Michele sat in front of the mirror after her shower. Her digital alarm clock glowed 1:00 PM. A wide, stained, cloth headband held the damp hair away from the face. She dotted blemish medicine on pimples using the tip of a pinky. She applied make-up exactly as the saleswoman instructed. She sponged concealer stick, liquid concealer and foundation over the face, eyelids and lips. The eyeliner required a thin, fine, sable brush to achieve the uplifted almond shape of the eyes. She applied each of five earthy colored eye shadows with its own round-ended brush, playing up the brown eyes and enhancing the sleepy bedroom look that she cultivated even in the daytime. Three layers of mascara in black covered the false eyelashes, each layer separated with an eyebrow comb and curled with a heated eye lash curler. She fluffed blush on all of the spots the sun would kiss the face if the sun could get to the skin. She set all of this with fine, pearlescent powder using a Kabuki brush. She pulled off the headband and tossed it on the floor on top of the dirty clothes. She dried the hair in the style suggested by the hairdresser. She sprayed, teased and brushed each highlighted strand into the place it belonged. She tossed the empty hairspray can on top of the pile of clothes on the floor and grabbed another can from the closet, applying an additional layer of lacquer. She took the blouse and designer jeans from the dry cleaner bags. She got into them without breaking off a false fingernail or chipping any of the nail polish. The creases on the jeans dissected the front of the legs right down the middle. She stepped into designer, alligator shoes. She checked the designer label, alligator purse for cigarettes. She lined the lips with red pencil and filled them in with red lipstick. She put the lipstick in the purse. She looked at herself in the mirror.
Michele checked the clock. She had five minutes before she had to meet with her client downstairs at four. She sprayed on the perfume her ex-husband had made her signature scent. It entered a room before she did.
When she got down to the home office she shared with her boyfriend, she found the computer with the state of the art graphic design programs he had bought her already turned on. Her friend, who worked for her boyfriend, had the samples ready.
Michele sat at her desk. She lined up the watermarked, high rag content letterhead, business cards and envelopes evenly on her polished walnut desk. She looked around the office. Her friend had vacuumed, dusted and cleared the clutter, as instructed.
The grandmother clock in the livingroom chimed sixteen times. Someone knocked at the door. Her friend went to answer it. A man the same age, but not as grey as her boyfriend, walked past her friend without a glance. He walked up to her desk.
“Hello,” he said, holding out his hand. He was a longtime business associate of her boyfriend.
She kept her hands folded in her lap and smiled up at him.
“He’s one lucky stiff,” he said. “How did he manage to get himself such a young and attractive girlfriend?” He winked at her.
She smiled. She stood. She sat on the edge of her desk.
“Did you have him as a professor at the community college?” He grinned.
She smiled. She gestured towards the papers, leaving her hand on the desk, palm up.
“You’re nothing like his wife.” He stroked her wrist. “I guess you can’t compare a woman with nine kids to a thirty year old hottie, huh?”
She smiled. She touched the papers with one fingernail.
“Let’s see the stationery I can’t live without.” He picked up the letterhead.
Michele pointed out his personally designed logo, business name and address printed in dark blue and embossed in silver on the pale blue Tairei paper. Silver tissue lined the matching envelopes. His business cards were printed on light blue linen card stock. She saw her friend’s frown from the corner of her eye. She had not mentioned that her friend had designed the logo and chosen the font.
“I have never seen such expensive office supplies.” He rubbed the paper between his thumb and forefinger.
She smiled into his dazed eyes.
“I did say I wanted something elegant.” He took her estimate without flinching. “Thank you for the beautiful designs. I’ll call when I decide on an order quantity.” He left. The clock chimed the quarter after the hour; a fifteen minute meeting.
She sat in her chair. She looked at the newest New York Times best seller she had purchased. She didn’t understand what the author wrote. She never read the books, anyway. Her boyfriend called.
“He loved the stationary. He won’t be able to justify the expense of the special papers for the business, though.” He paused.
Michele took her cigarettes out of her purse.
“I know he said he wanted something special, but $15.00 for 50 sheets of paper was more than he expected.”
She lit a cigarette with the silver lighter on her desk.
“He thinks the logo captures his business concept exactly and the choice of font is a perfect match.”
She stared at the wall.
“Do the order on a more traditional paper and you’ve got your first sale.” His voice rose at the end of the sentence.
She dropped ashes on her blouse, burning a hole in the lapel.
“I know he disappointed your little artistic heart.” He giggled. “He said you looked very sophisticated.”
“He compared me to your wife.” She sucked on her cigarette. “He sounded like he admired her.”
“He admired your designs,” he said. “When I get home from class, we’ll go to that new restaurant you wanted to try.”
“I don’t feel well.” She hung up the phone.
She stubbed out her cigarette in the tin ash tray on her boyfriend’s desk. She toed her shoes off in front of her friend. She tossed her purse on the recliner in the livingroom. It bounced to the floor. She went to the bathroom upstairs, peed and left her jeans and panties on the floor. She threw an empty can of hair spray at the bedroom mirror on her way to the bed. The can landed on her boyfriend’s pillow. She crawled under the crumpled, unwashed sheets and laid her head on the makeup encrusted pillow case. She fell asleep.
The clock downstairs chimed seventeen times.
~ ~ ~
We went to the ocean yesterday.