“You have to get some friends,” Clarissa answered the phone.
“Come on, sweetie, don’t you love that we can talk without letting the whole mother-daughter thing get in the way?”
“Yes, but it’s not healthy to let your only child be your only friend.”
“You’re not my only friend…though you are my best friend.”
“Did you call for some particular reason, or are you just reinforcing your affection for me?”
“HUGE reason. Guess who I saw today.”
“Almost, but no. Oliver.”
“Yes. He came to offer me a job. In New York.”
“Very. Like I don’t own my own business somewhere that’s not New York.”
“So you told him to stick his head in a bucket?”
“Of course.” Charlotte braced herself. “And then I agreed to go to dinner with him.”
“Oh my god–where?!”
“Trieste. Fancy pants.”
“Ah, the biggie of all the W’s. Uh…because he asked me. Because I like free fancy food. Because he was a great friend for a long time. Because he’s hot and I miss having dinner with hot men. Because what harm can it do?”
“You know very well what harm it can do! This guy is very persuasive, very charming. He’s gonna try to finagle his way back into your heart, and if he’s here to get you back working at the Shop, then his motives are not pure.”
“Mom. I can hear your attraction to him over the phone. You need to remember why you left so you don’t get swept up in his bullshit again. You were a train wreck when you left. I don’t want to have to be that worried about you again.”
“Oh sweetie.” Charlotte heart wrung itself hard in her chest. “Oh, you don’t have to worry about me.”
“He betrayed you. He used you. All those years you supported him and helped him advance his career and then right when it was your turn, where the hell was he? Not just not helping, but actively sabotaging!”
“I remember honey.”
“He’s a jerk.”
“You have to protect yourself.”
“Absolutely, sweetie. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m going to have fun with it–it’ll be wonderful food, but that’s all. But I’ll be protecting myself; I won’t fall into any old habits. I promise.”
After that, why she wanted to look spectacular she couldn’t quite tell. Running the bathwater, she decided it was to reinforce her sense of accomplishment. Here she was, mistress of her fate, successful entrepreneur, beautiful woman with a daughter grown and a comfortable home. Yes, to be gorgeous tonight would be to celebrate her triumphs. It had nothing to do with seduction.
There is a lot of work involved in looking spectacular–the bathing, the shaving, the nail-buffing, the moisturizing and perfuming, the make up, the selection of clothes. Charlotte soaked in the warm, bubbly water, thinking about her chosen outfit. From the back of the closet she had excavated a slinky black wrap dress, deep V, with a skirt fell to just below the knee, along with a pair of strappy four inch heels. She was a woman who celebrated her curves–though she hadn’t always been. It was Oliver who convinced her not to hide her shape; what good’s a small waist if you have no hips or breasts to show it off? After 40 solid years of hiding in her clothes, she had emerged, under his encouragement, luscious and glowing.
“Who wants to sleep next to a skeleton? Women should be soft and round,” Oliver had told her just a few weeks before they would first share a bed. They had gone for a drink and were sharing relationship war stories.
“It’s the divorce,” she had said. “It makes me feel old. Ugly. Fat. Past my expiration date.”
“Didn’t Sam like your body?”
“He said he did but…how do you distinguish between a guy who doesn’t really like your body and a guy who’s just not very good in bed?”
“Was it that bad?”
“Lord, it was slogging, methodical. I only did it to out of a desperate sense of obligation.”
”You know it’s been more than a decade since I felt sexy.” And when she looked from her glass to his eyes, this was the moment when she first found lust in his eyes, drinking her in.
“It is tragic that a woman who exudes such sensuousness should go even a single day unaware of the effect she has on men.” And that was where it started.
Then the sex…Charlotte had never felt so erotic. He found a balancing point between worshipping her as a goddess and using her as a sex object that met every single one of her desires. One day she was a divine being whose pleasure and satisfaction was his only purpose, and the next she was pinned crudely against a wall or crushed under the weight of his impatient lust.
Charlotte sighed and twirled her toes in the tub, lost in the memories that began to trickle and then stream and then flood her mind. She noticed a certain warm tingling in her belly and between her legs, and it was like greeting a long lost friend who had shown up just as she’d pulled the house apart in preparation for a really good spring cleaning. Nice to see you again, she thought, but the timing stinks. She got out of the tub.
After dressing, she examined her face in the mirror, critical as always. The creases between her eyebrows, the lines around her mouth, the new gray hairs around her temple, and the ever-increasing sag around her chin. Why was age so kind to men and so cruel to women? Still, a bit of mascara, bronzer, and lipgloss later, she stood before the full length mirror and took herself in. Over 6 feet tall in her stilettos, neckline strategically low, skirt just skimming the bottom edge of her knees, she felt powerful. And fucking hot. Yes, as a celebration of her accomplishments, this would do nicely.