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Excerpt from
A Place You've Never Been
A Book by Chilton Williamson, Jr.

"Beauty can be as isolating as genius,
or deformity. I have always been aware of
a relationship between madness and beauty."
                                   --Richard Avedon



In the mirror myself, Collie Rae Lucas, nee McIntyre: five-foot eight, one hundred-forty-one pounds, red hair in waves like lava from a volcano, freckles, eyes gray as the surging sea, and long, long legs going up and up, the kind men dream about--pretty! Not enough figure for a woman, too little makes just enough for a model, or a cowgirl. Lucky both ways, and hard work in the studio or mucking out a horse corral keeps your muscles toned and your stomach flat. In San Francisco they were on me if I stayed in the sun more than five minutes, or got a scratch on my arm picking berries on the cliffs above the ocean, or ate an éclair for dessert after a late supper at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. In Colorado I get teased if I take time out from a roundup to put another coat of sunscreen on my face, complain of looking like a smallpox victim from mosquito bites, or pass up a second helping of pork ribs and another piece of pie. You don't get to be a success in the modeling business by refusing advice and not taking hints, and in the ranching one the only way a girl gets anywhere is by taking everything in stride like a man would, while never letting the men around her forget she is a girl. So I don't have hissyfits about the mosquitoes anymore--or the scorpions, or the rattlesnakes--put fresh sunscreen on when I have to go behind a bush anyway, and take seconds whenever I'm offered them at supper and even, sometimes, when I'm not. It hasn't hurt my complexion or my figure--though I have put on fifteen pounds since my modeling days in Frisco--and it certainly has improved my disposition, I'm told. Even I can feel the difference, so it must be true. Being loved by a man for the first time in my entire life helps, too.

I met Rory Lucas at the Fisherman's Wharf one evening in early December when he was in town for a League of the West conference at the Cow Palace. Of course the Cow Palace, where the Republicans nominated Goldwater for president in 1964, was the absolutely perfect place for the League to choose to hold a meeting in. Rhonda and I had finished our bouillabaisse and were drinking crème de menthe and cream while we thought about ordering dessert when I noticed a party of men wearing leather jackets, bolo ties, belt buckles the size of lobster plates, and pointy-toed boots, all of them holding Stetson hats in their hands and looking nervous and lost as they waited for a table, like they thought the restaurant might untie itself somehow and float away out to sea.

"Look at all the cowboys," I told Rhonda.

Rhonda looked.

"They're not real cowboys," she said finally.

"How can you tell?"

"They're rednecks dressed to look like cowboys."

"Where were you raised, girl--on a movie set? They aren't all Blazing Saddles types anyway. Some of those guys look like they really meant business."

As a group they were pretty much either-or: potbellied and redfaced or lean and brown as a stick, the way proud and lonely men get when they're starved for something besides food and don't have a woman around to give it to them. It's kind of an old frontier type, I guess.

"Anyway," Rhonda went on, "what I was saying to you about Harry was.."

You couldn't see the ocean beyond the plate glass but I made out white patches on the darkness where the waves were breaking, past the reflection of the lights at the bar and people coming and going between the tables. Harry Barnes wasn't right for Rhonda. I'd told her a hundred times but she never listened, just kept yakking instead. He was tall with a good body, wore his blonde hair in a buzzcut and rings in his ears, and he went hiking in the mountains on Sundays with a bottle of water and a snakebite kit in a haversack. Rhonda herself didn't hike except between the car and the entrance to the Fashion Place Mall, but what really bothered me about Harry was the earrings and the snakebite kit. I mean, they don't exactly go together, do they? Like a tongue stud and a business suit, or a hunting rifle and sweats. Apart from that, I was tired of hearing Rhonda talk about Harry Barnes anyway. Tom was beating me up on a fairly regular basis every couple of months, so I had problems of my own to think of. Agencies don't like their clients coming in with serious purple and black bruises on their white perfect skins, or even green and yellow ones. It spoils the vision of a perfect world the advertising industry is trying to promote.

The waiter came with two more crème de menthes and I ordered dessert. It was an absolutely yummy chocolate mousse that Rhonda ate half of, using her fish fork, so I wouldn't scream she said when I got on the scale in the morning. She was talking about Harry still but the mousse did slow her up, a little. Looking out through the plate glass window I could see lights beyond the reflected ones, belonging to Alcatraz Island or ships moving out on the bay, and behind them more lights where the city covered the dark rounded hills with glitter. The far-off lights twinkling and the waves breaking in whitecaps at the end of the wharf seemed to prod me, stirring the restless discontent I'd felt for the past year or two, what with my approaching thirtieth and Mr. Merkin wanting to trade me to another agency in violation of my contract. Also in the window were the cowboys, milling at the bar with their hats on now as if they were expecting life boat drill to start any second. You could tell by looking at them they were real cowboys, not San Joaquin farmers dressed to look like Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves--from Montana or Wyoming maybe, where people are dumb from not eating enough iodine and the only water they ever see is a mirage.

"Are you listening to me?" Rhonda asked.

"Of course I'm listening. Who else is there for me to listen to?"

"What did I just say about Harry?"

"You said after all these months you'd finally figured out he was the wrong guy for you."

"I didn't say anything like it. What were you looking at, anyway?"

"Nothing," I said. "The cowboys at the bar are checking us out, I think."

"Yuck." Rhonda made a face. "What I was saying, I'm afraid Harry could be some kind of religious nut--the kind that finds God in the wilderness, you know."

"I wouldn't worry about it, if I were you. Harry isn't bright enough to find the Pope in a Catholic church."

"What really bugs you is the earrings, isn't it?"

"Why should what he wears in his ears bug me? I think they're a great idea. If he were mine I'd tie reins to them and drive him around in circles for the rest of his life."

"Well, you've told me a hundred times you think my gold belly button ring's gross."

"Don't let it hurt your feelings, ma'am," a masculine voice above my head said. "You don't want a woman's opinion on a question like that."

He was one of the well built ones, long denim legs rising from the lizardskin boots to a silver-trimmed belt and above it an ivory shirt with pearly buttons down the front and a row of three on each cuff, snapped tight over the wrists. Twists of high chest hair showed through the open collar, but the tanned face above was smooth-shaven except for black mustaches hanging on either side of the full, red mouth. The chin was strong and had a dimple in it, the cheekbones were high, and black hair like a horse's forelock spilled from under the silver Stetson hat shadowing a pair of very round blue eyes, long-lashed like a woman's and covered by black, expressive eyebrows that were bowed, just now, in polite, inquisitive arches.

"Oh!" I said, staring. It was rude of me of course, but a girl just doesn't look up to see a man like that standing beside her table every night of the week.

Across the table Rhonda sat looking like she had had a sudden attack of acute rosacia, with her mouth open and her hand over her middle about where her bellybutton would be.

"All right if I join you ladies?" the handsome stranger asked in the same easy, well-mannered voice. "We've listened to some strong speeches today, which is what my sex is good for, mainly, when it comes to the talking business. For intelligent conversation a man needs the company of the opposite one--after supper in particular when the whiskey flows and the boys start walking into walls and talking like their brains jammed in compound low."

"Please do," I said in a small voice like a little girl's while Rhonda, still openmouthed and keeping her hand on her middle, said nothing. Most guys, alone, won't approach two women together, but this one didn't appear fazed at all. Both of us watched as he turned his back to draw a chair up from the next table and Rhonda caught my eye then, and winked. It isn't only men who know the best part of a good thing can be what you see going away from you.

The stranger positioned his chair at the end of the table, taking care--I saw him!--to angle it slightly toward me. He removed the hat with a sweeping gesture and dropped his chin at us in a little bow.

"Rory Lucas," he said. "Ponderosa Springs, Colorado. Pleased to meet two such lovely ladies." Then he put the hat back on, sat down on the chair, and crossed his legs.

"Something to drink?" Rory Lucas asked. "Collie--Rhonda?"

"I'll have another crème-de-menthe and cream," Rhonda said.

Rory looked at me. His eyes were smiling but I could tell by his face he didn't think a lot of crème-de-menthe as a drink.

"What are you having?" I asked him.

"Pig's Nose on the rocks. A darn good single-malt whiskey."

"I'll have one with you," I said.

His smile dropped the bottom out of my stomach as he held his hand up for the waiter. "I never knew of a redhead who wasn't up to living dangerously," Rory Lucas said.


The League of the West conference was to last another day and a half, so Rory said he looked forward to seeing both of us again. He wasn't more than half disappointed anyway, because he saw me alone the next evening. Rhonda was snippy about it before I reminded her how well matched she and Harry Barnes were, and she had to drop the subject then. Cowboys weren't her idea of a good time anyway, she said.

They hadn't been mine either, but I was learning all about the rewards of having an open mind. When Tom called from Dallas that afternoon wanting phone sex I told him I had a headache. Then I slipped into the little black silk dress I'd bought the weekend before and hadn't had a chance to wear yet and took a cab downtown to the Hilton to meet Rory after his meeting let out. He was dressed like The Virginian in a fawn-colored suit over a blue-and-white striped shirt instead of the blue jeans and the fancy belt, but the brown lizard-skin boots and silver Stetson were familiar and the turquoise setting in the bolo tie he wore on his shirtfront heightened the amazing blue of those wonderful eyes and made me dizzy. It was early still and we went for a drink in the hotel bar.

"What'll it be, Collie?" he asked when the waiter came.

"Pig's Nose on the rocks, with a little water," I said. "And make that a double, please."

"Good girl," Rory said. "Two of the same," he told the waiter.

The bar was full of men in blue jeans and boots, blue cotton shirts and leather vests, tooled belts and bolo ties--all with their hats on, of course. They wore name tags encased in plastic pinned on their shirt fronts and quite a few of them were getting smashed already.

"How did your meeting go?" I asked.

"Could have been worse. Most of these old ranchers are their own worst enemies, so when they succeed in shooting themselves in the foot only instead of someplace else you've got something to be grateful for, I suppose."

"What is it the League of the West actually does?"

"Basically they're trying to launch a second Civil War without another Sumter to jumpstart it. Trouble is, they don't have a Charleston either. There isn't a distinctively Western culture anymore, let alone a Western nationalist movement. Ninety percent of the folks in the West live in cities, and sixty or seventy percent of those are carpetbaggers from outside the region. The federal government owns fifty percent of the Western lands, and ninety percent of voters at the federal level support Washington's goal in managing those lands, which is to put the Old West--loggers, miners, ranchers--out of business. The Old West doesn't have a chance of winning, anymore than the Old South did a hundred and fifty years ago. Partly for that reason, partly because the Old West has been a destructive force in important ways, I'm not a fire-eating regionalist like a lot of the guys present at this meeting. Unlike them, I don't just want to defend what we've got left out here, I want to put it back the way it was when our greatgrandfathers took it from the Indians--so far as that's possible, of course. I run an experimental breed of cattle on my Anasazi Ranch, not big, ugly, bawling, stupid, farmerized whiteface, imported from the British Isles more than a hundred years ago. Barzona Cross are strong, fast cattle with long legs that carry them rapidly from one drainage to the next so they don't hang around in one place destroying the riparian zones. It's the right thing to do, I make a bigger profit, and the environmentalists give me credit for it. At least some of them do, more anyway than my neighbors who seem to regard Barzona Cross as part of a government conspiracy, kind of a bovine equivalent of the Roswell space aliens. My answer is not to fight these tough Old Westerners but to educate them--and beyond that, to endure. Ranching of any sort, whether progressive or not, is an almost hopeless proposition these days, meaning that hope is about the most valuable commodity a rancher can possess--next to water, of course. Nothing lasts for ever, bad times included, and if you can outlast your enemies--and your biggest enemy is usually just circumstances, the way the world stands or seems to be headed at the present moment--you've gone a long way toward getting as close as you're probably ever going to get to winning."

He broke off as the waiter placed two napkins in front of us and set the drinks down on top of them.

"Do I sound like a lonely guy to you?" Rory asked when the man had gone away.

"I still don't know much about the League of the West," I said, "but already I know a lot about what you are."

We touched glasses and drank, smiling at one another. Rory had taken his hat off and placed it beneath his chair. The black hair falling into his eyes was streaked with gray, more gray showed at the temples, and the hat band left a dent in the sidehair above his ears as if he had been wearing a bowl on his head. He had a smooth skin for a man his age--I guessed he was in his early forties--who had spent all of his life outdoors and his blue eyes were as clear as an angel's, and just as knowing.

"You are dangerous, aren't you?" he asked.

"Of course I'm dangerous. Absolutely perilous, in fact."

"Ever been out West? For San Francisco that's back East, of course."

"I've driven across Utah and Wyoming on I-80. Most of it at night, as I remember."

"Ever been to Colorado? Not Denver--Denver doesn't count as Colorado. Hasn't for years."


"We'll have to see about changing that," Rory said. "You like the Pig's Nose, don't you?"

"I adore it!"

"You're a great girl," Rory said. "Let's have another snoutful, then."

He took me for dinner at the Top of the Mark after asking me to recommend the best restaurant in San Francisco. I felt anxious for him going up in the elevator with the Nob Hill crowd dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos but Rory just removed his hat politely, never batting an eye; this was a guy, I thought, who would be comfortable and at his ease in any company. The maitre d' was a black man with fabulous gray hair, gray mustache, and a gold front tooth whose name was Calvin. Calvin took my raincoat and Rory's hat, led us to a window table with a view of the city below, and drew my chair back while I sat in it. He called me "Ms. McIntyre" and I looked at Rory then but he didn't seem to notice, let alone be impressed. Calvin drew the linen napkin from my glass, unfolded it, and laid it across my lap before placing the menus in their leather covers between the silver place settings.

"Your waiter will be with you shortly," he said, smiling to uncover his square white teeth and the single gold one, and left us.

"Even for a man who's prejudiced against cities," Rory said, "that's a wonderful view."

"You don't seem prejudiced against San Francisco," I told him. "Or anything else, for that matter."

He smiled.

"What I mean is, cities can be beautiful and they're wonderful places to visit. Only they have nothing, really, to do with me."

The waiter was standing behind and to the side of him with his order book out and his pen poised above it.

"So what'll it be, Collie? Another Pig's Nose?"

"Not unless you want to see me really dangerous--to myself, more than anyone else."

"Well, we don't want that, do we? How about a bottle of white wine to give our livers a rest while we decide what it is we're going to eat this evening."

He ordered an expensive Pouilly Fuissee Something-or-Other and the waiter went away and returned after a minute with the bottle cooling in a winebucket, while I marveled. If this was what cowboys were like, I'd been missing out on a good thing all my life. Of course the only cowboys in San Francisco were drugstore ones, so it wasn't exactly my fault. If I was prejudiced like Rhonda was, I'd still be missing out. Her eyes would be wide as Orphan Annie's when I told her. Harry Barnes or no Harry Barnes, she was going to be more jealous even than she was already.

"Have you always lived in Colorado?" I heard myself saying.

"Always. Except for four years in the Marine Corps and four more at Yale."

So that was it! I hadn't thought about Yale having an Ag school.

"What did you study there?" I asked him. "Agriculture?"

Rory Lucas put his head back and laughed. I was seriously considering getting redhead mad when I saw his eyes. They looked bluer than ever and delighted, as if I had said something he found very witty.

"Hell no!" he said. "They wouldn't know one end of a cow from the other in New Haven. I majored in Oriental Studies with a minor in archaeology. They have people on the faculty there who really do seem to know a little something about subjects like that."

A name flickered in the back of my mind and flew forward like a moth toward a candle.

"Isn't there a Somebody Lucas--a well-known politician from Colorado?" I asked him.

Rory nodded. "Henry Steele Lucas. He was a U.S. Senator for twelve years. He isn't a Senator anymore. My uncle."

"Oh," I said, feeling dumb. I'd been playing Ms. Woman-About-Town introducing Mr. Hayseed-Shitkicker to Bright Lights-Big City, and now this. Cindy Crawford I'm not: I never even went to college, myself.

The wine was cold on my tongue but I hardly tasted it. I was feeling a little like Cinderella at the ball, but the ball hadn't started yet. Only it did seem to me I could hear the musicians tuning up behind the screen.

"Aren't the lights beautiful?" I asked, just to be saying something. I'd felt completely relaxed with this man for the twenty-four hours I'd known him and now I was beginning to clutch. Suddenly I felt insecure and selfconscious--naked almost, like in a dream when you discover you have no clothes on in the middle of a public place. Though dining out in posh restaurants was part of what I did for a living, it was like suddenly I had no business here at the Mark, in a world I hadn't been born to and where I didn't belong. But Rory was smiling at me again.

"You know what I was thinking about those lights?" he asked.


"I was wondering, How would you like to be sitting around a camp fire up in the mountains after dark with the stars overhead, drinking Pig's Nose from a tin cup and listening to the night wind in the pine trees and the coyotes crying to each other on the mountain peaks?"

"I don't know," I told him. "I have a hard time even imagining such a thing."

"I appreciate your honesty," Rory said. "But you see how prejudiced--provincial maybe is the better word--I really am, anyway. In spite of having gone to Yale."

"You're homesick for Colorado already--aren't you?" I asked suddenly, putting my hand out to his across the table.

He took it and held it tightly in his hard brown one.

"Yes," Rory said, "I am. But I'm going home tomorrow."

He let go my hand and raised his glass above the candle fluttering in its pewter holder. The flame lit the pale wine from beneath, turning it a deeper color until the delicate glass seemed changed into a golden goblet studded with the brightest jewels.

"To San Francisco," he proposed. "And homesickness, if I can't have the one without the other."

We ate pheasant and lobster and snails and a chocolate mousse and afterward Rory took me dancing. I was afraid he had in mind one of those awful country-western places--showing how prejudiced I can be, how slow I was to realize the awesomeness of this absolutely fabulous man I had found. Instead of a line-dancing hall we went to this Latin American nightclub where handsome dark men in white suits smoking cigars drank rum and lit cigarettes for beautiful girls dressed like parrots and wearing their black hair down to their waists. The place was filled with smoke, the talk so loud and confused you couldn't hear yourself think let alone have a real conversation, and there was a three-piece band from Argentina dressed in white coats with satin lapels and black trousers with a silk stripe down the leg. Just imagine a cowboy from Colorado--tangoing! I could hardly believe it when Rory took my hand, led me out from our little table onto the dance floor in front of the musicians, and slipped his arm about my waist. They had just begun a song by Carlos Gardel and the couples around us were moving already, pulling back, twirling round, and coming together again; I was standing stock still, looking around to find an open place on the floor, when suddenly I was in motion too as if a great wind had picked me up and set me going. There was the wonderful intermittent closeness of his chest against my bosom, the quickness of my own feet under me, the spinning lights, and--best of all--that thrilling light support beneath my shoulderblades, the guiding touch that spun me out, drew me in, and embraced me again, all in perfect time to the marvelous music, among the crowd of lithe, pampered bodies in their beautiful clothes and flashing jewels. The barman didn't stock Pig's Nose and we drank Hennessy brandy from balloons at twenty-five dollars a glass (I just happened to see the tab while Rory signed for it).

"Do you smoke cigars?" I asked as we took a break at the table, leaning forward on our elbows to watch the dancers.

"Not without permission from the lady I happen to be with with."

"Buy one, please. I want to see you smoke a cigar."

He called the mozo--meaning waiter in Spanish--over and asked him to bring cigars.

"I want one too," I told him.

"You do. Why am I not surprised?"

"I'll always do things that surprise you. Even when you're no longer really surprised."

Rory selected a Bances and I did the same. He clipped the ends with a cutter borrowed from the waiter and held the match for me while he explained how to draw on the cigar, with strong even pulls. We sat puffing and drinking brandy and after a while Rory invited me onto the floor again for a slow dance. He held me firmly, not passionately, and I clung to him, drunk with liquor and lightheaded from the cigar. (Unlike most models these days, I don't smoke except for a single cigarette now and then.) We returned to the table for soda water and lime to sober up with, and then Rory got my coat from the check girl and held it by the shoulders while I backed into it with my arms behind me.

"And a hat," Rory reminded the girl as he placed a five-dollar bill in the dish.

"Don't you ever forget your hat?" I asked as we went out onto the street and he clapped the Stetson briskly on his head, holding the front of the brim snappily between his thumb and forefinger.

"Never did yet. A Westerner always wears a hat, the way Bertie Wooster always wore a necktie."

I took his arm and counted ten before I asked, "Who was Bertie Wooster?"

"A mentally negligible young English gentleman who wouldn't have survived five minutes in the American West. Should I grab a taxi?"

"It's not that far to where I live. Why don't we walk instead."

The palm trees dripped water from the December rains and the salt air had the cough-drop smell of eucalyptus in it. Boats hooted from the bay and tires hissed on the wet pavement of the thoroughfare a block over as we walked arm in arm in the darkness past pale mansions standing behind masses of dark shrubbery beneath the red light of the city reflected from low clouds. Rory's legs were longer even than mine and he used them, as if he'd forgotten what it was to have a girl on his arm. I leaned into him as a reminder, until after a while he slipped his arm around my waist and we went on that way together at a slightly slower pace. We came to the top of the first hill and started down the other side toward the lights of the TransAmerica tower burning through the fog. Out in the street a taxi slowed beside us, the driver leaning across the seat to gesture at Rory who waved him on with his free arm. We left the residential section and came to a commercial street where the bars were letting out and the coffee shops closing up, and all the time I was thinking, What is wrong with the man, doesn't he know it when a girl wants to be kissed? We walked on and on through the night, up one wet slippery hill and down the other, and of course it was my own damn fault for not encouraging him take that cab. It's in a taxi late at night that you really have a man where you want him--if you want him.

My feet in the high-heeled shoes were hurting and his arm around my waist pulled me off balance a little, shortening my stride. Rory just kept on dragging me along and neither of us had breath enough for conversation, let alone a kiss. I was beginning to be seriously mad, thinking of all the bad words I knew relating to cowboys, when suddenly Rory asked, "Where are we?"

I'd been watching my feet for blocks and blocks until it seemed like a really bright idea to look up finally and see something for myself. We stood at the top of the hill we had been climbing, there were palm trees around and flowers, and big handsome houses standing along the four sides of a square.

"It's Russian Hill," I said in an aggrieved voice.

That's when he took me, sweeping me panting and breathless into his long arms and drawing me hard against him under the dripping trees. The Stetson came off even before I could get my mouth open and then I felt him inside, behind my back teeth and beyond, while his hands supported me once more beneath the shoulderblades as if we were out on the floor still, dancing to the music of the three-piece band. Like dancers, we stood swaying in each other's arms as our tongues wrestled softly together throughout an embrace lasting as long as the night itself. We came apart reluctantly, letting go little by little only to rush together again before separating for good. Rory put his hand up as if to pull the Stetson forward. He looked around, picked up the hat from the pavement behind him, and put it back on his head at a rakish angle.

"My God," Rory said. "Just look at that, Collie, will you?"

I wasn't in the mood for scenery, before I looked. The cloud ceiling had lifted halfway up the sky, away from the bay and the city below, while above it the illuminated towers of the Golden Gate Bridge rose tall and lights glimmered on the hills silhouetted against the gray dawn sky across the water. It's the kind of sight you see every other day living in San Francisco but this morning, seeing it through his eyes, I felt like I'd never seen anything so beautiful.

"I was wrong in what I said this evening about cities have nothing to do with me," Rory said. "Anyplace you are, Collie, has something to do with me, too."

"Darling," I told him, laying my head against his hard high chest, "there's nobody like you, and never was. And never could be again."

Half expecting Tom might have caught the redeye from Dallas, I told Rory good night in the lobby of the apartment building. He was moderating a panel in four hours and had to get back to the hotel to make notes for his introductory talk. We embraced again and he promised to call from the airport before getting on the plane to Colorado.

"Am I ever going to see you again, my dear?" Rory inquired. He held me loosely at the small of my back as I leaned into his linked wrists for a long farewell look at one another.

"What kind of a dumb question is that? Of course you're going to, silly."

"Just asking. I have no real experience with redheads to rely on."

A question occurred to me, just then.

"Have you ever been married?" I asked. "You haven't said anything about it, you know."

For the first time since I'd known him Rory Lucas seemed uncomfortable.

"Yes, I was married," he said finally.

"What happened?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know?" I demanded, feeling panic. After this wonderful beginning, was it all going to fall to pieces like that? Was he just another playboy, another cheater, another cad, another heel like all the others who'd taught me a lifetime wasn't long enough to find a good man in?

"She disappeared."


"Presumed dead," he said.

He very looked hard at me as he said it, and I looked back. Then I began to cry.

"Don't, Collie," Rory said, drawing me close to him again. "It's been a long time now."

"How long?" I sobbed.

"Long enough to satisfy the law, anyway." He took the bandana display handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and wiped my eyes with it.

"Don't cry," Rory repeated, stuffing the handkerchief back in the pocket and kissing me full on the mouth. "I'll call you from the airport and again this evening to let you know I got home safely."

I watched as he went out through the double glass doors and across the street, where he flagged a taxi. Then I took the elevator to the tenth floor, lifted the Sunday newspaper from the doormat, and let myself into the apartment. Tom's shoes were missing from beside the La-Z-Boy in front of the TV and his body from the bed we had been sharing for eighteen months. I pulled the black silk dress over my head and dropped it on the back of a chair in the bedroom. Then I turned down the spread and got into bed under the blanket, feeling sick and miserable. I was born beautiful--and that seemed to have used up all the good luck and fortune I was meant to have, ever.

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