Introducing: Susan, Belinda, David, and Elena

Inspecting her manicure at a stoplight, Susan noticed some funny discolorations on her right hand. Thinking them small bruises, she pressed on them with her finger. Nothing. A small burn in her gut told her that her forty-nine year old hands were beginning to betray her. Incipient age spots. How was it possible that a woman who people regularly mistook for a taller version of Meg Ryan, a regular at Pilates and the weight room at the club, could have age spots? She’d get the dermatologist on the phone at the next light. He was on her speed dial. This unsightly, unnecessary blemishing of her perfect patina could not persist. She would not allow it. After all, wasn’t she the “most” successful restaurant owner in Boston? She would not be old, or at least allow herself to look old.

A little worried, she checked out her roots in the rear view mirror. A slight darkening at the hairline? She’d call Marjo from the office and see if she had an opening for a foil at 3:00, after the lunch rush. Let’s see. If she was in by three, and out by five, she could still get to Belinda’s 50th by 8:00. That was important. Belinda, her best friend from, well, from whenever, was the first of them to hit the big 5-0. Her husband David was throwing the party, and had given his adored wife a gift of a trip trekking in Nepal. Belinda had been talking about wanting to do something adventurous, itchy to “test herself physically and spiritually on her own” for the last few years. Ever since Alexis went off to Bard. Now that Greg was leaving for college in a year, (if he could actually remember to go to geometry class instead of toking up at recess!), Belinda would have lots of time on her hands and she wanted to re-direct her energy, channel her Qi, before she fell under the steamroller of Empty Nest Syndrome.

Susan stopped on Newbury Street and bought the cutest Kate Spade cosmetic case as a going-away/birthday present for Belinda. Away in the wilds for almost three weeks, Belinda would need to take a lot of product with her. Where would she find straightening balm in Katmandu? Susan would never go some place where you had to worry about finding good product. What would be the point? The only men you’d meet would be furry, smelly, backpacker types. Hardly anyone who’d make a decent third husband. But Belinda was Belinda, and had the perfect life. She had adoring David. Whom she married two weeks after graduation from Wellesley, and then he got rich and became a “factor in the community.” And the kids, the nice house, the boat, and the new house on Nantucket. If she didn’t love Belinda so much, she could envy her. Still, Belinda could afford to lose a few pounds. “I bet she’s crept up to a size twelve by now,” Susan mused. “At least in pants.” But Susan would never mention that.

David was pacing in his psychiatrist’s office. He’d been asked to sit down. Twice actually. But he explained to Dr. Maggiano, that he was too edgy, he needed to burn off some of the nervousness by tracing patterns with his feet on the border of the doctor’s oriental rug. Was it a Kerman? From Turkmenistan? David couldn’t seem to remember which one featured the ziggurats as part of their tribal design. His mind was chocolate pudding today. David’s dilemma: He’d had an affair last night with a woman in his office. It wasn’t just someone in his office, although that would be bad enough. It was in his office, on the couch where he’d had the three Wall Street analysts sitting earlier in the day.  David didn’t consider himself a “player”. He wasn’t one of those guys who surreptitiously skip out on his wife for a little fling here and there. He wouldn’t do that to Belinda. Besides, where would he find the time? He’d started his company right out of MIT, and it grew faster than he’d expected. And then there were the kids, and the boat, and the family trips, and all those community events and boards. Okay, he’d had one or two moments on business trips, of the sort of what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas variety, but Elena was something entirely different. He thought he might be in love.  It was awkward that she was coming to Belinda’s party tonight. “I wonder whether she’ll wear underwear?” he said out loud, surprising himself and Dr. Maggiano.

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