Her eyes are on the mantel, but I direct her attention to the new floor rug I had shipped from London, special, three-day guarantee. “The weaver threads everything with unmatched attention to detail, on a loom that’s well over a hundred.”
“Is that so.”
“Do you notice the knot density?”
She’s still not looking when she asks, “The what?”
“The knot density. It’s how you know the quality of work, really. Nothing like this in stores. And it’s all done by hand.”
“Hand?” She jerks and kicks the basket of newspapers, which skitter behind her like mice, all claw against the hardwood. Her own hand is at her brooch before she knows it. Which gives her another jolt.
“Are you okay?” I wince.
This is the first she looks at me. The hand once at her breast gestures with timidity, and undue reproach, over my shoulder.
“Ah! The new mantelpiece.” I sigh into my teeth as a smile draws the drapes. “You noticed.”
Aghast, she nods.
“I thought about a clock, but these days, who has the time anyway?” I choke on my own wit. A brief moment regains my composure. “It’s hard to decorate sometimes. I get an idea in my mind of how things should look. A certain picture. Frames and pillows. Rugs. Mirrors? Do people decorate with mirrors still? Then there’s the ironwork, the woodwork, wicker, plastics—ugh! who can stand it? Marble. There’s the upholstery. I want it all to work, right? I mean all together. In harmony. But when I buy things and get them where I want them, I wonder if it’s really worth the effort. It’s never exactly right.”
I can see my friend is only half listening. Her eyes are glassy, but I’m almost certain she’s looking in mine by now. So I carry on.
“It’s like there’s something inside me that knows how a place is supposed to be, supposed to look.”
My friend stammers. I smile.
“Well—I can’t show everyone what’s inside me, now can I.” I turn and gaze again at the mantelpiece, cock my head to catch it in a different light, a different angle.