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Authors: Kathleen Gilles Seidel

Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige

BOOK: Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige
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Keep Your
Mouth Shut
Wear Beige










A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity

Keep Your
Mouth Shut
Wear Beige

athleen Gilles Seidel


. M






This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


. Copyright © 2008 by Kathleen Gilles Seidel. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


Design by Spring Hoteling


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Seidel, Kathleen Gilles.

Keep your mouth shut and wear beige / Kathleen Gilles Seidel—1st ed.

   p. cm

ISBN-13: 978-0-312-36774-9

ISBN-10: 0-312-36774-0

1. Divorced mothers—Fiction. 2. Weddings—Planning—Fiction. 3. Parents-in-law—Fiction.



PS3569.E5136 K44 2008





First Edition: May 2008


10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1






If my bridge club played more and talked less, our card play would be much better and my life would be much worse. With gratitude and affection, I dedicate this book to:


Marcia Dodge


Mary Gore


Jeannie Lewis


Edie Mansa


Caroline Roberts


Anne Smoler


Sue Whittier

Keep Your
Mouth Shut
Wear Beige




was going to be happy about this. I’d made a decision; it was the right decision. I wasn’t going to throw myself off a bridge with a lot of boo-hoo regrets.

My name is Darcy Van Aiken, and I’d moved from a spacious, stately Victorian-era house in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to this much smaller house in the Virginia suburbs. My ex-husband hadn’t wanted me to move. He kept telling me that I didn’t need to sell what had been our family home, that I could afford to stay there.

On paper, I could afford to keep the old house. But being able to afford something on paper is different from actually being able to. Oh, gosh, you think, who needs a lawn service, when the front yard is so small and the backyard is planted with ground cover, but then when you have to spend the whole summer planning your week around getting out the mower, suddenly you start missing that lawn service. And the ground cover does fine for a while, but by September it starts to look a little ratty, and come June the following
year the weeds come up with “ding, dong, the witch is dead” exuberance. Either I needed to enlist myself in a Gettysburg-size battle with poison ivy and Virginia creeper or I could move.

So I moved. Who wouldn’t?

If I’d stayed in the old house, I would have been chained to my job. What if my dad got sick and I wanted to take a month off work? What if I wanted to take some classes so that I could get a different job? What about travel and symphony tickets? What if I had to choose between them and a new roof? I didn’t want my life to become small because I was clinging to a big house.

So I moved . . . even though I always fall asleep at the symphony.

If Zack, my younger son, had wanted to stay in Forest Hills through the rest of high school, I would have. But he didn’t have such great memories of that house, and if we moved, he would get a parking place in the school lot, whereas if we stayed in Forest Hills, he would have to go on taking the city bus.

If a parking sticker isn’t a reason for moving, I don’t know what is.

Then there was the fact that Mike, my ex-husband, still walked into the Forest Hills house without knocking. His tools were in the garage workshop. His grandparents’ unsorted memorabilia was boxed up in the basement. He nagged me about having the gutters cleaned and the windows recaulked. The Forest Hills house still felt like home to him.

That, which could have been fixed through goodwill and improved communication skills, would not have been a good reason for moving and so played no role in my decision whatsoever.

Or so I kept telling myself.

Mike and I had been divorced for one year and separated for two years before that.

He was the one who had left. I suppose there’s never a great
time to surprise your wife with the news that you’re moving out, but his timing was particularly bad. We had just returned from taking our older son, Jeremy, to California for his freshman year of college.

“I made dinner reservations for tomorrow night.” Mike stopped me as I was carrying a basket of laundry to the basement. “There’re some things we need to talk about.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. Spending twenty-four hours with “some things we need to talk about” hanging over my head? That made me feel like a kid waiting to get lectured about falling grades or smoking behind the school Dumpster. Although I’d turned out fine, I hadn’t exactly been Miss Perfect during my high-school years, and I still have moments of expecting that the entire world is going to starting lecturing me about some failing or another.

“Why wait until tomorrow? Why can’t we talk about it now?”

“Tomorrow will be fine.”

“Not for me. I have the night shift this week.” I’m a nurse in the intensive-care unit. If we went out to dinner, we would have to eat very early, and I wouldn’t be able to drink.

“Oh.” Apparently he hadn’t checked my schedule, which was, as always, stuck on the refrigerator. He took a breath. “Okay, Darcy, I need you to understand that this is just temporary.”

I set the laundry down. “That sounds bad.”

“No, I think it may be a very positive step for both of us.”

That was strange. Our marriage could, I’d be the first to admit, use some positive steps, but it sounded as if he was saying that this time we were both taking a step. He’d always maintained that I, and I alone, was the one who needed to pick up the pace.

We’d met when he was a stressed-out graduate student in economics and I was in nursing school. I have a very good memory,
and my dad’s a doctor and my mom was the nurse in his office so I was pretty much born knowing the names of all the bones in the foot. Nursing school was easy for me, and as a result, I was a whole lot more fun than Mike’s fellow stressed-out graduate students. A tomboy as a kid, I love the outdoors, and I’m willing to try any physical activity, even the ones I am really bad at. Mike fell in love with me for who I was and then immediately set about to change me.

It drove him crazy that I could not close the doors to the kitchen cabinets. I could not, he quickly discovered, be relied on to get the car inspected. There were no systems in our family, and whenever he would set one up—our two boys needing to do specific chores for specific percentages of their allowances—I was incapable of enforcing it. Nor was there any order in our house. He could never find anything. His athletic socks were sometimes in the drawer with his dress socks, and sometimes they were with his briefs and undershirts, depending on whether or not I had been thinking of myself as sorting socks or washing whites. There were still
Sesame Street
tapes in the kitchen drawer and broken crayons in a bowl on the bookshelf long after the boys had topped six feet in height.

I never sat still to watch television or listen to music; I was always jumping up and doing six things at once. At work I was crisp and decisive, but at home I never labeled anything. I did everything at the last minute. I was, again according to him, chaotic and unreliable.

The “unreliable” had stung. I wasn’t unreliable about important things, not about anything to do with the boys’ health or safety. I was meticulous at work. I had never harmed a patient, and my ability to do six things at once had probably saved dozens and dozens of them.

I never defended myself against Mike’s accusations. All the
specifics in his list of charges were so accurate—I could buy a huge Costco multipack of batteries one day, and the next day not be able to find a single one—that I felt as guilty as I had when caught smoking behind the high-school Dumpster. When Mike attacked me, I could never remember anything I had done right— the heart-rate monitors that suddenly reestablished themselves into a regular rhythm; the IV line that no one could get in but me; my own boys slipping their hands into mine and rubbing their cheeks against my arm. I could only think about everything that was wrong with me.

So I would never stand up for myself, and I do not respect people who won’t stand up for themselves.

BOOK: Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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