Chapter 2

2531 Words
Beatrice Since Olivia needs to gets back to her kids, we decide to take our pity party to her house. We have become fast friends, bonded in our nervous breakdowns. Rosalind gives Olivia a pair of her running shoes that she keeps in a gym bag in the back of her Mercedes, and we pile into her car, a little happier to have sympathetic, like-minded company in our time of need. We stop at Jerry's Liquor and Stuff and buy enough booze to host a sophomore frat party and enough chips, dips, and peanut M&Ms to blow my diet for the next four hundred years. When we get to Olivia's apartment, I shove a handful of peanut M&Ms into my mouth while Olivia opens her front door. She lives at a rundown complex in the Valley. There's a Christmas wreath on the door with pictures of her four kids attached to it, even though Christmas was six months ago. When we walk in, her four children run to greet her like puppies. She drops down to her knees and takes them into her arms, giving them a huge dose of love. An older woman wearing a housedress, slippers, and what looks like a smear of oatmeal on her chin taps her foot on the floor and puts her hands on her hips. She's got the pissed off mother look down. A line of perspiration erupts on my forehead, and I feel like I stayed out past curfew and now I'm in big trouble. "Where have you been?" she demands. "You vanished. Bianca had three poopy diapers, and Mick got into the cabinet and ate a half pound of flour. I gave them frozen pizza for dinner. It was a big hit. Who's this?" She scowls and sticks her thumb in Rosalind's direction, as if she's hitchhiking in the living room. Rosalind puts her hand out. "I'm Rosalind, and this is Beatrice. We're having nervous breakdowns, too. Where's your ice?" "I'm Diane," she stammers. Her mouth stays open, as she watches Rosalind take control, like this is her home, and Diane is one of her children. I don't know why Rosalind hasn't made it to the top of her company. She's always in command, always completely sure of herself. I would follow her anywhere; I would be scared not to. She steps gingerly around the kids and walks confidently on her high heels to the little kitchen where she gets busy organizing the drinks and snacks. I hand the oldest child, who's been eyeing my stash of candy, an M&M. "Nice to meet you," I tell Diane, who I assume is Olivia's mother. They both have the same long red hair and blue eyes. "I don't understand what's happening," she says, her eyes wide and unfocused, but the television announces the start of Supernatural, and she turns around and sits on the couch, her eyes riveted to the boob tube. "I'm going to bathe them and put them in bed. I'll be back in a couple of minutes," Olivia tells us. She grabs the baby, and the rest of the children follow her to another room. I like kids, but four under five is overwhelming, even after five minutes, and I'm grateful for their early bath and bedtime. I'm tempted to offer Olivia help, but since I've only had one traumatic babysitting experience when I was thirteen--which ended with a small fire--I figure she's better off without me. So, I help Rosalind in the kitchen. She gives me a bowl, and I pour the M&Ms into it. Handing me a couple bottles of booze, she orders me to start laying out the coffee table for our party. Diane stares at the television and absentmindedly scoops out some M&Ms from the bowl, which makes me freeze in place and bite my lip. I don't want to share. I like drinking, but I know that I need the sweet, crunchy goodness that only the peanut M&Ms can give in order to calm down and start coping with my day's trauma. I watch her hand take four more candies, and I feel my coping go down her throat. I panic and grab the bowl. "Just going to wipe this off," I mumble and clutch it to my body. I'm a generous person, normally, but it's only a one-pound bag, and I need at least that so I don't run around the room crying and screaming. I'm not proud. "Sit," Rosalind orders, and I plop down on the floor, crisscross applesauce, next to a Slinky and a Dora the Explorer puzzle. Rosalind sits elegantly on the couch and pours me a vodka and orange juice just as Olivia walks in after getting the kids to bed. Her shirt is wet, and her hair looks like she brushed it with an egg beater. She exhales loudly and practically falls on the couch. "Nice couch," I say and explode into tears, mourning my lost furniture and belongings. Rosalind hands me my drink and points at it. "Knock it back, baby. And stop bogarting the chocolate. Today's the day I blow five straight years of Atkins. Atkins can kiss my bony ass." "Atkins can kiss my ass, too," Olivia says. "You know, even though it's not bony. I wish it was bony. Is that tequila?" A commercial comes on TV. "I still don't know what's happening," Olivia's mother says. I reach the bottom of my glass, and I'm starting to not know what's happening, either. I give the glass to Rosalind, and she refills it. "We're giving up, Mom," Olivia explains. Rosalind pours drinks for all three of us and hiccoughs. "We're not giving up. We're strategizing." "We are?" I ask, wiping my sweaty face on my shirt. I pop more M&Ms into my mouth. "Yes. We're incredible women. We don't back down for anybody." She looks at me as I chew a mouthful of M&Ms. Then, her eyes slide toward Olivia, who picks a Cheez-It from her cleavage and eats it. "Well, maybe not incredible. Maybe pathetic losers. But the good thing about being pathetic losers is that the only way is up. Up! We're going to do great things." She pours us new drinks. I haven't drunk this much since freshman year in college. Olivia slumps a little to the left, but she doesn't lose her drink. "Maybe 'pathetic loser' is a little harsh," I say. "You have peanut crumbs on your chin," Rosalind says, slurring her speech so that "chin" comes out as "shin." "I'm pretty sure I'm a pathetic loser," Olivia says. "Pathetic loser with super ovaries." Rosalind crosses her legs. "As long as it's not contagious." "Pipe down," Diane says. "This is the one where Dean shows his butt crack." We all turn and look at the TV, but there's a sad lack of butt crack. That's totally my life story...not enough butt crack, but too many assholes. Maybe Rosalind's right. Maybe the only way is up. Maybe there is a strategy. "A strategy?" I ask. "What kind of strategy?" "Uh..." she says, spilling her drink a little. "A strategy where we're not sitting on a Walmart couch, eating crap, and watching a dumb TV show." "Hey!" Diane yells. "This is a very complex, emotional story of two brothers who have supernatural-but founded in science-experiences. And it won two Emmys for sound editing." Olivia slides down on the couch until her head is lying on the arm rest. "Mom, Rosalind is trying to help me...aren't you?" "No," Rosalind says, gulping another drink. "We're going to help ourselves. We're the three musketeers of get-your-s**t-together. We're Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Suze Orman wrapped up know, the three of us." Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Suze Orman sound good to me. They probably have furniture, and Stedman is nothing to sneeze at. "They all have shoes," Olivia says. Her eyes are at half-mast, and her arm has slipped off the couch. "I want shoes. Is it hot in here?" "And love," I say. "Nobody loves me. Everybody leaves me. Four in the past year." "Bastards," Diane says, as commercials blare on the TV. "You got the loser magnet in you, just like Olivia. You attract low-life jerks." I nod. Diane understands me. "Men," Rosalind spits. "They're all low-life jerks." Olivia opens a bag of barbecue potato chips, and we dig in. Besides chewing, we've grown quiet. I figure they're thinking about the low-life jerks in their lives because that's what I'm thinking about. Is Diane right? Am I a loser magnet? Am I doomed to attract low-life jerks for the rest of my days? "We have to stop attracting them," Olivia says. "I mean, they have to attract us. I mean..." Rosalind puts her hand on Olivia's arm. "I know what you mean. We have to go on the offensive instead of the defensive. We have to Peyton Manning them. Or Patton them. Peyton or Patton, take your pick." The world spins around, and I try to focus on Rosalind's nose, but I can't decide which one to focus on. She has three, now. "What kind of offensive?" I ask. "A targeted strike." "Like a drone," Olivia says. "Wait a minute. I don't want to drone a man. I just want child support or a job that pays the bills and childcare. Men get me pregnant and leave me." Diane mutes the television and turns her full attention on her daughter. She's the only one of us who's sober, and her mannerisms seem sharp and her speech clipped. "Hold on. Of course you want a man. You think you can get a decent job when you only have a GED and over-active ovaries?" "I don't want a man," Olivia insists. "My uterus is tired." Rosalind takes a notebook out of her purse and jots down some notes. "You want money and shoes," she says, writing. Then, she points at me. "And you want a man who doesn't steal your appliances. And I want to finally get the recognition I deserve from the CEO of my company so that I can climb to the top where I belong." I snort. "Recognition from a billionaire? How're you going to do that?" "I've spent my entire life in the back seat. No more back of the bus for me. No more invisible woman. I'm not going to wait anymore, that's how. I'm going to take the reins. Targeted strike. Drone attack. You should target a billionaire, too." Targeted strike. A billionaire. A billionaire would probably not steal my furniture. "I like the sound of this," Olivia's mother says. "Listen up, Olivia." Olivia lifts her head, but it seems like it's too heavy because she plops it back down, again. "Listen to what? Target a billionaire? I can't even target my husband." Rosalind stands and paces the room, zig-zagging and wobbling on her heels. She shakes her finger at the air while she talks. "This is just like a job search. We're looking for someone to invest in who we are and what we can provide." "Doesn't sound very romantic to me," Olivia says. Rosalind waves her hand at her, dismissing her. "Get your head out of the Gone With the Wind. This is the romance of the new millennium." "Isn't a billionaire too much of a reach?" I ask. "How about a millionaire?" Rosalind shakes her head. "No. A millionaire isn't going to cut it. We need to go big or go home." "I wouldn't mind going home. This is crazy-ass s**t we're doing." "It's the crazy-ass s**t that makes a billion dollars," Rosalind insists. "I've got my billionaire lined up. If you can't fight them, snag them." She almost sounds like she's making sense, but not quite. Still, I'm so drunk that I can't separate the sensical from the nonsensical. "I don't know any billionaires," Olivia says. "We're going to have to work together, help each other. One for all and all for one. These are big fish. Targeted strike. Who are you going to target, Beatrice?" I slump down on the floor on my side, taking the M&Ms with me. I've eaten half of the bowl, and I'm working through the rest of it. Who am I going to target? Nobody. I've never targeted anyone, and... "Holy smokes," I say, chewing. Like a lightning bolt hitting me from the popcorn ceiling above me, I remember the billionaire in my life. Well, sort of in my life. Rosalind wags her finger at me. "Look Olivia! Look!" she shouts, waking her up. "Beatrice has a target in mind." Olivia and her mother stare at me with rapt attention. I bite my lower lip. "No, it wouldn't work," I say, chewing. "It can't. He's who he is, and I'm who I am." Diane turns off the television, and the room grows silent. The three women study me, waiting for me to speak. I shake my head. "No. It's impossible." "Who is he?" Diane asks. She's discovered a new show, but instead of on television, it's me in her living room. I take some more M&Ms and pop them into my mouth. I don't want to say any more. I'm sure that if I tell them anything about the billionaire who's sort of in my life, they won't stop asking me questions and pressuring me to jump all over him. I think about jumping all over him, and I smile. "Oh, he's a good one," Rosalind says. "Spill. Who is he?" "I'll tell you, but that's it. We shut up about it after? Deal?" Olivia gives me her Girl Scouts' promise, but she has trouble getting three fingers to stay up. Rosalind gives me a Fonzie thumb, and Diane says, "Get on with it, already." I take a deep breath. I've never told anyone this before. It's my big secret; bigger than my weight. "Cole Stevens," I say. "The man who owns Idaho?" Diane asks. "And half of Oregon?" Rosalind asks. "The aerospace king?" That's the one. "And he saves abused horses," I add. And he writes poetry. And he's a cowboy...a cowboy in chaps and tight jeans and a big belt buckle in just the right place. Did I mention the dimple? Or the eyes...the melty, be mine, I'm-swallowing-my-tongue-looking-at-you eyes. "Give me another drink." We all have another drink, and this time, Diane joins us. I'm blotto, but Olivia can't keep her head up, and Rosalind is slurring her speech, like someone cut her tongue out. "How do you blow him?" she asks. "Know him? I sort of work for him." Not exactly. "I'm an event planner, and the company I work for is organizing a gala for him." "A gala sounds nice," Diane says. "I've never been to a gala." "Cole puts on a charity rodeo every year," I explain. "It draws people from everywhere, and this year, he's having a gala, too. I've been planning it for four months. I have to go to Idaho next week." Rosalind says something, but I can't make it out. Either she's completely lost her ability to speak, or my ears aren't working. Then, my eyes stop working, and it all goes dark.
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