Diane D. Gillette


A Lady in Black by Boris Grigoriev

After the knock on my door, I’m not surprised to see it is Celine, even though it isn’t book club night. I invite her in.  It seems like the polite thing to do.  She sits at my kitchen table. I offer her a cup of tea. Perhaps a bowl of the tomato soup simmering on the stove? I’m happy to share my dinner seeing as we share so much already.

She doesn’t answer me, so I sit across from her and watch her long, slim fingers — nails impeccable in a garish shade of orange —  fiddle with the single pearl on a gold chain. I have an identical necklace in my jewelry box.  It seems her husband lacks imagination in gift giving the same way that he lacks it in bed.  I wonder how such a colorful woman became fused to such a beige man in the first place.

Her hand drops to her lap and she looks up at me, eyes piercing under her Elizabeth Taylor a la Cleopatra eye-shadow.  Her eyebrows sculpted to perfection. I see now, he’s told her.

I wait for the cough, the splutter of accusations, of justifiable name-calling. The stream of expletives doesn’t come though, and my married lover’s wife simply sighs.

“I won’t fight for him,” she finally breaks the silence that has settled comfortably in around us.

“You don’t want him?” Panic begins to rise in me.

She shrugs and her hand returns to the pearl. “I’m not sure I ever did, really.” She doesn’t birth the actual words, but her gaze is asking me why I do want him. I look away. Not sure how to say he was never what I wanted, really.

The deflation is slow, and I let the silence return.  I wish she had wanted that soup or that I wore my own pearl necklace to fiddle with.  My fingers don’t know where to go, what to do.  I consider getting up and getting the bottle of wine I was saving for book club, but I can’t seem to move from my chair.

Celine has crushed the haphazard messiness of the affair to dust. She did not arrive at my door full of anger and passion. This is not the scenario I have replayed in my mind time and again. I did not expect her to hand her husband to me. I look around, wondering if he will want to move in. I shudder.

The weight of the silence must become too much for her to bear.  Or maybe there isn’t anything left to say.  She stands and moves toward the door.

“Anyway, I just thought you should know,” she finally says, hand on the knob.

I reach for her, put my hand on her waist as if I somehow have the right.  I draw her back in.  She looks at my hand gently resting on her. I feel her skin warm through the thin fabric of her dress.

“I wish you would,” I whisper. “Fight for him.”

She smiles slowly.  “I know you do.”

She pulls away, letting my hand slip from her waist, shattering the intimacy, and makes her grand exit.


About the writer:
Diane D. Gillette lives, writes, and teaches in Chicago. She is a founding editor at Cat on a Leash Review. Her work has appeared in over 40 literary venues including the Saturday Evening Post and Maine Review.

Image: A Lady in Black by Boris Grigoriev (1886-1939). Unknown medium Unknown size. By 1939. Public domain.