Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4222
Because the elevator in Peter’s building is not working, Marian and Peter must use the stairs to get to his seventh-floor apartment. As they reach the fifth-floor landing, Marian finally decides to tell Peter that she has invited some other friends to the party. During the car ride over, she had been wondering how she was going to tell him; she is unsure whether he will be happy or mad. Taking a step away from Peter, Marian grips the railing and tells him. Peter is only slightly irritated and is surprised to learn that Marian has so many friends that he does not know. He tells her that he will have to make a point of getting to know them to find out about her private life. Hearing this, Marian begins to panic and asks herself how she could have been so stupid as to invite all those people. She worries that Duncan might give her away or drop an insinuating remark. Peter, of course, would be furious: he would think that someone had infringed on his “private property rights.” She tries to think of a way to stop them from coming.
Inside the apartment, Marian removes her overcoat and Peter puts his hands on her bare shoulders, kisses her lightly on the back of the neck, and says: “Yum yum.” She takes her coat into the bedroom and, seeing her reflection in the mirror, is reminded of Peter’s reaction when he came to pick her up. He told her that she looked marvellous, implying that it would be greatly appreciated if she could manage to look like this all the time. Her attention is then diverted to the contents of Peter’s closet. She stares at his collection of costumes hanging neatly in a row and realizes that she is observing them with resentment. She thinks they assert an “invisible silent authority.” Marian then thinks that it is not resentment she feels but fear.
Marian goes into the kitchen to prepare food snacks for the guests. When she is almost done, Peter comes up behind her and half unzips her dress. He tells her it’s too bad they haven’t got time for a quick hop into bed but adds that he does not want to get her “all mussed up.” Marian suddenly asks Peter if he loves her. In response, he kisses her on the earring and assures her that he does—especially in that red dress. A few moments later Peter calls Marian into the bedroom where he is fiddling with one of his cameras. He tells her that he would like to get a couple of shots of her alone before the guests arrive. The red, he says, will come out nicely on a slide. Marian hesitates and Peter directs her to lean up against the gun rack. Marian stands there stiffly while Peter points the lens at her and tells her to “look natural” and “stick out [her] chest.” She wants to tell him not to touch the shutter-release but is unable to move. A knock at the door interrupts Peter before he can take a picture. As Peter leaves the room, Marian wonders what was wrong with her: “It’s only a camera,” she says.
The first to arrive at the party are the three office virgins, each of whom compliment Marian’s dress and say that she should wear red more often. All three have come hoping that an eligible version of Peter will walk in through the front door and whisk them away. Marian wonders what their reaction will be when Duncan and his roommates show up—and what their reactions will be when they see the three office virgins. She imagines screams and a mass exodus, one threesome running out the door, the other leaping out the window. Peter’s friends and their wives begin to arrive and the room divides into the standard territories: wives on the sofa, husbands near the hi-fi. Clara and Joe arrive and Marian is shocked to see that they have brought Len Slank with them. Marian hustles Clara into the bedroom and asks her what Len is doing here. Clara explains...
(The entire section contains 4222 words.)
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