(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The Friday before Grace’s weekend wedding, her coworkers give her gifts and treat her to lunch. Ralph gets a bonus from his employer, but when he calls Grace to arrange a date for that evening, he harbors a secret disappointment. His male friends have ignored the occasion. He has to stop by his friend Eddie’s house to pick up a suitcase he is borrowing, and then he will travel into Manhattan to see his fiancé that evening.

With the wedding so near, Grace finds she still doubts her choice of a husband. Her sophisticated roommate Martha has been quick to point out Ralph’s deficiencies. He comes from a working-class family (as does Grace) and has a menial job. His friends work menial jobs, too. His interests are limited to sports teams, and his command of English is substandard. He pronounces toilet as “terlet.” Despite Martha’s disapproval, Grace agrees to marry Ralph but silently fears that Martha is right. Grace attempts to elevate Ralph’s status by calling him “darling” and giving him her best imitation of Martha’s cultured smile.

When Grace returns home after work, she finds that Martha has cleaned the apartment, prepared dinner, and arranged to leave town immediately. Martha apologizes for her past, harsh judgment of Ralph and explains that she is leaving the apartment so Grace can be alone with Ralph that evening. She says her absence is a wedding gift. She gives Grace a knowing smile, implying that Grace has postponed...

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