BY LUCY WARNER Now twenty-one years old, LUCY WARNER started writing at the age of fifteen. She went to Sarah Lawrence College for two years, spent a winter in Italy, and for the past two years has been an undergraduate in English at the State University of Iowa.Miss Warner’s home is in Vinalhaven, Maine.
THE lawn under trees was empty when Sarah came downstairs with her suitcase. In the green summer shadows the remnants of the wedding reception littered the grass. Yet through trees she saw the water in the bay springing along in sunlight.
It had been the windiest wedding anyone had ever attended. Several ladies’ broad-brimmed hats had skimmed over the lawn, and Vic had said to Sarah that the gale made ripples in the champagne glasses. How it had freshened everyone! Bridesmaids with their skirts ballooning behind them, the bride, Anna, with her light hair lifting and tossing, and Vic’s face glowing in the warm wind, his tails flying, his large square hand lost in the billowing of his new wife’s skirts. Under those quivering leaves, under the gusting light and shadow. the dresses and lapels and hair of grown people had fluttered and blown, and children in their party clothes had scattered as though driven by the wind. And perhaps everybody had felt a gaiety that was more lovely than festive. Was not everyone charming in the summer gale? Sarah had not believed in that charm, had wondered if everyone understood it, and had known that somehow they did. Vic had. He had taken his cousin’s arm and said, “Isn’t this a day, Sarah?”
“It’s your day.”
“Yes, but everyone —” and they had looked at everyone and smiled.
Does Anna know? thought Sarah. She herself asked nothing of Vic. She had almost said to him. “I’ll be thinking of you,” or “I know how happy you are, and I’m so glad for you.” But she knew that it was a way of saying, “Think of me and hope for my happiness, my dear cousin,” so she kept still.
But he had not forgotten her. At the moment when he was to go inside to change his clothes, he had rushed up to her.
“Let us hear from you when we’re back. Sarah, I’m happier you came today than anyone else.”
Then he had kissed her while her hands flew to his chest.
Because of all the people in front of her on the narrow drive she had not been able to see Vic and Anna rushing out; she saw only the rice and pinkpaper rose petals fly up and scatter in the wind, and as the crowd separated she saw little boys and girls running out on the dirt road. Back under the trees people were already taking off their shoes, hanging their jackets over their arms. While Sarah went upstairs to change from her bridesmaid’s dress and to pack her things, the guests began leaving. Occasionally she heard someone below her window saying to Anna’s parents, “Say goodbye to Sarah for me,” or, “Where’s Sarah?”, but she did not call down to them. She came out later to an empty lawn.
Right at that moment, she could predict, and for Vic too; in the scene before her she could almost see what she must do. Anna’s little sisters were playing in the garden beyond the hedge. For Sarah there was nothing now but to leave this sweet-smelling country house and go back to New York with her sister, Elaine. How the sea leapt along! There were glasses left on the grass, napkins from the pieces of wedding cake, overturned chairs and stools along the hedge. The children’s voices gusted up in the leaf-spilling wind. And Sarah knew that no green shade and sparkling sea could forever keep one glad. Pretty, yes. Nothing would be so lovely again as women’s dresses brushing out against men’s hands and thighs, arms held up to keep loose hair back from the forehead, the constant movement of leaves, jackets, bushes, branches, the flash of children’s white socks, the faces lit with wind. But it had not saved her, not at all. If she had asked nothing of Vic, it was out of love for him and not in the least because she believed really in his happiness. For him as much as for her, the remnants of gaiety and beauty were already strewn in sight, even if he’d been spared this deserted lawn and the view of a bay saying, “You are about to depart for a hot, hot city.”
That night in the city Sarah leaned out her apartment window, thinking: “Everyone who leans out his window tonight will know how it is. There is the strange young man standing under a tree with a roll of paper, perhaps a painting, under his arm. The water on the East River, under a ferry and a pier, jags on the stillness; one remembers — it does not matter whether you’ve been there or not — Genoa and Venice. The streetlight, its globe shaped like a beehive, is attracting moths, and the mysterious young man appears under it, and he is not so very different, save for the handsome dark back of his head, from anybody else. In the distance: hot summer noises which all cities have; and children’s voices, city children who are allowed to play outdoors in the night. Ferries, tugs, and freighters hoot and blast. The air smells damp. What I mean is that if anyone leaned out and saw and heard what I do (two girls in jeans passing now, chatting loudly, arguing, really), he would be comforted too. When you are miserable, you board the freighter, imagine you are in Genoa, or join the young man who is so obviously waiting for somebody. That you do not actually do these things is no reason why you shouldn’t find comfort in them.
“For whom am I speaking, anyway?
“Perhaps only for myself.
“It is not so much comfort, I know, as envy. You can look at these things in two ways: is it just melancholy I feel, so that, indeed, it is a comfort to see a night city, or is it envy because I am too idle to accomplish a particle of what I want around me? But it does not matter, the reason. It is a little of both: I envy those traveling, and those loving or about to join a young man under the city trees; but I enjoy it too. Because for me the envy will drive me to action, and someday I shall know only the pleasure of leaning out my window.”
She went to bed then, before Elaine came in. Overhead the night was clear and the wind had fallen. By early morning it was still and already hot.
VIC woke in the hotel room lying on his side with his back to his new wife. Out of the window he saw a bright morning on city roofs and in the high pale sky. Oh, if only they could leave for the hills that moment! If only Anna hadn’t decided they’d need a day in the city to rest up before a long train ride. Rest! He needed no rest. By noon those hills would be sweet and musty with the heat, and on the lakes the first stirrings of an afternoon wind would darken the water. In his mind he saw an unknown young man running in the fields with a woman, and he envied him.
He rolled over to look at Anna. She was asleep, with the sheet held under her chin, her head tucked down in the pillow. “Abandon.” He thought of the word “abandoned.” Weren’t new brides supposed to sleep with sheet flung back and arms thrown wide or reaching in sleep for the hollow of their husband’s back? He touched her forehead‚ and she opened her eyes.
“Good morning, beauty.”
“Good morning.” She smiled.
“Were you sleeping well?”
“Yes, but I’ll wake up now. What a nice day!”
“Isn’t it! I wish we were leaving right now.”
“Oh, but a day in the city will be nice. There’s lots we can do. Let’s look up Fred and Alice. I hardly saw them at the wedding.”
Vic straightened up without touching her.
“Anna! Please, Anna, let’s be together. I want to be with you — let’s be alone, Anna.”
“Why, Vic, I didn’t mean — Of course. I’m sorry. Yes, let’s be together.”
She reached for his arm under the sheet, and he took her hand in both of his, with gratitude. But he did not, as he wanted to, suggest flight. Me didn’t say, “Let’s be gone, Anna. Let’s get into my hills today.” It was enough that he had her to himself. The bright days would wait. There would be other mornings of sun.
The light woke Sarah. The first thing she said to Elaine was, “Well, I hope Anna’s happy this morning and they get off to the country before it’s too hot.”
“Honestly, you sound as though you’ve lost a lover! 1 never saw Vic happier.”
“Yes, I know. I said ‘Anna.’ ”
But she was thinking: “It’s odd, but I know that when he woke up he thought about me. It’s a day for movement. On just such a day he took me to the hills when I broke off with Edwin. ‘What you need is to go off somewhere,’ Vic had said. ‘Come on with me.’ What he meant was, ‘I won’t say anything. But I can take you somewhere. It is a place I want to show everyone I love, where someday I shall take the woman I marry. If you come with me there, that is what I’ll do for you, my darling cousin, my poor poor Sarah.’ ”
They had called each other up; she couldn’t remember who called first. At opposite ends of the city that early bright morning they had each crammed things into a suitcase. They met in midtown and took a bus for the country. She had bought bakery rolls, oranges, and a box of blueberries. The heart she thought was for a long time to be weighted down picked up there beside her cousin. They ate the crusty sweet rolls and handfuls of blueberries. The first lakes among wide hills were windless and pale, and the bus passed under dark trees and rolled up sunny roads above the water. They asked to be let off on one of those slopes, and they ran downhill and threw their suitcases in the grass. They began to run together along the lake. He had to slow down so she could run with him, but he kept drawing ahead. Finally he took her hand, and they beth dashed. Every time her right leg, next to him, went forward, he lifted her with his hand so that she skimmed beside him.
“Good girl!” he cried.
They fell forward and tumbled on the grass, sprawling out. When she had almost got her breath, she said, still gasping, “Oh, Vic! Wonderful. . . . Did you ever? Abandoned . . . like being thrown off a plane!”
“I thought you’d like it. I always have,” he said, sitting up to look across the water, the dark back of his head turned to her.
She knew what he meant.
Now, this morning, Sarah sat up beside her sister and felt the slight notion of sadness in her, the slight envy of Anna, who would be given these things. But she sprang up, crying, “Make some coffee, Elaine. Come on, girl! Isn’t it still our vacation?”
And the two sisters launched pillows at each other and snapped the torn shades up to the tops of the windows to let in the sun.