A Novel

            Stepping out into the chill dusk under the portal, Apple sees the lantern-shaped light burning over the door to what Cory (or was it Mabel?) calls the Big Room and wraps herself protectively in her sweater.
            Stooping to a pile of firewood, she hear a strange treble cry and wonders if it's coyotes on the desolate land in back of the house.
            Uneasy, she gathers up a few logs; they fit awkwardly into her arms. She will have bits of bark on her sweater, her pretty pale-pink sweater embroidered with morning glories, which Billy gave her for her birthday.
            Packing it, Apple imagined her sister asking where it came from, imagined telling her it was a present from Billy, ordered from New York, the right size, the right color: proof that Billy whom Cory had not yet even asked after functions smoothly as husband, present-giver, lover.
            Back in her dim room, Apple gets down on her knees in front of the rounded corner fireplace--she's a little creaky, getting down, she plans to start an exercise program--,and props her armload of logs as Cory has instructed her upright against the back of the fireplace.
            She lights some paper, sticks it under the logs, and sits back on her heels to watch, remembering their father poking furiously at fires that seemed always to go out just when guests were expected, sending up thin expiring spirals of smoke.
            The fire smolders, a few brief flames emerging from the paper, then dies down, and Apple adds another log.
            Feeding the fire reminds her of the pony she had as a girl. At first when she offered him a pinch of grain, he would snag her palm with the edges of his teeth. During the ten years she rode him (before Billy took the pony in hand, then replaced him with Corabelle, her hunter), Apple taught the pony to take a pinch of oats delicately from her hand. It was an accomplishment, and suddenly Apple wants to tell Cory about it: I trained that pony out of his meanness, by the time Billy took him over he was eating out of my hand.
            Finally, her patience pays off; the fire catches. She watches it for a while, then goes to the dismal little bathroom, nothing more than a closet, really, to wash her hands before dinner.
            Who will be here, she wonders; it's the first time in years she hasn't known. When Billy takes her out to the club, or John Henry's, their really fine steak house (although now no one is eating red meat, J.H. has to serve a lot of chicken) or to Chez Maude, their first-class French cafe, Apple knows most of the people at the neighboring tables, and the ones she doesn't recognize, Billy does. When they invite guests for dinner, there's never a new face, unless someone has a houseguest; and of course when they eat alone . . .
            She dismisses the brief memory of the little table where they eat together, always something special, poached breast of chicken with asparagus, for example, or lemon sole you can hardly tell was frozen, with a spinach salad. No desserts, neither of them can afford the calories anymore, and she remembers seeing Conchita rolling out pie dough that morning.
            How does pie dough relate to strange faces, new faces? Perhaps, Apple thinks, it's like the chili, sweet tastes, strong tastes, all leading in unlikely directions.
            Ten minutes later she has dressed, made up her face--and the fire is out. There is nothing more depressing, she thinks, than a clutch of half-burned logs. She decides to give it up and join the other guests.
            She walks into the Big Room where the couple from Albuquerque is sitting by Manuel's hot evening blaze. (How does he do it, Apple wonders, and decides to ask him.)
            The couple is paging through magazines. Apple guesses they've been locked together in the car all day, sight-seeing, and may be relieved to encounter a stranger.
            "Where did you go today?" she asks.
            "We wanted to walk," the husband explains--and he is a husband, Apple thinks, a neatly-turned-out middle-aged man, certainly a lawyer or a businessman, with well-tended hair and nails and a firm, managed body, "but the sidewalks here are so narrow."
            "All ice, I'm surprised they don't have law suits," his wife, a larger, more untidy person with red hair flying around her face puts in.
            "And the cars throw up water--Muriel was drenched," the husband says indignantly. "So we got the car and drove everywhere." He hasn't yet surmounted the chagrin of changing plans.
            "You were probably looking forward to the fresh mountain air," Apple says sympathetically, and the wife admits that she was before the husband has time to respond.
            "It's beautiful here, though, isn't it?" Apple asks.
            They both nod, but the wife adds, "They don't seem very friendly--the natives, I mean."
            "You've been to the pueblo?"
            "Yes, and Ron's camera was knocked out of his hand!"
            "I didn't see the sign saying you can't take pictures," he admits, "but they could have told me."
            Apple says, "They've had photographs turn up in National Geographic and a description of their dances even found its way into some comic book. They're sensitive."
            "They sure are," the man says.
            Cory has come in the front door. She is on her way up to her desolate sun porch (as Apple thinks of it; she hasn't actually been invited to visit), and she hears the last few words of the conversation. "They have reason to be sensitive," she says and continues on up the narrow stairs.
            "All that money the government hands out--and now they're getting casinos, nuclear waste, logging," Ron complains.
            "Not here," Apple says, and wonders at her defensiveness. What is the pueblo to her? Only a locus of strangeness where she watched dances and recognized another of her sister's secrets. "This is a very conservative pueblo, they won't hear of endangering their traditions."
            The husband has nothing more to say, but the wife is less easily turned off. Apple guesses that she champions her husband's opinions. She believes in him; and Apple remembers her own voice ringing out, justifying Billy's decisions about the terms of the sale, until finally one late evening he asked her to stop: "I can fight my own battles."
            But can he? Will he? She imagines him now eating a dismal dinner alone at the table in the window; she froze six casseroles before she left. She decides to telephone him after supper.
            As they walk into the dining room, the two men from Texas emerge from their room. They introduce themselves all around.
            "They take our money," the wife is continuing her critique of the pueblo. "They don't have any trouble with that. My feeling is if they take our money, they ought to treat us decently."
            "With manners, you mean," Apple says, and remembers Cory's lecture. What does she call it? Instruction for the numb? The school of as-if? Whatever it's called, it has something to do with manners, their usefulness.
            "Exactly," the wife says.
            "We're in the minority here," Apple reminds her kindly; after all she can't be blamed for not understanding.
            One of the Texas pair laughs. "An unfamiliar feeling for you people," he says, glancing at Apple, who has taken what seems already to be her assigned seat at the foot of the long table.
            "You're right, we white people are not accustomed to being less than all-powerful," she says, looking at him curiously, separating him from his partner, which she must always do in order to see the individual more clearly than the bond. "It takes some getting used to."
            "Not for us," the Texan says, glancing at his partner, and Apple wonders why in all these years she's never called Billy that. Perhaps partnership only develops as an alliance against a hostile world.
            "How so?" Ron asks, and Apple knows he is interested in making a stir.
            "We just went through the business of trying to get married," the smaller man says, not willing, Apple guesses, to be consigned to what might be construed as embarrassed silence. "The Bishop of Dallas, no less, turned us down."
            "Not in his church, he said--as though it belongs to him," the taller man explains, and Apple knows they've orchestrated this, taking parts, determined (and this is a kind of courage she's seldom witnessed) to make their situation clear, no matter what company they find themselves in.
            No one asks to hear more. Conchita is passing bowls of soup, deep red, with a single green leaf of basil in the middle. Apple knows the soup will be fiery-hot. She picks up a large spoon.
            "We wrote a perfectly tasteful ceremony," the smaller man continues as spoons begin to clack inside bowls. "Our mothers were coming. No one was going to be offended--but the Bishop refused."
            "Well, after all, a lot of people do just live together," Apple murmurs.
            "We felt excluded. It nearly broke our hearts," the taller man says, and she stares at him, wondering by what act of will he has brought himself to make this revelation. His partner reaches out and takes his hand.
            "How do you know when your heart is broken?" she asks, to her own surprise.
            "It just happened," he says, and she doesn't know if he means the confession or the heartbreak that prompted it.
            "I want to know something," she says, leaning toward them down the length of the table, and hears silence deepening in the peculiar way it does in Cory's house, as though it gains density from suppressed feelings.
            Both men stare at her.
            "Are you in love? The way we are in love?" she asks, then gasps at her own temerity.
            "Who's we?" Ron asks.
            "The majority," Apple says with a confidence she doesn't feel. "Heterosexuals. That sounds like some kind of zoo animal, doesn't it, something with zigzag stripes."
            "A zebra," Muriel suggests, smiling.
            They all laugh, and the moment passes. Apple doesn't dare to repeat her question.
            "Truth is pain," Cory said once, years ago, and Apple knows it's so and welcomes the pain, or at least the possibility of pain, as when she was younger and riding Corabelle she welcomed the possibility of a fall. She lost that willingness after Little Billy's birth, after she gave up riding.
            "I can accept your lifestyle better than I can what's happened to our son," Muriel says after a while to the two men. Conchita, removing the soup plates, glances at her sharply. "Our son's an alcoholic," Muriel goes on, turning her stemmed glass between her finger and thumb. "Has been for years. We've tried everything."
            "All the detox places, psychiatrists, twelve-step," the husband says. And then he looks at Apple. "I don't know what more we can do."
            "How old is he?" Apple asks.
            "Seventeen. Our only one."
            "I lost mine that way, too," she says. "Also my only one."
            "What happened?' Muriel asks.
            "He started taking everything he could lay his hands on when he was fourteen years old," Apple says, and realizes that the words come easily, now, she has repeated them so often in so many settings they no longer cause her shame or grief. "We tried everything, too, but none of it worked--all those forced cures. Then, after we gave up, he got married and joined AA."
            "Thank God," Muriel breathes. "I only wish--"
            "No, you don't. The marriage ate him alive, and so did AA. There's nothing left of the son I knew."
            "But surely . . ."
            "No. It's a cure, all right, but the way I look at it, the cure is worse than the disease. He won't come near us, anymore, and when we do manage to see him, either the girl is with him--his wife--, or he just wants to talk Program. He thinks his father and I should go to one of those support groups, tell total strangers all kinds of things."
            "We tried that, too," Ron says. "I hated it."
            "I thought it did some good," his wife demurs. "Still, I can't help feeling that anything that would get our Ronny to stop drinking--"
            "Not anything," Apple says. "Not another addiction that makes you lose him all over again."
            "But all mothers lose their sons," the smaller of the two Texans says. "My mother always blamed it on Donald here, but it would have happened anyway. We all have to separate, eventually, in order to become who we are."
            "I know that's what everyone says, but I feel differently about it. In the old days families used to stay together." Apple notices that Donald is calmly eating his chicken mole. "My husband likes to eat, too," she says, surprising herself. "I've always kind of admired the way he can eat in the middle of anything."
            No one knows what to say. Soon they are all cutting up their chicken and commenting on the strange chocolate sauce.
            Apple eats too, mechanically. She remembers it all, too clearly. When young Billy started to go off the tracks, his father separated himself from her lectures, her sobs, her sleeplessness: for his own survival, he said. He'd long ago separated himself from the boy himself.
            Apple feels as though her heart is breaking again. "My husband won't deal with our son," she tells her new friends.
            "Why should he deal with him?" Cory asks in her priestess voice, throaty, too assured, as though she is drawing on years of experience flavored with whiskey and cigarette smoke.
            She is standing in the doorway; Conchita must have knocked with her broom on the kitchen ceiling. Cory is wearing turquoise-blue, this evening, Apple notices, it looks like velvet, shirred at the hips, flaring below the knee, and a blouse with a low-cut neck. Heavy silver petals strung on a black cord hang around her neck. And of course underneath it all her bright-pink boots.
            What does it matter what she's wearing, Apple thinks. What if Cory came in naked, the long body Apple hasn't seen in a quarter of a century displayed like one of those silver petals?
            Yes, naked, she thinks. That would be more appropriate.
            "He should deal with him because Billy's his son," she say, and knows her voice sounds flat, the words chosen years ago.
            "But if he wasn't his son," Cory says in her smoky voice (and where did her southern accent go, Apple wonders, and imagines it flying off like a butterfly), "he wouldn't have any obligation to interfere."
            "That's true," Apple says, troubled. She feels her sister is trying to wedge her into a corner.
            Cory sits down, spreads a napkin across her lap and accepts a slice of Conchita's cherry pie. "So does love mean an obligation to meddle?"
            "I guess he wants his son to be healthy," Muriel says hesitantly. Clearly she thinks this may be a family argument, with hidden rules.
            "Meddling doesn't work," the smaller of the Texas couple says, taking a bite of his pie. "They tried it for years on me, psychiatrists, personality tests, mood-altering drugs to cure me of what they call my depression." He glances with a smile at Donald, who has refused dessert and pushed back his chair. "They think love is depression. I agree it can be depressing."
            Cory says, "If we acted toward the people we love as though we accept them unconditionally, perhaps in the end we would."
            Apple's been hearing that term a lot lately--unconditional love--, and for some reason it always sets her off, reminding her of her earliest days with Little Billy, before he learned to purse his mouth against her nipple or bruise it with his gums. "I don't think unconditional love exists," she says with asperity, resenting the fact that Cory has launched so smoothly into her evening's lesson. How long will it be before the guests catch on, refuse, rebel? Grown-ups don't want to be taught, Apple longs to tell Cory. "We can't love people that way because we're all sinners," Muriel says softly.
            "Sinners?" Her husband laughs, wiping his mouth.
            "That could be," Donald says thoughtfully. "I mean, if we're flawed from the start--"
            "Babies? Little babies?" Apple cries indignantly.
            "The sins of the fathers," Cory says from her end of the table. "I've always taken that literally: aggression, dominance. Not the sins of the mothers: depression, passivity."
            "What's that got to do with Little Billy taking drugs, drinking, going off and getting married without letting us know?" Apple asks, and feels as though she's slit her wrist and is bleeding all over the table cloth.
            "Maybe he's meant to be a drug fiend, as our parents used to call it," Cory says with a glint. "How do we know?"
            "My God, Cory!" Apple gasps.
            "Our son nearly died!" Muriel protests.
            Now the room is full of their voices. Only Cory is silent, smiling, sipping her coffee. Apple realizes this is just what she wants--the necessary wall that keeps stranger from stranger ripped down, appropriate restraints canceled. Some day there'll be blows at this table, she thinks, some day Cory will be sorry she started it.
            She reminds herself that Cory always started scenes, stirring up the most peaceful settings--Sunday lunch in summer, tea on a winter afternoon.
            What is love? she asked once.
            What does sex have to do with love?
            Why do women have children?
            Why do some grown-ups stay married?
            Their parents tried to put her off with laughter, or silence, or suggestions that this (the country club dining room or the old Earlbach Hotel lobby, packed with people they knew) was really not the time or the place . . .
            "This is not the time or the place," Apple tells her sister.
            "We have to begin to tell the truth, no matter what the situation," the little Texan says.
            Apple gets up from the table and carries her dessert plate into the kitchen, ignoring Cory's hand-painted sign, GUESTS BE GUESTS. She is cursing all of them, silently, but especially Cory, who never reveals anything while she fishes painful confessions out of the others, even strangers.
            But she won't get at me, Apple thinks, thanking Conchita for the pie and refusing coffee. She won't split me open.
            Then she sees the silent man from the pueblo, Luisa's brother, that Tony, sitting by the stove. Apple knows with a fresh surge of irritation that he's waiting for her sister.
            Sometimes I do regret, or resent, Cory thought an hour earlier, fastening the silver petals around her neck.
            Or at least I came close to regretting, or resenting, closer than I want; those are two emotions I've tried to scour out of my life.
            But to have to listen to that man--my guest, after all! So new-come from L.A. he hasn't a notion of what life is like here--speaking of the Indians with undisguised scorn!
            Or fear, perhaps. But either way--totally unacceptable (a phrase she recognizes as her mother's.)
            She glanced away from the mirror and caught the eye of her benefactress, Mabel Dodge Luhan, gazing blandly from the photograph hanging over her bed.
            "Your house is full of guests tonight, just the way it always was," Cory told Mabel. "How do I look?" She turned, twirled her skirt, flirted up an edge of petticoat, then buckled on her concha belt and slipped in the pistol.
            Looking at the photograph, she imagined she caught a gleam of approbation.
            She slid her shawl over her shoulders, its ends covering her pistol. "Not your kind of guests, though," she told the photograph. "Not artists and philosophers and writers--important people. I take whoever comes."
            She wondered whether Mabel really believed she personally selected each of her guests, drawing them to her from the East Coast, from Europe, the way she believed she drew D.H. Lawrence, even against his will.
            "Maybe you did have special powers. You certainly believed in them," Cory said.
            Mabel is labeled and made familiar by the symbols in her portraits: Navajo jewelry worn like Tiffany pearls. Hard to believe D.H. forced her into Mother-Hubbard's, briefly, had her scrubbing her floor, but Mabel was in love with him, that explains everything. She recovered, in the end.
            Power is power, Cory thought, it has no camouflage, even for a woman who still wants to be loved.
            Power, the great aphrodisiac when it belongs to men, strands us in an emotional desert.
            One, or the other.
            Not in my case, she thought, with more confidence than she felt.
            Mabel, my great queen, transformer of her world, was all for love, Cory thought, going carefully down the narrow stairs, her boots clicking on the painted runner. She was also all for power, refused to acknowledge a contradiction. That's why she won't leave us, Cory thought, she hasn't given up the world, its pleasures and triumphs.
            A few minutes later, she crosses the office and hears the uneven surge of conversation in the dining room.
            Now she hears her sister, complaining.
            Apple hasn't liked her life for years, yet shows no signs of changing it or getting out. There are rewards Apple won't acknowledge which must have to do, Cory thinks, with Billy's solid middle-aged body. It's more than the security, though. Since the sale, Apple has plenty of money of her own; she doesn't need to compromise the way she did all those years when she needed to be supported.
            Cory stops, stands staring at the glass-fronted case where Mabel's books are stacked.
            She's always believed her little sister was doing what was expected when she married, especially since it was before the new word on women came to the south. Billy Long was the expected-unexpected man; there are always potent justifications, Cory thinks, for apparently unconventional choices. And Billy was only unconventional because he hadn't quite yet gotten there.
            Crossing the Big Room, Cory remembers she couldn't bring herself to witness Apple's pregnancy, or the birth of that scruffy little boy she remembers as though he was still seven years old, runny nose, noisy demands and all.
            She sees Apple clinging to Billy's arm at that ridiculous wedding. Perhaps Apple used both Billys for security--the security that comes from accepting and acting upon the dictates (which Cory calls possibilities, only) of biology.
            Is this unwelcome revelation Mabel's doing--Mabel, who had one son, and called it quits, incorporating him into her life, willy-nilly?
            Mabel has a way of forcing things, and her timing is always perfect, Cory thinks.
            Cory wishes she hadn't looked at her portrait, asking for approval. There's always a price, and she's paying it now, in the coin of doubt.
            I can't afford doubt, she thinks, not now. Things are too precarious.
            Quickly she decides to lay all these questions aside; she'll never be able to deal with a tableful of would-be students (especially since they don't know they're would-be students) if she gets lost in a thicket of uncertainties.
            She steps into the dining room, forgetting to make an entrance of it when she hears Apple saying piteously, "My husband won't deal with our son."
            "Why should he?" Cory asks, fired with the energy which is also Mabel's unexpected gift.
            Apple looks around, startled. "Because he's his son," she says automatically.
            Cory delivers a statement about the connection between love and meddling; she knows her tone is harsh, and she sees the impact on her sister's face.
            Apple is not ready for this. Cory sits down, spreads her napkin, accepts a slice of Conchita's cherry pie.
            When does compassion come in, she wonders, when do I decide to cut her some slack? She condemns herself to silence until her pie is eaten.
            Eventually she allows herself to make a statement she prizes, about unconditional love, even though she knows that to Apple it can only be theory--painful theory; no woman wants to believe in the existence of what she's never had.
            Then Cory returns to her silence--a penance, a practical discipline--while the table erupts with the words Apple, she imagines, never wants to speak or hear: love, sin, babies.
            She fingers the silver petals on the black cord around her neck and imagines Mabel retreating into a similar silence at the head of her table. Most is learned, Mabel knows--and she taught Cory this, in the dead of sleepless nights--from silence.
            They are teaching each other now, at her table, lessons Cory had planned to impart herself. Perhaps it works better this way, they will remember longer, she thinks.
            Unconditional love.
            Let them make the connection.
            Apple stands up suddenly and stalks to the kitchen with her dessert plate, although there's a rule that guests don't go there, it's Conchita's domain.
            She comes back in a minute, looking pacified, and Cory stands up to signal that the meal is over. The guests leave, still disputing, and go to take up positions by the fire in the Big Room.
            Cory wonders how long it will last, this brief flare-up, this unusual preoccupation with the truth.
            As Apple passes her, head up, Cory realizes her sister is prepared for any revelation now.
            I never expected it, Cory thinks. But then, I have no faith.
            Faith is not practical, Cory has told Mabel, nothing is accomplished through faith. It has become their sticking point, battered at during Cory's sleepless nights until she thinks she'll never sleep again until the question of faith is resolved.
            She turns back toward the kitchen, thinking she will rest awhile in Conchita's silence before venturing into the Big Room, the lions' den of her arguing guests.
            Apple glances at her, then sets her mouth and proceeds on her course. Disappointed again, Cory thinks, and refuses to feel the sting. Apple must find a Mabel, a mother, Cory won't serve, for that.
            Conchita is stacking the dishwasher. She argued for it when Cory, believing in the virtues of simplicity, wanted to keep the double chrome sink that served Mabel's household. The hotel-sized dishwasher with its three racks is Conchita's prize, and she stacks it with jaunty disregard, putting in everything, even the wooden-handled knives.
            Cory has ceased disputing with her. Knives are replaceable, while Conchita's satisfaction is hard won and not likely to last.
            "Good pie," she says.
            "They ate it all." Conchita shows her the pie pan. "Didn't even leave a slice for Tony--"
            And now Cory sees him, sitting by the fire.
            She's still caught in their silence of the day before, and so she's surprised to see him; usually that kind of silence keeps them apart for weeks.
            "Did you walk over?" she asks. He looks cold, huddled in his old fake-leather jacket, rubbing his hands.
            "Manuel gave me a ride." The two men are friends of a sort, although Manuel was born outside the pueblo and is for that reason divided by an invisible line from Tony, son and grandson of governors.
            Conchita makes herself busy cleaning up the kitchen. She is used to being a silent partner to their conversations, Cory thinks, as indeed are many other people. Tony and Cory exist within sight and hearing of the town and the pueblo, as in any village in the south, she thinks, exactly the setting she tried to escape.
            It is only a problem when Cory insists it is. For Tony, she knows, this is life as it has always been, the individual functioning as a visible part of the whole, and she remembers the discredited prophet's axiom, ELIMINATE YOUR PERSONAL LIFE.
            She comes closer to Tony, and as she does, she steps inside the circle that surrounds him, which creates not so much an impression on the senses as a change in the laws of gravity.
            Close to Tony, Cory feels that her feet are flying off the ground. He sits as though planted for life in the chair beside the fire; his weight unseats her, his steadiness make her light.
            He looks up. His face is sown with observations and reactions she can't quite make out. He has, as usual, nothing to say.
            "I have to see to my guests. You'll be here awhile?"
            He nods.
            Cory leaves the kitchen.
            Once, she took Tony into the Big Room and gave him the armchair by the fire where he sat quietly while her guests talked around him, over him and finally through him. She did not repeat the experiment. "They don't bother me," he told her later, but they bothered her, she hated their disrespect, their ignorance. Now, she's not sure how she would feel--and then she remembers Apple. Apple didn't like Tony, at the dances.
            So it cuts both ways, she thinks, striding through the dining room, it's not just Apple who wants approval. A bitter pill.
            She knows, and doesn't want to remember, the parallel Apple, given a chance, would draw--Apple who has often accused her sister of placing principles before people.
            You wanted to work your will on Tony, Apple would say (although Cory doesn't think she uses that vocabulary), just the way you wanted to work your will on Billy and me during the sale. Except you couldn't, then. That's what you call principle, I guess--and these are words Apple has actually used.
            That's why we're still avoiding each other, Cory thinks, because of these unnamed disagreements. We're still speaking to each other only inside our heads. Perhaps if Apple knew I nearly lost Tony a month ago, because I thought I had him, she'd forgive me sooner for my other acts of will. Perhaps.
            (And how Tony rejected her, pushing her away in bed--and she had bought a new black satin nightgown especially to please him--is still almost too sore a memory to touch. He's come back to me, she thinks, but on his own terms, the terms of no possession, of an absolute and horrifying freedom.)
            Cory sits down with her guests by the dying fire in the Big Room, but they have already learned everything the evening can offer--and exactly what that is, Cory no longer knows--, and before long they begin to yawn, wanting the privacy of their bedrooms where they can discuss the evening in peace and quiet.
            The couple from Texas goes first, and Cory hears their voices in their room on the other side of the office; how companionable they sound. Then the Albuquerque duo--and Cory realizes, now, they are far more L.A. than Duke City--go off sourly, having lost in their own minds a battle for definition. Cory imagines the husband describing his wife in the same sure terms he's tried to use for the pueblo: a dependant. A ward. In his wife's case, no one will dispute him.
            Apple is left, sitting on the stool, hugging her arms.
            "I'm afraid you didn't enjoy the evening," Cory, as hostess, says.
            "Oh, can that, Cory." Apple's voice has an edge that's new. "It was fine. I'm just getting tired of us never talking, you never having time."
            Now Cory feels panic. Apple, little Apple, is trying to pin her down. "Tomorrow we'll go off somewhere alone together."
            "Not the pueblo," Apple says, with her unfamiliar fierceness. "Not that crazy seer, or whatever she is, and not any of your other local characters. The two of us, alone. I came for that."
            "All right," Cory agrees, although she feels cornered and is already imagining a way out.
            "And now I'm going to call my husband," Apple says, getting up. "Where's the phone?"
            "There's only one, in the office."
            Apple sighs as though this is the last indignity and clumps off. Cory knows she doesn't want to be overheard.
            For a second, she thinks this is the reason she jumps up and heads for the kitchen--to give Apple some privacy for her phone call.