They dote on Henry, with his giant glasses and funny wavy hair; he's like a small adult, like Billy would have been. Libby in particular, broody as she is.
Libby: "Henry, tell us. What is your favorite subject in school?"
Bill: "That's not even a subject. Give me a break."
Henry: "Uh, I'm a little kid?"
Gini: "-- Essie. Tell us about Bill, when he was a boy."
The temperature drops before she's opened her mouth, but it's too late now, and Libby's joined in, so Essie tells a story. Billy's Campaign For Long Pants. Bill begs her to stop, but nobody can see why, or what it costs him, so there's nobody to help. Nothing to drown it out.
"Well, he begged us for months, and I told him, I said Billy, your father's not gonna pay for a new pair of trousers until you've outgrown your last pair of knickers. So he had this one pair of knickers that were still too big for him, he went and got my sewing box and a pair of scissors, and he shortened the legs of those things. He actually hemmed them himself, and he took in the waistline himself. And it was as neat as any seamstress!"
Gini laughs. "A surgeon, even then." She thinks she's helping, she's not helping. She watches his face, as he drinks, and realizes they've been ganging up on him and they didn't even know it. He tosses it back, and her face falls; she doesn't notice Ethan, doing the same.
Essie: "I thought he'd had some sudden growth spurt, but his father didn't buy it..."
Bill: "I was made to wear those knickers until I was fourteen. Fourteen."
He says it without looking up, eyes hooded; the table goes quiet as he goes dark. In the silence he can barely move. It's Bill that saves them all, asking for the rolls, and the table relaxes. Gini can't seem to catch his eye. He isn't really looking at anyone at all. He's wearing them, still.
After dinner one couple dances to "Sway," the rest of them buzzed down in the den. Bill's actually happy to go, when Libby invites him to take his wife and child for a whirl; Gini slumps when she realizes it's a ploy to get her and Ethan up and dancing too. He straightens his back, very brave, and puts on a casual air when he asks. Behind the drunk bravado, though, he's as nervous as a Sweet Sixteen.
Ethan: "If only to make Libby happy."