Rachel Thompson

Sunspots by Karen S. Bell @KarenSueBell #Romance #Contemporary #AmReading

I tried to keep an interested look on my face as I turned off. Their animation and cloying sweetness were so contrived—so predictable—like sorority girls in a bobby sox movie. They were a throwback to when married women, clueless to the ideas of the Women’s Movement, were silly, pretentious, baking chocolate-chip-cookie housewives. Surely, they were educated. Surely, there was more to them than children stories and blather. Surely, they were forces with which to be reckoned. Quite a dance—was it orchestrated on my behalf? How soon before the veil was lifted and I saw their true selves?

As I feigned listening with a pasted smile, a sudden terrifying thought pushed into my consciousness. Maybe this was really a scene from a production of a Chekhov play? Had I somehow been cast in a modern version of Uncle Vanya or The Three Sisters? I couldn’t remember anything about auditioning. When? When? My mind was blank. But here I was in this strangely adapted production.

Who was I supposed to play? My stomach fluttered in that quick recognition of panic. My palms began to sweat. The bright stage lights obscured my view of the audience. I sat frozen, watching the others. Their timing was perfect—all head nodding and drink pouring—giggles and chatter. I prayed I wouldn’t have to speak soon because…I couldn’t remember my lines! I looked around me. I absorbed the set of heavy sofas made of leather. I looked down and saw the drink in my hand. My fourth (or was it fifth?) margarita empty but for two small sips.

Ah, yes. Of course this wasn’t a Chekhov play, no Russian aristocracy here. This was just Jake’s family. A Jewish Texan family, kind of ludicrous to me. A Jewish, Texan family where Yiddish and Hebrew were spoken with a Southern drawl. Charming but strange. I sat back on the sofa and breathed a sigh of relief—this wasn’t a play. And then it struck me. It was much worse than that. This was real life…my life. A life I had chosen with my eyes opened blindly. I must learn important lessons from this first meeting. I must observe the pull and tug among them all, the ease and rapport coupled with the domination and rigidity and Jake just sitting there seeming to be aloof and smirking at everything. I was a fish out of water—a pushy New Yorker overwhelmed by a Southern grace that was steel-like and impenetrable, like Styrofoam packaging cushioning objects made of stone. Yes, like Shirley MacLaine’s character Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias. My own family seemed colorless and dry, sensible and ordinary in their openness and honesty. I laughed to myself at the absurdity of that—but it was true. There was borderline dysfunction happening here and I would be a part of it from now on.

As the sisters talked and talked and laughed and laughed at inside jokes, memorable events, and their children’s escapades—I drank. Their husbands drank. Jake smirked. The gasoline taste was not quite as strong after awhile.


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Genre – Contemporary Romance, Magical Realism
Rating – PG-13
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