The first thing that Viola stole from Robert was his monogrammed pen. It was the pen that Robert’s parents had sent him to law school with, as a good-luck gift. Viola slipped it into one of her dress pockets while Robert was making them coffee.
“I was reading about how most of the explanations we give for things we do are rationalizations, made up after the fact,” Viola told her talk-therapist.
“That may be true,” her therapist said.
“I always wear dresses with pockets,” Viola said. “When I wear dresses.”
“How is the relationship with Robert going?”
Viola considered all the possibilities of how her relationship with Robert was going.
The next thing she stole from Robert was a monogrammed tie. Robert seemed to have a number of monogrammed things, which made Viola a little suspicious. What if he was some sort of overweening egotist? Viola walked in to Robert’s closet while Robert was taking a shower and passed her hand over his shirts, his pants, his suit-jackets, his ties, and then without giving herself much of a chance to think about it took Robert’s monogrammed tie. She rolled it up and stuck it in her clutch, by Robert’s bed, then got back in bed and ran her hands along the top of the sheets.
She drove with Robert on a road-trip to Chicago to see some friends. “How is Ann Arbor?” Robert’s friends wanted to know.
“Upstanding,” Robert said. “Everyone there is highly upstanding.”
“I’ve heard about the moral fiber of the people of Ann Arbor.”
“A high degree of moral fiber. This is Viola.”
“Are you working on a law degree too?”
“No,” said Viola. “I’m in the humanities.”
“Librarianship. I’m working on a Masters of Informational Science.”
They got a drink at the bar at the top of the John Hancock Building. “If you pay twenty bucks, you can ride the elevator to the observatory level, which is the floor just below this one,” Robert’s friend Micah explained. “Or you can not pay twenty dollars and ride the elevator to this floor and have a drink.”
“How was that?” Viola’s talk-therapist wanted to know.
“It was good. Robert’s friends were all very nice. I liked his friend Terry, who’d just come back from the Peace Corps in Ukraine.”
“How is the relationship with—?”
Viola read through a catalogue that Robert had among a stack of magazines in a magazine-holder. The catalogue offered a variety of things that one could order monogrammed. Then Viola flipped through several back-issues of the Economist.
“Why don’t we ever go to your place?” Robert wanted to know.
“We can go to my place.”
“It’s just that I’m worried you think that I don’t like your place.”
For his birthday Viola bought Robert a set of six monogrammed wine glasses.
“That seems nice,” Viola’s talk-therapist said.
“It was kind of a joke,” Viola said. “I don’t think he got it.”
Viola stole little bits of coffee from time to time. She would pour enough into a plastic zip-top bag to make herself a pot at home. Then later she would sit drinking the coffee, by herself, in her apartment. It was very good coffee.
“I got a blue light,” Viola told Robert. “I’ve been seeing a talk-therapist, but I think maybe it’s just seasonal-affective disorder.”
“Why I’ve been feeling so down.”
Robert stared at his pasta in vodka sauce, concerned.
Then suddenly it was everyone’s birthday.
“How do you even know this many people?” Viola asked. Robert gave out birthday presents wrapped in tissue paper, usually gift certificates to restaurants downtown. He smiled at everyone at the party.
Viola realized that all of Robert’s friends were Leos. She looked up facts about Leos on the internet while her Introduction to Information Science students worked on group work. Leos are born leaders, blessed with many talents. They are optimistic, charming, and generous, though they occasionally get upset by change. Many Leos are Republicans. They are compatible with Aquarius, Sagittarius, and Aries. “Ms. Wilder?” “Yes?” “I have to take a phone call.” “Are you Marianne or Kaitlin?” “Marianne.” Viola checked her list of students. “Okay then.”
“Did you know that all of your friends are Leos?” Viola asked Robert, at the next birthday party.
“Tomás is more of an acquaintance,” Robert said.
Viola looked up several articles about kleptomania, to decide whether or not she had it. The current scholarly consensus was that kleptomania was an explanation for certain historically-conditioned phenomena, with no underlying reality as a biological disease. Viola stole back each of the monogrammed wine glasses she’d given Robert, over a series of weeks.
“How is the blue light?” Robert wanted to know.
“It’s good. I turn it on while I drink my coffee in the morning. I think maybe a lot of the problem is that I’m not used to the winters being so dark.”
“Why do you think you keep stealing things from—remind me his name?” Viola’s talk-therapist asked.
“Is it boring to say that I had kind of an unstable childhood?”
“Are you concerned about boring me?”
Viola decided that she was going to start making up things to tell her talk-therapist, to stop herself from getting boring. But then instead she missed an appointment.
Robert surprised Viola for their anniversary with two bags full of groceries that he intended to make into linguini al mar. “It’s our anniversary?” Viola kept saying. She wasn’t very good with dates. Then, flush with wine, she said: “I think I should move in with you.”
“Never mind,” Viola said.
“No, I mean,” Robert said. “It’s something we should discuss first.” Then, later, he said: “Is that my wine glass?”
“That’s weird,” Viola said. “How did it get there?”
“I feel very grounded when I’m with you,” Viola told Robert later that night. “I guess I’m not used to feeling grounded with somebody.”
“We can talk about it,” Robert said. “It’s just that you took me by surprise, I guess.”
“We don’t have to talk about it,” Viola said.
Robert looked concerned.
“I like your shoulders,” Viola said. “You have very nice shoulders.” Robert and Viola sat up and contemplated Robert’s shoulders for a long while in Robert’s beautiful dresser mirror.