Lipstick & Chocolate


A chapter from my memoir, Hearts on the Line, the elusive search for love in the city of angels.

direction of ’Bucks, thinking, mulling, stewing. From my days as a waitress, I developed stamina. From my years auditioning as an actor, I developed patience. And both of these past lines of work honed my savvy about people and human nature, as has working at Double D. I don’t mind putting in long hours, going the extra mile. What I don’t like is feeling bad about the work I’m doing. And I’m having more and more days that make me feel that way. But I’ve worked my way up in this business, and Double-D is the best-paying steady job I’ve ever had. Adolfo and I are tired of living in a small apartment. We want a house. There’s a recession. I’m lucky to have this job....
I find myself standing in front of Saks Fifth Avenue. Man, it’s hot. I can feel my hair frizzing. Some older women exit Saks, and a breath of its cool air soothes me. The store is obviously beckoning me.

Marla, it’s saying, we have something just for you, darling, come inside.
I hear you, my queen, and obey.
I head straight to the cosmetics section. A gorgeous young blonde spritzes a new fragrance by Marc Jacobs onto my wrists. Now that’s more like it. Under normal circumstances I would try to recruit this pretty perfume pusher to become one of our girls at Double D. Actually, she is exactly the type that Clarence Rogers is looking for, but at the moment I feel like: the hell with Clarence and the Porsche he drives and any female dumb enough to think that hooking up with the Clarence Rogerses of the world is the ticket to a happy life. I stroll over to the Guerlain counter and look at lipstick.
“May I ’elp you weez sumzing?” asks a tall, lanky brunette with an Anna Wintour bob and a fake French accent. Her nametag says Sophie.
“Yes, as a matter of fact....” I sigh. “My boss tells me I look tired and washed out.”
“Ah, mon Dieu! I know just zee type, so boring, so crass,” she says, pouting in sympathy.
“What would you suggest?”
“Ooh la la!” Sophie raises an eyebrow while simultaneously narrowing her chestnut brown eyes as she appraises me. She waggles one polished nail like a divining rod over some thirty gleaming gold tubes, selects only one, dramatically holds it up, and slowly pulls the cover off. She leans closer like she’s about to let me in on classified government information. “Voilá.”

The color is positively lush. I look at the label on the bottom, “Kiss Kiss, Extreme lips, Fabulous Rouge,” I read out loud. “Insolence de Rouge.” I’m pretty sure that means In Your Face Red. Sounds about right, but there are so few reds that really work on me. She brushes some onto my lips.
Sophie flicks her wrist. “Ah oui. Oui, oui, oui, c’est magnifique!”
I check myself out in a mirror....Damn...Oh, yeah. I’m packing serious heat. Sophie must really be French. I hand over my debit card. “I’ll take it.”
I trudge back to the office, passing up Starbucks where I’d originally planned to go. I figure spending thirty-five dollars on a lipstick is enough damage to my faux Louis Vuitton wallet for today...except that the roses at a flower kiosk stop me as powerfully as a traffic light. I simply can’t afford a dozen, but I can afford one. My office needs it. I need it. That and a protein bar from the Korean snack stand in front of the building, and I’m a new woman. Except for the hair. But my afternoon client is female, so maybe Gary won’t get his shorts in a twist.

“Your lips!” Alana says as I reenter Double D. “Totally hot!”
I wiggle my eyebrows at her and slip the rose into a bud vase. Then I raid the front desk’s supply of chocolate: Godiva heart-shaped ganaches, Teuscher Irish Cream truffles, and chocolate cordials of cherries soaked in black port and wrapped in gold foil. Office expenses may have been cut back, but certain compromises are out of the question. I refill my crystal dish and set it beside the rosebud on my desk, and then, a much anticipated moment: biting into a silky sweet richness that melts a chunk of heaven onto by my excited taste buds through the magic of the Godiva Company. Mmmmmm. Yes, indeed. I am strong. I am invincible. Power to the Woman.
Alana ushers Laura Neuman in to see me.

An elegant Jaclyn Smith lookalike in her late forties, she sits down with an air of poise and confidence. Her carefully coiffed French twist shows off her Tiffany diamond studs, and her cream- colored button down blouse with a crimson camisole underneath shows just enough cleavage to entice yet not enough to be crass. She is wearing a sleek black pencil skirt that ends just above the knee, showing off her fabulously toned calves that look more like they belong to a twenty-year-old than a middle-aged housewife. She crosses her legs, and I glimpse her Louboutin burgundy patent leather pumps that I’m sure cost seven or eight times more than my Nine West strappy sandals that need the heels replaced.
“So, Laura, where do you live?” I gesture toward the candy dish.
She chooses a truffle and nibbles. “My husband and I, well, I mean my ex-husband and I, have lived in Beverly Park for twenty years now. I absolutely love it up there.” She stops and looks at the partially eaten candy she’s still holding. “My god...this is fabulous.”
I respect the moment of chocolate bliss.
I’m picturing her gated community way up high in the Beverly Hills that has some of the most extravagant mansions in the Los Angeles area. Beverly Park is home to Denzel Washington, Sylvester Stallone, Magic Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson, and, my fav, Rod Stewart and his little eighteen thousand square foot shanty, lavishly decorated with items he bid for