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Saturday, July 15, 2017

(4) "I STUTTERED AND TURNED RED AND SPILLED MY WINE."

      My ex-husband managed to get himself a little bit engaged.  Of all his various ladies, Claire Swann is high on my list of favorites.  Ed thought he'd lost her forever to Gerald, with whom she has been living for several years.  They had a sort of open commitment, which meant that either could go out with someone else, only neither should lie about it.  It was okay to say, "I'm going to be out tomorrow night."  It was not okay to say, "I'm going to Rhode Island to see my old buddy Al" unless it was true.
     When Gerald gave Claire the old buddy routine, Claire called Ed (her customary move when Gerald was away), and they met for cocktails at the condo apartment Ed owns in Boston.
     "Where would you like to go for dinner?" he asked.  "There are forty restaurants within walking distance; we could just start walking till we get to one you like."
     Claire says she wants to go to Joseph's.  She'd never been there, as Gerald rarely took her to expensive restaurants.
     She and Ed are looking at the menu, when who walks into Joseph's—of all restaurants—but her roommate, Gerald, the buddy from Rhode Island, and a tall brunette who is obviously with Gerald.
     At first Ed wasn't sure whether the trio had seen them or not.  The men spoke briefly to the headwaiter, then disappeared, much to Ed's relief.  He had a feeling he wouldn't be at his most debonair if there were a confrontation.  He was right.  A few minutes later, Gerald and Al, minus the young lady, reappeared and walked over to say hello to Ed and Claire.
     Reporting all this to me the next day, Ed said that of the four actors in this play-let, he was by far the most shaken.
     "I felt as if I was out with someone's wife, and her husband had caught me.  I stuttered and turned red and knocked over my wine glass when I shook hands."
     Claire and the two men exchanged banalities, and then they departed.  Later Gerald would explain the disappearance of the brunette by saying she had gone to the ladies room.  Yes, Gerald had a lot of explaining to do; but this was after Claire's spur of the moment trip to Fort Lauderdale with Ed.  He was leaving two days later, so she got a week's leave from her job and went with him.
     Two things made her furious, Ed said.  One was Gerald's lying, in violation of their agreement . . .
     " . . . and the other," I chimed in, "was Gerald's taking the brunette to Joseph's after years of not taking Claire."
     Yep, that was it, all right.  Nobody understands a woman like another woman.
     After Claire returned to Boston, she called Gerald.  Claire is not as good about reporting to me as Ed is, so I'm not privy to all that was said during their meeting.  At any rate, she told Ed she would probably go back to Gerald "unless you have a better offer."
     "Well . . . we could try living together for six months and see how it goes," said Ed.
     No, Claire said, she was no longer willing to settle for just living with someone; she wanted the security of a marriage.  My hunch is that she wanted ammunition, such as a marriage offer from Ed, to make Gerald shape up.  Ed says he knows he'd be getting her on the rebound if they eventually marry, but as long as he knows it, it doesn't bother him.
     As things stand now, Claire has picked July for the wedding but suggests that meanwhile they live their lives pretty much as before.  She spent the holidays with Gerald, while her fiancé had his usual Christmas Eve get together with Ted's family and Aliceann and me.  Aliceann doesn't know he's engaged.
     Ed was wondering what he ought to give Claire for Christmas.  He showed me an embroidered shawl he and I found at a flea market last year.
     "It's pretty," I said, "but it cost only eight dollars, and Claire's a woman who knows values.  You'll have to give her something more expensive."
     "I could give her a three carat diamond ring," my ex said roguishly.
     "Give her three carrots," I muttered.
     It's not that I don't like Claire; I just wish Ed could find someone who'd marry him for himself. . . .

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