The Complete Stories (Page 209)
They were leaving Providence. Liwy felt a trouble in her mind. The little man had been following their whispered conversation, with only the loss of his smile to show that he understood. She said to him, "Can you show us more?"
Norman interrupted, "Wait now, Liwy. What are you going to try to do?"
She said, "I want to see our wedding day. What it would have been if I had caught the strap."
Norman was visibly annoyed. "Now, that’s not fair. We might not have been married on the same day, you know."
But she said, "Can you show it to me, Mr. If?" and the little man nodded.
The slab of glass was coming alive again, glowing a little. Then the light collected and condensed into figures. A tiny sound of organ music was in Liwy’s ears without there actually being sound.
Norman said with relief, "Well, there I am. That’s our wedding. Are you satisfied?"
The train sounds were disappearing again, and the last thing Liwy heard was her own voice saying, "Yes, there you are. But where am I?"
Liwy was well back in the pews. For a while she had not expected to attend at all. In the past months she had drifted further and further away from Georgette, without quite knowing why. She had heard of her engagement only through a mutual friend, and, of course, it was to Norman. She remembered very clearly that day, six months before, when she had first
seen him on the streetcar. It was the time Georgette had so quickly snatched her out of sight. She had met him since on several occasions, but each time Georgette was with him, standing between.
Well, she had no cause for resentment; the man was certainly none of hers. Georgette, she thought, looked more beautiful than she really was. And he was very handsome indeed.
She felt sad and rather empty, as though something had gone wrong- something that she could not quite outline in her mind. Georgette had moved up the aisle without seeming to see her, but earlier she had caught his eyes and smiled at him. Liwy thought he had smiled in return.
She heard the words distantly as they drifted back to her, "I now pronounce you-"
The noise of the train was back. A woman swayed down the aisle, herding a little boy back to their seats. There were intermittent bursts of girlish laughter from a set of four teenage girls halfway down the coach. A conductor hurried past on some mysterious errand.
Liwy was frozenly aware of it all.
She sat there, staring straight ahead, while the trees outside blended into a fuzzy, furious green and the telephone poles galloped past.
She said, "It was she you married."
He stared at her for a moment and then one side of his mouth quirked a little. He said lightly, "I didn’t really, Olivia. You’re still my wife, you know. Just think about it for a few minutes."
She turned to him. "Yes, you married me-because I fell in your lap. If I hadn’t, you would have married Georgette. If she hadn’t wanted you, you would have married someone else. You would have married anybody. So much for your jigsaw-puzzle pieces."
Norman said very slowly, "Well-I’ll-be-darned!" He put both hands to his head and smoothed down the straight hair over his ears where it had a tendency to tuft up. For the moment it gave him the appearance of trying to hold his head together. He said, "Now, look here, Liwy, you’re making a silly fuss over a stupid magician’s trick. You can’t blame me for something I haven’t done."
"You would have done it."
"How do you know?"
"You’ve seen it."
"I’ve seen a ridiculous piece of-of hypnotism, I suppose." His voice suddenly raised itself into anger. He turned to the little man opposite. "Off with you, Mr. If, or whatever your name is. Get out of here. We don’t want you. Get out before I throw your little trick out the window and you after it."
Liwy yanked at his elbow. "Stop it. Stop it! You’re in a crowded train."
The little man shrank back into the comer of the seat as far as he could
go and held his little black bag behind him. Norman looked at him, then at Liwy, then at the elderly lady across the way who was regarding him with patent disapproval.
He turned pink and bit back a pungent remark. They rode in frozen silence to and through New London.
Fifteen minutes past New London, Norman said, "Liwy!"
She said nothing. She was looking out the window but saw nothing but the glass.
He said again, "Liwy! Liwy! Answer me!"
She said dully, "What do you want?"
He said, "Look, this is all nonsense. I don’t know how the fellow does it, but even granting it’s legitimate, you’re not being fair. Why stop where you did? Suppose I had married Georgette, do you suppose you would have stayed single? For all I know, you were already married at the time of my supposed wedding. Maybe that’s why I married Georgette."
"I wasn’t married."
"How do you know?"
"I would have been able to tell. I knew what my own thoughts were."
"Then you would have been married within the next year."
Liwy grew angrier. The fact that a sane remnant within her clamored at the unreason of her anger did not soothe her. It irritated her further, instead. She said, "And if I did, it would be no business of yours, certainly."
"Of course it wouldn’t. But it would make the point that in the world of reality we can’t be held responsible for the ‘what ifs.’ "
Liwy’s nostrils flared. She said nothing.
Norman said, "Look! You remember the big New Year’s celebration at Winnie’s place year before last?"
"I certainly do. You spilled a keg of alcohol all over me."
"That’s beside the point, and besides, it was only a cocktail shaker’s worth. What I’m trying to say is that Winnie is just about your best friend and had been long before you married me."