Especially once she arrived. Once she arrived Adam saw everything as if it were color-tinted film – like the photographs of the girls he went to school with, those prim portraits that “coloring artists” filled in with ruby lipstick, flushed cheeks, and either honey or India ink colored hair. The green of the Valley was sharpened and the shadows grew deeper and blacker. And she stuck out like one of these portraits in a stack of regular black and white. She was Kodachrome, the other new wives and the women for hire who had disappeared were flimsy sheets of sepia.
She was married to one of the engineers. One of the nicest, most courteous men at the mine in Alex’s opinion. He was a man of integrity, handpicked by the owners for his perfect safety record, his meticulous manner, and his calm ease with even the thickest of the men in caves. His name was Blake, named after the poet most likely, as he was from a family with very deep roots. Alex had a lot of respect for him, which made him even more aware of his own breathing when he found out this new one, this perfect one, this Siren was married to the one he most admired here.
Alex’s private guilt was direct, hard, and all consuming. The moment he laid eyes on Blake’s wife he was done for. He wanted to quit the mine, quit the state, quit it all and move back home. He wanted to hole up in a house near the aunts, and read quietly and drink even more quietly until the day he died. Anywhere but here. Any woman but this woman.
Blake was one of the few men who came in to chat in earnest with Adam in the mornings before he entered the caves. The talk was light, inconsequential, but it was a few moments of nicety that helped Adam’s dull, dull mornings hum a little. Blake usually talked of the blueberries in the Valley or of Ohio sports teams (he was from Indiana, where Adam was from Ohio, the two states border each other in geography and interests) or of the quality of the morning’s coffee in the commissary.