Part X.

Just like that. She thought those words, over and over as she drove, resenting him.

After everything they’d been to each other, everything that had been said in the course of their relationship; everything they’d felt. After all that, it was so easy for him to slip back into Alex mode, into his defenses.

But she couldn’t. Even driving home, passing the exit that would take her downtown to her friends, her old familiar hiding places and the bars that would give her comfort if only she went looking for it. She couldn’t admit that she needed it, that the night had really gone so wrong. So she went home. For awhile she sat on the couch, cat in her lap, drinking a glass of red wine and looking askance at her defiantly silent cell phone, half waiting for him to call. When she finally went to bed it was almost morning. She fell asleep with wet cheeks sticking to a damp pillowcase, and woke up late the next day.


By the time she ran into him again she’d been waiting for two weeks for him to call, or for his mother to come in to have a massage. For something, some prodding or reconciliation or finality. She gave up sometime near sunset, as she was leaving the salon and headed toward the interstate that would bring her home to her dark walls and her safety. There it was, the Red Room, with its open bar and familiar air. It was too strong a pull to resist in a weakened state, and she was quickly pulling in to her old parking place, skirting the edge of the railroad tracks that divided customer from employee parking.

“Hol-y shit! Jazz, what’s up?” Rodney was more excited than he should have been as she pulled the heavy glass door opened.

She glared at him as she pulled out a barstool. “Washington Apple, Rodney. Quick like, please.”

He laughed at reached for the bottle of Grey Goose in front of him. “Whatever you want, baby.”

“Where’s Susan?”

“I don’t know. Around here somewhere, I just saw her like… awhile ago.” He put a martini glass in front of her, poured pink liquid into it from a steel shaker. “Anything else?”

“No. Now fuck off.”

“You’re such a bitch, Jasmine. You know that? No wonder ole boy’s over there with some other girl. He got sick of your mouth, huh? That’s pretty fucking bad, Jazz, when you get dumped by some crippled guy.”

She sipped her drink, ignored her jumping heart. “What?”

Rodney inclined his head toward the other side of the restaurant. “Your fucking boyfriend—the one with the crutches. He was in here awhile, then he went to sit down with some hot ass chick like an hour ago. What? He’s not supposed to have a date? Uh-oh. Hey, you ought to go, like, start a cat fight.”

Carolyn. There was no reason for her to think that; it could easily have been Monica, or even Jane, knowing how wide Rodney’s taste in women was. But it had to be Carolyn; it would cap off the last two weeks perfectly for her. She wanted to see.



Jasmine stood at the hostess stand, one hand on the wine rack, one clutching her drink tightly. Just around the corner from her was a small table at which sat Alex and his date. His blonde date. Blonde and tall, with bouncy curls, a Kate Spade hand bag and well-manicured nails. Jasmine poured the rest of her martini down her throat, wincing as it hit her contorting stomach.

“Shit,” someone behind her murmured. “Come here, Jasmine.”

Susan’s hand was around her wrist, prying her grip away from the polished oak of the wine rack. Jasmine looked at her with wide, blank wet eyes. The other girl nodded and pulled her into a tight hug.

“Just go sit down. You want another drink? I’ll get you another martini, ok? You’ll be fine. Drink some more. Ok?”

Jasmine sunk back into her barstool and Rodney bounded over, energetic as a toddler on caffeine pills. He grinned, said he guessed she hadn’t known her boyfriend was out on a date.

Susan glared at him. “Just make another martini, Idiot. Can you handle that?”

Jasmine asked for a cigarette. Susan wasn’t inclined to question and handed one over. Jasmine lit it and stared off into nothing, leaning into the dark granite of the bar in front of her.

“Were you going to call me?” she asked Susan.

Susan shifted uncomfortably. “Later, yes. Who is that prissy little bitch, anyway?”

“She’s his ex. They were going to get married. She left him, when he got hurt. She’s a Debutante. How long have they been here?”

Susan shrugged. “An hour or so. He was at the bar when I got in, but I didn’t talk to him. Then she wandered in awhile later and they sat down. It was supposed to be my table, but… I didn’t think it was appropriate, you know? So I gave it to David. Fuck, Jas, are you ok, really?”

Jasmine nodded. She took a drag off her cigarette and then a drink from the fresh martini that had appeared in front of her. Susan put a hand on her shoulder and excused herself to go check on a table.


They had been silent for a few minutes, poking at the remains of the food on their plates. It would have been an uncomfortable silence for both of them, if Alex hadn’t been drunk and Carolyn so self-absorbed. Finally she was motivated to speak by the realization that it was the only thing that got her any attention.

“You really do look good,” she said, flipping blonde curls over her shoulder and smiling her perfect smile. “Better than… than I expected, I suppose.”

“Just not good enough, right? Not as good as him.” Alex sucked greedily at his cigarette, narrowed his eyes at the woman across from him.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Her smile was unwavering, unnatural.

“Your new toy—your future husband. What’s that Wall Street prick’s name again?”

“His name is Edmund. And I wouldn’t compare the two of you. You’re very, very different.”

“Of course we are. He can walk without crutches. He doesn’t keep a wheelchair in his bedroom. Oh, he’s probably an accomplished athlete of some kind, too, isn’t he? You wouldn’t want to waste your time with any more invalids, you’re too smart for that. Old Edmund’s probably six foot five, muscle-bound, and healthy as one of your daddy’s thoroughbreds. That’s all that matters, right?”

“I never said that.” She sipped expensive Chardonnay and batted her eyelashes.

“Are you sure, Carrie? Because I seem to remember you saying exactly that when you dumped me.”

He was raising his voice and it made her uncomfortable. She looked quickly over her shoulder and then said, “Will you keep your voice down, please? I did not dump you, Alex; you always exaggerate…”

“How do you know? We haven’t spoken in a year.”

“Well, I’ve been in Manhattan. And Edmund’s parents have a Chataeu in…”

“Oh, France, how nice for you!” He dragged on his cigarette, cocked his head and smiled with mock-sincerity. “Are you having him take you to Paris for the honeymoon? I always thought that was a dumb idea, your ‘walk up the Eiffel Tower’ fantasy; I would have given in, of course. I always gave in to you, didn’t I? Of course we wouldn’t have been able to do that together, would we? I’m not a great stair-climber these days.”

“Actually, we’re going to Venice after the wedding.”

“Italy in the winter, Carolyn?” He shook his head. “Shouldn’t you be skiing or something?”

She was silent, sipped her wine again. “Since when do you call me Carolyn?”

“Would you like to hear what Monica calls you?” he offered, smiling sweetly.

She glared at him. “You’re awfully pissy this evening, Alex. Are you tired? You know how you get when you don’t get enough sleep.”

“Well, Carolyn, my dear, it is hard to get one’s rest when one is having constant, mind-blowing sex. I wouldn’t expect you to know that, though.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sex, Carolyn. Most people don’t sleep through it.”

“Are you drunk?”

“I am. Why do you ask?” As if reminded, he waved the waiter over to the table and ordered another martini.

“Because you don’t generally invent wild stories when you’re sober.” Proud of herself, she leaned smugly back into her chair and crossed her arms.

“It’s just totally inconceivable to you, isn’t it? That a woman would want me like this? You just can’t make it fit into your tiny little brain, can you?”

“Fine, Alex. Constant, mind-blowing sex. With whom, may I ask?”

“No one you’d know…”

“That’s certainly convenient.”

“She’s not a society girl. She’s not like you in any respect, as a matter of fact. She’s vibrant and intelligent and sweet… and she does things in bed you don’t even know how to pronounce.”

“Well good for you,” her cheeks were flushed under their custom-made rogue. “And where exactly is Miss Perfect, hmm?”

“Actually, she’s right there,” he nodded to the hostess stand, just to Carolyn’s right. “Jasmine, honey, you’re late.”

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. He’d seen her through the wine rack. She was more thoroughly embarrassed than she’d ever been in her life, but decided to help him out of the hole he’d dug himself into. Full of trepidation and beaming as though she couldn’t have been happier, she approached the table.

“Hi, Baby,” she said to Alex, who smiled up at her from his chair. “Sorry I’m late. I had to catch up on some insurance forms.”

She pulled out a chair and sat down, scooting slightly closer to him and away from Carolyn.

“Well, next time you should call, honey. Jasmine, this is Carolyn. Carolyn, this is my girlfriend, Jasmine McKay. Jasmine is late because she has a job. They allow women to work now, you know.”

The other woman smiled icily at Alex and then extended a hand to Jasmine. “It’s nice to meet you. Unfortunately, Edmund is expecting me very soon so I have to be on my way.” She waved a hand over her plate and glass, “Shall I leave you some cash?”

Alex smiled. “No, I think I’ve got it. Have a nice night, Carrie. Give my regards to Edmund.”

To be continued...