Happy Birthday to Me…

Lunch was at the Eagle top restaurant, Clara wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a very ‘high fluent” kind of place. You know the kind, The beautiful wrap-around terrace with outside dining that overlooks the golf course, but not too far from the outdoor bar with the young handsome caddies that were easy on the eyes even if I do say so myself. Or, if you’re one suffering from years of sun worshiping and choose the large “tilted” ridiculously expensive hat, then perhaps you’d choose, the elegant indoor restaurant, tables draped in expensive coverings, exquisite furnishings, floor to ceiling windows, brilliant chandeliers, oh who cares, you know the atmosphere I’m referring to. We, of course, sat outside, because if you know Clara, you know she likes to be noticed. And noticed she was.

I was the first to arrive. I was happy about that, it meant I had my choice of two tables. One, directly in the sun making it unbearable to enjoy your lunch. Or the other in just enough sunlight to need sunglasses but not enough to sweat in. Perfect. I chose the latter of the two. I sat in the seat where the sun shone mostly on my face and would do so for the next few hours. A reasonable way of not having to remove my sunglasses showing off David’s latest piece of work. Lunch was at two, and the others of course would be fashionably late so I ordered a dirty martini with three olives and asked for it quickly.

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

As the ladies begin to enter, eyes around the terrace notice the faces. Elizabeth Ross, Hilde Westland, and the ever-powerful Clara McTodd.

I think I loved Elizabeth (Lizzy), or just envied her so much it felt like love, not in anger though. You just couldn’t bear but feel that way about her. Especially in her presence, that’s probably why I enjoyed her company so much. We had done a few things together…A yoga class that didn’t last long: we eventually skipped the yoga and went straight to our dessert we felt we just earned. Seriously, like yoga even earns a dessert! Who were we kidding! But she’s the youngest of our fab four little group, only 28, she says that she and “Teddy” (gag, so in love, it’s sickening at times) are ready to start trying for a baby soon. All kidding aside, I do wish them well on that. They would be adorable pregnant. And I would have first dibs on throwing that baby shower.

Hilde sat down across from me yapping about the dreadful sun that will be beating against her back “the entire time” we have lunch, giving me a look and waiting for me to volunteer my chair for her, I quickly glanced towards the others arriving. She then drops her large Hermes “Birkin” bag, (even if it is made of orange crocodile and embellished with palladium hardware I would not spend $37,000 on a bag. It’s a God damn purse! You throw your shit in it and go!) But, that’s Hilde, that kind of money is “small potatoes” to her. She waves the waiter down quickly, but not by any means in a sophisticated way, she’s about to order some serious vodka tonics without the tonic. Lizzy sits to my right, leans in, and kisses me on the cheek while placing her hand on my forearm, she asks in her adorable sweet voice how I’m doing. Clara, not too far behind them stops off at the table to say hello to Judge Ron J. Hecker. A nasty son-of-a-bitch in the courtroom, but none the less always kind to a pretty face. I shake my head, typical political man in my book.

The waiter arrives; Clara orders a round of sparkling wine (that’s champagne, but I learned quickly, you don’t call things what they are out here) with decadent cheeses and exotic fruits for the celebration. As he walks away Hilde makes her usual “nice ass” remarks, loud enough for the waiter to hear, but quiet enough to be classy.  Lizzy snickers holding her laugh in behind her hand and blushes with embarrassment. Clara is too busy checking her voice mails to keep up with our laughter.

Clara’s’ story is an easy one, she made her money the old-fashioned way, she inherited it, from Grand Daddy himself. He owned a little piece of every oil company in each state, about 10 to be exact; of course, Texas is the largest of his fortune from what David tells me. Her husband George is more-or-less her pet. George, we think, is a banker but all we know for sure is that he doesn’t know jack shit about finances or stocks, he is wrapped around Claras’ pinky finger, just where she likes him. Hell, he’s so pussy-whipped he even took her last name in the marriage. Not surprising to me, as if Clara would ever give up the family name of “McTodd“.

In our part of the hills, a McTodd equals Money, and you don’t screw with money.

As the Champagne arrives Clara lifts her glass and prompts us to join her, she says a few nice things about friends and family and blah blah blah on our little get-togethers (hell it took weeks to schedule this lunch with these women) then looks towards me and adds on a sincere “Happy Birthday Darling”! We lift our glistening crystal Riedel champagne flutes with our deep rich red berries at the bottom and clink to her toast. I finished mine right there on the spot. Hilde asks if there’s anything wrong, her eyes fixed on an empty martini glass and now the champagne flute. I smile and tell her it’s my damn birthday! They throw their heads back and laugh.

Earlier that day the sun awoke me from my bedroom window. David had opened the shades for some light in the bedroom. I began to sit up and rub my eyes, OUCH! That pain, that familiar pain, it’s back again. He sits on the side of the bed next to me feeling my face. He kisses my eye gently, says he’s sorry and that he loves me and that it won’t ever happen again. This time, he promises. Then wishes me a happy birthday. As he leaves for work I head for the shower. Remembering I need to hit the market. David sent me to cooking school before we were married; I thought I could make our favorite dessert for tonight Chocolate Chambord cake. I also remember we seem to be having a mouse problem in the garage. David told me to tell Rosalie, our maid, to pick up some traps. But I know how she hates the thought of living where a mouse may or may not reside, so I decide to do it myself.

Throughout my market isle lingering, I reconvene my list, Chambord, cocoa, raspberry sauce. Oh, out of sugar better grab that. It’s quiet here this morning, the air is already warm, should hit the high 80’s today. I grab the blue and yellow box of sugar cubes off the shelf, brand-name but this little corner market isn’t exactly top-shelf. It’s quaint, off the beaten path, and saves me from running into a lot of faces I don’t care to see right now. Wait? These aren’t sugar cubes! I grab the box out of my cart and read the label. “Rat Poison”. RAT POISON? I think about this for a moment…that should take care of those little vermin! I go back to grab a box of sugar, right next to the rat poison. I chuckled and thought….”corner market”.

Returning home I place half of the rat poison in a disposable tray in the garage as the instructions suggest. I leave Rosalie a note telling her to take the night off, David and I will be going out for dinner tonight.

The waiter returns and we order salads and fish mostly, we wouldn’t dare to be seen scarfing down cheeseburgers and fries, (a favorite of Lizzy’s and mine, we exchange a look over our menus and chuckle). Hilde rambles on about Charles and his latest client, some out-of-town senator who got caught with his pants down and his secretary’s skirt up. Charles could get anyone off, (even his secretaries apparently) Charles is the top lawyer in the city, although he hasn’t seen the inside of a courtroom in about seven years, (he has his underdogs do his dirty work for him). He prefers to sit behind a big oak desk and just watch the money roll in. He has more judges in his pocket than a dirty politician. Rat bastard of a man in my book. It reminds me of a grand ol’ memory…

Ah, the Hamptons…..where there’s no better place to go when you’re dripping with money.

It was the summer of high stock premiums….. We all went to Hilde and Charles’ summer place for a week to getaway. I had to wear long-sleeved blouses and ankle-length skirts to cover the bruises on my legs along with handprints on my arms from David a week before, some argument we had about coming out here. I played it well; I simply needed to be “protected” from the sun from an anti-biotic I was taking.

After Sunday dinner the remaining guests left and Charles took David into his office with two rock glasses and a nicely aged scotch. Now, I knew what they were about to discuss, they were about to discuss me.

You see, the pool boy had seen David hitting me through the guesthouse window and once he left he had called the police. He couldn’t have been more than 18 and very new at his first stepping stone of  “getting to where ever it was he wanted to be” in life. Pool boys and caddies eavesdrop on a lot of conversations and learn the “who’s-who and what’s what” while handling their work around weekday “power lunches” at the club. The boys usually leave all of their contact information just in-case someone is looking to add another staff member to add to their butler, their maid, their cook, their gardener their nanny, and the ever-popular chauffeur collection. Well, anyways, Chase was very new at all of this, because unfortunately, what he witnessed was not a rarity here. Poor kid. So, the police came, and the police went. Not much happened. It never does when the name Charles Westland comes up as your lawyer. Oh did I forget that? Yes please by all means please add “Lawyer” to our personal collection of staff members. Christ.

Hilde was great about the whole thing, she really was. I felt bad for her being caught where she was, can’t really turn your cheek when it’s one of your closest friends, and on the other hand, can’t go against the man who’s kept you living in the lap of beyond luxury for most of your life. So she did what any good friend and loyal wife would do, she pretended she never had a clue. And honestly, I thank God she did just that. I knew she knew, and I was more than okay with her keeping things the way she did. I think it was why she was always overly kind to me. It was never discussed between the two of us; ever. Clara was asking Lizzy the baby question when I zoned back into the conversation around me. Why have a baby in this life anyway is what I always wondered. You don’t raise a child in our lives. The maid dresses it, the cook feeds it, the nanny takes it to Mommy and Me and the damn gardener plays with it!

Elizabeth and Ted Ross “Teddy” as she calls him, “Lizzy” as he calls her, what’s their story you ask? Well, a perfect make you want to throw up love life, makes my damn eye hurt. But, Lizzy, she is my favorite. Young, soft brown eyes with dark silky chocolate hair she always wore two ways, down sweeping over her shoulders or up in a bouncy pony-tail, which made her always look about 4 years younger than she already looked. She’s a fashion designer yet to have her own studio, but don’t you worry Teddy’s working on that for her birthday next month. Now that’s a gentleman in my book! Theodore (Ted) Ross Real estate king of the world! Wherever you want a place, Ted can find you one, for the right price, of course, his commission means pampering his little princess.

Now Hilde Westland, well she makes her life worthwhile out of the boy toys hidden under her rock –The Avon Hill Spa and Fitness rock that is. Now don’t you worry, Charles is just as guilty. All those judges and cops up his sleeves, he has just as many twenty years-olds every month on his yacht, named why “Hilde” of course. Ah, yes, Hilde loves her boy toys all right. Let’s see, there was Stefan the tennis instructor; who learned Hilde had her own way of serving. Richard; her trainer, whom she loved to call “Dick” in front of us just to toy with him. And oh yes, don’t forget Paulo, now I’m not sure what Paulo did, but I know he did a lot of Hilde.

Hey, I’m just painting the picture here for you…

Dinner with David was at 6 sharp, at Chez Pierre’s off the waterfront. I had run into a friend on the home from lunch with the ladies so by the time I returned home to shower, throw the cake together and freshen up the eye, I was late getting to the restaurant. The twenty-year-old hostess (one of Charles’ I believe) seated me right away. I could tell if David was slightly perturbed having already waited half an hour. He motioned for the waiter. I had already known what I wanted. David ordered the lobster for me, he had to have all the red meat he could get, prime-rib. Rare.

We had a quiet conversation, he asked how lunch was, I filled him in on the ladies, Lizzy’s surprise next month for her birthday (Ted had gotten us girls together to see if Lizzy had been eyeing anything else she had wanted for her birthday. We knew her heart was set on the dream of owning her own studio, so we advised him to stick with that). Then I caught him up on Clara, he made his usual snide remarks about “pansy-ass George”, I swear he made remarks like that just so he himself could feel more like a man. He was very interested in Charles’ new client though, the senator in a dirty sex scandal. David for reason thought very highly of Charles. He was a tall, good-looking gentleman, but was very envious of his wealth I suppose. David seemed to get off on watching or hearing Charles work. “There’s nothing he can’t turn around!” He would say with such admiration. Yes, you’re right, there’s not, especially my pretty black eye. David knew I hated Charles ever since the Hampton week. I just felt he was looking out for David’s reputation more than my safety which pissed me right off! I was the one getting hit, punched, slapped, and humiliated with the lies I had to use to cover them up. But by all means, protect the bastard!

I feel as if in the last year his temper had become much more pronounced, and I was now growing to hate him for it. A lot. I touched the skin underneath my eye, not too puffy. I get a look from David, a smart-ass sympathy one. He makes a statement about calling Charles just-in-case I feel ‘wronged’ in any way. I give him my look after that, the look of you’re an asshole along with my stiletto heel in his shin, just an added touch on my part. It must have been the alcohol from lunch, but I didn’t care; I was tired of being his victim. He winced and tried to hold composure amongst our dining company of the “rich and famous”. Where’s Robin Leach when you need him to whisk a damsel-in-distress away?

Back to reality, David winced, dropped his fork, dinner was over.

I felt the hit, hard! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? My god my head, the pain, my eyes feel as if they could explode and my ears are ringing with a sound so overbearing I can’t hear my own voice. It’s like a damn storm siren. I was used to David’s icy cold wedding ring hitting me across my cheekbone, with a beautiful backhand. But this, this was no back slap nor wedding ring.

I started feeling dizzy. I could hear my thoughts racing through my head mixed with fear and panic. I tried to speak but I couldn’t hear myself over the siren in my head. The dizziness was setting in full force, I can hear David yelling something, but I can’t make it out. The room is turning sideways, Davids in my view now. I feel weak, I can’t feel my legs. Am I falling? I can’t focus on anything the pain is excruciating, the siren seems to be getting louder, everything is blurry. I try to force my eyes open, my lids are so heavy and they feel swollen, my eye burns like acid, it must be blood. What the hell just happened? I fight to keep David in my sight. I can make out his pressed slacks and dress shoes and I think that’s the bottom of the nightstand. Am I on the floor? I try to lift my head, it’s heavy I feel something warm and wet run down my face, my body starts to shiver, I’m so cold. As I strain to see him, he reaches for the nightstand. Oh God please stay away from me! Please don’t come any closer! Please don’t touch me! He lifts something, it rattles with ice, it’s his drink. His precious cocktail. He lifts it to his mouth and finishes it in one swallow.

That’s right! I remember now, we went into his study for an after-dinner libation (without much dinner) for our typical marital spat. I was ordered to fix him his Manhattan. Short glass, no ice, extra whiskey, and an extra splash of vermouth. The whiskey in the study was low so I went into the kitchen to get a new bottle. Can’t run out of that in this house, that’s well worth a beating. I think of Charles and become exceedingly angry again. I grab the bottle. I notice a blue and yellow box in the cupboard, the rat poison. Why on earth would Rosalie put it in the kitchen? Probably thought it was the sugar like I did. David beckons for his drink. Reality sets in.

Armor up sweetie! This is going to be a long evening.

Then I see it, it falls to the floor in front of me out of David’s hand. A revolver. A REVOLVER? The butt end is covered in blood. My blood! My revolver! How quaint, the bastard used the gun he’d bought for me so I could feel protected when he’s out-of-town. THAT SON OF A BITCH!! What the fuck happened today? I can barely recall the events. Wasn’t I just having lunch with my girlfriends? Dinner with the man whom I thought loved me? What the hell? His voice is louder, he’s closer now, I can’t make out all his words. “THE LAST TIME YOU’LL EVER…”. What? What is he trying to say? I can’t follow him, God makes this siren in my head stop! He leans in close to me, talking at me, calling me ‘Anna’. God how I hated that! He knew I hated that! My name is Anastasia, not Anna! I try yelling back but nothing comes out, I can feel my throat tighten and my vocal cords strain. He steps back, he leaves blood-stained footprints on my white carpet. My God that’s a lot of blood! Please! Someone help me. Please!

Oh God, where is he? Oh Jesus! Where did he go? Where’s David? Where’s my gun? I can’t see the room clearly, things are dark and fuzzy. Wait, I can see some light, it hurts to look at it, but in some way it gives me the strength to try to move toward it, I can’t feel my legs. A door slams. Is he leaving? He’s leaving me? He’s leaving me here and walking out on me! I suppose he’ll wake me in the morning to kiss me good morning, tell me he’s sorry and promise it will never happen again. Yeah ok, right!

Everything is cold, from my neck down, I can’t move my legs or my arms now. The room appears soft. I don’t understand why am I so cold? Why hasn’t David returned for me? Did I pass out? What time is it? How long have I been here, on this floor, bleeding? I can’t move yet I feel like I’m struggling. Am I going to die like this? Here in my own blood, beaten by my own revolver, by my husband’s hand? I lay on my beautiful white carpet with my blood around me, I can feel it run down from my nose and across my cheek filling my ear. My mind suddenly becomes focused and my thoughts are clear. Today. What was today? Oh, that’s right. Today was my birthday.

Vermouth wasn’t the only extra thing I put in your drink you son of a bitch. Happy birthday to me.

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