Sheldon Kranz, Aesthetic Realism Consultant, Writer, Poet

Sheldon Kranz
Aesthetic Realism Consultant, Writer, Poet  (1919-1980)

The Betrayal
by Sheldon Kranz

Part 3 - Conclusion

Joe looked at Martha sitting in the corner of the sofa with the cigarette between her long tan fingers and the highball in front of her.

"Won't you stay?" he asked.

"We'll eat in," Dorothy said. "We'll eat in if you like."

Martha looked at the two of them for a long moment. Then the doorbell buzzed loudly.

"I'll take it," Dorothy said, and went slowly into the hall.

"Thought we'd pay a Sunday afternoon call," the young man at the door smiled. "Busy?"

"Oh, hello," she said, after a moment, and remembered to smile back. "Come in. It's Steve and Betty," she called in to Joe. "Come in and have a drink."

They walked into the living room. "We thought you might be out," the young woman said. "The weather is so" She stopped when she saw Martha.

For a moment, Dorothy couldn't quite form the words. "This is Martha Reed," she said, weakly. She turned to Martha and stopped, abruptly.

The cigarette and the highball had disappeared. Martha was sitting on the edge of the sofa, her thin body stiff against the soft blue pillows. Her brown hands lay stupidly in her lap, the palms turned upward, as if she found them completely useless. Her feet were stuck out awkwardly in front of her like a person unused to the comfort of a low couch. Even the expression on her face was different. It wasn't Martha.

Dorothy managed to say, "This is Mr. and Mrs. Crane."

"How do," Martha said, and bobbed her head at them.

"Martha is an old friend," Dorothy went on, shrilly. "She's"

"Ah'm an old friend of the family," Martha grinned at the couple. "Used to wuk for 'em. Thought ah'd run up and see how things wuz."

"How nice," the young woman said, and peered at Martha's carefully tailored suit.

Martha got clumsily to her feet. "Ah think ah'll go now, Miz Randolph."

"No," Dorothy said.

"Ah best run along," Martha repeated, grinning. "May ah have my things?"

Joe went into the bedroom and brought out Martha's hat and coat. Dorothy smiled wildly at the couple.

"Ah'm sure glad to have met you all," Martha said, and jabbed her head again at each of them. "Goodbye, Miz Randolph." She started for the door.

Dorothy just stood there and watched her go slowly out of the room. Then from a long way off, she heard herself cry, "Martha" and she was running after her into the hall.

They faced each other across an immense distance in the dim light coming from the other room. There was a tightness in Dorothy's throat that made it difficult for her to speak.

"It would have been so hard to explain," Martha said, softly in her own voice. "It was easier this way."

Dorothy felt herself trembling. In a sudden fury of rage and humiliation, she grabbed Martha by the shoulders and began shaking her desperately.

"I wasn't ashamed," she pleaded. "I wasn't."

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