Luke Herrington and Martha Walker met their Freshman year in High School and had been friends ever since. She was his vice-president their Sophomore year and they had worked together in the student body council before Martha resigned. Outside of school they spent many parties tucked away in a corner discussing political idealism while everyone else danced. He and she had several bars around town they’d go to talk.
Luke grew up in Deluth. His voice rolled with longs os and sharp, clear consonants; when he was not busy with the pursuits of school he was in the woods with his dog Molly. He loved hiking. He had the latest camping gear, the best hiking boots and the coolest water bottle available. He knew every kind of species there was of plants, animals, birds; he could predict the weather with great accuracy. When he was not out in the woods he was a bit of a social butterfly; he made friends with everyone, and was always the life of the party.
Martha remained in a silent daze, but Luke smiled and acted as if nothing had ever happened. He was a simple man who lived very much in the present, so he excelled at tucking away bad memories and ignoring unpleasant event to come. His habit of living in the moment made him a great procrastinator.
He sat comfortably throughout the meal. He had seconds and thirds, especially of Sandra’s homemade biscuits with ham, and he laughed loudly at anything funny that was said. When Luke laughed his head cocked back and he opened his mouth wide, revealing two rows of clean teeth, and he always laughed loudly, as if he wished everyone in the room to hear him. Martha despised his laugh, even though she loved him for everything else. She found his laugh despicable. He laughed a lot that night and most people liked him for it, and he chose music to listen to and engaged in the conversation of many. At the end of the night everyone loved him a little more, although they may have been a little tired of him as well.
During the meal Martha sat next to Patricia Fox. Martha could not forget the woman in the spacesuit throughout the meal the way Luke could, and she looked dismally into her mashed potatoes as if she could divine some answer from them. She talked very little, even though she loved Patricia Fox in every way. Patricia had strawberry-blond hair now and she told Martha all about a new creative writing campaign that the Star Gazette was coming out with. Martha nodded to everything that she said, but Martha’s mind kept returning to the misgiving she had about the space-suit lady. What if she was going to cause havoc in the neighborhood? What if she had not gone far? Patricia Fox talked to her about office work and how she hoped to get an advance; Martha heard and understood that much. Well, that would be good, she thought; she would like Patricia as a manager, for she had a good head on her shoulders. She felt miserable again and played with her spaghetti thoughtfully.
The meal was winding down; a few had finished and pushed their plates a little away from themselves. Sandra and Luke were talking a little quieter about a book they had both read and how moving it was; everyone else grew quiet. A few poured fresh glasses of wine. Kyle looked cheerful and even Martha began to pay attention to the serenity of her surroundings. The spacesuit lady was gone, potentially from her life forever.
Somebody thanked Martha for the meal and she remembered they had agreed to watch one of Patricia’s favorites; she retreated to the bedroom to find it while the others found settled in the living room and found comfortable places on the cushions and couches. Kyle made fun of the choice of movie, since it was a romance, but Martha soon put it in everyone grew into a contented silence. Luke helped Martha carry the dishes to the sink to wash.
The movie was about a girl who lived in France during the war. She fell in love with a German soldier while he was on leave and the movie expanded on the difficulties with loving a Nazi. The girls loved it but Martha could tell that towards the end the boys began to get a little bit restless. They began whispering among each other and cracking jokes about the corny lines in the movie, and of course this irritated the girls very much. Patricia Fox grew stonily silent, for she related the heroine very much.
“This film is not just critically acclaimed! It has won more awards than anything you’ve ever done.” And she was probably right about that, but all the same they laughed at her. Martha saw that Patricia turned very angry at this, and she silently put the water on to boil for a cup of tea. She already felt that it would be a long awkward evening; she could feel the tension in the air between Luke and herself about what had already happened, and now she felt Patricia’s anger like a hot wave. She always felt things too strongly. She silently made her tea in the dark and made Patricia a cup of chamomile, to which her friend smiled brightly and thankfully and Martha knew that he small act had done some good.
She leaned over the couch for a while, silently drinking her tea and watching the movie. She could understand why Patricia was so passionate about the heroine. This French girl seemed to be greater than everyone else in the movie, wiser and yet she had what everyone considered a great folly—that she loved a Nazi. She even despised herself of her flaw, and Martha couldn’t decide whether she passionately loved this French girl with all her heart. She despised the naivety and vanity, definitely, for these ideas are no longer respected in people; but she loved the pain mingled with love. She understood that deeply.
Then after the movie they grew serious. Luke, Patricia and Martha sat together on the couch and talked about how broke they were and how bad student loans turned out to be. Martha was surprised to find that Luke claimed to be desperately in debt, for she had seen him so frivolous with his money in his past. Of course Martha had no one to blame but herself for her lack of knowledge in her friends’ lives; she hadn’t sat down with Patricia Fox and Kyle since she had left college last year. It felt odd. She silently felt a wall of time separated them from each other and she could not reach them through it.