Maile Meloy’s first novel, Liars and Saints, was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange prize. She is also the author of the novel A Family Daughter and the short story collection Half in Love. Her stories have been published in the New Yorker, Granta, Prospect and other publications.
In 2007, she was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. Her new collection, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, was selected as one of the New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of 2009. She lives in Los Angeles.
“Two-step” is a story from Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, to be published by Canongate in March. “I wanted to write about love and adultery in such a way that the nature of the story changes, as you read it,” she told Prospect, “in which the power shifts among the characters and what you understand about them turns, and turns again.”
It was snowing already, in late September: a freakish, early snow that came after days of crisp and sunny fall weather. The other resident physicians at the hospital, the ones who had been in Montana two and three years, or all their lives, told Naomi this was nothing. “Wait till it snows in August,” they said. It was a Sunday, and Naomi had the day off, and she was sitting in the clean, bright kitchen of her friend Alice’s renovated Victorian, while Alice cried at the kitchen table. Alice was lanky and boyish and had always seemed supremely resilient, but now she was splotchy with tears and her nose was running.
“But how do you know?” Naomi asked.
“I just do,” Alice said. She blew her nose in a tissue. “I can feel it. His mind is somewhere else.”
“Maybe it’s just work. We’re all tired.”
Alice shook her head. “It’s not that,” she said. “He loves the hospital. Do you want tea or something?”
She got up to put the kettle on, and Naomi didn’t protest. The cupboards were painted white, and the open shelves held blue and green dishes. A window over the sink looked out on the snow. Naomi and her husband were renting, and neither of them had the time or the inclination for decorating—they still had cardboard moving boxes as end tables—but Alice had left some kind of design job behind in Los Angeles, and she clearly had…