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Attachments(2)
Rainbow Rowell

“Give me that spoon,” she sighed. “You’ll ruin the whole batch.” He gave her the spoon and sat down at the kitchen table, next to a plate of steaming corn bread. “We had a mailman once,” she said.

“Remember? He’d read our postcards? And he’d always make these knowing comments. ‘Your friend is having a good time in South Carolina, I see.’ Or, ‘I’ve never been to Mount Rushmore myself.’ They must all read postcards, all those mailmen. Mail people. It’s a repetitive job. But this one was almost proud of it—gloaty. I think he told the neighbors that I subscribed to Ms. ”

“It’s not like that,” Lincoln said, rubbing his eyes again. “I only read enough to see if they’re breaking a rule. It’s not like I’m reading their diaries or something.”

His mother wasn’t listening.

“Are you hungry? You look hungry. You look deficient, if you want to know the truth. Here, honey, hand me that plate.” He got up and handed her a plate, and she caught him by the wrist. “Lincoln …

What’s wrong with your hands?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Look at your fingers—they’re gray.”

“It’s ink.”

“What?”

“Ink.”

WHEN LINCOLN WORKED at McDonald’s in high school, the cooking oil got into everything. When he came home at night, he felt all over the way your hands feel when you get done eating French fries.

The oil would get into his skin and his hair. The next day, he would sweat it out into his school clothes.

At The Courier, it was ink. A gray film over everything, no matter how much anyone cleaned. A gray stain on the textured walls and the acoustic ceiling tiles.

The night copy editors actually handled the papers, every edition, hot off the presses. They left gray fingerprints on their keyboards and desks. They reminded Lincoln of moles. Serious people with thick glasses and gray skin. That might just be the lighting, he thought. Maybe he wouldn’t recognize them in the sunshine. In full color.

They surely wouldn’t recognize him. Lincoln spent most of his time at work in the information technology office downstairs. It had been a darkroom about five years and two dozen fluorescent lights ago, and with all of the lights and the computer servers, it was like sitting inside a headache.

Lincoln liked getting called up to the newsroom, to reboot a machine or sort out a printer. The newsroom was wide and open, with a long wall of windows, and it was never completely empty. The nightside editors worked as late as he did. They sat in a clump at one end of the room, under a bank of televisions. There were two, who sat together, right next to the printer, who were young and pretty.

(Yes, Lincoln had decided, you could be both pretty and molelike.) He wondered if people who worked nights went on dates during the day.

CHAPTER 3

From: Beth Fremont

To: Jennifer Scribner-Snyder

Sent: Fri, 08/20/1999 10:38 AM

Subject: I sort of hate to ask, but …

Are we done pretending that you’re pregnant?

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Not for 40 weeks. Maybe 38 by now …

<<Beth to Jennifer>> Does that mean we can’t talk about other things?

<<Jennifer to Beth>> No, it means we should talk about other things. I’m trying not to dwell on it.

<<Beth to Jennifer>> Good plan.

Okay. So. Last night, I got a call from my little sister. She’s getting married.

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Doesn’t her husband mind?

<<Beth to Jennifer>> My other little sister. Kiley. You met her boyfriend … fiancé, Brian, at my parents’ house on Memorial Day. Remember? We were making fun of the Sigma Chi tattoo on his ankle …

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Right, Brian. I remember. We like him, right?

<<Beth to Jennifer>> We love him. He’s great. He’s just the kind of guy you hope your daughter will meet someday at an upside-down-margarita party.

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Is that a fetal-alcoholic joke?

This wedding is your parents’ fault. They named her Kiley. She was doomed from birth to marry a hunky, fratty premed major.

<<Beth to Jennifer>> Pre-law. But Kiley thinks he’ll end up running his dad’s plumbing supply company.

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Could be worse.

<<Beth to Jennifer>> It could hardly be better.

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Oh. I’m sorry. I just now got that this wasn’t good news. What did Chris say?

<<Beth to Jennifer>> The usual. That Brian’s a tool. That Kiley listens to too much Dave Matthews. Also, he said, “I’ve got practice tonight, so don’t wait up, hey, hand me those Zig-Zags, would you, are you in the wedding? Cool, at least I’ll get to see you in another one of those Scarlett O’Hara dresses. You’re a hot bridesmaid, come here. Did you listen to that tape I left for you? Danny says I’m playing all over his bass line, but Jesus, I’m doing him a favor.”

And then he proposed. In Bizarro World.

In the real world, Chris is never going to propose. And I can’t decide if that makes him a jerk—or if maybe I’m the jerk for wanting it so bad. And I can’t even talk to him about it, about marriage, because he would say that he does want it. Soon. When he’s got some momentum going. When the band is back on track. That he doesn’t want to be a drag on me, he doesn’t want me to have to support him …

Please don’t point out that I already support him—because that’s only mostly true.

<<Jennifer to Beth>> Mostly? You pay his rent.

<<Beth to Jennifer>> I pay the rent. I would have to pay rent anyway …I would have to pay the gas bill and the cable bill and everything else if I lived alone. I wouldn’t save a nickel if he moved out.

Besides, I don’t mind paying most of the bills now, and I won’t mind doing it after we’re married.

(My dad has always paid my mom’s bills, and no one calls her a parasite.)

It isn’t the who-pays-the-bills issue that’s a problem. It’s the acting-like-an-adult issue. It’s acceptable in Chris’s world for a guy to live with his girlfriend while he works on a demo. It’s not as cool to chase your guitar fantasy while your wife’s at work.

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