Judy Blume Smart Women

ISBN 13: 9780425206553

Smart Women

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9780425206553: Smart Women

Margo and B.B. are each divorced, and each is trying to reinvent her life in Colorado-while their respective teenage daughters look on with a mixture of humor and horror. But even smart women sometimes have a lot to learn-and they will, when B.B.'s ex-husband moves in next door to Margo...

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About the Author:

Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Blubber; Just as Long as We're Together; and the five book series about the irrepressible Fudge. She has also written four novels for adults, In the Unlikely Event, Summer Sisters, Smart Women, and Wifey, all of them New York Times bestsellers. More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-one languages. She receives thousands of letters a year from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her. Judy received a BS in education from New York University in 1961, which named her a Distinguished Alumna in 1996, the same year the American Library Association honored her with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2004 she received the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Margo slid open the glass door leading to the patio outside her bedroom. She set the jacuzzi pump for twenty minutes, tested the temperature of the water with her left foot, tossed her robe onto the redwood platform, then slowly lowered herself into the hot tub, allowing the swirling water to surround her body.

The late August night air was clear and crisp. The mountains were lit by an almost full moon. The only sounds were Margo's own breathing and the gentle gurgling of the water in the tub. She inhaled deeply to get the full aroma of the cedar as it steamed up, closed her eyes, and felt the tensions of the day disappear.

"Margo..."

The voice, coming out of the stillness of the night, startled her. She looked around, but all she saw were the barrels of overgrown petunias and geraniums surrounding the hot tub. She never remembered to pick off the dead flowers, but that didn't stop them from flourishing.

"Over here..." the voice said.

He was standing on the other side of her weathered wood fence. She could barely see him.

"What are you doing?" she asked sharply.

"Just wondering if you'd like to have a drink. I'm Andrew Broder. I'm staying in the house next door."

"I know who you are," Margo snapped. "Didn't anyone ever tell you it's impolite to spy on your neighbor?"

"I'm not spying," he said.

"And that eleven is too late to come over for a drink?"

"Is it?" he asked.

"Yes, it is."

"I'm a night person," he said. "It feels early to me."

"Well, it's not. Some of us have to get up and go to work in the morning." She expected him to apologize and then to leave. She looked away. Certainly she was curious about him but no more so than any of her friends' ex-husbands. Last Saturday she had seen him struggling with grocery bags. As he had walked from his truck to his house one had torn and everything had come crashing out, including a carton of eggs. Margo had watched from her upstairs deck, where she'd been reading. He'd stood there quietly, shaking his head and muttering. Then he'd cleaned up the mess, climbed back into his truck, and an hour later had returned with two more bags of groceries.

And on Sunday she'd heard him laughing with his daughter, Sara. She'd thought how nice it is for a father to enjoy his kid that way. And then she'd felt a pang because she never heard her kids laughing with Freddy any more. She didn't even know if they did laugh together.

"Look," he said, and Margo realized that he was still standing by the fence. "Francine said that..."

"Francine?"

"I guess you call her B.B....she said that if I needed to borrow sugar I could ask you."

"Is that what you want then, sugar at eleven o'clock at night?"

"No," he said. "I told you, I thought we could have a drink." He held up a bottle.

"What is it?" Margo asked. "It's dark. I can't see that far."

"Courvoisier. I've got the glasses too."

Margo laughed. "You're certainly prepared, aren't you?"

"I try to be."

"The gate's unlatched, " she said.

And then another voice went off in her head. Margo, Margo...what are you doing? I'm not doing anything.

Bullshit.

Look, he's not a killer, he's not a rapist, I know that much.

You know more than that. You know why you shouldn't let him in.

It's just for a drink.

I've heard that before.

I'm just being neighborly.

Some people never learn.

He opened the gate and walked across the small yard to the hot tub. He sat down at the edge and poured them each a drink. "To neighbors," he said, lifting his glass.

"It's dangerous to drink in a hot tub," Margo told him. "The alcohol does something...it can kill you." She dipped her tongue into the glass, tasting the brandy, then set it down. Her body was submerged in the foaming water and the steam had made her black hair curl and mat around her face.

"You look different up close," he said.

"Up close?"

"I've seen you a few times, walking from your car to your house."

"Oh." So, he'd been watching her too.

"You look like the girl on the Sun Maid Raisin box."

"I'm hardly a girl."

"Her older sister then."

"Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

"I like raisins," he said.

Margo tried to remember how the girl on the raisin box looked, but all she could picture was a floppy red bonnet.

"I've never been in a hot tub," he said. "What's it like?"

"Hot," she told him. "Some people can't take it."

"I'd like to give it a try," he said.

"There are several hot tub clubs in town, but Boulder Springs is the best. You should call in advance. They get booked up."

"I was thinking more of now," he said.

"Now? In my hot tub?"

"I wouldn't mind," he said, pulling his sweatshirt over his head.

"Hey...wait a minute..."

He kicked off his sandals, loosened his belt buckle, and dropped his jeans. He wore bikini underpants. Margo was suspicious of men who wore boxer shorts. Freddy had worn boxer shorts, had insisted that they be ironed. "Wait a minute..."she said again, as he stepped out of his underwear. She hadn't looked directly at him as he had undressed, but she'd seen enough to know that he was tall and lean and very appealing. She'd seen that while she'd been watching him last weekend. She'd seen that while he'd been fully dressed. "What do you think you're doing?"

He slid into the tub, facing her. "I thought you said okay..."

"No, I didn't say that."

"You want me to get out?"

"I didn't want you to get in."

"Oh, I misunderstood."

"Yes, you did."

"But now that I'm here, is it okay? Can I try it for a few minutes?"

"I suppose a few minutes can't hurt."

When the jacuzzi timer went off he climbed out and reset it for another twenty minutes. But before it went off again he told her he was feeling light-headed. Margo urged him to get out quickly, before he fainted. He did, and just in time. As it was she had to wrap a blanket around him, revive him with a glass of Gatorade, and help him back to his place. It wasn't easy getting him up the steep flight of outside stairs leading to the apartment over the garage.

"I warned you," she said, as he stumped onto the sofa in his living room.

"It was worth it," he told her.

"You'd better take a couple of asprin and get some sleep."

"Can I try it again tomorrow?" he asked.

"I don't think so. It doesn't seem to agree with you."

"I'll get used to it."

"I've got two kids, you know."

"I've got one."

"Mine are teenagers."

"Mine's twelve."

"Mine have been away all summer, visiting their father. They're coming home tomorrow."

"I'd like to meet them."

"Don't be too sure."

"You're very defensive about them, aren't you?"

"Me, defensive about my children?"

"You have beautiful breasts," he said.

Margo looked down and flushed. Her robe was open to the waist. She pulled it closed. "Another piece of useful information," she said. "Hot tubbing is not a sexual experience."

"I'll try to remember that," he said.

"Goodnight," she told him.

"Goodnight, Margo."


The next afternoon while Margo was driving to Denver to meet her children at the airport, she thought about last night and her strange encounter with Andrew Broder. She never should have let him into her hot tub. It was going to be tricky living next door to him for the next three months now.

Her impulsive behavior, though she was well aware of it, continued to cause her problems.

Didn't I warn you?

Okay...okay, so you warned me.

Margo knew that B.B. was divorced, but unlike other divorced women, B.B. never complained about her former husband. Never said a word about how cheap he was or how miserable a father. Never talked about how he ran around with girls young enough to be his daughter or the fact that he had no sense of humor or that he was colder than a fish. Never laughed bitterly about the lack of style in his lovemaking. B.B. never shared the details of how or why her marriage to Andrew had failed and Margo didn't feel close enough to ask. Until last May, until the day that B.B. had called Andrew a fucking bastard, Margo had never even heard B.B. say his name.

It had probably been a mistake to arrange for him to rent the apartment in the Hathaway house. B.B. should not have asked for her help in finding him a place to live. But what's done is done, Margo thought.

She glanced at herself in the rearview mirror, wondering what her children would think of her new layered haircut. For years she had worn her dark hair shoulder length, parted in the middle, and blown dry, but this summer she had felt ready for a change.

"Look," Stan, the hair stylist, had said, assessing her, you might as well take advantage of what you've got...good skin, nice eyes, and naturally wavy hair."

That's it? Margo had thought. After forty years that's what it comes down to?

After her haircut she had vowed to let her hair grow back and never cut it again. But now she had to admit, it did show off her eyes.

"We should have named her Hazel," her father used to joke, "for those big eyes."

"Who knew she was going to have such eyes," her mother would say.

"You have unbelievably ugly eyes," James had said, making her laugh. James had been her first lover and something about Andrew Broder reminded her of him. It could have been the way he looked directly at her or the way he laughed, heartily, without holding back.

Margo had met James when she was seventeen. He was a tall, lanky college freshman, wildly funny, yet sweet and tender, a perfect combination. It was his wry sense of humor that kept them going during their first awkward attempts at making love and from then on their lovemaking was filled as much with fun and laughter as with passion, which wasn't all that bad, Margo realized later. In fact, there was a lot to be said for it.

James had died of pancreatic cancer two and a half years after they met. She had not even known that he was sick. Her mother had come across the obituary. James Schoenfeld, twenty, following a brief illness. Even though Margo and James weren't going together anymore, hadn't seen each other for sixteen months, his death had so affected her that she had not made love again until she and Freddy were married.

At the time Margo could not stop thinking about the night she and James had broken up. She could not stop thinking about how she had flirted with another boy at the fraternity party, had actually slipped him a piece of paper with her phone number on it. James had consoled himself by chug-a-lugging six-pack of Miller's. Then he'd passed out on the floor. Margo had had no choice but to let the other boy, Roger, drive her home. The next afternoon James had come over, looking pale and acting sheepish, and he had apologize for his behavior. They'd gone for a walk to the pond, but she had not let him kiss her. "It's over," she'd said. "I'm not going to see you anymore."

"Why?" he'd asked. "That's all I want to know. Why?"

"I don't know," she'd said. "It's just something that I feel...or don't feel..."

James had turned and walked straight into the pond, fully dressed, his hands over his head. She had stood on the grassy bank, yelling and screaming and laughing until tears stung her eyes. Maybe she did love him, she'd thought. But there were so many boys to love. She wasn't ready to love just one.

Her mother urged her not to confuse sadness with guilt. It was not her fault that James had died. Her father cradled her in his arms, stroking her hair. Her sisters, one older, one younger, stood in the doorway to her bedroom, silent.

Margo went to the funeral by herself. After paying her respects to James's parents and his brother she asked who the small, long-haired girl was, the one who was weeping hysterically, and his brother said, "That's Rachel. She and James were going together."

Margo nodded and bit her lip. James had replaced her. Well, what had she expected? She approached Rachel. "I'm Margo," she said. "I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am."

Rachel stopped crying and looked at Margo. "He told me about you," she said. "About how you were his first girlfriend. It was a long time ago, wasn't it?"

Not so long, Margo thought.

"We were pinned," Rachel said. On Rachel's black dress was the Phi Ep pin that Margo had once dreamed of wearing.

She still had dreams about James. James walking into the pond. She would call, "Come back, James. Let's start over..." but it was always too late. She would awaken with tears on her cheeks.

Freddy had been as different from James as any young man Margo had met. Perhaps that was why she had married him.

She had been married to Freddy for fourteen years and had never been unfaithful, although she had certainly thought about it. After Freddy, there was Leonard, and after Leonard, her boss, Michael Benson. Then, a series of brief affairs, some lasting months, some weeks, some just the night. There had been twelve of these men, from a physiology professor at Colorado University, to a Buddhist at Naropa, to more than one construction worker. And then, this summer, for five days, there had been Eric.

Margo kept a list of her lovers at the office, in her top desk drawer, the one that locked. She wondered if other women did the same. She wondered what her children would think if she died suddenly and they had to go through her papers. There were seventeen names on her list. Seventeen men. Not so many lovers for a divorced woman of forty, she thought. She knew some women who barhopped every weekend, picking up men for the night. They could wind up with fifty lovers in a year. She'd been divorced for five years. Multiply that by fifty and she could have had two and fifty lovers by now. She laughed aloud at the idea of two hundred and fifty lovers. It seemed to her both wildly funny and grotesque, and then, terribly sad and she bit her lip to keep from crying, the idea was so depressing.

She switched on the car radio and rolled down her window A piece of brush blew across the highway, rested briefly on the hood of her car, then flew off. The end of summer, Margo thought.

It had been a full summer. She'd worked long hours on a new project with Michael Benson, a complex of solar condominiums in town. She'd taken only one break, a week in Chaco Canyon, where she had gone to be alone, completely and absolutely alone for the first time in her life. It was to be a test of self. To prove -- she wasn't sure -- that she could survive on her own, she supposed. But on her second day out she had met Eric, twenty years old and irresistible. Eric, she decided later, was to be the last of her impulsive sexual encounters. Because afterwards she always felt empty. Empty, lonely, and afraid.

...

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