Mrs. Perfect(9)

By: Jane Porter

After taking a left off 92nd Avenue NE, I turn down our small lane that dead-ends in front of our house, a big sprawling shingle house highlighted by glossy white paint, true divided light windows, a steep shingled roof, and long-columned covered porches.

Every time I pull up, I feel a stab of pride and possession. I love my house. I helped create this house. I was part of the design process—indeed, much of the design was my ideas and my pictures and drawings. During the eighteen months it took to build the house, I was on the job site nearly every day, checking on the progress, talking to the contractor, discussing details with the head carpenter. I loved every aspect of building the house, from the muddy lot in the Seattle December rain, to the immense framing stage, to walking through the space with the electrician, placing each of the outlets.

I was there when they poured the concrete and there the morning the drywalling began and again for the finish painting. It’s hard not to fall in love with a house when it’s not just a house but a part of you.

But it’s not just the house I love. Everything is magical here—the garden and rose-covered trellises, the huge lawn that rolls right to the water with the sandy beach, private dock, and darling boathouse.

As I turn off the engine, the girls fling open their car doors and spill out in a flurry of terrycloth towels and bright sundresses, their sandals falling out and slapping the ground.

“Take everything to the laundry room,” I tell the girls as I dash inside. “Don’t leave one towel in the car. Everything goes in the laundry basket.”

While the girls strip off their wet suits in the laundry room—a room that Patti once said was bigger than most people’s living rooms—I get the miscellaneous dishes from the sink into the dishwasher, the white Carrara marble counters wiped off, and some of the pink roses from the garden in a vase of water before Lucy and her children arrive.

“How gorgeous,” Lucy says, spotting my arrangement of lush roses on the counter. Keys still clutched in her palm, she bends to sniff them. She lifts her head, clearly disappointed. “No smell.”

“No, they’re not fragrant, but they look beautiful and they’re far more disease-resistant than the older varieties.”

Lucy gives the roses one more disappointed sniff. “Disease-resistant is important, especially in the Pacific Northwest with all of our black spot and mildew, but a rose just isn’t a rose without its spicy scent.”

Inexplicably annoyed with Lucy, I yank open the refrigerator with more force than necessary, rattling the jars in the door. “Would you like something to drink?”

She stares at me. “Are you drinking?”

From one of the many kitchen windows, I can see Nathan cross the back patio to light the barbecue. “I’ll probably have a glass of wine.”

“Wine sounds perfect.”

“White or red?”

“Whatever you’re having.”

“Lucy, we have both.” My irritation shows, and her expression crumples. I don’t know who I dislike more right now—her or me. Taking a deep breath, I try again. “We’re hopeless wine snobs, Luce, you know that. I have loads of wine, and I’m happy to open a bottle of red or white. Just tell me what you want—”

“Red.” Her cheeks are a dark, dusty pink.

God, I hate myself. I’m such a bitch, and I don’t want to be. I don’t mean to be. My patience isn’t what it once was. Maybe it’s the long summer with the kids out of school. Maybe it’s the start-up of the auction meetings. Maybe it’s the tension I’ve begun to notice between Nathan and me. Nathan sometimes seems like a stranger. We used to agree on everything. Lately, we agree on almost nothing. Maybe that’s marriage. Maybe that’s life. Maybe he and I just need to get away for a few days and spend some real time together. “Shiraz, Merlot, Cab?”

“Shiraz or Merlot,” Lucy answers quickly. “I love both.”

I open an Australian Shiraz that Nathan favors. I pour three glasses, hand Lucy one, and pick up the other two. Lucy follows me outside.

I carry a glass of wine to Nathan. “You’ll like this,” I say, simultaneously giving him the glass and a kiss. We’re good, I tell myself as he kisses me back. We’re fine. No one agrees all the time. People have different points of view. Life’s bound to have ups and downs.

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