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When Tiffany masturbates these days, she doesn’t have Jake in mind. His constant working late and her constant dealing with the children have no room in her sex dreams. She had met Ada at her new escape route: a weekly book club. “Are you serious?” Jake had asked incredulously when she told him. “I haven’t seen you read anything in, well, never, really.” Tiffany knew he was right. “That isn’t the point.” “Then what is?”
That I need to be away from you. That I need time just for myself. That I will freak out if I have to wipe another butt while you are out at the office late at night. That I would rather read the most boring of books than sit next to you on the couch watching TV while waiting for Luke’s regular and familiar wailing at night. What she answered was “Everybody is allowed to have a hobby. Yours is apparently your job these days, so good for you. But I’ll be gone every Wednesday night so you had better be here.” If she noticed a flicker of guilt in Jake’s eyes she gracefully ignored it and ordered the first book to read online.
At the book club at the grandly looking café, everybody seemed relaxed and friendly. Whether by accident or on purpose Tiffany couldn’t figure out, but the group ended up being all women. Ada sat next to her the first two meetings and brought her a cup of coffee the third. “You look like you could need that,” she had explained, and Tiffany had blushed. “Do I look that horrid?” “Not at all, just tired. I figured you’re having a rough couple of weeks?” Tiffany swallowed and then nodded. Biting her lip she looked down trying very hard not to start crying. Here, in front of strangers with good lives. Here at the book club, where she hadn’t even mentioned her children and just introduced herself as “Tiffany.” Ada wasn’t fooled. She squeezed Tiffany’s arm and only said these six words: “It is going to be alright.” After the club Ada asked Tiffany if she wanted to get a drink, and she did. Anything but home.
At the bar the lights were dimmed just enough for Tiffany to hide the bags under her eyes and her flushed cheeks. But Ada didn’t inquire anymore. Instead, she downed the whiskey and talked.
“I was in a difficult marriage, too. It’s been several years now. We even went to therapy but in the end it didn’t work out. I guess we didn’t love each other enough. Maybe she cheated on me, I don’t know. When I met Mariella, I felt like this time was going to be different. We were in a relationship for three years before we broke it off. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, right?” Tiffany looked Ada into the eyes, for the first time? “Mariella?” Ada nodded. “Yes. She was with me for such a long time, it felt like I didn’t know how to go on. But on I went. And it turned out okay.” Ada ordered another round, both alcohol and Ada’s soothing voice relaxing Tiffany into sinking into her chair and sighing noisily. “Ada, that is a sad story,” she says, and Ada laughed at her. “Isn’t it? But look at me now! She couldn’t take everything away from me. The question is: will you let him take everything away from you?” Too surprised to be upset at this accusation, Tiffany first shrugged, then raised her glass and shook her head. “No, I won’t.” Ada smiled, satisfied. “Atta girl!” Their glasses clinked together in that dark pitched tone only whiskey tumblers can produce.
The book club? A safe place. An hour or so of thinking adult thoughts. Of reading sentences longer than one line. Of not making animal noises. Of drinking hard liquor afterward and somehow, suddenly, Tiffany dressed up for the club and put on jewelry. The first time, a blouse showing off her cleavage, once. The next time the skirt was slightly shorter than necessary. The third time at the bar, Ada reached over to get more peanuts and happened to graze against Tiffany’s left breast for a second. She stopped mid-air: 21, 22. Two more seconds and she’s gone. It took Tiffany the whole night to realize that the shiver she had felt that second came from her lower body. She hadn’t felt it since giving birth to Luke: the thought hit her with too much force. This long? Seriously, this long?