"What are these, James?" she asks, standing in the bedroom, the strappy sandal, which is so delicate it looks like it might break from simply walking across a room, dangling like an exotic sea animal from her finger.
"It’s your birthday present," James says.
"Why?" Winnie says.
"You don’t like them," James says in a hurt voice (knowing it’s the only way he might possibly get out of this horrendous situation he’s created, which he is actually beginning to enjoy).
"You know I don’t wear shoes like this. I don’t even approve of shoes like this."
"Evie got that assignment from The New York Times," he says.
"Did Evie pick out these shoes?" Winnie asks.
"The Times thing is disgusting," he says. "She got it by sleeping with … " he says, naming the famous journalist Evie picked up at the book party. "She’s still seeing him."
Winnie looks at James. When she first met him, she wanted to be him. Everybody wanted to be James then. He was going to have a big career. The kind of career that Winnie wanted.
"Do you think people still want to be you, James?" she asks, casually. He knows that when Winnie asks these questions out of left field, she is laying a trap for him, but he’s too weary to figure this one out.
"Why would anybody want to be me?" James asks.
"That’s just what I was wondering," Winnie says. She carefully packs the sandals back into their box. "This is really a pan, you know," she says. "I want to return these, but I don’t know when I’m going to have the time."
"Do it on your lunch hour."
"I don’t have a lunch hour," Winnie says.
They go to Bouley for Winnie’s birthday, where they pretend (and it really is just pretending now, James thinks) to get along. When the bill comes, they each put down their credit cards, and take their receipts, which they will turn into their magazines as a business expense.
"Have you read it?" James asks. It’s Sunday morning. Early. Evie’s piece was scheduled to appear in The New York Times. The paper sits untouched on the coffee table.
"Read what?" Winnie asks. She’s cooking breakfast. It’s really the only time she cooks (if you can call it that, James thinks), cutting grapefruit and putting out slices of smoked salmon and smearing cream cheese on bagels.
"Evie’s piece," James says.
"Oh. Is it in this weekend?"
"She says it is."
"Really?" Winnie says. "I haven’t talked to her." She puts the plates on the dining room table. She unfolds a paper napkin and begins eating.
"Aren’t you curious?" James says.
"I’ll get to it later," Winnie says. "In the meantime, I’m thinking that maybe we should run our salon more efficiently. Maybe we should fax people a question the day before, so everyone has time to think about their answers. I think we’ll get better responses that way."
Winnie eats two bagels stuffed with cream cheese and salmon. "Be right back."
She goes into the bathroom, and, as she has been doing after almost every meal lately, sticks her finger down her throat and throws up.
When she returns, James is reading the paper.
"You’re disgusting," she says.
"What? I’m not supposed to read The Times just because Evie has a piece in it?"