(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 540 words.)