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By Belva Plain

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Jim! I'm talking about humiliation. I'm talking about heartbreak. He's not for her. " Hyacinth's heart hammered in her ears. Not for me? What do you know about him, or about me, either? You know nothing about my life. "She's so good, Jim. " As dearly as if she had been sitting down there on the porch with them, Hyacinth saw their faces: her father's pale eyes, so much like her own, reflective, looking off into the distance; her mother's darting eyes, bright and blue, with the two vertical lines between them that appeared whenever she was alert or emphatic.

Her mother was at the lunch today. She said they expect a houseful. " If a voice were a ribbon, Hy thought, you could distinguish the threads in those words: alarm, impatience, and a trace of exasperation. " "But these are particular old friends. They're neighbors. And you've known Martha since grade school. " Tm not snubbing her or anybody. " Francine pushed the half-eaten dessert away and returned her voice to gentle patience. "Maybe she does care. " Hurt her feelings! Impossible! Martha moved as smoothly through the world as if she were gliding on ice.

For all her modern dress and manner, she also had the poise and polish of what Sargent would have labeled Portrait of Francine. "My goodness, what a beautiful table! And the chicken dish-it looks like your mother's, Jim. " "No, Granny's. " "Well, this is a feast. " Loquacious as always, Francine spoke brightly, gliding from one topic to another, certain that they were waiting to hear her. "I don't believfc it's been two years since Tom's wedding. " "I forget whatwe sent," Dad said. "A copper coffee urn, really stunning.

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