When my mother was a child she would have this recurring dream about Heaven. She never saw clouds, streets of gold, or seraphim guarded pearly gates, nevertheless, she understood within the world of the dream that she was in fact in Heaven. In the dream she would be standing still, looking at a housing structure several feet out in front of her.
The structure was made up of modest, single-storied, adjoining homes. While she could see where the structure began with the first home, the end of it was far beyond the scope of her vision. This adjoining of homes went on far into the distance, the homes growing ever smaller as the structure stretched out interminable from its starting point.
Within the world of the dream, my mother knew that each home within the structure was occupied by a family; thus, clans lived harmoniously in very close proximity. Heaven, as she came to imagine it, was a place where, among other things, people in the same family lived together in the same home next to other families who were doing the same.
As my mother grew older, her dreams of Heaven became increasingly infrequent, until eventually, they ceased altogether. The impression that these dreams made on her however, remained, instigating through subtle whispers, a number of day dreams. With eyes wide open, she was always plotting and planning ways to bring a little bit of Heaven to earth; she was ever finding ways to bring people together, be it in her immediate family or in her community.
One of the ways that my mother found to bring people together was through storytelling — namely theatrical productions. She reveled in the process of putting up a production, especially the parts of the process that involved others. Her smile on audition day was very much like that of a child’s on Christmas morning; it was filled with eager anticipation of what would be presented to her. Grant it, the reality of what was presented was not always as grand as she hoped. Nevertheless, the joy she derived from drawing artists to share their gifts within a common space never seemed to diminish over the years.
Rehearsals with mom for any cast and crew were rarely a matter of simply showing up, playing one’s part, and leaving at the end of the day. Ensemble building was heavily emphasized in all her projects. Standing next to her on opening night, as she perched in various tech booths, was like beholding the sun rise into a clear sky; she radiated soft, yet marvelous beams of light as she watched the audience trickle into the auditorium. She would linger in the subdued roar of their voices indistinguishably melded, smiling contentedly as she did.
As her career gained and sustained momentum in the city, it might have seemed obvious that she would remain there, continuing to ride the waves of success in the ocean of opportunities around her. This was not the case. She remembered the small town where she grew up and began to dream. She remembered the people in town and their love for gathering.
The landscape of the town was changing as some people grew older, some moved — as she had — and new people moved in. Some parts of town were being revitalized into tourist attractions, which made for many enjoyable nights for visitors, but did little to improve the closeness within the members of the community. My mother dreamt of a way to do just that through. Although there was no theater in town, there was still the community church that she had attended with her family right up until she relocated to the city. The building was equipped with a platform, some basic lighting and sound capabilities, and was centrally located in town. Her idea was to spend one week, at least twice a year, working in collaboration with the church to produce an event that would give the people in town one more opportunity to gather. Thus, she and dad made the drive from the city at least twice a year for this and other events that she would dream up. When they came into town, they stayed with my grandmother and grandfather — my mother’s parents — who were always delighted to have them.
It was at this community event some years ago that Jamel and Drucilla met. Jay, as Jamel was informally called, had been dealt a debilitating blow when his long time girlfriend turned finance, broke off their engagement because their relationship was “…just not working anymore.” He had pleaded with her to stay, to tell him if there was anything he needed to do so that the relationship could “..start working again,” he even suggested another round of premarital counseling with a different counselor, but her mind was set. He learned some months after they separated that her mind was not only set on leaving him, but on being with a work colleague she’d met over the course of their engagement. While he had not discarded the desire to get married and have children, he was certain as he traveled to mom’s hometown that year that he was not ready and would not be for quite some time.
Drucilla, who went by Dru, was in the aftermath of the opposite situation. It was she who had broken up with a long time boyfriend because after several years of being in the relationship, she found that they had no depth of connection, which was something longed for, they went about their interactions with each other very mechanically — according to script rather than instinct — and perhaps worst of all, she was beginning to define herself by their relationship. He was gaining rapid success in his field and his life bore all the trappings of extravagance to prove it. She was beginning to define herself more by the shadow of his presence over her than by the pure light of her own existence. Dru often talked with my mother about her observations, her concerns, her eleventh hour quandaries over the state of her relationship with this man.
During the last of these conversations, mom asked her this question: “Do you have peace in your heart about staying in the relationship?” She followed this question with a different one, when Dru looked back at her in perplexity. “If you spend the next five years with him, giving the relationship all you have, is it going to be worth it?” Dru didn’t say anything. Instead, she leaned back on the sofa where she sat next to my mom, sighing as she did. The following day, she took her boyfriend out to lunch and ended it. By dinner that evening, she felt as though a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, she could breathe more more freely, more deeply. She decided that she was and would be content to remain in this state for the foreseeable future. There were moments in spending time with me, when I wasn’t especially stubborn, that she’d remark, “I wouldn’t mind having a daughter like you some day.” I could always tell by the tone of her voice that “some day,” was much later than sooner.
On night one of the production week, mom would gather the members of her team for a briefing on the days to follow. It was also an opportunity for those who were new to the project to get acquainted with the rest of the team, perhaps meet the pastor of the church, tour the facility and so on. For a number of years, the team was made up primarily of My mom and dad (Charis and Ben), my aunty Alex (mom’s sister), my adopted aunty Dru (mom’s best friend), and my uncle Victor (dad’s younger brother) — who only came the first year because dad insisted. He kept coming in the subsequent years because it provided him an opportunity to flirt with Aunty Dru. Sometimes, other professional artists would join them.
That year, mom had gathered everyone in the back of the worship sanctuary, the main auditorium of the church, for night one’s meeting. Everyone who had committed to participating was present except Uncle Victor. My uncle could be described as a number of things, punctual was not one of them. He was notoriously late for things, including important family gatherings.
While my mother had accounted for his tardiness that night, she was still noticeably irritated by it. This meant that my dad, who sat next to her, was also growing irritated. Aunty Alex and Aunty Dru were unfazed, they passed the time chatting about Aunty Alex’s upcoming wedding and the preparations being made for the big day. They talked about projects that they were currently working on and what constituted important news in the theater world. Meanwhile, dad was checking his phone every few minutes, as they approached the half hour mark past the set start time. He was hoping to receive some form of communication from Uncle Victor.
Mom finally leaned over and whispered into dad’s ear, “Could you please give him a call to see if he’s close?”
“Yeah.” Dad picked up his phone from the round table where they all sat and started off into a corner of the sanctuary, out of earshot of the others.
At that point, Aunty Dru excused herself momentarily from the conversation with Aunty Alex. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna use the restroom,” she said. The exit into the main lobby, where the restrooms were, was a few feet behind the table where they were sitting. Aunty Dru, gave mom a gentle rub on the back as she hurried past her toward the exit.
“I’m fine,” mom said, which of course meant that she was not.
And that’s when it happened, Aunty Dru pushed open one side of the multidirectional double doors just as Jay was reaching out to push the same door in the other direction. He jumped back quickly as the door came flying toward him. Aunty Dru, who was not expecting to see anyone on the other side of the door, was startled. She leaped slightly, her heels momentarily leaving the floor, while one of her hands immediately went to her chest to steady her heart. After quickly recovering, she stepped beyond the threshold into the lobby.
“I’m sorry,” she began, “Did I hit you?”
Jay smiled thankfully. “Almost.”
“Okay, good.” She heard what she’d said as soon as she said it and realized that perhaps it did not communicate what she meant. “Not good that I almost hit you with the door, but good that I didn’t.”
Jay had understood her perfectly, but didn’t feel any particular need to interject. He listened attentively as she explained. When she had finished, he asked. “Do you know where the restrooms are?”
“Yeah, I’m actually heading that way. Follow me.” Again, Aunty Dru might have spoken too soon. This man was a complete stranger and rather than asking him what his purpose was for turning up at the church on a Monday evening, she had invited him to roam the vacant halls with her. She turned to look at Jay who was walking beside her, his steps in sync with hers. “I probably should have asked this first: Are you here to see someone?”
“No, I’m here for a meeting.”
She waited some seconds for him to elaborate, but her waiting silently while still looking at him must have been too subtle of an invitation to do so; he did not elaborate. “What meeting are you here for?” She probed.
“I’m really not sure actually.”
Aunty Dru stopped walking and looked at him, one eyebrow raised, while she again waited for him to elaborate.
“I’m here with a friend.”
She tried to recall if anyone at the table had mentioned inviting another potential teammate, but could not. The other possibility was that he was Uncle Victor’s guest. Then again, Uncle Victor was nowhere in sight and besides that, the man before her seemed altogether too reserved to be a running companion of Uncle Victor’s. “Who’s your friend?” She asked.
As if entering on cue, a slight creak preceded Uncle Victor’s emergence through the main entrance in front of them. He was instantly brimming with effervescent charm, when he laid eyes on Aunty Dru. “Well Hello Dru!”
“That’s him,” Jay said in response to the question Aunty Dru had asked him just before Uncle Victor entered.
“How unfortunate,” she said in a low, teasing voice.
“What was that?” Uncle Victor asked, marching purposefully closer to Aunty Dru.
Jay stood quietly observing their interaction. He was piecing what he saw and heard together with vague statements Victor had made over the past couple of years and a more explicit conversation the two of them had had in anticipation of making the trip into town that year. Uncle Victor had skirted around his interest in Aunty Dru for years, making superficial passes here and there, but never an earnest attempt to win. This year was going to be different. He meant to sequester her for an evening — after volunteering — so that he could take her to dinner, giving the two of them an opportunity to have an intimate conversation, during which he would share his sincere feelings for her. Jay’s part in the whole affair was to be a character witness of sorts for Uncle Victor as he presented his case as a suitable match for Aunty Dru.
“Where have you been?” Aunty Dru asked Uncle Victor. “You know we were supposed to start thirty minutes ago, right?”
Uncle Victor had gotten within arm’s length of Aunty Dru. “I haven’t seen you in months, could you at least give me a hug first?”
Aunty Dru stepped forward to receive a hug from Uncle Victor. She let go much sooner that he was ready to release her. Stepping back onto the same plane as Jay, she asked Uncle Victor again, “So, why are you so late this time?”
Uncle Victor chuckled uncomfortably. He would have preferred to talk about something else. Furthermore, the look in Aunty Dru’s eyes as she awaited his response, a look that said ‘are you always going to be this immature,’ was demoralizing. It was a look he had seen in her eyes a number of times before; it always undermined his hope that she would trust him. “I was picking up this guy.”
“Right,” Aunty Dru said simply, but what she meant was: ‘of course you have an excuse.’
Uncle Victor guessed her meaning easily, having also heard that tone before. Notwithstanding, he plowed ahead with an introduction. “Dru, this is my good friend Jay, Jay…” he paused as he thought about what title he might ascribe to her. He didn’t want to introduce her as a friend, after all he had no long-term interest in remaining just her friend. Yet, he could not introduce her as his girlfriend because all three of them knew that this was not the case. Aunty Dru was also very unlikely to tolerate such presumption. So he said, “…this is Dru.” He then added with a sly grin, “you know, the one I was telling you about?”
While Victor had thought himself very clever, he was unsuccessful in drawing Aunty Dru into his scheme. Instead she turned to Jay and cordially shook his hand. With their hands still clasped, she turned to Uncle Victor. “I haven’t decided yet if it’s nice to see you,” she turned back to Jay. “But it is nice to meet you.”
“Oh, that’s cold,” Uncle Victor remarked as Aunty Dru and Jay shook hands.
She couldn’t help noticing the softness of Jay’s hands, juxtaposed with the firmness of his grip. Somehow, within those few seconds of holding his hand and looking intently into his eyes, she deduced that he was kind, decisive, pensive, and maybe even a little melancholy. The last of these was likely not deeply rooted in his personality as the others, but presented itself very loudly.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Jay responded. He was curious to know what she might have been thinking as she looked at him, feeling rather unveiled by her eyes. He noticed a lightness about her, a sense that she was unburdened by the weight of overthinking. It wasn’t that she was impetuous or even unintelligent, she was just not pretentious or generally fussy. Now that he was standing closer to her and held her with a focused gaze, he confessed to himself that she was much prettier in person than she had appeared in any of the photographs that Uncle Victor had shown him.
They released each other’s hands and turned to look at Uncle Victor.
“We’re in the main sanctuary right?” Uncle Victor asked Aunty Dru.
“You didn’t read the email Charis sent out?” She pressed him.
“Yes, I read the email!” Victor responded defensively.
What Aunty Dru had only suspected, she was certain of because of his tone; he had read nothing. “Yeah, we’re in the sanctuary. Get in there before Charis loses it.”
Uncle Victor was suddenly perplexed when he started walking in one direction and they continued in the other.
“We’re heading to the restroom,” Aunty Dru clarified.
“Okay. Is there an open seat next to you?” Uncle Victor asked.
“Would you just go?!” Aunty Dru shouted, smiling while shaking her head. She then continued walking toward the main entrance with Jay walking beside. She led him into a hallway on the left just before they got to the doors through which Victor had entered. She then pointed to the right. “There’s the men’s.” She went to another door across the hall.
“Thank you,” Jay said.
They vanished behind their respective doors.
When Aunty Dru returned to the sanctuary from the restroom, Uncle Victor had made himself very comfortable in the chair next to hers. He sat with his arm extended across the back of her chair. Jay sat to the left of Victor, between him and Ben. Dru hurried to her seat in an effort to waste as little time as possible; wasting other people’s time or having her time wasted was a known pet peeve of my mom’s.
“Okay,” Mom began as Aunty Dru came around the table to her seat. She took a deep breath and reminded herself that they were once again embarking on a wonderful adventure. She reminded herself how much joy this event had brought to her and the community over the years. And then she told herself that this year would be no different, in spite of any mishap incited directly or indirectly by Uncle Victor.
Aunty Dru made eye contact with Uncle Victor then cleared her throat, glancing at his unwelcome arm across the back of her chair for clarification. He looked back at her with a smile, but remained either clueless or unresponsive, she could not tell. Aunty Dru started to say something, but Mom didn’t let her finish.
“Victor! Would you please move your arm so that we can get started.” My mother had had her fair share of experiences working with unruly children through workshops and informal teaching opportunities. Her tone in addressing Uncle Victor, was at times regrettably identical to the tone she’d adopted to address the behavior of those children; it wasn’t harsh, but it was undeniably firm.
“Come on Vic, get serious,” dad added in support of Mom. Later that night, Dad talked seriously with Uncle Victor about being more sober concerning his life as well as the things that were important to his family. Uncle Victor rebutted, insisting that he was already very serious about his life and simply did not want to live as rigidly as others –meaning my dad and possibly my mom too. Dad shook his head, told his brother that he loved him, then again told him that it was high time he shaped up in the areas of his life that were lacking.
In the meeting, Mom thought, “Let’s start by introducing ourselves, since we have someone new with us.” She pointed at Jay with an open, upward facing hand. Within the second that it had taken my dad to reprimand my uncle moments earlier, mom had made a quick study of Jay and decided that whether or not he had dropped in on their meeting with the intention of joining their team, she was going to recruit him. She of course didn’t know at time if he had any skills applicable to the work that was to be done, but thought that if only by his subdued presence, he might bring some balance to their team and certainly to Uncle Victor.
“I’ll start,” Mom began. By then, she had found her smile. “My name is Charis, I started this program with my husband Ben six years ago,” she extended an arm across dad’s back affectionately, “and I feel really blessed that we’ve been able to keep going with strong support from the community. I’m a theatrical producer and director and I love every minute of it!” Mom turned to dad and asked if he wanted to go next.
Dad had already met Jay and even had the opportunity to spend some time with him along with Uncle Victor and other friends of theirs. He said simply, “It’s good to see you.”
“Thanks, ” Jay responded casually.
The brevity of Dad and Jay’s exchange had left much to be desired as far as mom was concerned. She nodded and said ‘….oookaaay’ followed a moment later by, “who’s next?”
“I’ll go,” Aunty Alex volunteered. “I’m Alex. I’m Charis’ baby sister and lately, when I’m not planning my upcoming wedding, I work as a lighting and scenic designer.”
“Okay, thank you. Dru?”
He maintained a stoic exterior, but inwardly, Jay had leaned forward to hear what Aunty Dru had to say. He had been told many things about her by Uncle Victor, but nothing to do with whom she actually was. He had spoken more about what he hoped to gain by entering into a romantic relationship with her.
“I’m Dru…Drucilla….” She started, smiling and taking her time to look at all faces around the table. Her smile was warm with a pervasive glow, it was infectious. I could never fully understand the mechanics of it, but her smile had the miraculous capability of covering anyone on the receiving end with the warmth and comfort of an embrace. In fact, to have Aunty Dru smiling at you, was very similar to being hugged by her; all at once you were blanketed in warmth and an enduring sense of safety, that made your breathing just a little bit more steady.
Uncle Victor grinned, feeling somehow proud that she was so well received. He also cunningly found a way to reassert his arm unto the back of her chair.
Jay was unwittingly transfixed. When Aunty Dru stopped speaking and the enchantment of her smile dissipated, he realized that the way in which she had suddenly captured his attention made him very uncomfortable; it was a direct conflict of interest as it related to Uncle Victor and one impossible to work out without casualties.
Aunty Dru continued. “Charis and I have been best friends for…” the exact number of years escaped her at the moment. “…for a very long time. And I wouldn’t wanna be anywhere else this week than helping her with this project.”
“What do you do?” My mom asked.
“I do many, many things, all of which are theater related.”
“Good.” Mom looked at Jay with an amiable smile. “It’s your turn.”
“Yeah, sure.” He cleared his throat nervously and fidgeted a bit before managing to call himself back to stillness. Jay was not a bashful person per say, but he did not enjoy being the center of attention. This was true especially when he was surrounded, in large part, by strangers. He began to nervously scan past the pairs of eyes, now fixed on him, until he came to Aunty Dru’s. There he stopped. It was unintended — and later he thought very awkward of him — but he spoke to her as though there wasn’t anyone else in the room. The safety in her eyes as she smiled softly at him, set him at ease. “My name’s Jamel, but my friends and family call me Jay. I’ve been friends with Vic since freshman year of college…”
He didn’t fully understand what was happening — and certainly could not foresee what would happen over the course of the next few days — but uncle Victor became unsettled by the unshifting way that Jay was looking at Aunty Dru. And it wasn’t so much that he was looking at her, after all, her appearance warranted the attention of adoring eyes. What bothered him truly, was the fact that she didn’t seem to mind. Where she had been historically, perpetually guarded against him, she seemed to receive Jay. Spurred by jealousy, Uncle Victor interrupted Jay by calling out, “Don’t forget I was also your wingman! I was the one who introduced you to Theresa!” Uncle Victor knew very well that this was all irrelevant and bordered on insensitive since Theresa was the ex- finance who had left Jay two years prior.
Jay’s gaze was forced away from Aunty Dru and at that moment it was like having his parachute cut out from above him mid-fall. He was plummeting through the open air, with no hope of landing safely. He looked at Uncle Victor and continued to speak, all the while, having the terrifying sense that he was still falling. “…Yeah, that’s right. You were a great wingman,” he said, smiling against intense discomfort. “The last time I did anything related to theater was in high school…but I uh…do photography as a hobby…and I work in finance.”
“Wow!” Mom didn’t miss a beat. Something Jay said was just what she needed to latch on to in order to reel him in. “Did you say photography?”
Jay looked at her. “Yes.”
“That’s perfect! Maybe you could film the showcase for us this year.”
“I don’t do a whole lot with–”
“Ah! We’ve always thought it would be great to film it, but haven’t worked to find someone to do it. What do you think?”
There was something about the way my mother was looking at Jay that helped him quickly realize that ‘no’ was not a response she would accept. “I think…I’ll do my best.”
“That‘s so great! Just let us know what you think you might need and we’ll get it to you.” She referenced dad as she invited Jay to let them know what he might need. Mom then shifted her eyes to Uncle Victor. “Vic, would you like to say something?” She asked, not really expecting him to say much as he was the person with whom Jay was most familiar.
“Hi, I’m Victor,” he began, feigning seriousness. “I’m Ben’s younger brother and–”
“Come on, Vic,” Dad interrupted, jabbing Uncle Victor on the side with his elbow.
Succumbing first to a bout of laughter in response to his own silliness, Uncle Victor said, “Go ahead,” giving Mom the floor.
As the meeting progressed, mom handed out small binders with scripts, programs, and other relevant information to each person. She had not anticipated Jay’s arrival, so she did not have one for him. As she went through the various roles that each person would be playing, she suggested that Aunty Dru share her binder with Jay as they would be stationed in the same part of the building during working hours. This, of course, was by no means because mom could not prepare another binder; she had merely, subtly began playing match-maker. Mom had skipped the customary tour of the building that she gave to people who were new to the team; this she delegated to Aunty Dru. Everyone was released early that night, after mom reiterated the call time for the following day.
At the end of Dad’s talk with Uncle Victor in the parking lot, mom had joined him because there was something she wanted to say. This time, she spoke with the gentleness that she might have employed in calling a child out of timeout.
“Look Vic, if you can’t be here this year, it’s not a big deal. We’ll find someone else.”
Uncle Victor could tell that mom had forgiven him for any delays and irritation that he had caused. Standing on the receiving end of her forgiving gaze was familiar territory to him. “I can be here.” He assured her.
“I don’t mean be here and distracted, flirting or doing whatever it is you do with Dru. I mean really focus and commit. What we’re doing is important for the people of this community and–”
“I get it Charis. I’ll be here.”
While mom and dad talked with Uncle Victor, Aunty Alex left to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s where she was also staying, and Aunty Dru had gone to the restroom. When she came out of the restroom, she ran into Jay outside the front entrance. He stood just far enough to be missed by the door as it swung open.
Aunty Dru burst into laughter when she saw him. “If you wanna get hit with a door, all you have to do is ask.”
He wouldn’t look at her at first. He was working on shaking off the residual embarrassment from his internal free fall earlier. Instead, he looked off in the distance, into the pool of light beneath the lamppost where Uncle Victor stood talking with mom and Dad. He chuckled along with her for a moment. “Believe me, that’s not something I want.”
“Alright then. See you tomorrow,” she said, looking at his profile because he still would not look at her.
As she stepped off the landing where they stood together, he became glaringly aware of a desire that she would linger beside him. “Hey!” He called out, immediately regretting that he had allowed his mouth to form the word.
She came to stand directly in front of him on the ground below the landing. “Yes?” She looked at him and waited to hear what he had to say, assuming that indeed it was something important, given the urgency with which he arrested her attention.
He froze, realizing that in fact, he didn’t know what to say. What he wanted just then was more time with her, but he couldn’t say that. Saying anything even along those lines could be problematic. He finally found some other words instead. “It was nice to meet you.”
“Okay.” Her eyes glimmering amiably, “It was nice to meet you too.” Aunty Dru was not fazed by much. She noticed that for some reason, Jay seemed to be. By that point in the evening, her mind had shifted from her commitment at the church to working on some other projects that had fast-approaching deadlines. She decided it was best to find out what was going on with Jay at another time. “Good night.”
“Good night.” He said, watching as the brightness of her smile seemed to mark a new morning.
Aunty Dru walked to where mom and dad were standing with uncle Victor. “Good night everybody. I’m heading out to take care of some stuff.”
“Okay,” mom said. “Say hi to your mom,” she added, hugging Aunty Dru goodbye.
“I will,” Aunty Dru agreed, before giving dad a hug as well. She looked at Uncle Victor and smiled, shaking her head. As much as she tried to take him seriously, she didn’t. He amused her more than anything else; at least, when he was not trying her patience. She reached out to him afterward and attempted to hug him good night, but he stopped her. “Are we good?” he asked mom and Dad.
“Drive safely,” dad said to him before giving him a hug.
“Thanks. Goodnight.” He responded. He then turned to Aunty Dru and placing a hand gently on the back of her flexed elbow, led her aside. “Can I talk to you for a second?” She asked as they walked toward her car.
“What’s up Vic?”
“I wanna talk to you this week.”
Aunty Dru looked back at him confused. “Isn’t that what we’re doing?”
“No, not like this. I mean, I wanna take you out to dinner and really talk to you.”
She let out a sigh. They had had variations of this conversation in the past and she hoped not to have it again. “We already went through this Victor, I’m not interested. I think you’re great but–”
“No! Don’t say that.” He smiled charmingly, hoping to sway her. “Just come out to dinner with me one night this week. I know you’ll be hungry sometime.”
“Just say yes.”
“C’mon, say yes…How do you know you’re not interested if we’ve never even tried?”
She stared at him quietly for a very long time. It wasn’t that she was considering his proposal; she had done that already and had seen it end in disappointment for them both. He was without doubt positively intoxicated with the idea of her, committing himself to the reality of her, however, was something she knew had not even crossed his mind.
While Aunty Dru stared quietly at Uncle Victor, Jay kept his eyes fixed on the two of them from the landing in front of the main entrance. He both wanted to hear what they were talking about and resented the thought of hearing it; by this resentment, he knew that he had unexpectedly stepped into quite a predicament.