Swanning down the wide staircase in the courthouse, Gordon left Gordon up in the office and for these isolated, precious moments became herself. Regally erect, carriage impeccable, she knew every eye was on her and did not deign to return the looks. She could almost hear the rustle of taffeta, the soft murmurs and perhaps even the sounds of an orchestra tuning. Heels clicking, alabaster white hand gliding down the wide sweep of the marble banister, she arched her back ever so slightly and allowed herself full access to her real power. A complex and indefinable state of being that evaporated the moment her foot left the stairs and Gordon accepted the plunge back into his life, tightly circumscribed and inescapable.
Each day, Gordon did as was expected of him, maintaining his respectable life and coveted position in the ministry. Looking back, he saw his complicity in every step of the way that had brought him to yet another intolerable day of suffocating deceit. He nodded to his undersecretary and took a dossier from a colleague. He heard soft conversation behind him, knowing it had nothing to do with his secret and everything to do with a certain unpopular but necessary policy change he was proposing. Gordon understood that the simple, easy to define power he actually did possess often resulted in the making of enemies.
And people desired that? Some power.
Gordon lived a comfortable life; an enviable one even. He genuinely loved his wife, Arlene, and his children, the twins Meg and Mary and his son, Eric. Eric had hit that next difficult age (because, after all, wasn’t every age difficult? OK, he had seemed like a pretty happy kid at four.), walling himself off, garrisoned by technology and weaponized sarcasm, in a bedroom that doubled as a fortress. No one went in. Arlene was in agony about it, reading books by experts and attending support groups. Gordon, by virtue of being away every day, was able to be more philosophical about the whole thing and liked to believe that he and Eric shared an unspoken connection that Arlene and the twins could not detect or share.
It all blew up the night of the charity ball, the one that Arlene was on the planning committee for and had put more effort and time into than Gordon had his big policy change (the one that was up for vote on Monday).
Quite deliberately, Gordon had notified Arlene well in advance that he would have to go directly to the ball from work and would meet her there. He had been through too many hair pulling nights of chaos as the three females in his otherwise contented home prepared for a Big Night Out. Kindly, he offered to have Eric fetched at school and brought to the office. They could go to the ball together and avoid the feminine madness. Eric’s response was unrepeatable and shocking.
All afternoon, Gordon mulled his son’s hostility. Where did it come from? How had he and Arlene failed? The girls showed none of this fury, this pent-up rage. Gordon couldn’t concentrate and when he did have to go down to the main floor he took the elevator avoiding the staircase and its ridiculous fantasies. Finally at 6, he gave up and had his car brought around, instructing Sven to drive him home even though Arlene and the girls would still be in full preparation.
Maybe he could make it quick, get in, get into the tux that he was now bringing back home with him, scoop up his recalcitrant son and then what? Have a heartfelt man to man talk? Gordon just didn’t know. In his briefcase were the new silken underthings he had been looking forward to wearing under his tux for weeks. Even that fell flat, giving him no pleasure.
No sooner was Gordon in the door than he saw the utter futility of whatever half formed plan he had had on the drive over. All was mayhem. It made his heart ache to see all those lovely, silky, satiny, colorful skimps of clothing that his girls tossed around like trash. Women had no idea how blessed they were.
Sighing, he mounted the stairs heavily, passing Eric’s door. He stopped. He had to say something. Taking a deep breath, he knocked sharply and pushed the door open, staring in confusion at his son. His son, bony and defiant in a peach satin slip, his snarling mouth delicately outlined in a most becoming shade of coral. Dimly, it registered in Gordon’s baffled mind that his son’s lipstick was a little smudged and from somewhere the right words arose.
“Here, I can help.” And he closed the door before the girls saw.