Only subscribers may read this in its entirety. What follows is a free preview, truncated midway through.September was Louisa’s turn to host. Even though her pregnancy, entering its seventh month, had begun to be burdensome, she was determined to give her friends a proper home-cooked meal, and she heckled the butcher for his freshest and most tender lamb. He lifted a maroon lump from the case and held it out to her, his thick fingers sheathed in latex gloves tight and translucent as sausage casings, but she rejected it and also the next one and sent him off to the back of his shop to get another, not because she really suspected him of hoarding superior tenderloins but because she wanted to make the extra effort. Her friends always announced grand culinary plans for their months, but then they complained they had no time to cook or to clean their apartments and ended up choosing a restaurant. Louisa resented their laziness and their refusal to treat girls’ night as a serious ritual. In restaurants, under the calculating eyes of aproned waiters, she felt they could never fully recreate the leisurely, intimate conversation that had been so abundant in college, back when they believed in the endlessness of talk and time and when any given night seemed capacious enough to hold everything they might ever want to say.
Mimi, small and square in jaw and shoulders, pugnacious and with a thin red mouth and a neat cap of dark hair, was the first to arrive. Then came Gretchen, delicate and pale with hooded, sly eyes and a long fall of Renaissance curls. They stood together in Louisa’s kitchen, drinking the wine Mimi had brought and waiting for Hannah, their great Nordic beauty, to arrive. When she did, immaculate in a gray suit, she made no apology for her lateness. “Hello, hello,” she said, dropping a box of expensive chocolates on the counter.
“How did you know I’ve been craving chocolate?” Louisa said.