Laura bends down to rummage through her Louis Vuitton Alma MM in pomme d’amour—love apple, really red—monogram vernis leather, closes with a gold padlock. For some colors of this classic bag, you have to get on a waiting list. I eye them every time I pass the Louis Vuitton store on Rodeo Drive, but at $2,010.00, well, let’s just say it won’t be happening this year.
“Excuse me.” Laura squeezes eye drops into her eyes. “Tears mess up my lenses. I’m still in total shock,” she says, voice a little tight. “I never thought that I would be one of those wives who get traded in for a younger model. I mean, I’ve seen it happen dozens of times in our social circle over the years, but I really never thought that it could happen to me.” She grimaces and squeezes her eyes shut, obviously trying to keep the floodgate closed.
If I had that flask of Scotch in my desk drawer, I’d offer her a shot. I hope to God Gary doesn’t try to eavesdrop. He obviously hates drama and wouldn’t want her in the database. She’d be devastated if he booted her out right now.
“Bernie isn’t even good-looking, for God’s sake.” Laura shakes her head. “I tower over him in my heels. And he’s bald.”
“Does he have a pot belly as well?” I ask with a grin.
“Yes, as a matter of fact he does,” she giggles, lightening the mood. “I actually went to where Brandy, the husband-stealing B-I-T- C-H works so that I could see what the attraction was.”
“What happened?” Unlike Gary, I love drama.
“Well, she was off that day, so I didn’t get to see her, but I did see them together at a restaurant in Beverly Hills on Canon Drive a few days later, eating on the terrace. She was feeding him. Fried calamari, I think. He rarely ate anything fried. I’d feel like an idiot, hand-feeding some guy in public or letting him feed me.”
“So, what did you think of her?”
“Typical L.A. wannabe. Extra large implants and overly bleached blonde hair. Cheap bitch. He must be having a ball enjoying his mid- life crisis.” The tears are rolling again, smearing her perfectly applied blush.
The “First Wives Club” now has another member.
“Laura, I’m so sorry. You may not be ready to look for a new mate yet, but if you just consider this a chance to meet people and have pleasant evenings, it can help.” We start talking about the type of man she might enjoy: height, lifestyle, religion, and interests. “Ninety percent of our male clients expect much younger women, so that means at least ten years older. Would that work for you?”
She looks out the window. Sighs. “I guess. Especially if they’re in good shape.”
I thumb through some files and select two of my favorite gentlemen in their late fifties for her. “Start with these two. They are both very nice, and you’ll have a lovely time with them. They’ll be calling you.” I jot down a few details for her. “Since you haven’t been on a date for over twenty years, would you like this?” I hold up a copy of my book Good Date, Bad Date and she gratefully accepts.
“So you’re also a writer?”
I tell her about my two books on the market and the memoir I’m working on as I walk her out into the lobby,
“But you’re still here at your day job. Don’t worry,” she says. “My ex-sister-in-law is a writer, and it took her several years to really get her writing career going.”
We run into Gary who is also about to leave. “Marla,” he says after Laura steps outside. “I called Lewis Grover. He didn’t answer, but I left a message. I don’t think we’ll hear from him again.”
“That’s good.” Just the mention of his name is icky. “Thanks, Gary.”
“And Marla...” He grins as if we share an inside joke. “Nice lips!”
I hope I can write off the lipstick as a tax deduction.
I get back to work, matching still more SFBRGs—Short Fat Bald
Rich Guys, or Mr. SoFBRGs—to GDGDs, and a few other clients I enjoy working with—a widower like our Dr. Venable who has dared to shake off his loneliness and try something new. Helping people like him and like Laura makes my work feel important and valuable. But Laura is haunting me. I’m sure everyone who cared about her thought she’d married well. She was the frontrunner in the race for happiness, and most people would have bet on her to win. If a woman as terrific as she is can’t keep a wealthy man, it must be wealth that makes people discontented. It’s like a curse to happiness. Maybe I’m actually lucky that Adolfo doesn’t make enough money for any twenty-something to try to snag him away from me.
By 6:50 that evening, I’m tired and hungry, counting the minutes until time to leave. The phone rings.
“It’s Clarence Rogers,” my charming friend bellows into my speaker.
No way am I answering it right now—even if he runs screaming to Gary tomorrow. I let the caller leave a message and eat a truffle instead. Standing rule of Marla’s Guide to Sanity through Chocolate.
“What is this horseshit about referring me to your boss on company policy?” Clarence’s voice booms into the voicemail. “I am your boss. I pay—”
La la-la la-la. Hum-de-dum. One of the amazing qualities of chocolate chemistry is that it makes you selectively deaf—little known fact.
* Hot Lips Martenson, that’s me.
* As Queen of Positive Energy, I attract clients I can truly help and who appreciate and respect me.
* I am glamorous and professional. I am strong, invincible. And perky. A frontrunner in the race for happiness.