Sometimes when they go to parties and she sees him speaking to his colleagues, she hates him. His hands move through the air like small birds; he grins and laughs like a boy. She can’t stop herself from going over and proving her worth, talking about the graduate degree she didn’t quite finish. She flirts with the men and offers flattery to the women, rubbing circles on her husband’s back and keeping her eyes on everyone else.
She’s attractive, still; she tells herself she has other choices. On the way home from these parties, she makes lively conversation but her heart is a clenched fist. She grinds her teeth at night, sleeps poorly, and writes in her journal the next day.
When she cries too much he walks out on her, goes for a ride on his bike or takes the car and goes further away—where? She’s left with herself, stuck in a room with no one to talk to but herself. She would walk out on herself if only she could. There are times he’s looked at her, said “That’s enough” and left. At those moments, she’s envied him.
He tells her that he doesn’t mind that she doesn’t bring in much money with her writing, that she should see the salary he makes and what they spend on their lives as a gift, accept it from him, and enjoy it the way she would if he gave her a ring or a nightgown. It seems generous, this reprieve, but it also seems to her that she’s taking the bait from a trap, and she doesn’t want the bait. She suspects he would like it if she worked more and earned more money and knows that her suspicion is not born of paranoia, but of insight.
Her sons didn’t yet care very much about money and don’t understand their father’s fascination with it. Their younger son wants to be a baker. A neighbor runs a bakery and the son sometimes goes to help on a Saturday morning. They let him make bread and he returns with elaborate, complex configurations, fantastic and beautiful shapes, gold, brown, ivory patterns woven into the dough. His father devours them. The son adores watching his father, surprised and delighted, as his father displays his appetite, tearing off whole chunks (after admiring them; he isn’t a fool) and closing his eyes with pleasure as he bites down on the offering.
The wife is also attracted to the neighbor. Big, easy-going, and self-deprecating, he is made up of every element her husband lacks. His hands are enormous and fine, with long straight fingers. She imagines the power in them, the talent in them. She imagines those hands on her body, holding her, making her into something delicious, and making her into something else. She’s thought about her hands in his hair, which is long but not too long, just touching his collar, falling across his high forehead, graying hair brushing his dark eyebrows.
The smell of rising bread haunts her dreams.