HENRIETTA SNOW

The third title in Ruth Doan MacDougall's Snowy Series

Chapter 1

Henrietta Snow coverTHE AUCTION WAS over. The joyous accumulation of almost twenty-six years of marriage, of living on New Hampshire’s seacoast in the Old Eastbourne apartment and the Pevensay house and then in the mountains of Woodcombe on this Hurricane Farm, was practically reduced to bare necessities.

      Henrietta Snow Sutherland, known as Snowy, had hoped she would now feel cleansed, ready for a fresh start. Instead, as she stood looking out one of the living room windows at the front lawn where earlier a crowd of dealers, collectors, amateur opportunists, and busybodies had stared at and bid on her belongings, she just felt dead tired.

      She asked Bev, “Can we beg off going to Dudley and Charl’s for supper?”
       “If we don’t go,” Bev pointed out, “we’ll have to cook here."
       “True,” Snowy said, suddenly noticing that Bev, always beautiful with green eyes and once-red naturally curly hair that had become a white helmet, looked haggard. Bev had been her best friend since they were seven years old. Back in 1946, when they were in second grade at the same grammar school in their hometown of Gunthwaite, New Hampshire, they had discovered they were kindred spirits, and they had remained so right up to their present 1987 age of forty-eight, except for a gap of ten months thirty years ago and later a lapse into only Christmas-and-birthday-card communication during the distractions of domestic life, child-rearing, husband-tending. Last Saturday Bev’s daughter Mimi had had a June wedding on a mountaintop in Woodcombe, with the reception held here at Snowy’s Hurricane Farm, and Bev had planned to return to Connecticut with her husband and her three other kids afterward, yet at the last minute she decided to stay with Snowy, ostensibly to help.
       Bev added, “Anyway, I’m all agog about seeing Charl and Darl.”
       “Okay,” Snowy said. “Let’s round up Ruhamah and be on our way.”
       But the phone rang. It was immediately answered out in the kitchen, by Ruhamah.
       “Leon again,” Bev predicted.
       At the reception, Bev’s younger son and Snowy’s daughter had met and ignited, and during the past week Leon had phoned Ruhamah every day. Snowy could imagine only one reason why twenty-one-year-old Leon would pursue sweet-sixteen Ruhamah; she intended to make sure he remained long-distance.
       From the kitchen Ruhamah shouted, “Snowy, it’s for you!”
       Bev changed her prediction. “Tom,” she said, and went into the hallway, to climb the stairs to Snowy’s office, which with its pull-out sofa was the guest room.
       Snowy crossed the living room, the least empty of the rooms because before the auction the new owner of Hurricane Farm, Frank Barlow, had bought the Sheraton sofa, the tavern table, and the butterfly table, so they were remaining here, while she was keeping the wing chair (Alan’s chair), the Martha Washington chair, the pedestal table, the glass-fronted bookcases, and one of the oriental rugs. She went through the echoing dining room—gone fast at the auction, the cherry dining table and oak sideboard—into the kitchen in the ell.
       Ruhamah was two inches taller than Snowy’s five-three and had inherited Alan’s long eyelids. Otherwise, Snowy knew, mother and daughter looked alike, doomed to cuteness with heart-shaped faces, turned-up noses, denim-blue eyes, and dark blond hair (well, Ruhamah’s mane wasn’t interwoven with the white hairs Snowy had discovered recently). Ruhamah wore jeans and an old T-shirt of gamboling lambs that said ARIES, while Snowy had got a bit more dolled up for the auction, light green corduroy jeans and a creamy short-sleeved blouse with ecru edging, an outfit she had last worn when Dudley took her to visit Alan’s parents last month. Ruhamah said in her unique voice that always sounded like a chortle, “It’s a woman who claims she’s Harriet. Your roommate, Harriet?”
       Snowy snatched the receiver of the wall phone. “Harriet?”
       “Snowy?”
       They hadn’t seen or heard each other since their graduation from Bennington College twenty-six years ago. Harriet sounded just the same. As Snowy remembered how amused Californian Harriet used to be by her New Hampshire accent, she pictured Harriet’s angular dark prettiness and wondered if the years had changed that. Ruhamah went out the door to the screened side porch.
       Snowy asked Harriet, “Where are you?” During the wedding reception, Snowy had learned that Kristin, Mimi’s roommate during their years at Rhode Island School of Design, was working at a gallery owned by Harriet Blumburg, who, having discovered the connection, had sent word via Kristin that she’d be phoning sometime. Kristin had said Harriet was off to China. Snowy said, “You can’t be calling from China!”
       “That’s next,” Harriet said. “First, a detour. I’m in Israel. How are you? I had trouble finding you; I phoned the number Information gave me and it rang and rang and finally some out-of-breath woman answered and said you hadn’t moved in yet and gave me this number.”
       This phone was already switched to Frank Barlow’s name. “I’m moving tomorrow,” Snowy said. “I own a little general store in the village—that woman works there—and I’m moving into an apartment over it.” The apartment’s phone number was different from the store’s, and Irene must’ve got so irritated by Harriet’s persistent ringing that she dashed upstairs to answer it. “I haven’t hooked up an answering machine there yet. You’re in Israel? You sound so close!”
       “Snowy,” Harriet said. “Kristin told me what her roommate had told her. I’m terribly sorry. I remember Alan. .
Harriet trailed off.
       If people had difficulty expressing sympathy about an ordinary death, they got completely tongue-tied about a suicide. Snowy tried to help, glad that Harriet couldn’t see her eyes filling. “Remember the Sleepytime Motor Lodge? After he and I spent Saturday nights there, we’d come back to school to our room, yours and mine, and you’d tactfully go over to Commons while we said good-bye.” She ripped a sheet off a roll of paper towels and blotted her eyes.
       Harriet said, “You met him when you were doing research for your thesis on a poet, Ru-ha-who?”
       “Ru-hay-mah,” Snowy said, reminding her of the pronunciation. “Ruhamah Reed. Do you remember the portrait of her you gave me, a wedding present? You painted it from the frontispiece of her collected poems and called it ‘The Matchmaker.’ I’ve still got it, and it’s going to the new apartment.” Along with Alan’s pen-and-ink sketch of the Ruhamah Reed House in Old Eastbourne. “We named our daughter Ruhamah; you just spoke with her.”
       After the reception, Snowy had quizzed Kristin and learned that besides running the New York gallery and traveling a lot, Harriet was garnering acclaim for her paintings, something Snowy wouldn’t have heard about in the wilds of Woodcombe, and although there were probably mentions of it in the Bennington alumni magazine, Snowy had stopped doing even a cursory flip through the pages when her career as a poet had hit a brick wall and seeing items about others’ successes became too shamefully painful. From Kristin she’d also learned that Harriet was unmarried and had no children. And now Harriet was in Israel. Snowy asked, “Why the detour?”
       “Oh, I make many detours. But this one was planned. I got an urge to see the Sea of Galilee. I’ve been to Israel before, but never here. There are some gorgeous views, with the mountains to the east—the Golan Heights.”
       Snowy remembered Harriet’s phases at Bennington, when she first painted only fat women and later when she painted only circles of primary colors. Was Harriet now doing landscapes? What transitions had led to this? Snowy asked, “Are you painting the views?”
       “I’m trying to.”
       “What time of day—or night—is it there now?”
       “Half-past midnight.”
       “You once made a detour to India. You sent me a postcard saying, ‘Am living in an ashram.’ I didn’t know what the hell an ashram was. I had to head for the dictionary.” This was in 1971, the last time Snowy had heard from her. Harriet had never been a good correspondent, to put it mildly; at Bennington she’d driven her parents crazy.
       Harriet said, “Some of my detours involve guys, and that was one of them.”
       “As I recall, you had a tendency to fall for jocks, so the Super Bowl would seem a more likely detour than an ashram.”
       “Well, it did turn out that he preferred cricket to philosophy.”
       They began to giggle.
       Harriet added, “And I must confess there’s a guy here, and he does play soccer. And Snowy, you ought to see the hunks off the kibbutzim—the kibbutzes—with rock-hard muscles from working in the avocado groves!”
       Snowy whooped, and over the phone she heard Harriet laughing in Israel.
       Then Harriet said, “Snowy, are you all right? How’s the poetry?”
       Snowy looked out the kitchen window beside the phone. Barn swallows were perched on the telephone line and soaring in and out of the white clapboard barn across the driveway. “Oh, fine. I’ve had a few collections published over the years.” But there had been only rejections these past five years. “My thesis became a biography of Ruhamah Reed.”
       “Great!” Harriet said. “I’ll look for all your work when I get home.”
       Snowy couldn’t bring herself to confess it was out of print.

 

© 2004, 2017 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

 

THE HUSBAND BENCH, or Bev's Book

The fourth title in Ruth Doan MacDougall's Snowy Series

Chapter 1

The Husband Bench coverTHE TOURNAMENT OF ROSES,” said Roger, walking back into the bedroom in his old maroon woolen bathrobe after his morning shower and glancing at the tuned-low television set. “The Rose Parade. That’s decorating-the-gym taken to the extreme.”
       Bev was watching the parade from the depths of the king-size bed, once their bed, now his. This had become truly a “master” bedroom downstairs in the big old white colonial in Ninfield, Connecticut. Until three nights ago, she hadn’t slept in this house since early June 1987, which meant, today being the first day of the year 2000, it had been twelve years and six months ago. She laughed, enjoying the sight of him, her tall and handsome husband. His bathrobe smelled like wet wool, like mittens. She said, “Decorating the gym? Crepe paper? Kleenex carnations?”
       He stroked the mustache that he’d grown years ago when his hair started to recede. That hair, formerly dark brown, almost black, was now a good iron gray, as was his mustache. “Because of Dick’s wedding and everything, I don’t even know who’ll be playing in the games.”
       “Leon probably does.” Their younger son, Leon, and two of their other children had also driven back to the Ninfield house last night—early this morning—after the big wedding at the North Congregational Church in Woodbury and the reception at the Highfield Country Club. She and Roger were together again, in a house full of all their children except their older son, Dick, who was now in New York, starting off on a Bahamas honeymoon with Jessica, his bride.
       Roger opened a bureau drawer. “Leon will probably sleep through the parade and the games.
       Bev didn’t point out that she and Leon would be driving home this afternoon, having driven down here together from Waterlight, her home in Gunthwaite, New Hampshire, for the wedding. She plumped up the pillows behind her. The mattress was new since 1987 and also the bedclothes, boring plaid, a male choice, so Roger’s girlfriend Amanda hadn’t redecorated his bed during her two-year tenure. Bev almost wished she had. That might be something fun to be jealous about, and it would add an extra zing to make love in bed linen picked out by Amanda for a torrid romance with Roger. Instead, Bev said, “I’ve been trying to remember the name of an old movie—from our youth—about the Rose Bowl. Starring Diana Lynn, who was a favorite of Snowy’s, but of course I preferred movie stars who were redheaded.” Snowy (Henrietta Snow), her best friend, was a blonde, like Diana Lynn. Bev’s hair, red in her childhood, then auburn, had turned completely gray, then white, in her thirties. She was now sixty and Roger was sixty-two, which seemed utterly impossible. They had been high-school sweethearts back home in Gunthwaite. How quaint! How complicated. “Snowy and I saw that movie when we were ten or eleven, and it was about the Rose Bowl beauty pageant and who would win,” continued Bev, picturing herself winning, just as she had imagined the triumph while watching the movie fifty years ago. She had grown up to become Queen of the Junior Prom at Gunthwaite High School, but that didn’t get you a ride on a float of flowers. You were only the cynosure of all eyes in a crepe-papered gym, and the only real roses were in your crown and wrist corsage.
       Roger said, “Mmm.”
       He wasn’t listening. For once, she could rise above her automatic reaction, a swift withdrawal into haughty hurt. She snuggled deeper in the bedclothes and relished watching his routine, his familiar ways of taking underwear out of his bureau, dropping the bathrobe over a bedroom chair, unself-consciously naked, the high-school basketball star who still played a lot of tennis to keep in good shape. Despite that, she’d been worrying about his working too hard at the law firm he’d founded years ago. They had come to Ninfield because an established firm here had made him the best offer when he graduated from law school at Boston University; in Ninfield she had created a whole new life for herself, with Roger and with the children, playing wife and mother while he climbed the ladder of success to his own firm. She’d been fearing he was a prime candidate for a heart attack or a stroke, Roger Lambert the overachiever, Roger the hotshot insurance lawyer.
       But last night he had told her that he was ready to retire. Would he really? He stepped into a pair of Jockeys and adjusted the contents. She’d always wished he wore boxers so she could buy him exotic or amusing pairs, but she’d had to content herself with making puns about lawyers and briefs. She used to choose all his clothes as she did the children’s when they were young, dressing everybody like paper dolls. Dressing! She remembered that the first time they’d gone to a tailor for his first really expensive suit, she had overheard the tailor asking him in a whisper, “On which side do you dress yourself, sir?” Roger had looked at him blankly. But Roger hadn’t been an A student for nothing, and while Bev was still wondering what on earth the tailor was talking about, Roger whispered back, “I wear Jockeys. Neither side.” Bev had given thanks that Snowy and their other best friend, Puddles (Jean Pond Cram), hadn’t for some strange reason been there with her and Roger or else these three best friends, the triumvirate, would have been rolling in the aisles.
       Roger said, “You could Google and find the title,” and pulled on a T-shirt, went to the closet, took out an old pair of jeans.
       “What?”
       “The name of that movie.”
       He had been listening! And now she herself heard other things, clattering noises from the kitchen, and she smelled coffee. At least one of the children was up. Bev threw aside the bedclothes. “Time to get the show on the road.”
       Roger said, “Wish you could stick around through the weekend.”
       She was wearing a sweet flannel nightgown suitable for New England winters, white and virginal with embroidered doves adorning the chaste neckline. It had elicited the desired reaction from Roger. She said, “I’ve got that appointment tomorrow.”
       He zipped up the jeans and reached for a dark brown Shaker-knit sweater, one she didn’t recognize, which matched his eyes. “Wish you hadn’t had to make that appointment. Showing a house on a Sunday.”
       She felt anger flare. She damped it down. Toeing around under the bed for her white slippers, she said, “That’s what they wanted, and the customer is always right, especially when they’ve got as much money as this couple apparently does. Anyway, I often work on Sundays. You’ll have to get used to it.”
       He came over to her and kissed the top of her head. She liked being tall, five feet, seven inches (well, shrinking in recent years to five six, another joy of the aging process), but she also liked feeling petite beside his six two. He said, “Sorry.”
       He’d apologized! She slid into his so-familiar—yet still new—arms.

© 2007, 2017 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


Copyright 1974 - 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDogall
All rights reserved