Read Reunion Girls Online

Authors: J. J. Salem

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction

Reunion Girls (9 page)

BOOK: Reunion Girls
10.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Lara and Babe traded puzzled glances, then zeroed in on Gabrielle curiously.

"Sorry," Gabrielle said. "That was Brown Sugar talking. Sometimes I can't help it."

Everybody laughed.

"It's like the Incredible Hulk," Babe said. "Only instead of turning green, you turn into a girl from the ghetto.”

Gabrielle shook her head and negotiated another swig from the bottle.

Babe started to say something else, then halted, suddenly pensive for a moment. "Maybe that's the thing," she said with philosophical directness. "He's
an asshole. That's what makes it so hard to get over him. But he is an asshole for not being an asshole. Does that make any sense?"

Lara finished her Red Bull, feeling a surge of energy. She looked at Babe as if to say she understood. And she did. "Yes, it does."

"I didn't think I would still be in this emotional place about him at this point in my life," Babe went on. "I should be more evolved. All those underwhelming but trustworthy guys I've been ignoring should look good to me now. They've learned how to dress. They're successful. Some of them are actually
She shook her head. "But there's no interest. I don't even want to go out to dinner with one of them. What did that son of a bitch do to me?"

Gabrielle skated a bejeweled hand through the bubbling water. "Whatever it was, honey, he did it to all of us."

Lara cleared her throat. It was all coming back to her. How good this could be. To have girlfriends you poured out your heart to. Ever since college, work had absorbed masses of Lara's time. Regrets Only was all-consuming. It took devotion, a certain kind of fidelity, even competitive camaraderie with her peers in the same business. Basically, total human energy. But without the return of warmth, without the comfort of the sisterly society she had clung to in college.

Lara parted her lips to speak. Babe had shared something heartfelt. Now it was her turn. "A few years ago, I spent a small fortune on a first edition of his favorite novel—
The Great Gatsby.
And I just put it on the shelf. I don't know why. I guess I thought it would be nice to have around in case we got back together."

Babe laughed. "You kill me, Lara. That's your best self-destructive story? All you did was invest in a literary masterpiece."

Gabrielle laughed.

Lara shrugged helplessly. This time she didn't take offense. There was genuine affection in Babe's ribbing.

"I made a mix tape of his favorite songs and played it whenever I slept with another guy," Babe announced. "There's a certain power in recycling music like that."

"My first two singles were about him," Gabrielle put in. " 'He Was' and 'Prince of My Pain.'" She laughed a little. "It was cathartic, and I'm still earning royalties."

Babe's rapidly reddening eyes flashed with a quickly lit anger. "Does he even acknowledge what he did to us?" she demanded hotly.

Lara and Gabrielle merely looked at her.

The expression on Babe's face was furious and expectant. "I don't mean what he did to us as individual women. I mean what he did to us as a group."

Her announcement was punctuated by the hot tub jets going dead. A pregnant silence boomed.

Babe thundered on. "We were tight. Before college, I never had girlfriends like the two of you. I haven't since. Jesus, I don't even know how to make friends with another woman. You know? I've turned into the enemy. When I'm at a party, I usually ignore other women and talk entirely to men. Yet I call myself a feminist. It's so messed up."

Lara felt compelled to speak next. "Everyone thinks I live this glamorous life." She tilted up her chin airily and trilled,
"The city's social diva.
That's what
New York
magazine said once." She rolled her eyes. "But it's work for me. It's my business. And on the odd chance that I don't have an event on a Saturday night, you'll find me home alone in sweatpants watching
with my maid."

Babe looked uncertain. "I can't picture you in sweatpants."

"Okay, I only wear Lululemon,” Lara admitted. "But you get the point."

"I do, girl," Gabrielle said. "In my case, I don't think there's anyone in my life who isn't on my payroll. Producers, A&R guys, publicists, stylists, personal assistants. These are the only people I interact with. And if the hits stopped tomorrow, they wouldn't give a damn about me."

"At least you both come from decent families," Babe said. "My parents are worthless."

Lara said nothing. Her relationship with her own mother and father was pure gold. She couldn't imagine not having that to fall back on.

Gabrielle sighed. "Mine are unhappy about this Brown Sugar thing. We've been at an impasse for a long time." Her tone was somber, the look in her eyes faraway. "They just don't understand."

Lara gazed at Gabrielle for a long moment. "Frankly, I don't either," she said finally. "Why did you have to make up an image that's not anything close to who you are?"

Gabrielle shook her head. "It's a complicated story, baby girl. I'm too drunk to tell it, and you're too drunk to hear it." She stood up, a little unsteadily. "How cold do you think that pool is?"

Lara shivered at the thought.

"Why don't you dive in and tell us all about it." Babe smiled. "I dare you."

That's all Gabrielle needed to hear. She stepped out of the hot tub and made a daring dash for the pool. There was a big splash. Seconds after that, a scream. "Oh, my God! It's freezing! This feels so great!"

Babe needed no more prompting. She was out of the hot tub, off and running, and into the deep end within moments.

Now both of them were calling for Lara to take the plunge.

Slowly, she stood up, wrapping her arms around herself to brace against the cold. The night air was so chilly. This was insane. Here it was in the wee hours. She was drunk, practically naked, and under peer pressure to leap into a pool of ice water.

If only Dean Paul could see her now. That boy would never believe it. He always chided her for being so strait-laced and dignified. In bed, he made love to her so slowly and with such tenderness, as if she were a porcelain doll that might shatter under the roughness of too much passion. Out of bed, he would nuzzle her neck and whisper, "My perfect little princess. I'm not good enough for you." Lara was more than that, though. He just didn't take the time to find out.

"Come on!" Babe taunted. "Don't just stand there!"

"You'll love it!" Gabrielle assured her.

Lara sprinted to the edge of the pool. She stopped. She held her nose. She jumped. And it was exhilarating . . .

"Just a little bit more," Privi was saying.

The bouillon was already history. Now Lara finished the milk.

Privi smiled and took the empty glass. "That was much easier than I anticipated."

Lara put a hand to her stomach. "I can't believe that I got it all down. And I think I'm starting to feel better."

Privi smiled. "Yari swears by it. Carlos put away much more liquor than you did. It worked for him every time."

Lara glanced at the clock on the bedside table and felt a flash of guilt. "You're missing
Days of Our Lives,
Privi. This is awful. I'm fine. Really. No more tending to me."

The telephone jangled.

Lara grimaced as the shrill sound arrowed straight between her temples.

Privi noticed this and picked up the receiver. "Hello? I'm fine, Mr. Robards. And you? That's good. Lara's feeling under the weather. I'll let her know that you called . . . It's urgent?" Privi glanced at Lara.

She felt a tremor of alarm and took the phone. "Finn? What's wrong?"

"I thought you would've called me by now."

Lara's brow furrowed. "About what?"

"Dean Paul."

Lara rolled her eyes to assure Privi that no real crisis was afoot. She waved the sweet lady back to her soap opera. Then she sighed into the mouthpiece. "A recap of yesterday is hardly urgent, Finn."

"I'm not talking about his wedding. That's old news. I'm talking about his new job."

Lara's heart lurched. Her interest was piqued to the maximum. "What job?"

"He's joined
Hollywood Live
as a New York correspondent. It's all over the columns. Haven't you read the papers yet?"

"I've been too sick," Lara explained. "I'm in bed, half dead." She glanced at the clock again, even though she knew what time it was. The appointment with the Kometani twins loomed like a torture sentence.

"So what do you think?" Finn pressed.

"I'm surprised," Lara admitted, still processing the news. "I thought his parents would ultimately get their way."


"That he would finish law school and run for a congressional seat." Lara's mind began to drift to Jennifer Goldblum, her producer contact at
Hollywood Live.
The show routinely covered Regrets Only events, which thrilled her clients and all the boldface names in attendance. Jennifer always seemed to be way ahead on delicious gossip. How had this development slipped past her radar?

"His parents need to get over it," Finn was saying. "Their son has slept with too many women to run for office, and his new wife is no consultant's idea of a political asset. That's for sure."

"I know," Lara agreed. But she was barely listening. "Finn, I'm going to be late. Can we deconstruct this later?"

"I'll call you when I get back to the city."

Lara sat up, bracing herself for her body's revolt. None came. With a hint of confidence, she moved to stand up. "You're still in the Hamptons?"

"Yes," Finn grumbled. "I ended up going home with a bartender. He calls it an apartment, but it's actually someone's garage. There's a microwave and a little refrigerator. Does that count for a kitchen these days?"

"Finn, don't be mean. What if he hears you?"

"He's already at work. Jerry Seinfeld's wife is having a luncheon. That's the great thing about one-night stands with service people. They always have someplace to go."

"You're terrible," Lara scolded, laughing in spite of her disapproval. "Call me later."

She hung up and ventured toward the master bath, surprised to find herself opening the shower door and turning on the hot water without having suffered an attack of the dry heaves. Privi's little recipe was amazing.

As she stepped under the steaming jets, the realization of Dean Paul's new career began to sink in. It was one thing to read about him in the columns, but it would be quite another to see him in the flesh and on television every night. Lara's TiVo recorded every episode of
Hollywood Live,
and her nightly ritual was to watch it before bed.

She went to work with the blow-dryer, completely forgetting about her hangover state. Maybe it was over. She did feel like one of the living again. God bless Privi. More than usual, the loose curl in Lara's hair seemed out of control. Only Yoshi at Oscar Blandi could ever manage to straighten it to Jennifer Aniston-level perfection. No time for that today. She let it fly. A good thing, because makeup took longer than usual. Most days she could simply apply Bobbi Brown mascara, add a Guerlain bronzer to her cheeks, and swipe on her favorite lip gloss, Pink Sugar Rush by Jacqueline. But today she required a serious session of under-eye concealer, foundation, and blusher to mask a night of little sleep.

Surveying her walk-in closet, Lara decided quickly on clothing, throwing on a vintage Arnold Scaasi blouse with huge sleeves over white toreador pants, accessorizing with a massive Cartier tank timepiece. Men's watches were much more chic and better designed than the female variety. It always cost more, but it was worth it. She grabbed her file on the Kometanis to scan on the way over, snatched her Hermes Kelly bag, said her goodbyes to Privi and Queenie, and shuffled out the door.

As always, Lara felt a tingle of guilt when the driver opened the door to the backseat of the Lincoln Town Car. She scooted inside and sank into the rich leather. An obscene indulgence, yes, but better than the alternative. Lara hated cabs. Why should she arrive at her destination smelling like curry, or flustered from an argument with the driver because she didn't know the cross streets for an address? Life was too short. It was so much easier to arrange a car service. Finn ridiculed her savagely about this, but she didn't care.

"The Mercer Hotel, ma'am?"

"Yes," Lara answered. She checked her watch. A half hour to get there. Her stomach knotted. Lara was punctual to a fault and hated to be late or wait for anyone who was. "I need to be there in thirty minutes. How's traffic today?"

The driver pulled out from the curb and stepped on the accelerator.

Lara dipped back as the sedan zoomed forward.

"Don't worry, ma'am. You'll make it."

Lara smiled faintly. No doubt. She opened the file on her potential new clients to refresh her mind on what Regrets Only might be getting involved in. If nothing else, it would be . . . interesting.

Mio and Mako Kometani were perhaps the most celebrated women in Japan. Born to a billionaire industrialist father, the twins were modern-day princesses famous for being, well, famous. It was a notoriety they had parlayed into all things commercial. Mio had been crowned Miss Japan one year, Mako the very next. Their image had been branded, paving the way for best-selling product launches like Mio & Mako Noodles, Mio & Mako Beauty Vitamins, even Mio & Mako Bust Cream, which promised to keep a woman's cleavage smooth and beautiful. The girls commanded six figures to show up at parties and look pretty, filled banquet halls at three hundred dollars a ticket to deliver musings about their lives, and posed for provocative photo-essays that were produced into rich, glossy, and expensive coffee-table books. The most recent,
Mio & Mako in Love,
which featured the sisters in various states of seminude, sensual embrace, had broken all first-week sales records for any book in Japanese history.

But like so many international icons, the Kometanis yearned to conquer the American market. It was, after all, the Mount Everest of stardom. They craved the kind of gossipy heat that the Kardashians generated. They dreamed about mass-merchandising dominance. Would the Mio and Mako cosmology interest people Stateside? Lara had her doubts, but stranger things had happened in the culture. The right incident at the right moment could so easily sweep the Asian twins on a magic carpet ride of media devotion.

BOOK: Reunion Girls
10.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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