A French Song in New York(10)

By: Anna Adams

“You already get to brag about your amazing son,” Cynthia said weakly. “Or you could find something you love and do that. Brag about yourself.”

Cynthia looked at her stomach. When had her body become the object of such contention?

The last time was when she was thirteen. She’d bought her first bra in a Victoria’s Secret store. All the women of the family had their say.

Aunt Pearl had argued Cynthia needed a padded bra. Her mom said bras enslaved women and that she did not wear any. Prim Aunt Loretta had said Cynthia should wear a corset.

While they argued, Cynthia had bought a pretty training bra, dark blue with daisies. She’d handed the cashier her allowance and that was that.

From then on, she’d decided nobody would make important decisions for her.

She’d later chosen her schools, her career, her husband, and not according to her parents’ wishes, but on the strength of her conviction.

However, she found it far easier to challenge her loved ones than these people she barely knew.

She wanted to stand on the table, kick the wine glasses, and defend her decision. She would not live to regret it. Cuteness and giving meaning to Irina’s vapid life were not sufficient reasons to have a baby.

Her own life had meaning.

Why was it that she remained tongue-tied when she needed to brazenly voice her will before all?

What a terrible lawyer she would be!

If only Jazmine or Maude were sitting next to her. Or even Ben! They knew her! Jazmine would tell Alan off without hesitation. Maude would murder Alan with just one look. Ben would joke about Irina’s drinking.

Unfortunately, like the wine drop on Alan’s glass, Cynthia’s journey among her in-laws was a solitary one.

As she lamented the absence of her allies, Cynthia’s phone buzzed.

“Excuse me, I need to take this,” Cynthia said.

Relieved, she went to the kitchen and read the text message she’d received from Jazmine.

Going to Jason Taylor’s party tonight with Maude. We NEED you. Ditch the in-laws and join your sistas!

Cynthia muffled a laugh.

It was just like Jazmine to guess when her sister could not evade a place she did not wish to be.

Daniel entered the kitchen with dirty plates and placed them in the sink.

She watched him. What would he think if she told him she’d rather find herself in a magnitude 8 earthquake than spend another minute with his parents?

“Cynth, you okay?” he asked, turning away from the sink to face her.

Her gaze drifted from the dishes to his face. She opened her mouth, closed it once more, and opened the door to the dishwasher.

“I’m so sorry for my parents, really.” Daniel took a dirty plate from her hands and put it in the machine. “I wish I could disown them.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“Ask your parents if they’ll adopt me.”

“Then we’d be brother and sister and our marriage annulled. Think of all the gifts we’d have to send back.”

“Guess I’ll stay a Lewis then.”

Cynthia squeezed her phone against her chest.

“Who was that on the phone? Or did you pretend to get a call just to leave the table?” Daniel grinned, indicating the latter constituted a justifiable excuse.

“Jaz wants me to go to some party. I was about to tell her I can’t make it tonight.”

“You should go.”

“I can’t let you stay on your own with these two. Remember ‘for better or worse’.”

“I managed over two decades before you came along. I can handle them for the evening. Just find a good excuse and get out of here!”

“You’re trying to get rid of me. I’ve never loved you more.”

“Good to know. I should add, ‘I never want to see your face again!’”

“You certainly won’t see my face again on Friday evenings.”

“I promise I’ll tell them to stop coming over. Soon. But not tonight. One problem at a time. Find an excuse to get out of here. Maybe you could say your cousin’s sick?”

“Or my sister got into a fight?”

“How about: Victoria called and asked you to bring her back her favorite platter.”

“Nah, Alan knows Dad’s the cook. But you’ve got something there. Um, maybe ... oh, I know!”

Cynthia dashed into the dining room.

“I’m sorry, I have to run. My dad just called: he’s learned some important news about Soulville and needs my legal input.”

Alan’s interest showed in his beady eyes. Any trouble at Soulville was good news for him.

“News about Soulville? What is it?”

“Can’t say. It’s confidential. Lawyer-client privilege,” Cynthia said smugly.

“Of course, of course. I guess we’ll see you next Friday.”