Winter comes, and within it, Christmastime. All through December the postcards arrive, bright colors, bearing tales of steamy lands, liaisons. Jeweled pictures of parrots, islands, deserts.
“Five today,” he tells Miranda, “three for you, two for me.”
She smiles triumphantly. “That puts me ahead, doesn’t it?”
He opens the little address book they keep their tallies in, adds the hash marks after their names. “Just barely,” he admits. “Twenty-one to twenty.”
“But I haven’t gotten any yet from Europe, and I know I outdid you there.” He flips back through the names, runs a finger along the pages. “Thirty to — really? — eighteen? Eighteen?”
She wrinkles her nose. “I don’t like Europeans. So sure of themselves, so weary.”
“Decadent. Five hundred years of refinement and debauchery. De Sade, Joyce, Templeton.”
“Nin, then. Miller.”
“Expatriates!” It’s an old argument, familiar and comfortable, without rancor.
Next week she checks the mail, since she’s ahead. “Six, Simon. All for you. Damn it!”
“My Europeans, how devoted they are!”
“And one sent a picture.” She smiles and he blanches. “A tasteful picture.”
“She’s old enough to be my grandmother! I don’t know how you do it.”
“All for the Empire, you know.”