It's day 10 and I'm at 9,116 words, about as far behind schedule as I've ever been. I've got 20 days to get nearly 41,000 words, which is just over 2,000 a day. Maybe I can do it. Who knows. I'll keep slogging on, rather than giving up.
“Olivette,” Sally said, taking a pull on her cigarette, partially inhaling, exhaling and then inhaling it through her nose before exhaling in a long, deep breath that she blew toward the floor, away from Olivette. Their eyes met as Olivette put both hands to the top of the chairback and pulled it from the table so she could take a seat.
“Good afternoon Sally. I always love coming here, and sitting here,” she said with a hint of nervousness. “I love the warmth of the fire and listening to the crackle of it as well.” She pulled off her coat and handed it to the maitre ‘d who was standing behind her. It was one of her many furs, fox I think, maybe ermine. One could never tell. Sally didn’t have the furs that Olivette did and Olivette used that to her advantage when they would meet in public, and this was no exception. She watched as Sally’s smoke was pulled into the draft of the fireplace, disappearing up the chimney with the wood smoke. Thank you for agreeing to meet me.”
“I’m not sure I could have said no,” she answered, taking another pull on her cigarette, inhaling and exhaling in the same manner, though this time blowing the smoke in a more lateral manner than before, no longer worried about blowing her smoke in Olivette’s face but gazing into her eyes. “We’ve so much in common that it’s surprising we don’t spend more time together.” It was me she was talking about, and maybe some other things besides, such as being among the more moneyed women in Spokane and least by marriage or birth.
Olivette placed her handbag on the table, sitting it beside Sally’s half-gone martini, the toothpick sans olive laying near the base of the stem atop the clothe napkin. The gold lamme of the purse stood in stark contrast to the plain fabric of the napkin and the wood of the toothpick.
“Yes, we do have much in common, which is why I’m glad we can talk.”
“Would you like to order a drink first? I get so thirsty sitting here by the fire. It seems a shame to waste the warmth by not having a cold drink.”
“Please, yes. A drink would be nice.”
Sally raised one hand languidly above her shoulder and the waiter who had been hovering nearby came to the table.
“I’d like another martini, a bit drier this time please. Olivette?” she said, looking across the table to her companion. Olivette sat with her hands folded in her lap. She looked up from them to meet the gaze of the waiter.
“I’ll have the same.”
“Very well ladies. I’ll be just a few moments with your drinks,” said the waiter before turning away and stepping off toward the bar.
“Excellent choice my dear, if I do say so myself” Sally said with a wry smile along with something of a wink and a nod directed toward Olivette.
“Thank you” she said, not really sure how to answer, wondering whether the comment was truly friendly or an attempt to put her off her guard. “It seems the thing to drink today.”
“Why, “ Sally began asking, “is it that we’ve never done this before?”
“I guess we’ve never had reason enough.”
“But that’s different now, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Olivette. “It is different now.”
“Well, we can talk about that soon enough,” said Sally. “But let’s wait and have a bit of our drinks before going on to all of that.” I’ve no doubt Olivette found this a welcome relief from the pressures of the day, of having to sit with Sally, still my wife at the time, while she was my mistress. I’m sure there are more awkward situations in the world, though I can’t think of any at this point. The waiter returned with their drinks, the glasses frosted with condensation, droplets sliding down the stems of each glass after he set them on the table. Sally reached into her purse and pulled out a twenty from her wallet and placed it onto the table whereupon the waiter picked it up, nodded and walked off.
“Thank you,” said Olivette.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be doing the same for me sometime,” said Sally, “but you are very welcome.” Each of them raised their drink toward their lips, pausing about halfway there and tipping their glasses to one another before continuing on to their lips. Olivette took a measured sip off her drink while Sally filled her mouth and swallowed as if she had been drink for days. A contented sigh slipped from her lips as she swallowed. Her eyes closed and eyelids fluttered. Opening them, she looked again into Olivette’s eyes. Olivette, again feeling under scrutiny, again lifted her drink to her lips and filled her mouth, letting the liquid rest for a moment between her cheeks, feeling the dry of the gin and vermouth, and then swallowing imperceptibly.
“Well then,” said Olivette.
“Yes,” said Sally. “Well then, my dear. What can I do for you, or we for each other?
“I wanted to talk about Frank,” said Olivette.
“Um, yes. That’s what I expected,” said Sally. “Just what should we talk about?”
Olivette shifted in her seat, one hand on her lap, the other fingering the stem of her glass. She seemed unable to start, or not knowing where to start. Sally kept her eyes on her, not locking her gaze with hers, but just keeping her eyes on her, reading her, trying to see where she was weak, maybe even strong. She focused on the broach that held the scarf around her neck. It was certainly nicer than the one she had pinning her stole over her shoulder. Olivette had always been partial to white gold rather than yellow, and Sally could see why. At first one might mistake it for sterling, but only if they didn’t know what they were looking for or at. Most of the women in town, if they wore gold it was yellow so someone would notice it, and if it had stones, they had to be diamonds. No imagination. But Olivette, her white gold jewelry was generally accented with something less expensive but more exotic, less run of the mill, whether blue sapphire or ruby. A few moments passed while Sally examined Olivette.
“Cat got your tongue?” asked Sally.
“Apparently,” answered Olivette. “It seems I don’t know where to start.”
“Let me help then,” said Sally. “I know, hell, just about everyone who matters knows, that you have been seen with Frank, dancing, chatting over drinks, attending shows. I dare say there’s more than what’s gone on in public.” She paused. “There, is that help enough?’
“I suppose so,” said Olivette. “When we’re together, we talk.”
“Yes, that’s something quite a few people tend to do when together.”
“Well, yes,” said Olivette,” but it’s not just idle chit-chat. We talk about each other, about being together.”
“But you are together my dear. What else could you talk about? Certainly not about taking him from me?”
“Not so much my taking him from you.”
“What then” I mean, you are the other woman in this equation, but Olivette, please don’t think I hold that against you. It’s not like it’s either the first time or I haven’t done the same thing.” At this, Olivette’s eyes widened. Sally simply took another drink from her glass. She was getting near having to order another one while Olivette had nearly half of hers left. “Oh, don’t be shocked. Frank has a lot of offer. You clearly see that. But there’s much he doesn’t offer, at least with regard to what I want from a man and from my life. He’s often a boring man, and that’s why I can’t just let you have him. He’ll get as bored with you as he has with me, and me with him. When that happens, where will you be?”
Sally had stunned Olivette with this angle, as if she was protecting her from Frank while she was also protecting herself. But it wasn’t protection from being hurt that motivated Sally, though that was part of it. Olivette would be hurt, was on her way to being hurt, but not by Sally. Sally was protecting herself, her meal ticket, her ability to live as she liked, going home when it suited her, spending time with Frank when it suited her, spending his money when it suited her, as it did now and most anytime she wanted something that cost money, or Frank’s credit.