This Beautiful Life

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman Read Free Book Online

Book: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Helen Schulman
Tags: Contemporary, Adult
he was small. “Really, Jake?” she had said. “I really love you too much?” He’d noted her pain, he always noted it—she was unfair like that—and he said, “Too much love is better than enough.” Taking pity on her. She loved him too much, but she could not think about him now.
    â€œYeah, I guess so,” Jake said, as he lifted out the milk gallon and brought it to his lips. “I guess I had a good time, yeah.” There was a little red string with some beads on it wrapped around his wrist. It looked silly, like something Coco might wear, but maybe not.
    Liz didn’t have the strength to yell at him. Shut the door. Don’t waste energy. Use a glass! She didn’t have the wherewithal to question his noncommittal answer. She turned off the gas under the kettle, reconsidering whether she would be able to tolerate the whistle. That stupid French press. What she wouldn’t give for a Mr. Coffee now.
    Jake took a long slug of milk and put the container back inside. He turned to her then, this boy, her boy; he looked straight at her, his green eyes burning with something. Humiliation? Anxiety? Confusion? There was bait there, but she did not rise.
    He did not say, “Hey, Mom, can I talk to you about something?” He did not sit down at the table and wait for her to sit down next to him, all motherly concern and skill, to carefully draw whatever it was out of him, as she had done so many times before. None of these things happened.
    Instead, Liz said, “All right, then, Mom’s got a hangover,” and sidled past him.
    â€œWay to go, Mom,” Jake said, in a voice that was at the same time too soft and still too hearty, like white bread with too many additives in it. But she didn’t notice, she didn’t notice until she examined and reexamined the whole morning under a microscope in retrospect, and she made her way into her bedroom to sleep off Coco’s party. The bed was made, of course. That motherfucker, perfect Richard, had perfectly made it. Liz unmade it, pulled off her pants, unhooked her bra, and slid it out of one of her shirtsleeves like she used to do at sleepovers or that one summer she went to camp. Then she slipped her body between the covers, which were cool and tightly bound to the bed. Richard was probably already at the office—where else would he have gone? He’d probably run a million laps around the reservoir, showered, changed, and headed uptown to his office like he did every single Saturday morning since they’d moved here.
    Last night, both of Elizabeth Bergamot’s children had had parties to go to. Bad mother Liz! She’d chaperoned the wrong one. She was going to mommy prison. Literally, she was.

3
    T here was a girl he liked liked. Her name was Audrey.
    Audrey was in his grade, but as with almost everyone else at school, she was older. She had short, sleek, dark hair, thick and lustrous, black as an oil slick. It dripped perfectly down around her perfect head, like a shiny onyx globe. Audrey’s hair was cut so that it hung straight and glossy and curled under just at the tips of her earlobes, like two commas, strangely sexual, tiny clefts; it was that little swing that made it girl’s hair, not boy’s hair, and it was the swing—more of a sway, really, an undulation, a quaver —that drove Jake crazy.
    Jake thought Audrey’s haircut made her look French, although he had no idea really what that meant—he’d been to Italy a bunch of times, but not to France; he had an aunt who lived there, in Rome. When he went to Italy he liked to pretend he was Italian; he liked to eat a lot, and the food was so good. His aunt Michelle would let him drink wine and ride around on her Vespa, which drove his mother nuts. Audrey was Chinese, like his sister. Which was why she was old for their grade; most of the foreign-born adopted kids ended up old for their grade, while Jake was young

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