Our Little Racket.
In the waning light of the predinner hour, Mina Dawes sat across the table from Isabel, desperate to keep their conversation aloft. During the silences her gaze wandered out over Isabel’s pool, its surface entirely untroubled beneath the late-afternoon sun.
A pitcher of lemonade sat between them. Isabel’s girl had brought it out within moments of Mina’s arrival, placing it on an engraved tray that sat on the glass-topped table. Basil leaves floated just beneath the ice cubes, which was a classic Isabel touch. Every accent astonishingly simple: fluted calla lilies or random groupings of branches and vines thrown together in tall glass bottles, say, rather than the eruption and ostentation of actual centerpieces. Basil in the goddamn lemonade, Mina thought. She’d have to tell Tom tonight. He didn’t like to be reminded of how much time she spent with Isabel, but he could usually be appeased with one of these finicky little details. That is, if he came home. He’d been on the couch in his office every night for the past week.
“It’s always so lovely out here this time of day,” Mina tried. Isabel nodded behind her sunglasses. Mina sighed and looked off toward the guesthouse, the thick tree line at the back of the property.
When Bob and Isabel had settled in Greenwich for good, knocking down the old gray-roofed colonial and its accompanying stone wall, building up the property so that it loomed above the road below, everyone assumed their plan was a compound. Why else tear down that charming, quaint little slice of Connecticut history unless to replace it with something splashy? A palace for Bob? He’d just been named CEO; he was getting written up in all the city papers.
But everyone had underestimated, of course, just who exactly Bob D’Amico had married. Isabel Berkeley, the only Berkeley woman to decline a Yale acceptance since the school had first invited them in. Isabel Berkeley, whose idea of an appropriate vacation home was the white house with its green shutters on Shelter Island, shielded from the road only by a thick copse of trees. Where the upstairs guest shower leaked and the proprietors of all three bakeries on the main road in town had known her family’s name the whole time she’d been alive. Mina had seen photos of some of this, and intuited the rest; she’d never been invited out to Shelter. Isabel’s second home—well, third, if you counted the house in Sun Valley, but they were almost never there so Mina usually didn’t even think of it—was not for entertaining. As far as Mina could tell, Bob was the only person without Berkeley blood who had set foot in the place, at least for the past few decades.
Mina remembered the party Isabel threw that first spring here at the new house, the guests wandering the grounds. The collective expelling of breath had been almost audible. She herself had explored a little, smiling at the cater waiters in that way she could never help, which surely inspired in them nothing but dripping contempt. She’d touched her fingertips to the different bespoke and reclaimed pieces of gorgeous furniture tucked into every nook, in every hallway, and she’d felt something almost like pride. Of all the women out here, Mina had known that this one was the real deal, and Isabel in turn had chosen Mina to draw closer.
Isabel wanted the other women to see this, too, to know that she saw them. How deeply they’d bought into all of it when they chose their husbands. Whereas her house was simple, elegant. It didn’t cram anything down your throat.
You had to know the world would accept you nonetheless, before you could cast it off, was the difference. You couldn’t possibly have the same attitude when your entire life came to you through your husband’s success. But of course Mina never said any such thing to Isabel. She preferred to keep it to herself, and imagine that Isabel would know just what she meant.
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