She never went to the parties, even before the baby came. Her husband occasionally did, but he was detached and aloof, floating the perimeter and socializing only with a few familiars. He was a massive man, with a florid face, pale eyes, and a carefully guarded smile. The way he held himself, the terse replies with which he responded to queries about his wife's whereabouts, gave one the impression his size was a deliberate, even aggressive proxy for the woman who stayed behind, waiting for him to finish his single whiskey and return with fresh gossip to unpack. I'm here for both of us, his huge body seemed to say. He was less a shield than a ballast for her to cling to, in the bewildering parade of beauty, frivolity, and ostentation that she'd deemed Los Angeles to be.

As to the woman herself, she moved through life as if hiding from it. Head down, avoiding the eye of even her next door neighbors: her comportment was a curious mixture of awkwardness and efficiency. Her torso was still thickened by pregnancy, but her arms and legs remained gangly, appearing always to be tangled up in the dog leash, or the baby's carrier. She looked painfully uncomfortable in her own skin.

Still, she carried herself with surprising speed down the city sidewalks, maintaining an expression of urgency that allowed her to recuse herself from conversations she didn't want to have, with people she didn't want to know. Thoughts of a quiet house in the suburbs consumed her, and she pressed her husband nightly with questions about when, where, and how soon. In the meantime, she busied herself with her child, an enormous infant with dark hair and suspicious eyes. She channeled her anxieties into him, only feeling their release when his laughter bubbled up, temporarily breaking the spell of loneliness in the otherwise unremitting quiet of their loft.

Soon, she cooed to herself, and to him. Soon.