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‘mom,’ ” Ann said. “I had to have a third child to get out of it!” They nudged one another. “Go say hi to her.”

“Annabelle?” “Arabella.”

“She’s in Pilar’s class — in the Fours.” “She’s really tall. The new girl’s tall.”

“Yeah, just ask her to come over.” “No — she’s clearly waiting for someone.” The morning din of the café provided a soothing background to the speculation — the hiss of steam from the espresso machines, the clatter of crockery; laughter and shouts. The French café was preferred over the Italian across the street, which had been discovered to be a tristate chain. Once their

“Well, she ought to be — she’s five and a half !” “Five and a half ? Jeez. The nursery kids just seem to get older and older.” “Competitive advantage! Everyone’s after it. In my day, we prided ourselves on being young for our class.” Betsy checked her phone before volunteering diffidently, “I skipped a grade.” “ Did you?” said Ann, pleased with and impressed by her friend.

THIS WAS A SOCIETY THAT RAN ON LYCRA AND IMPORTED LABRADOODLES, ON MAKING A VIRTUE OF A PERVASIVE LACK OF ANY KIND OF NECESSITY: DECIDING TO PICK UP THE KIDS YOURSELF WHEN YOU COULD HAVE SENT THE NANNY.

preference had been established, the mornings had seemed to take on a feeling of mild importance, of commitment to a cause; loyalty manifest.

“Aren’t you smart. Is she” — she lowered her voice and said, with a little bit of a wince — “South American?,” made tentative not by racism, which wouldn’t have occurred to her, but because she was never quite sure which countries made up Central America and which South America. WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM 107

“He’s her second marriage, apparently . . .” “Oh, really? Not the father of — what is it?”

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