Posted by: Ariel | October 20, 2012

“Out of Eden”

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. To keep her own guests waiting a minute more would be unforgivably impolite. She picked up a tray of mini-quiches, rearranged her face into a smile, and stepped out into the dining room. Madeleine Harwood was tired, though she was too proud to show it. She could admit only to herself how tired she was of cooking, of hosting fundraisers, and of pretending to care. She was even tired of her name, and had introduced herself as Maddie to a couple of the bigwigs, to their perplexed smiles.

The kitchen wasn’t much, a cluttered slab of counter underneath a window, but it was enough to be her sanctuary. She had taken to leaning against the wall and reading in there. It started as something to pass the time while baking, but recently hours would slip by as she shifted her weight back and forth, unwilling to sit and unwilling to move on. She was in the middle of Out of Eden, a story about the adventures of a guy called Adam and his wife Eve as they buy a house in the suburbs and try to make a place there. She was itching to pick it back up, and had already started planning her next excuse to get back in the kitchen.

She looked around for her own partner, and spotted him immediately. Her eyes were drawn so easily to Brian, just as they’d always been. He was chatting intensely with Elise, the senator’s aide, and even when he was listening he tilted his head sideways to let his salt-and-pepper hair do the talking. Maddie hated politicians, but she knew Brian was really after this connection. Just from his body language, she could tell that he was in one of his oddly effective stubborn moods. It seemed to be working, too: Elise was looking like the hard-to-get phase was officially over. Madeleine tried to catch Brian’s eye for a few seconds but soon gave up and was sucked into small talk with a gaggle of school board representatives. It was easy to let her mind wander then, and she drifted back to her book, feeling exhausted. Maybe, she mused, Adam and Eve actually ran out of Eden. Maybe we’re only given a finite amount of paradise when we’re born, and when we use it all up, there aren’t any more wonderful surprises.

She wasn’t expecting any tonight, anyway. Brian and Elise would close the deal, which meant a late night, with lots of drinks, followed by a litany of apologies she wasn’t looking forward to. “C’mon Mad, don’t be mad,” he’d say jokingly, and seize upon her tiniest sigh as forgiveness. Don’t be Mad. As if it was that easy to just will someone out of existence. Then again, maybe it was that simple – he was doing a good job of it, after all. He had the dedication necessary. And yet somehow, she couldn’t seem to do any more than play her part, as if her life was a story that had to be advanced one page at a time. She was walking calmly back to the kitchen now, the perfect hostess; but in her mind she was already there, already picking the book up, already on the next chapter. She thought she had some Eden left, and she wondered what she could make out of it.


This was an entry in NPR’s Three Minute Fiction round 8 on March 25. Enough time has passed now that I’m allowed to post it myself. It didn’t win, which is unsurprising; there are many better entries to be had by clicking the link.


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