UES 62

FICTION

Mrs.: A Novel by Caitlin Macy, copyright ©2018 by Caitlin Macy. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.

MRS. BY C AITLIN MACY

I n a French café on Madison Avenue, at a quarter past nine on a Thursday morning, a group of St. Tim’s mothers — Betsy Fleming, Emily Lewin, and Ann DeGroat —were considering in murmurs whether to invite the New Mother to join them. The place was bustling, nearly every seat filled, with parties waiting by the door, craning their necks to look for spots. Yet there was an air of laxness as well — the women spread out like high-end bag ladies, as if getting on with their days was the last thing they had in mind. A green leather banquette ran along the back of the room, where the New Mother was sitting, alone. Ann, Betsy, and Emily didn’t feel too bad looking over — practically staring — at her, for she seemed to invite observation. Despite the fact that points in this town had long ago ceased being given for grooming or comportment, Minnie Curtis’s hair was blown out and styled, her clothes smart and expensively tailored, rather than expensively draped and drawstringed. Was that an actual matching skirt and jacket she was wearing — a suit? In the demure way she sat, her legs tucked under her, her spine straight as if so quaint a rule as good posture still mattered, she seemed to represent the standards of an earlier generation. Had they not recognized her from school, the mothers might have mistaken her for an upscale saleswoman or a professional fund-raiser, someone who needed to befriend the rich, when in fact, people said she was very rich. “John Curtis is the husband,” offered Betsy Fleming in an undertone. “John who?” murmured Ann DeGroat. “Never heard of him.” “Do we know him?” “Invictus.” “Invite-it what?” “Martin Kerr’s firm.” This was Emily Lewin. “No — no. I don’t know it.” “Yes, yes. You do. Didn’t Marnie Pete’s husband work there?” “Yes, I think James — ” “Who?” “Seven billion under management,” said Betsy. “Marnie who?” “You wouldn’t know them. They were before us. Moved to

Singapore.” “Ah . . .” “Didn’t James Pete leave under a cloud?” Emily said. “Well, Marty does tend to hire the smart ones with the dodgy backgrounds,” Betsy acknowledged. “He likes them hungry. But nothing’s ever been proven.” She gulped her quickly cooling latte. “I say go for it. It’s all such a fuzzy line these days. You think these guys have job security? Bullshit. Those jobs have the half-life of a job at McDonald’s. They get the big apartment, leverage up . . . next thing you know, the guy’s not producing and his wife’s gonna leave him and they’re fucked.” Betsy liked to tell it like it was and to swear. An equity saleswoman until recently, she had married late. She’d had three kids in four years yet still had the feeling sometimes that she

was impersonating a mother of preschool children, as if a strong wind might blow Tommy and the boys and the baby away, and she’d find herself back on the trading floor listening to the morning call over her squawk box. She had five years on Ann and Emily. The gazes of all three women flitted back to Minnie Curtis. At the moment, she didn’t look like a woman who was going to leave her husband. She didn’t look “fucked” — not in the least. She glowed with contentment. She exuded that satisfaction that the anxious, the guilty — the heathen — never can. When she unhurriedly removed a mini-bottle of hand sanitizer from her fancy pocketbook and rubbed her hands together, she seemed to take pleasure in how attractive they were and in her perfectly manicured nails (not too long, not too short). Watching her, each of the women had a sudden itch to sanitize her own hands.

“How do you know these things?” said Ann admiringly to Betsy, breaking her croissant in two and spreading butter on both halves. Wan, blond, and underweight her whole life, Ann wasn’t ambitious enough to watch her diet for nutrition’s sake, though lately she had been feeling she ought to get more cardiovascular exercise. “How do you know every last detail of all of these hedge funds? I can barely keep straight what Guy does for a living. Oil and gas — I know that’s the industry, but — ” Betsy looked affronted. “I covered hedge funds for fifteen years!” “Oh my gosh, I always forget that! You’re so arty now. You’re so

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