Ian took Mandy to dinner at a restaurant not far from their resort on Saturday night. Rather formal, it featured good wines, sophisticated courses, and large Rousseau-like paintings of jungle animals, peaceable kingdoms. Mandy didn’t like the fish Ian recommended, but her mulligatawny soup was superb. When Mandy refused the wine, she told Ian she felt just a little funny.
As they lay in their king-size bed, in the wake of their pleasant day, Amanda was tempted to break her news while he was so content: he was only lazily looking at a map. But there was too much weekend left.
He was still bound, largely, she felt, to his family’s Dark Ages values. Maggie had come from an old New England family, no surprise. Ian stood to come into “real” money when his father died, if the old sot hadn’t drunk it all by then.
Mandy wasn’t comfortable with the idea of lots of money . . . but wasn’t she, Mandy, more refreshing than those benighted, well-decked-out, relatives of his — who thought to the right of Genghis Khan? Hadn’t Ian told her that she was a breath of fresh air? That he admired her spirit in, for instance, urging them to sit on the sunny side of the stadium at an Amherst football game, instead of his, Princeton’s, cold, shaded side? That she was his little Manda? His friends liked her. But she and Ian didn’t even spend all of their weekends together. And she always went to Ian’s apartment when they spent the night; hers was too small.
Now she ventured, “What made you and Maggie break up?”
Ian pursed his lips in reaching back for this: “Oh, I guess I didn’t want to be reined in.”
“Did she have to give up a job to marry you, to raise Blair?”
“She never had a job, to speak of. The Junior League. She used to lie on the floor in front of the fire, with a drink, and ask me to put a bent straw in it, so she wouldn’t have to lift the glass.”
Mandy laughed. She did not say that she would want to work, even if she had a kid or two, and wouldn’t just be a weight on him, as Maggie may have been.
But something in her sank now. He mattered too much to her. She needed to free herself more from him, to tell herself more of what was good in her own self, as Carrie said her shrink was always urging.
He switched on the TV, looked for Channel 13 in vain. An ad came on then, for some make of car revamped. The announcer seemed to be worshipping it funereally, as though a world-honored leader had departed. Ian said, “I do believe the man is going to cry.”
Mandy giggled. He cut the TV off, turned to her. “Mand.” They made love, island slow and gentle.
Mandy had trouble sleeping now. . . . She and Carrie had figured that Ian carried around the heaviness of his family’s conservativism in about 80 percent of himself. But Mandy thought he might break out from some of those strictures. She credited him with being an entrepreneur professionally, with adoring his son, with having become more liberal than his parents. He was also intrinsically generous, and given to his own brand of caustic, sometimes childlike, whimsy.
But was he still in love with Maggie? Afraid to be that close again? Where was he? Off in his own galaxy? Hell. She went over and over it all; it crept into her light dreaming.
At dawn on Sunday, she thought to go down to the beach to see the sun come up. But against her better judgment she indulged in staying in the warm bed next to the sleeping Ian.
In the morning, they took a lunch box from the restaurant to the almost deserted remote end of the resort’s sandy crescent — though Mandy would have been content with a croissant from breakfast. Along the way, Ian bought beer — Mandy chose a Coke — from a native in a primitive, open shack. The day was brilliant; the sea, a great fan of light. Amanda, weighted down with what lay ahead now.
“The water’s like a great bath of grasshoppers. The after-dinner drink, I mean,” Ian said, as they settled on their towels.
“Why, you poet. . . . Grasshoppers are crème de menthe with cream?”
“And crème de cacao. A third, a third, a third.”
They lay under a palm tree lobbing out over the beach. He sipped his beer, then they swam in water as warm as the air to a little rock island from which waves fountained.
Coming in, Ian stubbed his toe on an underwater stone.
“God damn it to hell!” Mandy said for him, and he laughed.
From their nest on the beach, they watched a woman in rich blue beach attire stride along at the tideline. She slightly preceded a man who held himself as stiffly as though it were a command performance instead of a pleasure to be walking on this tropical shore.
“There goes a wealthy couple from . . . let’s see. Tuxedo Park?” Mandy offered.
“It’s ‘rich,’ Amanda, not ‘wealthy’.”
“How could I have forgotten?” Mandy pretended to be abashed, and was, a little.
“Anyway, I say they’re from Boston,” Ian asserted. “He walks like an old fairy from Harvard.”
Amanda grimaced at him for this. “How scintillating of you. . . .” Then, “And they ‘February’ in Bali, what?”
“I’ll February you in Bali.” He leaned over, put his forehead to her cheek.
After their sandwiches, they almost fell asleep on the warm sand. A faint sea breeze wafted about, the waves tumbling up, slipping back. They swam again, found some colorful shells, laid back once more under their overhanging palm.
When she sat up, he touched her thigh; he was not asleep. “Ian,” she said. “E.”
She plunged. “I’m going to have a baby.”
He turned toward her, stricken. “Is that a joke?”
“If you aren’t game to meet me further on this, I’m going to have to quit . . . us.”
Ian sat up, looked straight out toward the ocean, said calmly, low, “Amanda, you know I couldn’t manage another family. . . . You will have an abortion? Of course, I’ll take care of that.”
“I don’t know that I’ll go there at all. But I can’t keep on seeing you, sort of . . . sporadically like this . . . I can’t.”
“You must realize I simply couldn’t make any big change now. Don’t you?” His voice sank. “You are a standout woman, Mandy. But you’ll have to lose this baby. I’ll help you with it. I’ll pay for the whole thing.”
Mandy turned her face away from him.
He tried to caress her cheek. “Mand.”
She stood up. She was someone else now.
He said, “Hey, we can work this out.”
She shook her head, picking up her things. As she headed back to their cabin, Mandy was scarcely aware that she was on a beach. Later, when he trailed in after her, she was taking the cot out of the closet. But, suddenly, she knew she couldn’t stay in this cabin, even for the little time left. She phoned reception, asked to move to a room on the hill for the night. This would cost him more. Tough.
Ian pleaded with her. “Come on, stay, you. We can talk it over rationally, have a nice dinner.” But she was throwing clothes in her bag. One of the staff came surprisingly soon to move her. She told a silent Ian she would have some soup in her room, as she went out the door.
On the plane the next morning, Mandy managed to find a seat apart from Ian.
She was making a clean break of it. She had turned numb and dumb and civil.
Kay Kidde, a former teacher, was a senior editor at the New American Library and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and founded the Kidde, Hoyt, & Picard Literary Agency in New York City. Her stories and poems have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, and in several collections. A resident of Quiogue, she is a co-founder of the Maureen’s Haven organization, which helps the homeless.