By Phoebe Huang
I am the second Mrs. Gilmore. Actually, technically, I’m the third. But what happened was Mrs. Gilmore number two got an annulment. So, she doesn’t really count.
The first Mrs. Gilmore? They say she knew Alvin from childhood. He would come by her house most afternoons and smile at her, at her mother, then wait around for the cookies to come out of the oven. He would eat them right off the baking sheet, all the while expressing Oohs and Aahs and thanks to the baker.
Alvin’s cousin twice removed told me, as Alvin grew up, he developed appetites for much more than cookies.
Of course, I knew that. Or so I thought. That’s why I married the man.
By the time Alvin and I met, he was the richest man in town. He owned the biggest business, had the largest house, drove the most expensive car, and boasted the fattest bank account. It’s true he also had the widest waist, but that didn’t matter to me: I’m no romantic.
Let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Winnie. Everyone says I’m really pretty. That’s how I got Alvin’s attention. I grew up a couple of towns from Alvin’s, so we never had seen each other before we were introduced.
My father is the town postman. My mother stayed home with me and my little twin brothers. My parents were loving; my brothers were adorable, so I grew up with not a single hangup. I did, though, always hanker for things we never had.
When I was invited to the high school prom, and had to decide from among the six boys who asked me, I longed to wear one of the dresses on display in Mason’s window. But that was just wishful thinking. And I’m a realist. So Mama and I did the best we could with an old dress of hers—fancying it up with some lace and beads. Even so, I was chosen “Princess of the Prom.” Even that didn’t make me feel good. Really, all I wanted was to wear something special. I wanted to slide something silky over my arms, not make do with homespun cotton, cotton that can feel really scratchy to the touch.
I guess you might think I had uppity ambitions. I can honestly say I didn’t. Still don’t. I’m just a lover of fine things. Someone once told me I’m an “aesthete.” Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But I like to dry myself with a thick fluffy towel, smelling of sunshine, a different pastel color each day, not rub myself with a stingy, thin white towel from the general store.
That gets me back to Alvin. When he courted me, we went to such posh restaurants. The tables were dressed up with starched white tablecloths. There were always flowers in the center—tulips or roses, not just a carnation or two. And crystal glasses. I knew they were crystal because when I touched a piece of silverware to them, they rang.
Then the food! My goodness. Nothing like what we ate at home. I could spend hours talking about the food. But one of my favorites was the roast duck—crispy skin with a delicate orange-flavored glaze, moist pink meat that melted in my mouth. Heavenly.
So I set my mind on marrying Alvin. And I knew just how to do it. He kept asking and asking me to stay over at his place. Of course, I said I couldn’t until we were man and wife.
Well, guess who also got played?
Alvin knew all along what he wanted, and it wasn’t a wife. The second Mrs. Gilmore must have figured this out. That’s why she wangled an annulment.
Now that I think about it, Alvin may have killed the first Mrs. Gilmore. She died of a broken neck from “falling down the stairs.”
Anyway, I’m here praying 911 gets to the house in time. Alvin had been more vile and abusive when I wouldn’t do what he wanted. I wish I had been on high alert, but I’m not as smart as I thought. When I ate the cookies he brought home in that beautiful lacquered box, I knew something was wrong. That’s when I dialed 911.
I’m leaving this message to say goodbye to my family and to make sure there’s no third Mrs. Gilmore, technically fourth Mrs. Gilmore—just in case I don’t make it. That seems like the least I can do.