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February 14, 2013

Economic Romance

Posted by: Katie Heasley

No Valentine's Day celebration is complete without a didactic economic romance novel. Here's an excerpt from The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance by Russell Roberts. Happy Hearts Day!

Laura Silver’s parents lived in a townhouse on one of those leafy streets in Georgetown where the red brick of the buildings seems to sing of money and power. Sam looked up at the brick fa├žade and wondered what the evening would bring. He was wearing the sartorially safe outfit of khakis with a blue blazer. Bringing a bottle of wine into a house likely to be populated with wine connoisseurs was a high-risk strategy. Instead he carried a sleeve of freshly cut flowers.

As he mounted the steps to the townhouse, he had a strong sense of apprehension about the evening to come. He liked Laura a great deal. He even felt he knew her fairly well. After all, he had heard her recite Tennyson. But he also realized that he didn’t know her well enough to know much about her parents or who would be attending tonight. A deep breath.  It would be OK. Here goes. He rang the bell.

Laura’s father opened the door, introduced himself, and pointed him toward a bar set up in a corner of the living room. Sam was glad to see that a number of guests had already arrived. But Sam saw right away that he didn’t fit in. There’s a certain style in Washington that men and women acquire. It’s a look of certitude and grace, a look that says my time has come or will be here soon. It’s a way of walking, of talking, of careless laughter.

Sam didn’t have this style. It’s a style born out of the exercise of power or influence. Sam knew that its acquisition came at a price, but he envied the other young men and women standing with their drinks looking nonchalant while he stood clutching his flowers and gracelessly modeling his blazer and khakis. To hell with them, he thought. Maybe he would recover some self-assurance by finding Laura’s mother and getting himself a drink.

As he looked around, he saw Laura at the foot of the stairs. She made her way toward him. She was wearing a long black skirt and a cashmere sweater. Sam thought of Sinatra singing “The Way You Look Tonight.” Why hadn’t Sam ever noticed how beautiful she was? Her face had a freshness and a vitality that made the rest of the people in the room look dull and flat by comparison.

“Sam! You made it! Come meet my family.” Laura took Sam’s arm and a great sense of relief washed over him. He wondered if there was some way to keep her anchored to him for the rest of the evening…

For Laura, the evening couldn’t be going better. She had fretted all day over whether Sam would fit in with her family and Andrew’s friends. She shouldn’t have worried. Sam was doing fine. And the wine was having its way with her as well. Now that her worst anxieties had proven groundless, she was immersed in the conversation at her end of the table…

Her reverie was interrupted by her brother’s voice. A brief silence had fallen over the table as the dessert plates were put down. In that silence, Andrew, who was sitting across from Sam at the midpoint of the long table, cleared his throat theatrically and fixed Sam with a glance and a smile.

“Tell me, Sam,” he said in an overly loud voice. The conversations around the table stopped in anticipation of Andrew’s remarks. “Laura tells me you don’t believe in government regulation of corporations. She says you’re a big fan of unrestrained capitalism.”

Sam knew when he was being baited. And he usually liked rising to the bait. But Laura’s presence on the other side of the table made him uncharacteristically cautious in responding. Laura saw Sam tilt his head quizzically. She saw him hesitate. Laura found herself hoping he would brush the comment off, make a joke, tell Andrew anything at all other than what he really felt.

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