Evelyn hadn’t wanted to visit Helene. The women were no longer related, and it had been years since there was a reason for the performance of friendship and mutuality that had once existed between them. In this way, Tom and Ruth’s divorce had come as a relief. But there was shame, too, for Evelyn, an inner collapse when she admitted to herself that she had lived 22 years of her life with that woman shadowing her every thought and decision. Twenty-two years! To think that this could count as one of her most enduring relationships; neither of her marriages had lasted close to that long. And then, with one phone call—Mom, Tom and I have decided to split—the years of clench-jawed diplomacy with Helene simply vanished, as if they had never happened.
Afterward, Evelyn took a small pleasure in ignoring Helene’s friends when she ran into them at the market or the nail salon, feeling absolutely no compunction to make nice, aware that these well-dressed busybodies would report back to Helene about Evelyn’s insistence on keeping her figure when the rest of them had settled into their battle-ready girths. But the truth was, Evelyn hadn’t been released from the woman at all. She avoided Weybridge Road on the off chance that Helene might be looking out her window at the exact moment Evelyn’s Buick passed and might think that, like a spurned lover, Evelyn was stalking her. When she dressed in the morning, she imagined Helene’s silent disapproval of a tight skirt or her bare legs. Evelyn had lately begun to spend her winters in Florida, which turned out to be a freedom, not only from the cold and heavy-lidded Ohio skies, but from the disapproving weather of that woman. But this business with Helene stashed away at Willowdale—well, it wasn’t right.