The Book of Ivy / Page 12

Page 12


“Well, yeah, I guess,” I say. “But here, with us…” I pause. It’s awkward to refer to our status as married. It doesn’t seem real. I don’t feel like his wife. “Or with any of the other couples, everyone knows the wife is less valuable because of who we are. We’re marrying up.” I can’t keep the bitterness from my voice. “And when you marry up, someone is always looking down at you.”

Bishop stares at me for so long and with such intensity that a blush blooms on my cheeks. I want to lay a hand along my face, use my palm to cool the heat, but my fingers won’t uncurl from the shelf behind me.

“Obviously I can’t speak for everyone,” he says eventually. “But I don’t see it that way.” He pauses. “I don’t see you that way.”

I try to breathe Callie into my body, become the instrument of her words. This is where I smile and look at him from under my eyelashes. This is where I let him know how grateful I am for his view of me, where I say I’m such a lucky girl. But I open my mouth and say instead, “So you agree with this, the arranged marriages?”

“I didn’t say that.” He shifts and leans his back against the shelves, mimicking my pose. The heat from his body warms my side across the small space between us. “But in the course of history, there are a lot worse ways to try and keep the peace.”

I laugh, short and sharp. “Spoken like a man.”

He looks at me again, but I keep my eyes forward, staring at a random point across the room. “You’re not the only one this happened to, Ivy,” he says. “No one asked me if I wanted to get married, either.”

“I know that,” I say, defensive. But he’s right, I don’t think about the boys as often as the girls. Not even the boys from my side of town, who marry the girls from here. Because even then, the girls get the worst of it. Their new husbands are already angry that they’re marrying girls who everyone thinks are better than them, and who better to take those feelings of inadequacy out on than their new wives?

And I especially didn’t think about Bishop. I guess I assumed his father’s arrogance passed seamlessly on to him, that he never cared much about our marriage one way or the other except as something he was entitled to take without earning.

“Doesn’t it bother you?” I ask. “That all our choices are made for us?”

Bishop shrugs, and I want to scream. I don’t understand how he can be so calm about everything, like nothing affects him. “It doesn’t do any good to be angry about something you can’t change.”

“I don’t think there’s anything that can’t be changed, if people want it badly enough,” I say, while my mind whispers, Careful…careful.

“That may be true, in the abstract,” Bishops says. “But right now and right here, the bottom line is, we’re married. Whether we want to be or not. We have to figure out how to make this work. We don’t have another choice.”

I know what the other choice is and it ends with him dead and my father in charge. “Okay,” I say. “I’ll try.” I don’t sound very convincing, even to myself.

“Okay,” Bishop says, pushing away from the bookcase. “Now, let’s find you something to read.”

I turn to look at the rows of books behind me, let my fingers trace across their spines. I’m not even searching for anything in particular yet, just enjoying the smell and sight.

“What about this one?” Bishop says. He’s holding up a thin, black leather volume, the writing on the cover too small for me to read from where I stand. “Romeo and Juliet.” He waves the book in my direction. “Rival families. Star-crossed teenage lovers.” His face is deadpan, but his eyes are laughing.

“Very funny.”

“Call me crazy,” he says. “But it sounds pretty intriguing.”

I turn back to the bookcase before he can see my grin.

True to his word, Bishop talked to his father about my working at the courthouse. I imagine President Lattimer objected to the idea initially, but apparently Bishop is persuasive because I start tomorrow. I’m in the bedroom, trying to figure out what to wear for my first day on the job, when Bishop calls my name.

“What?” I ask, walking into the living room. He’s standing there with a pile of dirty clothes at his feet. I point at the laundry. “What’s that about?”

“I figure it’s not going to do itself,” Bishop says. “The longer we wait, the more we’ll have, right?”

“Yes,” I say, “that’s generally how it works. But I don’t have time to do it today. Maybe this weekend?”

“I’ll do it,” Bishop says, surprising me. Laundry is usually the wife’s job. “But would you mind showing me how?” He palms the back of his neck with one hand. “I’ve never done it before.”

“Really?” I ask, eyebrows going up. “Never?” Most boys on my side of town at least know how to wash clothes, even if they rarely perform the chore.

“Nope. There are maids in my dad’s house. It’s just not something I ever learned.”

Of course it isn’t. He’s probably never had to do a lot of things the rest of us do daily. The spoiled president’s son. I want to be annoyed with him, but at least he’s making an attempt. And I remember what Callie told me at the park: to play nice, to not let my mouth run away from me. I’ve already ignored her advice too many times, so I manage to bite back my thoughts.

I eye the pile of clothes. “Grab the laundry and meet me outside.”

In the backyard is a metal trough, similar to the one we used growing up. I pull the hose from the side of the house and begin filling the trough with water. Bishop’s dropped the clothes on the cement patio and holds a bag of soap flakes in his hand. “Okay,” I say, “sprinkle some of those in here. You want to put them in while the water’s still running, otherwise they just sit on top and don’t lather up.” Bishop nods and proceeds to dump half the bag into the water. “Not so much!” I tell him. “I said sprinkle! Sprinkle!”

“Sorry,” Bishops says. “What do I do? Take some out?”

“You can try.”

He uses both hands to scoop half-dissolved soap flakes out of the water, flinging them onto the lawn. “I don’t think this is working,” he says. “I am clearly not meant for a life of laundry.”

“Well, don’t worry. It’s probably the only time you’ll have to do it.”

Bishop frowns. “Why would you say that?”

“Because I’m the wife,” I say slowly, “and you’re the husband. And that’s how things are done here.”

“I don’t care about that,” Bishop says. “I mean, you have a job now, right? So it seems fair we should both help out around the house.”

I sit back on my heels, turning his words over in my head, searching for the trap. “Okay,” I say finally.

Bishop gives me a quick nod. “Okay.” He turns his attention back to the trough. “Now I just have to get the rest of this soap out of here.”

A giggle bursts out of me, totally unexpected, and Bishop glances over. “What?” he asks.

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