Are You Jealous (conclusion)
The girl stared as though a beam of light had fallen, making her squint. Presby’s smile was benevolent; with a sweep of the eyeglasses, he showed to her Eva and Henderson Young. Eva and Henderson held out their tiny celadon plates, their empty tumblers.
Getting this drift…blushing…then weighing advantage, the girl said, “Can I bring you anything, Mr. Presby?”
“Have you, my dear, tried the Blood-Orange Shandy?”
“I don’t know.”
“I recommend highly that you do so. And you may bring another for me.”
“My dear,” said the man who shared Gabriel’s bench. His companion elbowed him, and repeated, “My dear.”
He rather liked them for that, decided he might face the room.
“Glazes vary in composition,” the woman said. “Raw materials may have been more abundant during certain periods, or in certain regions. The chemists were jealous.”
A server approached. Canapés, rounds of dark bread with melted cheese, topped, possibly, by truffles; by, at any rate, some pebble-shaped fungus. The man took two. The woman declined. Gabriel scrupulously accepted one. He had been admonished, at the age of ten, for “taking too much”; he had been self-conscious on such occasions ever since.
Another server, with drinks.
“Of their formulas,” the man said, imparting in increments, eating and sipping. “Some factories…”
“…kept meticulous records, however.”
“Uranium,” the woman said. Here she glanced at Gabriel, including him.
“Difficult to come by…” he tried.
“Oh, not terribly, in those days. Uranium,” said the man, with a certain tenderness. “Manganese, also, fluoresces weakly.” They spoke as though memories of a profound shared experience had been stirred. “And yet, in the great furnace, elemental traces―water, ink, the blue of a butterfly’s wing, the nameless color, softer than silver…” He was quoting, himself likely enough (if not Emil Reiff); or composing, for some publication of the firm.
…beryllium, you know, thorium.”
Gabriel, auditing this exchange, was startled when someone grabbed his hand.
“Why won’t you say hello?” Eva smiled at the woman, nodded at the man. “Dr. Cjevac.” She tugged Gabriel to his feet. She tucked her arm through his and propelled him. He puzzled over which half of the couple answered to that name, or whether they answered to it collectively.
“You embarrass me,” Eva whispered.
(2014, Stephanie Foster)