"How pretty I look!" Anna thought, regarding herself in her mirror before putting the finishing touches to her appearance. And she was pretty; she had finally grown into her looks, as they say. She was readying herself for her date with Stan Howell, the sophomore quarterback for the varsity team.
"Maybe a hat," she thought, but then thought again, because nobody wears a hat these days; but she could get away with it, she was certain. She took a black beret from her dresser-top and set it square upon the top of her brown hair. Then, with all the certainty of a photographer adjusting the accessories on his favorite model, she tugged the left side of the beret down to the top of her ear. "Perfect," she whispered.
She heard the doorbell ring. It must be Stan. Out of sheer reflex, she moved toward the door to make her way downstairs to greet her caller; but she stopped herself short. It wouldn't be necessary for her to be the one to answer the door. In the past, Anna's mother had always met Anna's few boyfriends at the door and, in no time at all, managed to sweep them off their feet, putting an end to any interest they might have had in her daughter. But surely that couldn't happen to Anna again, if only because she herself was now so attractive. Besides, what were the chances of Anna's mother being the one to answer the door? There were, after all, four others in the house, Father and Anna's three brothers, so there was only a one-in-five chance of Anna's mother answering.
Then Anna began to recall the complete sway her mother had always possessed over the boys who came calling. Her mother was always so alluring, so chic, even in her everyday clothes. Of course there was never any question about Mrs. Lynch having any inappropriate intentions toward those boys; no, it was simply a case of their finding her irresistible. And since they found her irresistible, the boys couldn't be blamed either, for who is mighty enough to resist the irresistible?
The good-natured exchanges Anna could hear, but not quite make out, going on below, finally stopped her daydreaming. She went downstairs. On her way down she recognized her mother's and Stan's voices. The two of them had been alone in the kitchen those few moments. Anna softly cursed her lazy brothers for not answering the door.
She reached the kitchen just in time to see her mother carefully wiping from Stan's upper lip the remnant of the milk she had just given him to wash down the warm brownie she had hand-fed him.
"Nothing inappropriate about that," Anna tried to convince herself, while also trying to gather the waning self-confidence she would need to approach the two who already seemed every bit the couple--fast friends, at least.
Anna walked up beside Stan and took him by the wrist and began to lead him away because the two of them had made plans to visit the art museum. Imagine Anna's indignation when Stan informed her that there had been a change in plans: it seems he and Mrs. Lynch had decided the three of them would sit down and play a game of Scrabble. Masking her disappointment as best she could, Anna sat down, and Stan, as dutifully as any love-struck pup, followed Mrs. Lynch into the next room to fetch the Scrabble box from the shelf in the closet.
They returned in a moment, and Mrs. Lynch opened the box and sat across the table from Stan, Anna between them at the end of the table. They drew letters to see which one of them would have the first play. Stan would go first, and the order would proceed clockwise, Anna second, Mrs. Lynch last.
Stan played "ATTRACT," using up all his letters, a feat for which he earned fifty bonus points, twenty of which he purposely failed to account himself, just because he hated the idea of jumping so far ahead of Mrs. Lynch. Because Stan hid the scorecard beneath his elbow, neither Mrs. Lynch nor Anna noticed his gallant act.
"Your turn," said Stan, addressing Mrs. Lynch. Anna's turn had been skipped. She may as well have faded into the wallpaper.
Mrs. Lynch played "TEMPT" off Stan's word, and then Stan congratulated her and told her what a brilliant play that had been. Then Stan played, then Mrs. Lynch, and so on, until Anna spilled over an unplayed corner of the board the remains of the milk she had poured for herself, finally reminding the other two of her presence. Feeling clumsy, she took two napkins and swabbed at the board.
"Play, dear," said Mrs. Lynch to her daughter.
"So, I finally get a turn!" thought Anna. But she had lost all heart for the game. She glanced at her letters for a second and then tilted her tile-holder and slid her seven unplayed letters into the box--letters that would have spelled "SURRENDER," had she had a "U," and had there been an open "S."
After listening to what she considered to be her mother's half-hearted attempt to convince
her to remain in the game, Anna retreated upstairs to her familiar bedroom. She glanced into the
mirror. Her tears starting, she took the now ridiculous-looking beret from her head and flung it to
the floor and ground it beneath her heel. She began to reflect bitterly on how her latest beau had
become--as had all the others before him--Mother's in seconds.
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