(Last week: Chartan and Gina harbor doubts about their marriage, although they keep it to themselves.)
For Chartan, driving Minerva to San Francisco was like putting on his weathered, black leather jacket—a fit so comfortable, he didn’t think about it. They’d exchange pleasantries before drifting off in their very different worlds. She, in the back seat behind the glass window reading a newspaper and he, hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, his mind serenaded by the hum of rubber on the road.
The trip was 89 miles and usually took 2 hours. In the early days Minerva would direct Chartan to Starbucks—a stop that added 15 minutes and put pressure on him to drive faster to ensure that his fare arrived on time for her therapy appointment with the renowned Dr. Kodor. But after Chartan’s affinity for a 72-bean cup of coffee became TV news(he was credited with thwarting the car window bandit by throwing his personal java in the thief’s face), Minerva requested a cup of his home brew for each trip. She tipped him handsomely for his effort.
On this day Chartan checked the rear view mirror precisely at 10:30 a.m—the halfway point. Minerva, as expected, had a porcelain cup to her lips. He was about to return to day dreaming when Minerva’s soft but assured voice crackled over the intercom: “Chartan, how is married life?”
He was surprised by the question. Two month’s ago at the start of their drive together, she had calmly stated from the back seat, “According to yesterday’s paper, you are now married, correct?” It was a very business-like query, befitting their relationship. He acknowledged his new status and the conversation went no further other than at the end of the day when she handed him an envelope as he held open the rear limo door for her. “Enjoy,” she said. When she disappeared into her mansion, he carefully opened it, revealing five one hundred dollar bills. What kind of person carries that much cash?
When he picked her up the following week, he’d placed a “thank you” note on the back seat. He watched her read it in the rear view mirror. There was a brief smile, then she returned to her newspaper. The subject of his marriage didn’t surface again until her question, asked as if she were one the boys. It wasn’t her style.
Chartan’s delayed response finally came out as:” Fine. Married life is fine.”
“Have there been compromises, my dear Chartan?”
She was reading his mind. He increased his grip on the steering wheel.
To be continued next Sunday…
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