The Marriage Plot
She lifted her face and pressed SPEAK again.
The elevator was waiting at the end of the floral runner. Waiting, Madeleine realized, because she’d failed to close the sliding gate when she’d staggered out of the thing a few hours earlier. Now she shut the gate securely and pressed the button for the lobby, and with a jolt the antique contraption began to descend through the building’s interior gloom.
“No, that’s not the plan. The plan is to see Maddy for breakfast and then leave after the ceremony.”
Madeleine turned and looked vaguely down Benefit Street. “There’s a place this way.”
And right now Phyllida was looking at Madeleine with the proper expression for this moment: thrilled by the pomp and ceremony, eager to put intelligent questions to any of Madeleine’s professors she happened to meet, or to trade pleasantries with fellow parents of graduating seniors. In short, she was available to everyone and everything and in step with the social and academic pageantry, all of which exacerbated Madeleine’s feeling of being out of step, for this day and the rest of her life.
Madeleine installed her parents at a table near the bay window, as far away from the pink- haired girl as possible, and went up to the counter. The guy took his time coming over. She ordered three coffees—a large for her—and bagels. While the bagels were being toasted, she brought the coffees over to her parents.
Phyllida asked, “So, are we going to meet Leonard today?”
To her surprise, Madeleine found herself contemplating this proposal. Why not tell her parents everything, curl up in the backseat of the car, and let them take her home? She could move into her old bedroom, with the sleigh bed and the Madeline wallpaper. She could become a spinster, like Emily Dickinson, writing poems full of dashes and brilliance, and never gaining weight.
“No, they don’t,” Madeleine said. “And, anyway, I am. Now. Speaking to you.”
Phyllida was waving as they came up the steps. In the flirtatious voice she reserved for her favorite of Madeleine’s friends, she called out, “I thought that was you on the ground. You looked like a swami!”
“Maybe I’ll take a trip, too,” Madeleine said in a threatening tone.
“By the Van Wickle Gates. At the top of College Street. That’s where we’ll come through.”
It felt deeply pleasurable to say this, to name her sadness, and so Madeleine was surprised by the coldness of Mitchell’s reply.“Why are you telling me this?” he said.
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