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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 370

Belle is a woman in her thirties who lives in a small town in Ohio. She's engaged to Will, a plant taxonomist from Cambridge who she met when they were both attending Boston University. At the beginning of the story, she's up all night working on her bills and balancing her checkbook.

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Later, Belle reveals that her parents owned a dance studio. That's where her father killed herself when she was twenty; he shot himself with a service revolver and took care to make sure the bullet didn't damage the mirrors. Despite this, Belle thinks of him with affection and compares everyone to him in such a way that they don't measure up.

Belle doesn't seem excited about her fiance's impending visit. Her mother comes to pick her up and drive her to meet Will; Belle thinks about how she and her father preferred larger cars than her mother's compact Mazda. On the way, she explains to her mother that Will was recently turned down for a grant and suggests that perhaps they should postpone the wedding to make sure that he "has his bearings" before they make such a commitment.

When they see Will, he's sloppy and has gained weight. Belle seems disappointed in him; she thinks that her mother is also disappointed by him. Her mother offers for Will to stay in Belle's childhood bedroom but Belle disagrees. She wants him to get a hotel room instead of staying with either of them.

As they ride home in the car, Belle attempts to groom her hair and thinks about how she'd rather be at home finishing her bills. She's annoyed with Will and frustrated with her mother for getting lost on the road; according to Belle, she and her father both loved maps and atlases. She doesn't think that her mother should get lost on such a simple drive.

Will says that the ice storm will make the foliage look bad in the spring. However, when her mother says they're in no rush and that the ice storm is actually beautiful—despite everyone else thinking it's a problem—Belle relaxes for a moment and has the sense that everything is as it should be: "quiet and holding still."


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 540

Belle is expecting the first visit from Will, her fiancé, to her small hometown in Ohio. He is coming from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has been conducting research in botany. They met there when he was attending Boston University and teaching undergraduates and she was working toward a doctorate in musicology. Their courtship took place during those years of study.

Belle stays up the whole night before Will arrives, working on figures in her checkbook, drinking coffee, pacing back and forth, and returning to her calculator. She takes pleasure in adding up numbers. At 6:15 in the morning, she is called away from her addition by her mother, who is waiting in the car to take Belle to the train station. Belle has never learned to drive a car.

There has been a lot of snow recently, and now an ice storm has coated the trees. Driving is somewhat hazardous, and Belle’s mother drives carefully. On the way to the station, Belle mentions that Will, who is a plant taxonomist, recently was turned down for an important and lucrative grant because the committee decided that the research he had been conducting for the past seven years was irrelevant. Belle mentions that she thinks it might be a good idea to postpone the wedding until Will is financially more stable. Her mother advises her not to wait too long.

Along the route, they pass a fading billboard that advertises the dance studio that Belle’s father and mother once ran. This reminds Belle of the flashy sports car that her father and mother once had, and of the pleasure she took when her father would take her for rides in it.

When they arrive at the train station, Belle notices that Will has put on weight and seems puffy. She lets him kiss her, and then Belle’s mother kisses him. Will sits in the back seat, and Belle sits up front with her mother. The mother suggests that Will stay at her house in Belle’s old room, but Belle quickly suggests they find a motel for him. She notes that there is really not room for him at her place, either, because she has her tax materials strewn all over. When Will suggests that the two of them go out for breakfast after he gets settled, Belle puts him off, again mentioning that she needs to clean up her tax materials.

As they leave the station, Belle’s mother mentions that her husband’s name also had been William, and that he had been quite handsome. Belle reveals that it had been in the dance studio, when she was twenty-one years old, that her father pointed a service revolver down his throat and took his life.

Even though she has taken this route many times, Belle’s mother gets lost on the way home. Rather than becoming discouraged by this, she notes that the ice storm was beautiful. They are in no hurry to get Will to his motel, after all, so why not just wait a while and enjoy the beauty around them. Belle surprises herself by agreeing with her mother. She smiles at Will but thinks that it will be the last time that she does so.

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