Authors: Janice Kaplan
Still, I'm getting ahead of myself. Owen seems interesting. But does he deserve Kate? Is he good enough? Nice enough? I need more details. I start dialing Kate's number, but then snap my cell phone closed. Occurs to me that she might not be done with . . . lunch. And I know she wasn't having a Caesar salad.
I arrive at Wall Street in record time, and Bradford's waiting in front of a large, corporate-looking building. I see him before he sees me and feel my heart skip a beat. The tall athletic body, curly dark hair and sparkling green eyes get me every time. And that dimple in his right cheekâthat God surely put there so he could get away with anythingâmakes me melt. With the rush of anticipation I still feel every time I see him, I bound over to give him a hug.
“You look great,” he says. He gives me a big kiss and flashes the dimple. Melting, part two. Will I still feel this way once we've been married twenty years? It's a risk I'm willing to take.
He takes my hand and gives it a squeeze as we walk toward the elevator. What are we doing at this Wall Street enclave, anyway? Maybe it's Take Your FiancÃ©e to Work Day. Well, I don't care. Whatever Bradford has in mind, I'm game.
When we reach the twenty-third floor, I'm half expecting to see rows of cubicles and computer screens, but instead the door opens into a jungle with a huge cascading waterfall, a thicket of towering elephant-eared plants and the whooshing, hooting and chirping sounds of a rain forest. If this is an office, the workers must swing through trees.
A barefoot woman in a leopard-skin miniskirt bounces toward us with miniature martini glasses filled with a brown, bark-colored liquid.
“Pomegranate cocktails!” she says cheerily. “Filled with antioxidantsâprotects you against cancer, and just as important, every sip makes you look younger!”
Bradford chugs his down immediately but I eye the murky potion more warily. What is this with pomegranate juice? A month ago, I'd never heard of Pom and now it's the Fruit of the Month. Whatever happened to the purported healing powers of grapefruit, blueberries and cranberries? And given the rising cost of health care, shouldn't we all just stick with apples, which at least keep doctors away?
The leopard-clad woman of the forest takes a gulp of the drink herself. “By the way, I'm Jane,” she says. As if I couldn't have guessed. I look around the room for Tarzan, but he must be off getting his diptheria shot because he's nowhere in sight.
We dutifully follow Jane into another part of the rain forest, an intimate dimly lit room with two huge lengthwise logs topped with thin foam padding.
“So is this a good surprise?” Bradford asks, taking my hand again and grinning.
“Probablyâif I knew what we were doing here,” I say, laughing.
“We're in Shangri-La,” he says, kissing me as Jane discreetly disappears. “Our chance to relax.”
Relax, huh? If we're here for our own nooner, I would have picked the Ritz Carlton. At least the minibar has some unhealthy drinks in it. And I'd like something larger than those twin logs. Not to mention softer.
The luscious Jane comes back, followed by a heavyset gray-haired woman who looks like her job in the jungle might be leading guerrilla warfare.
“Couple's massage,” Bradford whispers, coming over and gently unzipping my skirt.
“Do you need robes?” Jane asks perkily.
“No, it's warm in here,” says Bradford, unbuttoning his Brooks Brothers shirt and strolling over to a log massage table. He's getting into that ol' relaxed spirit faster than I would have imagined, and seeing Jane eye him appreciatively, I'm thinking that uptight has its upside, after all.
Jane positions herself by Bradford's side. “I'll take him, you take her,” Jane announces to her colleague, Olga, who's old enough to be her grandmother.
Feeling not quite so blithe as Bradford, I take my place on the other massage table. From my perch, I see the comely Jane lining up small bottles of aromatic oils for Bradford to choose from.
“Mmmm,” Bradford sighs blissfully as Jane wafts one sensuous scent in front of him. “That's heaven.”
“We're just starting,” she coos, leaning across him to dab a droplet of another fragrant oil on his wrist. “Do you prefer this one?”
What I'd prefer is for Jane to be a little less attentive. But I'm deciding which of the warm oils I'll choose for myself when a dollop of cold, stinging lotion lands square on my back.
“Ouch,” I say. “What are you doing?”
“A deep tissue orthopedic myofascial release massage,” declares the muscular Olga. “Not that wimpy touchy-feely treatment that Jane gives. You're lucky you got me.”
And I'm feeling oh-so-lucky. Another squirt of cold lotion, and then she begins pounding my back as if she were trying to tenderize a too-tough side of beef.
“Could you go a little easier there?” I ask.
“You'll get used to it,” Olga says, grinding her elbows into my back and pummeling harder.
The tweet-tweet-tweeting on the background tape that's meant to be calm-calm-calming is definitely not-not-not. Still it's not nearly as annoying as the other noise that's filling the roomâthe blissed-out moans of my lover being satisfied by a woman. A woman who's not me.
“Honey, you okay?” I call over to him.
“Mmmm. Mmm-hmmm,” he replies, apparently too ecstatic to articulate an actual word.
Great. My lover has reached the Seventh Level of Happiness and I'm going ten rounds with Evander Holyfield's mother.
And she won't let up. “Ugh, Ugh. Ugh!” I pant in pain.
Meanwhile, Bradford's sighing happily. “Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm,” he murmurs.
“Urgh. Urgh. Urgh,” I wheeze, raising the decibel level. Olga won't quit.
“Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm,” Bradford sings back contentedly under Jane's gentle hand.
“UGH. URGH. AARGH,” I yelp, hitting a louder pitch with each punch.
Finally, Bradford realizes that our mating call is a little off-key.
“What's going on over there?” he asks, raising his head to look over at me. “Everything all right?”
“No. Not all right. This hurts,” I say petulantly. I sit up and turn to the mighty masseuse. “Sorry, but I think I'm done. Appreciate your efforts.”
“Lie back down,” Olga barks, pushing me back toward the table. “You can't leave with half the toxins still trapped in your body.”
“Yes she can,” Bradford says, marching over with the sheet wrapped around his waist. “If Sara says it's enough, it's enough.”
That's nice. The hero coming to my rescue. I'd almost forgotten how lovely the whole white knight thing can be.
But Olga's not giving in that easily. “I can't stop now,” she says, firmly positioning her hands back on my shoulders.
Bradford gives Olga an icy stare. “We're done. You're done. Please leave now,” he says quietly. But his tone leaves no room for doubt.
“Fine, I'll go,” Olga says haughtily. She turns on her orthopedic heel to stomp out of the room. “But don't come back complaining that all your free radicals haven't been freed.”
I'm not worried. The only free radicals I complain about are the ones who tie up traffic at the World Economic Forum every year.
“You can leave, too, Jane,” Bradford says in a softer tone.
“You sure?” Jane purrs seductively. “I like to finish what I started.”
“No, I'm done,” Bradford says. “Thanks. But we'd appreciate the use of the room for a few more minutes.”
Once Jane's gone, Bradford wraps his arms around me and lets the sheet at his waist fall to the floor.
“Sorry that didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Looks like I still owe you a massage,” he says, sweetly kissing my ear. He guides me back to the table and begins caressing my shoulders.
“Would you like the warm patchouli oil?” he asks, rubbing a few drops between his hands.
“Whatever you suggest,” I say, suddenly more in the mood.
He slowly moves his hands from my shoulders and slides them around my waist. Drawing his own body closer, he begins sensuously caressing my back.
“Now this is the kind of massage I like,” I say. I close my eyes and leave myself entirely in his hands. Which is where I should have been in the first place.
“Aaaaah,” I say, letting out a long, luxurious sigh. I turn and wrap my body around his, feeling his muscular thighs pressed against mine.
“Aaaaah,” he sighs happily. “Aaaah.”
The mating call is back in sync. And “aaah” trumps “mmm” anytime.
The next morning, I put Dylan on the bus for day camp, checking his backpack for the requisite towel, two bathing suits, change of shorts, suntan lotion, sunburn cream (in case the counselor forgets to apply the lotion), granola bar (in case he doesn't like what they serve for lunch), tennis racket, baseball cap, baseball glove and goggles. Incredibly, we've gone through only four pairs of goggles and it's already the last week of camp. Dylan must be getting older. But not that old. As the bus pulls up, I'm still allowed to give him a big hug good-bye in full view of his buddies.
I want to make a special dinner for Bradford tonight to thank him for the massage. My first impulse is to go in to the city and head down to the friendly Italian butcher at my old West Village neighborhood. But no, I'm a suburbanite now, so I climb into our Volvo SUV. Being from Manhattan, it's my very first car, and I still consider driving an extreme sport. ESPN isn't covering the event today because I'm only heading over to our local Gourmet Meat Designs. A whole different competitive sport. At least I'm properly attired for shopping thereâalthough where else in the world do you have to dress up to buy a chicken? Even free range.
Still, the little storefront is packed, and given how the man behind the counter ignores me, maybe my clothing's not up to the job after all. Next time, high heels. Finally, he deigns to look at me, and I quickly ask, “How much veal do I need for three people?”
Without bothering to answer, he begins slicing and quickly hands me the wrapped packageâclearly ready to help someone with larger ambitions. I miss my old butcher. At least his apron wasn't designed by Gucci.
I stop by the local fancy carb emporium S.U.G.A.R. to pick up a D.E.S.S.E.R.T. I look at the Sacher torte, so small that Dylan would probably polish it off before dinner. For thirty-six dollars, I'd rather have it mounted and hung on the wall. Maybe cookies, then. Although at five dollars apiece, one late-night snack attack and I could bankrupt even Bradford.
A couple more errands and I head back with lots of packages and an empty wallet. Given what the Gristedes up here charges for Ultra Charmin, it better be ultra-ultra. No telling what the local post office charges for thirty-seven-cent stamps.
When I open the door to the house I'm hit by an icy cold blast of air. I shiver and check the air conditioner thermostat, which is set at a frosty fifty-eight.
“Consuela?” I call out, trying to figure out what's going on.
Our housekeeper trudges out of the kitchen, wearing a parka and wool mittens. Bradford's black lab Pal comes trailing dutifully behind her, dressed in a royal blue doggie sweater. I wouldn't say Pal is spoiled, but he does have a dog walker who comes in three times a day. When he gained two pounds, she insisted on taking him to the gym and working him out on the treadmill, but we drew the line at putting him on Atkins. The other day, she reprimanded me for taking Pal along on my morning bike ride.
“Now he's too tired for a proper walk,” she chided. “What will the other dogs say?”
I wanted to tell her they probably wouldn't say a single word. And if they did, she should stop walking them and start booking them on David Letterman.
“Miss Berni is here again,” Consuela says now, shaking her head and pointing toward the living room. “Those twins better get born soon or we're all going to freeze to death.”
Berni has assumed her usual position on the Betsy Ross couch, and she's flipping through a Victoria's Secret catalogue.
“I stopped getting these at my house,” she says. “Even the mailman can't imagine that I'll ever wear a teddy again.”
“Oh come on, even pregnant you're still hot,” I say.
“You have no idea how hot,” Berni groans, now using the catalogue as a fan. “How did I let my husband convince me to move to New York in the summer before the house was finished and with no air-conditioning? He gave me some song and dance about sea breezes. What did I think? We were moving to Bali?”
I laugh and wrap a blanket around my shoulders.
“Thank God for you and your central air-conditioning,” Berni continues. “My internal temperature's at a hundred and ten, but we can't even put a temporary window unit in the bedroom. The community board says it'll destroy the integrity of Hadley Farms. Oh please. All anybody cares about around here is how things look from the outside. I didn't have to leave L.A. for that. Doesn't anybody care about the inner me?”
“Sure they do. Your husband and your nutritionist,” I say. “Not to mention your obstetrician.” I pull the blanket a little tighter around me. Is it my imagination, or is it so cold in here that I can see my breath?
“Oh, shit,” says Berni. She brings her hand quickly to her mouth. “I didn't mean to say âshit.' I meant âdamn.' I promised myself I wouldn't swear in front of the twins.” She pats her stomach and looks down remorsefully. “Sorry, guys.”
“What's wrong?” I ask, less concerned about her language than her going into labor. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but I forgot. My client Kirk. Or former client. I said I'd meet him at a photo shoot today in Manhattan to lend my support. He's going to be one of
magazine's Fifty Sexy Young Stars. Do you want to come?”
“Which one is he?” I ask, trying to click through the clients Berni has told me about.