The Faceting of Lara
by Kate Sheckler

The glass of wine is incandescent; the light from the lamp above, captured in its centre, seems to flit about as if looking for a means of escape. It sits waiting at his elbow, as she stands behind the low-backed, easy chair he lounges in. She places one hand on the swell of her belly and the other on his hair which curls with a pugnacious twist. He smiles at her touch, his face broad with self-satisfaction and blurred with the wine already consumed.


Lara and Riley had married young—or at least that was how Jo always thought of them, because, for her place and generation, 26 and 28 were young indeed. On meeting Lara, Jo had looked into her childish, blue eyes and felt a small shock when her new acquaintance had pronounced the words, "my husband." The restaurant in which the two of them worked was a world in which everyone was still a student or a struggling artist or, occasionally, an entrepreneur. Each was waiting for the big strike when whatever business venture or talent or dream that they had sunk their soul into would finally pay them back for all their loving care. Certainly it was not a place where one had husbands or wives. But then, Lara did not seem to belong there—in that waiting room of a profession—anyway.

Jo remembered exactly how out of place Lara had seemed to be on the hot night in July when they had met—a night that had been crushingly full of bad-tempered waitresses and cantankerous diners. Jo had swung round and nearly stumbled over what she assumed was a wayward child, but it had been Lara who had looked up at her, contentedly bewildered, and said, her voice wispy, "I'm sorry, I seem to be in your way—well—in everybody's way." She had smiled with angelic unconcern. "You need some ice for that Coke?"

Jo had accepted the ice and as the tiny woman had slipped the cubes into her waiting glass, the two of them had seemed momentarily enclosed in a quiet bubble, an increment of space and time where responsibility had no weight—not for the waiting customers or Jo's, as of yet, unpaid rent. It had been a fresh idea and an unusual pause for Jo, and she had enjoyed that momentary respite. It was also her first glimpse of Lara's world and her first inkling that Lara and responsibility were not yet acquainted.

Sweet faced and sweeter tempered, it had been impossible to dislike Lara. Although she was not Jo's preferred style of companion, her naiveté and lack of contact with common sense or any other worldly knowledge had been so disarming that Jo had found a kind of friendship had come to exist without her knowledge or agreement. This was a worry, as all the contracts in Jo's life were read at least twice.

When she had met Riley, she'd wondered once again how it had come to be that she and Lara were friends, for if Lara was not her normal choice as a comrade, then Riley was not likely as even the most common acquaintance. He had stuck out a hand and, with the overly familiar tone of a Bogart movie, said, "Hey there Jo! I've been hearing that you're the tops." Jo had stared and only after a moment, during which she realized his proffered hand was going nowhere, had she taken it.

The scion and only son of a large and battling home in which Ukrainian was the predominant language spoken, Riley was as loud and brash as any plaid-suited salesman. Masking the driving ambition that ruled his life with an overlay of an outgoing, glad-to-meet-ya style charm, Jo could still detect the ruthless and grasping skitter with which her friend's husband went after the things he craved. That these two unlikely people would become her most constant companions was something she would never have foreseen. But there they were, calling her several times a week with invitations to Shakespeare in the Park or for a stroll down St. Laurent Boulevard. Jo found, quite to her surprise, that she said yes to each suggestion.

If asked, she would have said that she admired neither of them very much. Lara seldom had an interesting word to say and Jo found her friend's inability to take care of herself a frustration. Riley's tinny talk and rough demeanour was worse yet, but still Jo found at the end of each call that she had agreed to some outing or dinner invitation. Jo thought that perhaps her acceptance was because of the picture they presented. In a world filled with desperate yearnings and strivings, there was a small relief in watching the intertwining of their beings and lives, of seeing a couple in love.

"Is my sweetheart ready to go?" Each evening, Riley would wink at Jo as he swung through the restaurant door to pick up his wife—for Lara to go home alone was unthinkable. Helping her into her coat, he would lean down to leave a flicker of a kiss at the point where her cheekbone rose to her temple. "All set honey?"

It was clear to Jo that Riley had married Lara because she was so different from the women of his matriarchal home. With her defining edges so soft that she appeared to exist in a gentle haze, Lara seemed to belong to a different species than that of the five red-cheeked, hard-handed women that Riley had introduced to Jo one evening, as they had all come swarming into the restaurant. Looking like an angel escaped from her perch on a Christmas tree as she'd meandered across the restaurant, her coat dragging behind, Lara had brought a glow of pride to Riley's face, as he'd revelled in the delight his choice of wife brought to him.

All through that first year, Jo never saw anything but protective pleasure in his regard. Lara's many mistakes and inept attempts at any task, bringing out only soft-lipped indulgence in her husband.

Jo wasn't entirely sure when the change came.


"Yeah, I blew their socks off. They couldn't get enough of me—asked me to read four scenes!" He reaches for the glass of wine and shoots his wife a grin. "Lara can tell you. I hadn't even gotten home before they called. But that's just fine, not even my wife could forget to give me that message!" With his glance, her hand, which has slipped from her belly to the edge of the small end table, pauses, motionless on the lip of blond wood.


If there had been signs of disintegration before the first pregnancy, they were lost in the pale blue and pink fog that permeated those nine months, and it was only after baby Lydia was six months old, that the rising pitch of Riley's condemnation came to Jo's attention.

It seemed to Jo that it arrived with a blast. There came a day when Lara, with the whining baby clinging to her calf, had reached into the cutlery drawer and cried out in pain as she yanked back a hand sliced across the fingertips. Riley's "concern" had been a howling disapproval of Lara's organizational skills and Jo had been shocked. As Lara stood with the blood dripping off her index finger to pool a brilliant scarlet on the pale peach tiles of the floor and Riley castigated "whoever" had put the sharp knife away, realization had bloomed in Jo's mind. This was the couple's new reality.

"Who the hell is the idiot who put that knife in a drawer?"

No idiot he; Riley bellowed and Jo watched as Lara's face melted into the even softer lines of despair.

In the next few months, the "who?" turned to "you" and the recriminations piled into a mountainous slagheap of interrogation.

how can you think that, do that, see that,… why aren't you ready, busy, doing… why haven't you cleaned, cooked, cared for… how can you be so stupid?

The words mounted as Lara drooped and Jo found herself dreading any visit to their sparkling, new home. Phone calls to Lara were endlessly interrupted with the baby's cries and Riley's shouts, so, although the thought of her friend's isolation made Jo squirm with guilt, she had not seen Lara in nearly a month and Lydia had turned one year when news of the second pregnancy was shared.

There had been a moment of silence after Lara's announcement before Jo had managed to say, "How great!" only adding a moment later, "Is it what you want?"

"You know I've always wanted babies." And she had wanted them—it had always been in the plans.


When he replaces the glass there is a joggle and the golden liquid slips above the rim, allowing a few drops to escape to slide down the side. He's not drunk, merely elated; it's been a good day. She waits, her hand resting on the edge of the table, as he turns to another guest to continue his story, and when she looks up, it is to meet Jo's eyes across the room. Her hand still poised beside the glass.


Lara was in the seventh month of the pregnancy when Jo had decided to give a party. She hadn't seen the couple for nearly five weeks and she paused when deciding to include them. Her small apartment limited the dinner party to six and she had changed jobs and made new friends of late. But in the end she had called and they had been delighted to come.

"We haven't been out, just the two of us, for months!" Lara's voice had been excited—not wispy at all. "It'll be good for us."

When they had arrived they'd been charming, Riley exuberant and Lara oddly smooth. Jo, busy, with the dinner taking all her attention, hardly noted the differences, the changes only producing a slight prickling at the back of her brain. It wasn't until Lara had announced she was going to splurge and have one of those occasional glasses of wine that her doctor allowed during pregnancy, that it fully dawned on Jo that her friend had changed. For Riley had not.

"What?" His indignation over his wife's announcement had stopped the conversation. "No you're not having a glass of wine. I'm the father and I say that you aren't drinking a goddamn sip of alcohol!" He glanced around the room, sure of his support. "My god, I've got to watch her every second!" His tone was now filled with a patronizing affection and he tapped the back of his hand against her cheek with a tsk.

After a moment the chat began again and Riley had turned to the couple next to him in order to give in colourful detail an account of the audition that had filled his day. Jo, watching Lara, thought how clearly defined she appeared. The lines of her skirt fell in a crisp, clean drape and her hair was caught back in a smooth twist which allowed no wandering curls to escape. Looking at her, Jo thought once again just how beautiful her friend was and felt her eyes burn. She swallowed hard against the pain in her throat, noting that the taste of loss was acrid, like dust.


"Things are taking off! I can just tell!" His voice goes on and on. She keeps her eyes locked onto Jo's, as her hand slips across the shiny surface of the table and around the stem of his glass without hesitation. Her other hand has moved to his shoulder and lies there gently as she lifts the glass to her lips and takes a long swallow, the wine causing the muscles in her throat to move with a lovely ripple. The blue of her eyes is the gemstone colour of blue topaz.

Kate Sheckler is a Montrealer who accidentally spent her first 28 years in New York. Somewhat confused about the order of things, she wrote four novels before attempting her first short story, which was published in the second issue of carte blanche. In 2005 she was awarded a position in the QWF's mentoring program (for which she is still very grateful!) Kate recently returned to university and co-teaches creative writing at the Thomas More Institute.