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Rosemary Dayside stood with Mike among their suitcases and looked out the picture window of their hotel suite. The river was hidden by the levee some two hundred yards away, but the top half of a tanker was visible as it glided by. She savored the colors of the end-of-April flowers that lined the walkways to the river, glowing in the late afternoon sun. The hotel was part of a renovated plantation resort project downriver from Baton Rouge that, because of its convention facilities, had been a favorite choice for the annual faculty retreat for some years.

The sky had a few threatening late-day clouds to the south near the horizon. It would be a shame if storms spoiled the open-air social events. She’d brought delicate fair-weather outfits – colorful, revealing, demure. She had planned carefully to divert attention from her working-class origins. She busied herself hanging things in the walk-in closet and taking items from her suitcase to dresser drawers under a built-in TV set.

Mike sat down in an overstuffed chair and stretched his legs. She prepared to shower, hiding herself from his direct view. Even after two years of dating she still felt shy undressing in front of him. It was part of her family belief. Single women – well, she was divorced – but, she still had certain modesty standards.

“What’s tonight?” she asked as she dried herself with a bath towel.

“Cocktails at six, dinner at seven.”

She slipped into the walk-in closet and unzipped a hanging garment bag while watching him unpack his tuxedo, old enough to have a worn sheen on the elbows. He held it up to look for wrinkles.

She moaned. “I thought this was resort-casual tonight. I brought only short dresses.” She held up one black and one red dress from her bag and then replaced them.

“It won’t make any difference,” he said.

It made a big difference; it was demeaning to be inappropriate.

“I’ll need hose . . .” she said softly to herself. She picked up her over-the-shoulder bag near Mike’s chair. Mike said nothing.

When she was in the hall, she closed the door quietly. He must be thinking about something important.

In the gift shop, she stood at the checkout counter.

“We’re out,” said the clerk. “Maybe the middle of next week.”

“I have a formal dinner tonight. Is there someplace else?”

“There’s a Walmart toward Lafayette.”

“How long would that take?”

“Thirty minutes round-trip. Maybe forty.”

A woman waited behind her to purchase a bottle of wine. “Are you with the faculty?” the woman asked.

“I’m Michael Boudreaux’s date. He’s a surgeon.”

“Michael works with my husband, Clayton Otherson. I’m Catherine Otherson.”

“I’m Rosemary.”