to make the cats look like their kids, their grandkids. To actually make the cat look like their kid, with hair and everything? What is happening to this world? Are people really taking that many drugs?”
Marianne is silent, willing her presence inside the house, filling the space between Kate and Julia on the staircase.
Her grandmother takes a pencil nested behind her ear and makes notes on a paper pattern pinned to green felt. She says, “So the real question is, why are you here?”
“I wanted to say goodbye before I left.”
“We don’t have money to give you. Not more than, say, twenty—”
“I’m not here for money.” Marianne’s hands are up, as though warding off the words.
“You can’t have much,” grandmother says, sitting at a table and reaching for scissors with orange handles. “You still don’t have a job?” Her eyes, brown and accusatorily big, looking up from behind half-moon lenses.
“I have enough. It’s only a week.”
“I’m assuming Julia has the money then. She’s much older than you, Kate tells me.” Moving the pins from the fabric, putting them between her lips.
Marianne leans forward, palms on the table, on the paisleys and pin stripes. “It’s my money. I don’t need anything.”
“I’m not judging,” from the corner of her grandmother’s mouth, the pin bouncing. “Are you going to finish school?”
“It’s a tryout. I’m not moving.”
Her grandmother’s hands smooth over the felt, then reposition the pattern, pinning it once again in place. “You make everything you try out for, Marianne.”
“Still, I’m not moving.”
“If you’re not moving, then why try out?”
Marianne didn’t have a short answer for this, and she didn’t want to admit to lying. She turned to look at the garage door, which seemed hundreds of yards away. “It’s an opportunity,” she said. “I still have two weeks before school starts up again.”
“Well, then I hope you both enjoy your vacation. Your try-out vacation.”