|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena's Life, Part 9|
Rowena was not quite ready when her mother arrived to take her shopping. She let her mother in, wondering why she still agreed to these expeditions.
“Look at your hair,” her mother said in greeting.
“I'm still working on it.” Rowena waved her hairbrush. She didn't have any shoes on either.
“Could I bother you for something to drink?” her mother asked, already heading for the kitchen.
“Help yourself.” Rowena went back to work with her brush. Her mother found a soda, began poking around in Rowena's kitchen.
“Mom—” Rowena began, uncomfortably. She was always afraid a three-month-old chicken leg would magically appear from thin air when her mother did these things. But the thing her mother pounced on was only a piece of paper sitting by the phone.
“What's this?” her mother asked. Rowena came over and peered at it.
“It's a phone number,” she said helpfully. “Would you like a sandwich or a cookie or—”
But her mother was hot on the trail. “‘Sammy,’” she read. “Who's Sammy?”
“He's a guy I met last weekend.” Rowena retreated to the bathroom mirror. “Sure you don't want anything?”
“Last weekend?” her mother asked. “Is he cute?”
Rowena rolled her eyes. “He's too old to be ‘cute,’ Mom.”
“Cute cuts out at about six. Men can be attractive, but they can't be cute.”
“Is he attractive?”
“She supposes,” her mother said. “Where'd you meet him?”
“At a lemur fight.”
“At a what?”
“I met him at the zoo. That's why it says ‘Unofficial Zoo Tours’ on the card. It's a joke.”
Her mother stared at the card. “He has a sense of humor,” she said, though she did not seem especially amused. “At the zoo. He likes animals?”
“Does he like children?”
“I didn't ask.” Rowena put her hairbrush down. “Mom, this is really—”
“‘Sammy,’” her mother worried. “Why does he call himself ‘Sammy’ instead of ‘Sam?’ Is he immature?”
“I don't know why he calls himself Sammy. Maybe he thinks it sounds friendly. Maybe he thinks ‘Sam’ is boring.”
“And then,” her mother continued hopefully, “there's Sammy Davis, Jr.”
Rowena sighed. “Yes, there is,” she said. “Or, was.”
“Rowena—he's not—black, is he?”
“You know I have nothing against black people or anything, but when you were—”
“No, Mom, he is not black. Or Hispanic or Asian or American Indian or Middle Eastern or, as near as I can tell, Martian. He's just a pleasant guy with sandy hair that I met at the zoo last weekend.”
Her mother digested all this. “Have you called him yet?”
“No, I haven't called him. I've been too busy.”
“Well, you don't want to seem too eager, but you don't want to keep him waiting forever. You should call him.”
“What if he loses interest? Rowena—”
“Mother, if you don't drop the subject I will lose interest, and not just in Sammy.”
“Now, Rowena, it's not as if I'm nagging you. What does he do?”
“He works in an attorney's office.”
Her mother all but gasped. “He's a lawyer?”
“No, he is not a lawyer. He works for a lawyer. He is considering going to law school—I said considering, Mother—but he is not a lawyer.” Despite her irritation, Rowena couldn't help smiling suddenly at the thought of Sammy in a court of law.
“How much does he make?”
“Good Lord, Mom. That isn't even any of my business, let alone yours. ‘Hi. My name's Rowena. Are you rich?’ Mercy.”
“You could say something like, ‘Is that a good job? I wonder if it pays more than what I'm doing now?’ You can make all the faces you want, Rowena, but these things are important. I don't want you ending up with a husband who can't support you.”
“Mother. I've only just met him. There has been no talk of marriage. And even if there were, I do not need to be supported. I can hold my end up just fine. So please let me look after my own life, okay? Now,” Rowena said, “I am going to put my shoes on and then we are going shopping, and we are not going to discuss this any longer. Right?” And Rowena went into the bedroom, located her shoes, put them on, and, finding herself still angry, counted to twenty.
The first thing Rowena did when she got home was put on a cup of tea and collapse into a chair. When she had sufficiently recovered, she fixed herself dinner, and after dinner she cut the tags from her new clothes, including a dress her mother had insisted on buying for her to impress Sammy with. She was throwing the scraps away when the phone rang.
“Rowena?” asked the voice.
“My God, it really is you.” Her caller seemed actually surprised. “Rowena, this is Sammy, from the zoo.”
“Sammy?” Rowena sat down, bunched her hair up on her head with her free hand. “How did you get my number?”
Sammy laughed. “Would you believe, I was just sitting around, minding my own business, when somebody who claimed to be your mother rang up and—”
He laughed again. “Do you begin all your conversations like that? I swear I would never bother you like this under any normal circumstances, but I just had to find out if she was for real.”
“She was for real. She—I'm so sorry; what did she do to you?”
“Gave me the Third Degree, told me how wonderful you are, and gave me your phone number begging me to call you because you're too shy to ever call me.”
“Oh, no,” Rowena moaned. “And she wonders why I never confide in her. Sammy, I am sorry.”
“It's okay. I understand. Besides, it was kind of fun. Your mother makes an amusing opponent.”
“If she's so eager for me to ‘catch’ you, why doesn't she try being an agreeable future mother-in-law?”
“Try explaining that to her,” Sammy suggested. “I dare you.”
“So what did she say?”
“We agreed that law is an honorable profession and that a wife shouldn't have to work if she doesn't want to,” said Sammy. “Also that you have the qualities of a good lawyer's wife—whatever the hell those are; she wasn't too clear on that—and that three children would make a nice family.”
“You don't have to put up with that.”
“She also told me how beautiful you are.”
Rowena put her hand over her eyes. “Did you tell her,” she asked, “that you'd already seen me?”
“Of course. Hey, this was just about the best part of the whole conversation. And don't you start telling me how ugly you are, because I don't want to hear it and anyway, as you pointed out, I've already seen you.” Sammy paused just slightly. “She also told me what a great cook you are. I agreed with that, too.”
Rowena sat up. “My mother does not think I am a great cook,” she said. “She keeps giving me these bonehead cookbooks, and when I fixed dinner for her once, she—”
“Acted ‘like you'd built it out of Play-Doh,’” Sammy finished. “I remember.”
“And you've never had my cooking at all.”
“I told her I could tell you were a good cook,” he explained, “by osmosis.”
“God knows. But it made her happy.”
Rowena fell back into her chair. “Ever think of working for an ad agency?” she asked.
“She does it to me, I do it to her. I was just having a little fun with her,” he explained, “and making her happy. Like I said. I wouldn't lie to you, if that's what you're worried about; I don't lie to honest people. I wasn't really even lying to your mother; at least, not much.”
“Not much,” said Rowena.
“Rowena. Listen. Far be it for me to lecture you, but your mother means well. You know, you're the only Rowena she has.”
“Uh-huh,” said Rowena. “I do have a younger sister. Shouldn't she get most of—”
“It's different with the oldest kid. They do everything first and—their mothers just get too used to worrying about them. Or something like that. Not that she's all that calm about your sister, I expect.”
She sighed. “I don't know.”
“Let me tell you something else,” said Sammy. “I'm kind of an expert on mothers. I had to spend a lot of time trying to calm mine down when my father died.”
“I thought you said they were divorced.”
“Yeah, I know. It was just such a nice day I didn't want to spoil it by going into the whole story. See, they were divorced, and then he died a couple years later. He—he'd been having problems with my mother, and then the woman he'd left her for—Linda—he started having problems with her too, and his business wasn't so good and she was spending all his money, and—and one night he took too many sleeping pills and that was it.”
“Even now my mom's constantly expecting some calamity or other. I still have to calm her down, cheer her up, humor her . . . but you know, I can't help being fond of her. You know what I mean?”
Rowena sighed. “I think so.”
“Good,” said Sammy, growing cheerful again. “Now, I don't believe in emotional blackmail, but I think it would make both our mothers happy if we arranged a date of some kind. If you don't mind.”
Rowena smiled into the phone. “If you put it that way,” she said.
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