Me: Let me take a shower and get dressed.
Not that I care about looking fresh as a daisy for her or for anyone else – now that I am getting married, I can let the grooming slide, right? but I want to delay.
I get dressed, then collect Doris. We go to the gardens. It is a pretty day. Doris can’t move well under the best of circumstances and I have no interest in walking fast, so we amble through the flowers and sit frequently.
Primo is right. Without Sly, Doris is a different person. I have seen glimpses of this side of her, but never to this extent.
Me: Primo loved your mom and dad so much. He tells me wonderful stories about how your dad taught him to shoot pool and about how they were always so loving to him and Nancy.
Doris: My mother and father were the most loving people in the world. They worked so hard so I could have a better life. My father went to work in a ball-bearing plant when he was 16. But as soon as Prohibition was over, he got a job at the beer factory. He stayed there his entire long career. Every week, he got a case of beer to bring home.
Me: That’s a lot of beer.
Doris: He didn’t even drink! My parents were strict teetotalers. My mom came from church people in Georgia. They didn’t drink at all. My father promised not to drink when he married her. He kept his promise. He never raised a hand or his voice to my mother. I had friends whose fathers drank and were abusive, but never my father.
Me: What did he do with the beer, then?
Doris: He gave it away. Or traded it. I started my piano lessons with that beer. He gave it to my teacher for my lessons. She didn’t drink, but her husband did. Later, I had to change to a more qualified teacher and the beer wasn’t sufficient, but my father worked overtime to pay for my lessons. I also had a part-time job when I was in high school. Some of that money helped with the lessons and some I saved for college. In addition, I was awarded a full scholarship to college. My parents were very proud. Nobody from my family had ever attended college before. My parents didn’t even go to high school.
Me: Tell me about college. What did you major in?
Doris: Even though I abhorred chemistry, it seemed like a practical course of study. I didn’t like it at all. I was good at it, but I didn’t like it. Then I started singing in the chorus. I loved it very much, but changing my major seemed like a very imprudent thing to do. It would have been very disappointing to my dear parents, who had struggled so hard to ensure I would have an education. I compelled myself to complete my degree. Then I was awarded a music scholarship to Berklee right after I met Sly. He didn’t want me to go, so I didn’t.
Me: Wait! You turned down a full scholarship to Berklee for a man? Didn’t you have boyfriends in college?
Doris: No. I had never had a boyfriend before. Sly was the first man who ever asked me out. I was not appealing to men.
Me: What makes you think you were not appealing to men?
Doris: I was skinny and had bad skin. No man had ever asked me on a date before Sly.
Me: Maybe you were skinny with bad skin in high school, but Primo has shown me photos of you from college. You were gorgeous.
And she was. Her skin was clear and her figure had gone from skinny to sleekly voluptuous. She had thick dark hair that reached her waist. She was stunningly beautiful – and completely unaware of it.
(Good looks) + (low self-esteem) = the perfect target for a bully like Sly.
Their relationship is starting to make more sense.
 I so much want to ask her, “Then why do you put up with Sly treating you the way he does?” but 1. That would be mean and 2. I know why – she has passed the point of being able to escape.