Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Icky Fork

I have an icky fork in my silverware drawer that I would never, ever serve to anyone. It's a leftover from an old, mismatched set, complete with bent tine. I only ever use it to scoop out the Friskies Classic Salmon Pate for the cat. I have to hunt for it every morning, among its finer fork friends. I caught my husband licking tuna fish off of it the other day and almost passed out. Why don't I just move that icky fork somewhere else?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Would Jane Jetson Do?

WWJJD? What would Jane Jetson do? When Judy and Elroy moved out to go to college and left behind bedrooms that were rejected from that creepy reality TV show "Hoarders" (for being too far gone), did she collapse at her little wasp waist and boohoo cartoon tears? I like to think she had a series of big fat buttons that made satisfying electronic noises, and got busy pushing, like she was playing a Bach concerto: Fold! Sort! Discard! Toxic Stain Removal! New Flooring! Wall Paint! Ceiling Paint! She would be exhausted, poor thing, but she would get the job done.

Who am I kidding? Jane went to lunch with George, went shopping at Mooning Dales, and Rosie the Robot had it all taken care of when she got home, allowing Jane to turn Judy's bedroom into a space meditation suite and Elroy's into an astro-aerobics room.

4 Sale!

4 Sale: One lousy attitude. One size fits all. Can be configured for personal peeves, including kids, traffic and the a** a the gym, who, while I was holding the door for a man on crutches, sprinted inside ahead of me, cutting off the poor guy hobbling out.

"I am not a doorman, doormat, or matador!" I called out to the punk, who was half my age and twice my prettiness. (Nah, I didn't really. I just fumed about it for a day and a half.)

PS: Winning bid was the new dark chocolate Reese's peanut butter cups. (If you're not a fan of dark chocolate, it's as good as place as any to become one!)

Uterus Universe

My husband has no problem with the word "vagina," but slide into U-word territory and he freaks out. "Honey," I said, "The doctor said I need a little lady biz taken care of..." To his credit, he tried to ask the right questions, but the contortion of his face, screwed up counterclockwise, overrode whatever sympathy he was trying to convey, as he cupped his left hand protectively over his boys.

"It's not contagious!" I said, storming out on my hormone powered broom.

"What's the recovery?" he managed to ask.

"Ah, don't worry," I told him. "Queasiness, cramping, anxiety, depression." I went back and patted his head. "But then you'll be fine."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Triscuit, A Travesty...

I don't know how many flavors Triscuit crackers are up to now (15?! Seriously!), and I don't understand where they are going on their uber-flavor quest fest. I fear one day they'll just pump those little salty interwoven wheaty cardboard squares full of sleeping pills and laxatives, cut out the middleman, and call it a day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

And They All Lived Happily Ever After...

Let Down Your Hair...
(The final installment of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 8
Good Sir Knight

    The next morning, I overslept. Bad thing, too, because I sure could have used an extra hour or two just to try to become presentable. Unhappy face here. I yawned, stumbled into the bathroom, took one look in the mirror and screamed. Should I start with the itchy, giant stye in my left eye that refused to accept my contact lens? I would either have to try to tough it out and look like a squinting Popeye, or wear my glasses. Fudge. Glasses it was. I do not look edgy or hip in my glasses. I look like I’m about to go scuba diving.
    I showered and went to blow dry my hair and my blow dryer made a sad sizzle. I smelled burnt hair, as it said ‘sayonara.’ “No, no, oh no.” I felt like turning on my oven and sticking my head inside. Instead, I towel dried my locks, trying to swipe the towel down, followed by pulling my brush through. It took forever for my hair to dry, but even forever wasn’t long enough. I looked like someone’s mother with an at-home perm got caught in the wax cycle of a drive-thru car wash. Obviously the pomade I utilized was not just the trick. Heavy sigh.
    I put on my glasses and tried to survey the damage. “Good Sweet Mother Mary of God in Heaven,” I said, my horror compounded by the fact that I subconsciously quoted my own mother in forming a half-baked entreaty of prayer. Had the thick fleshy pimple rooted into my chin been a new wild strawberry, it would have been ripe for the picking. Note to self: acne surgery five minutes before you have to leave for work is best left to the professionals, like a plastic surgeon, or a spackle specialist. All I had to do the job was my trusty tweezers. Upon botching that, all I had left was bronzing cream. You try camouflaging a bloody Mt. Vesuvius spewing hillock on the outermost jutting portion of your face with bronzing cream. Brown and angry red make a delightful mahogany color, that would be perfect if my chin were a mantle piece in my friend’s parents’ rustic ski lodge. Boo. Boo hoo. I refused to let myself cry; God knows what would happen to the stye in my eye. My Mr. Magoo glasses did nothing but magnify the bags under my eyes; it looked like I had hot-glue gunned Chinese potstickers to my face.
    My feet already hurt. I put on my low black grandma heels, the ones that had been featured on What Not To Wear as what not to wear. I squeezed my suddenly gargantuan ass into my black pencil skirt and tried to find my lucky cream colored polka dot silk blouse. It had done absolutely nothing to earn that distinction except that I had been wearing it once when I found my favorite pair of shoes on sale, for half-price! It was high time it stepped up to the plate.
    If I didn’t leave that exact moment, I was going to be late. The smells on the El made me sick to my stomach. Whereas the past few days I had been so open and appreciative of all that nature had to offer, now I wanted to hogtie every blasted gross odor--I’m talking about you Mr. BO hanging on for dear life in front of me--and bag it up in a Hefty-Hefty-cinch sack and give it the old heave-ho right into Lake Michigan.
    I shuffled in my granny shoes the rest of the way down the sidewalk to my building. Mr. McGrimace, the man who had seen me nearly every day for the past 8 months barked at me to show him my ID. The only whistles I got that morning were the ones coming from my squeaking shoes.
    I plunked my purse on my desk and tried to calm myself down. La-ura was actually expecting me to have a speaking role this morning. I pulled out the report and started to fan my face.
    “Good God! What happened to you?”
    “Hi, La-ura. I couldn’t wear my contacts this morning, and uh, yeah...” She had already thankfully stopped listening.
    She shoved her bony wrist under my nose, above my pimple. “Lovin’ this Rapunzel.”
    I sniffed. It smelled entirely different on her. I inhaled again. It smelled normal, like a regular old perfume, one that you’d buy for your great aunt on Christmas Eve from the drugstore. Granted, I couldn’t define what the scent was when it was interacting with my skin, I just knew I loved the smell on me. It was something different, special. But as I held La-ura’s wrist I made my fatal mistake. I sniffed it a third time. The putrid vapors hijacked my nose. I couldn’t breathe. I watched La-ura lean in and smell her wrist for herself. I waited, but she merely nodded. “Nice.”
    I swallowed and clapped my hand to my mouth. “Be right back.” I ran for the ladies room. I almost didn’t make it. I dashed into a stall. I squeezed my nose, panted through my mouth and sank into a crouch. I let go of my nose and tried a gentle puff in. A violent wave of nausea shook me. Oh no. Heat flushed up my body, threatening to boil over with the cold egg roll I had eaten on my way to work. I hiked up my skirt, pulled down my panties, sat down and prayed for the smell to pass. It reminded me of the time when I had been about thirteen years old. I had visited my great aunt (of the cheap perfume recipient notoriety) and she had insisted I have a piece of gum. I had been all proud that I didn’t think being nice to old people was that hard after all, and cheerfully shoved the stick into my mouth, whole.
    My taste buds had sent up the Abort! Abort! siren immediately, trying to flood my mouth with saliva to wash away the decaying mouthful of shattered shards of history; it must have been the first piece of gum ever invented. It was the worst thing I had ever tasted; I couldn’t even recognize the dizzying rankness of the petrified particles in my mouth. It had been so bad, for a horrifying second I imagined I was chewing the rotting bones of one of her 97-year-old fingers. The perfume on La-ura smelled like that long-lost but never forgotten zombie crunch, and clung to my nose hairs.
    I bent over and smelled my underpants. Please don’t judge, I had no choice. Not that I go around smelling my underwear or anything; I just needed something, anything, to get my equilibrium back. It took at least five minutes before I finally calmed down, crisis managed. When I could begin to breathe normally I washed my hands, dousing my wrists with cool water and splashed my face. There went my concealing bronzer. No great loss.
    I headed back to my desk, just in time to find Dino and La-ura waiting for me. They wanted to ride down in the elevator with me so we could all go into the meeting at the same time. How nice.
    I followed Dino and La-ura into the elevator, my once glorious chariot, now appearing as a drab, faded sorry excuse of a cube. I sighed. My underarms were feeling sticky. I dropped my head for a surreptitious sniff. Great. I think Dino saw me. He hadn’t called me, but I assumed we were still on for our date tonight. Question mark?
    I took a deep breath, tried to unhunch my shoulders and smoothed down my black skirt.
    Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe the little shuffle we all did settling into our positions in the elevator facing forward. La-ura did a little shimmy. She was wearing a skin tight purple velvet suit, no blouse underneath, bare legs and awesome black toe open platform heels. Dino had followed her into the elevator like a puppy, wearing his best dark gray suit that he usually wore on Thursdays, the day after wearing his dark blue almost black ensemble, but the day before he pulled out his khaki pants slash blue oxford shirt combo. I noticed he had gotten his hair cut, but had missed a spot shaving this morning. Aw.
    Shoving me into the mix with both La-ura and Dino on my fantasy elevator wasn’t going to cut it. For once, I wished Dino weren’t in my dream coach. Not only did I not want to share him, I didn’t want to see him with La-ura. Laura stood between us, arms crossed. She hadn’t been wild about what we finally came up with for the campaign, but that was certainly nothing new. Some of our best, award-winning ideas, in fact, had been recycled from the trash can. Armed with only our cell phones, I think we were all a little nervous about the pitch meeting.
    We were headed to meet the suits, (but not the rock star who apparently was only vaguely aware a new fragrance was going to be added to his empire, increasing the smell of money portion of his portfolio). This first meeting was to show them an initial look at our creative ideas to gauge their interest and get a sense of the direction they wanted to go in.
    Earlier, I had taken down to the conference room copies of our campaign, OK’d by La-ura, and distributed them at places around the table. I had seen people from artwork head down about an hour ago, working on their Powerpoint presentation. Oddly enough, no more samples of Rapunzel had arrived. We usually always tried to incorporate the product in our meetings, trying to anchor the physical commodity into the intangible art of marketing. I guessed it wasn’t really necessary, a perfume is a perfume, you can’t sell smell, you sell desire. Just ask me, I was an expert. I was the Pepe Le Pew of the fourteenth floor, lusting after my dream boat.
    I tried to catch Dino’s eye. It had been one week ago today that I experienced my happily ever after with him. As of yesterday, I had been giddy with excitement; speculating about odd romantic notions--which side of the bed he liked to sleep on, could he whistle, what we would name our first child? What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours. I had been on top of the world only to plummet to...well, I peered down at myself through my smudged glasses...this.
    I didn’t know what exactly had happened to me, except the fact that I had no access to Rapunzel, no Phux, and what was worst, no prospect of future Phux. I wanted to roll my own eyes at myself for believing in a magic potion, good luck charm, love philter, but with my giant aching eye stye and all... Look at the proof. I was pathetic. I couldn’t believe how high I could fly when coated with the protective sheen of Phux, cushioned from life’s evils, insulated from the everyday stench and stress of living. There was no other explanation. Phux was magic
    Maybe it was my haste in bashing the elevator button or the fact that Dino and I hit the number 4 button at the exact same time from our respective book end places on either side of the elevator door, or more likely, it was jealous gods, bored and vengeful, toying with us mere mortals. The elevator doors closed, dinged and the cart lurched. It stopped with a jerk, tossing us aside and causing us to catch ourselves against the wall.
    “Whoa,” I said. I pressed the number 4 again.
    “What’s going on?” La-ura asked.
    While I was pressing the 4 button, Dino was pressing the < abd > open door buttons. Brilliant. We heard a creaking followed by a snap and then a long slow hiss, followed by a rapid ping. Though Dino and I had remarkably fit and agile thumbs, courtesy of Blackberry workouts, no amount of button pressing caused any reaction. The elevator was not moving.
    “Knock it off, you two,” La-ura said.
    La-ura of course had jumped on her cell phone and called her assistant to call the fire department. I don’t know if the elevator was running on reserve power or what, but the lighting was hideous. If La-ura looked that gaunt and swarthy, heaven knows how I was faring. Dino was starting to sweat.
    “Calm down, Dino,” La-ura said. “What’s wrong? They’ll have us out in a little.”
    “What if it takes a while?”
    “Then we wait,” she answered him, tossing me a look of ‘can you believe this big baby?’
    She was busily abusing the buttons on her keypad when all of a sudden the elevator lurched again. I don’t think it was me that screamed but I’m going to say I did because if that sound came out of Dino I don’t want to know.
    “Is it me, or are we kind of hanging crooked here?” I said in a low voice to La-ura.
    Dino heard me and dropped his pen. It rolled from his feet all the way past me to the wall behind me. Yep. We weren’t hanging straight. I gingerly tried to tiptoe over to Dino’s side.
    “Get away,” he said. “Go over to your side. Wait. Don’t move. Maybe you should crawl.”
    “Maybe you should suck it up, Dino,” La-ura said. She pulled me back and had me stand next to her, more in the middle, toward the front by the door. Her phone rang; her assistant said the firemen were on their way.
    “I hate this,” Dino said. “He had unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt and loosened his tie. I can’t stand to wait. I’m a terrible waiter.”
    “Good thing you don’t work in a restaurant then,” La-ura said, looking up from reading her email. “Dino. Look. We’re going to be fine. Chill, baby. Here. Smell this, tell me what you think. Do you like it?” La-ura shoved her wrist under Dino’s nose, forcing his lips to kiss her arm.
    I tilted my head back, trying to breathe my own air and not get a whiff of La-ura and her Rapunzel.
    Dino squeezed La-ura’s hand and pulled it next to his side. No dumb boyfriend, he; he knew what he was supposed to say. “You smell awesome,” he said.
    La-ura nodded and laughed.
    As Dino opened his mouth to continue to talk, it was as if I heard the wail of an oncoming train, seconds before seeing its horrific headlight rushing around the bend, nanoseconds before the heartbreaking crash.
    “But, it doesn’t smell like it did on MaryBeth.”
    In some movies, directors sometimes rely on silly special effects to show how a girlfriend is really mad or something, and they’ll slow down and lower the voice of the actress to convey the direness of the situation at hand. Meet La-ura, as she put two and two together and came up with fuck you. “F-U-C-K Y-O-U....” It took her about eight seconds to get the words out, long enough to deplete her system of estrogen and drop her voice an entire octave.
    She hauled off and slapped Dino across the face so hard, the elevator rocked. He was on his own. No way was I taking credit for the sixth-grade-girl-getting-nailed-in-dodge ball shriek that came out of him.
    “Are you kidding me? MaryBeth and you? You and MaryBeth?”
    “Sorry, La-ura,” I said even as Dino was trying to lie and deny.
    “No. No. You’ve got it all wrong. MaryBeth just had some Rapunzel perfume with her, the other night and of course I was curious. I just smelled it. Why would you think that? I’m hurt. Come on, baby...” He didn’t even look at me.
    La-ura in heels was about an inch taller than Dino. She grasped his tie, like she was going to straighten it for him and then pulled, tight, choking him and shoving him against the wall of the elevator. Again the elevator rocked, while Dino caved.
    “God, La-ura. Stop it. Stop it. We could die in here. Just be still. Don’t move.”
    “Tell me about you and MaryBeth. How long has this been going on?”
    “There’s nothing to tell. You’re crazy. I love you baby, you know that...”
    Before he could even finish his spin, La-ura jumped up and down. The elevator teetered and creaked. Even I didn’t like the sound of that.
    “La-ura,” I tried to interrupt. She just put her hand up in the general direction of my face without even looking.
    Dino’s face was that of a seven year old boy caught red-handed with a booger on his finger reaching to wipe it on his sister’s hair. He couldn’t wait to spill. “Don’t do that again,” he said. “Stop, please. I’ll tell you everything. I promise. It was just once. Last Thursday.”
    “Fuck you, Dino!” I interrupted at last. “It was Friday.” God. Men are such asses. I would have remembered that magical day forever.
    “Whatever,” he said, not looking at me either, seeming afraid to take his eyes off of La-ura’s. “She made me, La-ura. You don’t know. She’d been after me for a long time, and she came on to me. It, honestly, wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.”
    “Ouch,” I said to no one in particular.
    “So let me get this straight, Dino. MaryBeth forced Guido to come out and play? She held a gun to Guido’s head and said ‘straighten up and fly right’ or Guido gets it right between the eye?”
    “Who’s Guido?” I said. Oof. I got it. I clapped my hand to my mouth. What kind of goober names his junk Guido?
    “Seriously, La-ura. It’s you. I love you. I’m sorry. I never wanted it to go that far. I think that Rapunzel perfume is like an aphrodisiac or something. She made me smell it and I swear things just got out of hand.”
    “True that,” I agreed.
    “It just got out of hand,” Dino continued. “It was like I was under a spell or something. It will never, never happen again.”
    Dino was interrupted by the sound of banging and clanging, which sounded high, high above our elevator car.
    We heard a voice magnified by a megaphone. “It’s the Chicago Fire Department, everybody OK down there?”
    “Yes,” La-ura and I called together. Dino looked like he was afraid his yell would cause us to crash.
    “We’re going to get you out as soon as we can but there’s a little problem.”
    “What’s wrong?” La-ura yelled back.
    “We can’t reach the top of your car without putting weight on it, and we don’t want to do that until we can make sure it is secure.”
    “So what do we do?”
    “Well, we’re working on it.”
    “What’s the problem?”
    “Basically, as far as we can tell, a small belt between two round pulleys broke, causing the doors to jam and the car to get stuck. We just want to take it easy and not force any motion.”
    “What the hell? Do we have to climb out and fix it ourselves?”
    Long pause.
    “Do you want to take a look at it?” the firefighter called back.
    “Fuck,” La-ura said to me. “I’m too heavy. What do you think? Can you stand on dickwad’s shoulders and just take a look?”
    I kicked off my shoes, put my foot in the stirrup of La-ura’s hands, and climbed up Dino’s back. My glorious quad-strengthening eagle pose from yoga was paying off. La-ura held my right hand and helped me stand, and then balance on Dino’s shoulders. I straightened up and pushed the panel at the top of the elevator to one side. I lifted my shoulders up through the space. About twenty feet or so up above my head, I saw a fireman leaning through an opening, shining his light down.
    “Look over to your right side,” he hollered down, “over toward where the front of the car is.”
    I looked to where he was guiding the beam of the light. “Yeah, there are two round pieces that look like they had a belt around them or something. There’s nothing here.”
    “We’re trying to find the part,” he said.
    “How long is that going to take?” I asked.
    Long pause. “We’re working on it,” he said. “Hang in there.”
    I climbed back in the elevator, down Dino’s back and hopped to the floor. I looked at Dino and La-ura. “I don’t want to wait, you guys.” My heart was pounding, and it was obvious I had forgotten to roll on my deodorant this morning. “Who knows how stable this thing is? But, we’ve got no tools. If only we had thin piece of rubber, or something, that I could wind around those pieces up there. Maybe then we could just get the doors to open.”
    “What about Dino’s tie?” La-ura asked.
    “I thought about that, it’s too thick. Really, these wheels, or cogs are not that big.” I made a motion with my hand, curling my finger and thumb into a small shaped C.
    “Neither of us are wearing pantyhose.” She looked at Dino. “Butt face is bringing nothing to the party.” She looked back at me. “Any ideas?”
    I looked at her. I had a great idea. I didn’t know how to say it. I tried to steer her into thinking it was her idea.
    “La-ura. You know that perfume campaign we’re working on?”
    “Duh. Rapunzel.”
    “Do you remember some of the pitches we were throwing around?” I stared at her. I saw her get it. She licked her lips.
    “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” she said, raising her right fist in the air. She tossed back her hair and reached her hand back behind her head. She gritted her teeth and began pulling and tugging, furiously.
    “Can I help?”
    “Sure.” She turned around and I pushed her hair over her left shoulder to get a better view of her scalp. I saw the piece she was going for. Our fingers met as we worked together, trying to get the strand loosened from its weave.
    “What are you doing?” Dino asked.
    “Saving your neck,” La-ura said. Dino looked like he thought she was ripping her hair out by its roots from her scalp. His hand covered his mouth. I wish I hadn’t been so scared because I really wanted to laugh. La-ura caught my eye and we both giggled.
    It took about fifteen minutes but we finally freed one of her weaves. “One more?” she asked me?
    I nodded. “That would be great. I’m thinking we could braid them together, and then I could wrap them around wheels, and hopefully it will be enough to allow the firemen to get the doors open.”
    It had to have hurt, but in only a few more moments La-ura had procured the second weave. She rubbed her head as I set about braiding the hair weaves together. It didn’t take long until I finally had a single length of braid, about 18 inches long.
    La-ura hollered up to the firemen to tell them what we were going to do and had them get a crew down to our door to be ready to try to open it.
    She helped me up again and I stood atop Dino’s shoulders. I took a deep breath and used all of my arm strength to lift myself up high enough through the panel so I could lean to the right side to reach the mechanism.
    “Ready,” called a fireman sounding so close.
    Dino’s hands were sweaty clasping my ankles. “Don’t drop me,” I called down.
    “I won’t. Just hurry.”
    I snaked the braid around first one wheel then the other. I couldn’t knot it because I couldn’t get my left arm over to it. I twisted it, and tried a sample pull. The wheels moved, slightly. “OK!” I called out. “I have to hold onto it, but the wheels started to move.”
    “We’re going to do it nice and slow. We don’t want the elevator to move down, we just want to get the doors to open a little so we can get you all out, safe and sound, OK?”
    “Got it.”
    “On the count of three,” he called back.
    He counted down. I held the braid, and slowly helped turn the wheels, which were somehow connected to a mechanism that allowed the firemen to open the outer, and then the inner door of our car.
    “We’re good,” came the call. “Climb on down, now, and we’ll get you all out of there.”
    I clambered down and the second I was off of Dino, he was off like a shot, climbing up and out of the elevator onto the ledge of our floor, which was now at about our eye level.
    As I bid adieu to Dino’s sorry ass, I finally realized that life isn’t a fairy tale. There were no such things as magic potions or fairy godmothers. It was up to me to create whatever magic I could in the time and space that I was given.
    La-ura and I smiled at each other. I waved my hand at her. “After you.”
    She graciously nodded and held up her hands to a waiting fireman who pulled her through. “Thank you, kind sir,” I heard her say. “Come on, MaryBeth, your turn. I have a surprise for you,” she called down.
    I lifted my arms in the air and two strong, muscley arms that looked like they dropped and did about 200 before deciding to go to work that morning came down and clasped me securely, swinging me up and out of the elevator in about two seconds flat.
    “Oh, thank you, so much,” I was gushing.
    La-ura came to my side. “Allow me to introduce you to your knight in shining armor,” she said. She nudged me in my side, but I thought her wink was overkill. “Look. It’s Fireman Knight, at your service.”
    Yes, indeed, I could plainly see the name ‘Knight’ in a stenciled font on his tight-fitting, well-worn and worn well t-shirt, atop his bulging pecs, below his gorgeous smile.
    “Pleased to meet you, MaryBeth," he said. "I like it when damsels in distress help save the day.”
    I heard harp music.

The End.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Once Upon A Time - Part 7

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part seven of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 7

The Jig Is Up
    I had a hard time getting to sleep that night, and I felt pretty shitty abusing my yoga class like that. It didn’t stop me from jumping out of bed the next morning before my alarm went off, and digging for my elixir in my purse. I repeated my ritual from the day before, ‘doop, doop’, I dabbed on the precious serum behind each ear and wished myself luck in the mirror. I didn’t look like had I tossed and turned all night, and that even my tried and true go-to fantasy of me and Dino doing it to put myself to sleep, didn’t work.
    I loved my bed. Even when I couldn’t sleep. It cocooned me in its soft fluffy cotton embrace, encouraging me in ever more far-fetched fantasies with Dino. On restless nights, I’d usually start out with a believable scenario, say Dino needs something from me at work. Since last Friday, and our dance combo that segued into the horizontal mambo, I had been incorporating that scenario into my sweet dreams at night. It doesn’t get any better than that when reality actually makes it into your fantasies.
    I applied a swoop of lip gloss, blew a kiss to myself and headed off to work. If I didn’t know me, I would swear I was some sort of femme fatale. Men were holding doors, standing when I entered a room, almost sniffing the air as I went by. I told myself it couldn’t really be Rapunzel and the Phux factor, but the truth is, I knew it could be nothing else.
    I wasn’t myself, and that was causing people to stop and take notice. My laugh floated on air, nearly visible ripples of joy, my skin was perfect, my pores were miniscule, my hair bounced with je ne sais quoi, and I don’t even speak French, for Pete’s sake. I had on my highest pair of heels and unlike the beautiful mermaid sacrificing all for her one true love, my feet didn’t hurt a bit. I shook my fanny when I walked, shimmied my shoulders when I talked, and praised the universe for the nerd scientist who developed Phux. Note to self: buy stock in that company.
    I was humming to myself so at first I didn’t hear the incoming missile of doom.
    “Ahem,” La-ura said, obviously repeating something to me. “What are you so happy about?” she asked.
    “Oh, nothing,” I said. I believe I even simpered for the first time in my life. Pity to waste it on La-ura. I even looked over her shoulder to see if Dino was anywhere in the vicinity.
    La-ura snapped her fingers in my face. Day-um I hated when she did that.
    “Sorry. What’s up?”
    “Obviously, you.” She said, staring me down with a concentrated look. “Did you get your hair cut?”
    As if. I wouldn’t need a haircut until sometime in the Fall of 2020. “No,” I shook my head.
    “Botox?” Her necked stretched out, pushing her face even closer to mine.
    I laughed. She didn’t.
    I even blew out a breath, not even self-conscious about the coffee fumes that had to be there. Even my bad breath felt cute.
    “So,” I tried to make boss talk. “We’re all ready for the presentation tomorrow.”
    “Yeah, right,” La-ura said. “That’s why I’m here.”
    “Hand it over?”
    “Give it to me.”
    Sweat spurted between my breasts, which had been bouncy and perky only moments before. My mouth went dry. Acidy oily coffee residue sprung from my tongue, making me want to gag. I could feel grease build up flattening my hair. I itched my scalp, making it worse. My left eye started to twitch, and itch. My chin was sore.
    “Give you what?” My voice wobbled.
    “The jig is up,” La-ura said. She held out her hand slowly, palm up, her perfectly french-manicured nails gently unfolding to seek, and receive their treasure. She wiggled her fingers. “Gimme.”
    My eyelids twitched, rapidly, and not in a flirty motion, either, more like in the frenetic spasm of a moth caught on a hot strobe before it fried. I had always been way too good at playing stupid before, but I couldn’t speak a word to save my life. “Gggg,” was the only sound that came out as I tried to manufacture a little saliva.
    “Come on, MaryBeth. Give me the Rapunzel. I want to see what this Phux is all about.”
    In hindsight, I should have at least said I forgot it at home, or it was stolen, or I didn’t have any change and I gave it to a homeless man on the street. Not known for being a fast thinker, the fear of losing my beloved potion rendered me even slower on the uptake than usual.
    In slow motion, my hand reached for my purse under my desk. As my hand passed by my feet, I felt my toes throb and swell as my heart churned out extra beats in sorrow, mourning the loss of the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
    Goodbye, sweet Phux, I thought. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
    My eyes were watering as I handed her the most magnificent little brown bottle in the whole world.
    “Are you crying?” she asked.
    “No,” I said. “My contacts are just bothering me.”
    She grabbed the bottle, no ceremony, how blasphemous, and turned and marched back to her office. She didn’t even say thank you.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Once Upon A Time - Part 6

Let Down Your Hair...
(Part six of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 6
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble
    The day flew by, but not without a silent but meaningful eyebrow lift from the hot older guy from the 7th floor, a fist bump from Lucky Chucky, the 11th floor Lothario, and even an ‘alright then’ from sad sack Mr. McGrimster himself, the security guard.
    I couldn’t wait for my yoga class. As tightly wound as I was, I was ready to kick some yoga butt. Granted, kicking arse is generally frowned upon in yoga, especially during the stress- reducing postures of the Hatha practice. Competition was a dirty word, an abhorrent philosophy contradictory to the four-thousand year old mental discipline that strives to prove a. that we even have a higher state of consciousness and b. that we’re worthy enough to actually achieve it.
    I settled my sitz bones right in on my yoga mat, grabbing the fleshy parts of my ass out of the way and shifting to ground myself. Hell yeah! I crossed my legs and cupped my palms facing up on my knees, ready to grab whatever the universe had to dish out.
    I jammed my eyelids together and started my ashtanga breathing, pretending I was roaring waves in the ocean. Inhaling peace, exhaling anxiety. I heard someone’s bare feet pad up next to me. Even though my third eye was dying to take a peek, I remained still. I heard whoever it was unroll their sticky matt beside me, a whipping flick that for some reason, irritated the snot out of me. Inhaling peace, I fluttered my left eyelashes just a smidge, the better to judge. I knew it!
    “Namaste,” came her whispered greeting.
    “Namaste,” I repeated back, not moving my teeth. Rats. I hadn’t been to yoga in like three weeks, and now I’m next to Gumby? She said her name was Kavya, which means poetry, so someone in the class, Jef One-f, (a really cute guy, but I made it a rule to never date anyone more flexible than myself, and/or, if truth be told, one who never asked me out) made up a rhyme about her:
There once was a girl named Kavya,
Who wore on our last nirvana.
Throw your downward dog a bone
And leave the rest of us alone.
Even though you’re hot, I wouldn’t wanna be-ya.

    I’m not proud to say that I laughed along with everyone else after class at that. I honestly tried to like her, until she once tried to adjust my half-pigeon pose. Then it was ‘hands-off, beyotch.’ She knew all the proper pronunciations of the poses, too, and even liked to correct the teachers. Susie, who sometimes came to this class with me swore that Kavya was really born in Cleveland and her real name was Peggy. For ones seeking enlightenment, being stuck next to Kavya probably meant it wasn’t going to happen.
    The class was crowded and you could practically see everyone projecting their private force field around their mats. We began our sun salutations and I kept spying on Kavya to make sure mine were better, straighter, deeper. I held the poses until my hamstrings cried uncle. My downward dog was flawless and the teacher even pointed it out to newcomers as a picture perfect pose to strive for. Nirvana that, Kavya!
    My root chakra was getting on down with its own bad self. I was breathing and snorting, Kavya was hitching a ride on my rhythms, and soon began to sound like a gored bull in her attempts to breathe louder than me.
    Our yogini, Dobby, yeah, like in Harry Potter, go figure, was really good and intuitive, in spite of her name, and began to sense something was up in our corner of the universe. Dobby was tall, pretty in a ‘don’t ever need any make-up kind of way’ which is as pretty as one can get, and would never be mistaken for anything other than a yoga instructor. The only thing Dobby had in common with Harry Potter’s house-elf was the baggy white knotted tank shirt she wore. I guess we were just a mean-spirited class, because to my knowledge we never did ask how she spelled her name, it could have been D-A-B-I for all I knew, which was sort of pretty. Or maybe she was a “Debi” from Appalachia, trying to escape her roots.
    “Set your minds free,” Dobby’s voice was as soothing as if she had just sucked on several Dove milk chocolate candies and melted them into the roof of her mouth, “and set your intentions for your practice.” She was now standing between mine and Kavya’s mats. “Inhale peace,” she inhaled deeply, “exhale warmth and lightness to all the beings sharing our journey tonight.”
    I exhaled, purposefully directing my golden beams of love everywhere except to the left of me. Petty? Yes. Deserved? Entirely. I busted Kavya watching me, trying to stretch deeper and deeper as the poses became more difficult.
    We stood in eagle pose, one of my favorites, I think because I have really wide feet. I crossed my arms, holding my entwined limbs in front of my face. I kicked off and crossed my right leg over my left thigh, wrapping my foot around my standing calf, balancing on my left foot. I sank lower and lower, lower than Kavya at any rate, and channeled all the strength, flexibility, and endurance I could muster. I stared ahead but my peripheral vision picked up Kavya’s wavering concentration.
    Dobby, her ankle bones cracking as her bare feet purposely circled near our mats, chanted: “Yoga is not a competition. What happens on your mat, stays on your mat.” Kavya and I paid no attention, sweat dripping off our elbows onto our mats, stripes of strain staining beneath our breasts.
    I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. My breathing was so labored I probably could have brought forth a child with less fanfare. And there it was! Kavya, wobbled, tilted, and touched down! Her right foot hit the floor. I won!
    Dobby clanged her brass chimes together, bringing the class to an end with a unifying ohm. “Ohm....” her lyrical voice infused with love echoed around the room.
    “Ohhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...” I had enough oxygen left to wipe up the floor with Kavya. We sat there, only a few feet apart, separated by my obvious victory. Our hands were on our knees, middle fingers grinding into our thumbs. People started rolling up their mats but Kavya and I were still on the final mmmmmmmm note. After what seemed like an eternity, Kavya gasped, like a drowning woman breaking through the waves.
    “Namaste,” I said sweetly, my hands in prayer position, my fingers lighting touching my third eye. Kavya ripped her mat from the floor and stomped out. I don’t even think she said Namaste back to me. How rude.
    I rolled up my mat with what I am afraid was a most unpleasant smirk on my face. I was so fired up I felt like I could go take a spin class. Did Rapunzel and Phux really have anything to do with this feeling?
    Dobby came over to me. She was rubbing her hands with a lavendar/lemon grass essential oil. Her eyes honed in on mine as her subconscious asked for, and was granted, permission to touch me. She dotted my third eye with a fragrant finger. I sat on the floor as she stood in front of me and pushed my shoulders down. She muttered some yogini bullshit that sounded like boom-shaka-laka-boom-shaka-laka which probably meant, ‘my peace is better than yours.’ Even though I was looking down I felt her smile.
    “Are you OK MaryBeth?”
    “Yeah, thanks. Great class.”
    “You just seemed so frantic tonight.”
    “I thought I did good.”
    She laughed. “Yoga is not about doing good, or reaching perfection. It’s about harmony and balance, and finding our place in the universe. You’re not graded on your performance. It’s about achieving personal growth, enlightenment. Judging others only serves to harm yourself.
    That hurt, because I knew she was right.
    Her eyebrows arched. “Namaste,” she said hands folded. As I repeated it back to her, she recited, “the peace in me honors the peace in you.”
     I went out of the room to get my purse and to pull on my sweatshirt. A couple of people from the class were waiting and high-fived me. “You won,” Jef One-f told me. “Righteous.”
    “Kavya was pissed,” Anna added. “No one ever out-does her.”
    Even I-Can-Do-The-Splits-Lady smiled at me on her way out.
    I shrugged my shoulders.
    Floating like a saint who didn’t need to bend her knees when she walked, Dobby came out into the hall, putting an end to any trash talk with the mere sweetness of her smile.
    “I’ll be taking my hollow victory and heading home, then, Dobby.”
    She nodded.
Stay tuned for part seven...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Once Upon A Time - Part 5

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part five of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 5

    Nick at Night used to rerun some pretty cool shows, like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. I was more team Samantha than team Jeannie, although I loved Jeannie’s bottle--it reminded me of my elevator. When it came right down to it what I loved most of all was the magic. Who hasn’t dabbled in love potions and magic spells, or trying to move objects with their mind, or even staring down traffic lights trying to force them to change? Doesn’t everybody do that? Susie pretends she never did, but then again she’s got her very own case of neurosis going on. Like she always, always puts her right shoe on before her left, every time. One time she tried to prove to me she didn’t have to but then I later caught her slipping off her shoes to do it “right.” She never lets food on her plate touch, and even admitted to me in times of stress, she counts her teeth with her tongue.
    “And you call me weird,” I had joked with her.
    “No,” she said. “I call you sad.”
    Susie claimed that superstitions were one thing; soothing rituals of an orderly mind, but that believing in magic was downright crazy. Another pep talk followed with her telling me to have my dreams, sure, but be realistic. Ah, what does she know? I needed another dose of Susie like I needed another pimple in my ear. Reality, like a festering whitehead nearly blocking my auditory canal, though no one else could see it, was proving to be irritating beyond belief. But I had a secret weapon: another sample of Love Potion #9, Rapunzel. It was delivered to the office last night, to me. I told no one.
    Cinnamon pop-tart with my name on it aside, I couldn’t wait to get out of bed the next morning. I showered, blew dry my hair in a record two minutes, I know, I know, not exactly a selling point of amazing beauty, and miserly dabbed on two light touches of Rapunzel behind each ear.
    I may be able to (and actually have) slept soundly through the night impaled upon my own cell phone, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t eligible for some shiny magic star points on the belle of the ball dance card. The Princess and the Pea be damned, I was diva of my own destiny, micro-managing my very own personal focus group. I was conducting my own little experiment to see what, if anything, Rapunzul and her Phux effects had going for them--and me.
    I sniffed, and physically had to restrain myself from dousing more elixir on my body. Just because I couldn’t smell it, didn’t mean it wasn’t working. I had no desire to become “the lady”--a middle aged woman who worked on the fifth floor and wore so much perfume she nearly couldn’t fit into the elevator. On the occasions I shared the elevator with her, I bonded with the other car-mates who were along for the odiferous ride; we would all practically meditate together in one giant mass sensory overload as we tried not to breathe.
    I stared in the mirror, smoothed back my hair, threw back my shoulders and sucked in my stomach. I challenged the day to prove that Rapunzel had it, or not.
    If the guy bumping into my boob as I clung to the handle riding the El to work was any indicator, maybe Rapunzel was emitting some powerful invisible lures. I was awash in feminine wiles I never knew I had. I didn’t think it was my imagination that I was whistled at walking toward my building, because I also received a tip-o-the hat. (Granted, the hat wearer was old enough to be my grandpa, but still.) I was three-for-three before I even set foot in the door at my office.
    I couldn’t wait for the morning meeting, and my first sighting of Dino. I had had a suspicious unknown number hang up last night and was pre-tty, pre-tty certain it had been him. When I walked into the conference room, I sashayed all the way around the table, stopping to say “‘Morning, Dino,” before heading to the other end of the table to take my customary seat. I don’t know how one makes one’s eyes twinkle, but I’m pretty sure I did as I smiled back at him.
    My contribution to the creative session for the ad campaign for Rapunzel was the magic. “We’re selling the possibility, nay, probability of romance,” I argued. “The cleaned-up, belle of the ball, fairy godmother-sanctioned airbrushed version of living happily ever after.”
    “Did you just say ‘nay’?” Stella asked me. The group laughed.
    “I’m channeling the old timey fairy tales.” I could feel the tips of my ears tingle. It was hard for me to speak out, in front of anyone, let alone this jaded crew. But they knew nothing of my secret weapon. Fools.
    “Well bippety-boppety my boo, and call me Cinderella,” Stella said. “How do we turn the fairy tale of Rapunzel into sizzling hot sexy sales? And did another sample come yet?”
    I swallowed and crossed my fingers. “I’ll check on that,” I said, not exactly a lie.
    The senior writers and directors sat around rehashing what they knew of Rapunzel. Then they played a round of which fairy tale babe they’d most like to sleep with. Interesting, Snow White beat Rapunzel, two to one, a la MaryAnn beating Ginger. The meeting drug on, with a general consensus of going with one of my original ideas, as touted by La-ura.
    “Listen up,” La-ura said, clapping her hands. “The art department needs a decision now. We just don’t have any more time. We have to have this ready to present in two days. I’m not proud of it, but I say we go with ‘Happily Ever After.’ It’s the strongest theme we’ve got right now. We’re just going to have to have smokin’ hot visuals to try to camouflage the fact that this is a stinker.” She waved her hand in front of her nose and tossed her hair back. “Well, at least we’ll have something to show the client, and then be able to take their comments and see what direction they want to go in.”
    The group began picking up their pens and papers, and standing up and stretching. La-ura sailed out and the second she was gone, I felt Dino at my elbow.
    “Good job, MaryBeth,” Dino said. “I like it. ‘Happily Ever After’ is fun, and generic enough that with the right visuals our client could really go for it.”
    “Thanks, Dino,” I said, inclining my head, feeling a burning within my bodice. Bodice? Where did that come from? I shook my head. “I have fairy tales on my brain,” I told him. “Believe me, it was no great stretch stealing that line. Besides, I love happy endings, don’t you?”
    I couldn’t read the expression in his eyes as he stared down at me. Maybe because I’d always been so tongue-tied in front of him, he was surprised to learn I could string together a sentence or two, all without curtsying. Or maybe, he was remembering the other night. Or maybe, that dang perfume really was all that.
    He looked around as the room cleared and leaned in closer. “I need to talk to you, MaryBeth. Can I take you to dinner tonight?”
    Holy Moly, I thought. He was so handsome, he could do whatever he wanted to, including dropping trow, right then and there. I smiled, playing for time and trying to get my emotions in check. If I recalled correctly, the original Rapunzel did nothing but toss down her golden locks to earn the undying devotion of her one true love. I knew I had to work a little bit harder, and smarter. It was tough, but I wrinkled my nose and turned him down, with real regret.
    “Sorry, Dino, I can’t. I have plans tonight.”
    His face went blank. “Oh. Sure. Sorry. Last minute and all. I didn’t mean to...” he shook his notebook as if it were a a Magic Eight ball. “And I have to get ready for the client meeting, too. I should really...” He stopped and cleared his throat. “How about Friday night? Can we get together then?”
    “Sure. Sounds good. It’s a date,” I said, looking meaningfully into his eyes.
    He squeezed my arm and whispered. “I’ll call you.”
    “Wheeeeeeee,” my heart beat as I headed back to my cubicle.
    “Whoa,” my fairy godmother Susie tried to pull back on the reins. I had summoned her for a coffee break right after the meeting to bring her up to date.
    “Smell me,” I said, offering her my head. She took a whiff and pushed me away.
    “I smell nothing,” she said. “Even though you look different.”
    “Different how?” She squinted at me and then shrugged.
    “Good. Perky, I guess.”
    “I’ll take your perky and see it with a fine.”
    “You are in a good mood, I see.”
    “I’ve been flirted with since I woke up this morning,” I told her. “I’ve never seen anything like it. This Rapunzel perfume could revolutionize the world!” I told her, waving my hand and nearly spilling her cup of coffee.
    “You really believe that?”
    “Yes. I got another sample delivered to me last night. I used it this morning and, ‘voila’! You see before you a fairy princess.”
    “You don’t honestly believe that, do you?”
    I nodded and giggled. “The facts don’t lie. The first night I had it, look what happened between me and Dino. It was heaven. Then, we spilled it and I will spare you the details of where we spilled it and what happened next.” I fanned myself. “So then, I didn’t have any more Phux and he looked like he didn’t know what to do with himself. He couldn’t figure out how to behave, or how to talk to me, or if he should call me or not. He was very confused.” I shook my head at the poor boy. “And now, I’m wearing it again and poof! He asked me out for tonight.”
    “He did not.”
    “Yep. And get this. I said, ‘no thank you, kind sir, I have plans.’”
    “Bravo!” Susie smiled. “I can’t believe you had the self control.”
    “I’m telling you. It’s all Rapunzel’s fault. I’m going to yoga tonight and I’m going to wear this magic elixir everywhere I go...”
    “Until it runs out.”
    I clapped my hand over my heart. “Bite your tongue. I can get more.”
    “You’re like a heroin addict.”
    “Yeah, well, and I’m not going to share.”
    “Gee, thanks. Besides, don’t you need to let La-ura and the others check it out?”
    “Sucks for them,” I said, winking over her shoulder at a business man waiting in line for his coffee.
    “A perfume cannot be responsible for your happiness,” Susie said.
    “It can, it will, it is,” I said.
    “What happens when it runs out?”
    “You think my life will rot like a pumpkin in November? Oh ye of little faith.” Even though we weren’t touchers, I took her hands in mine. “This is the new me, courtesy of Rapunzel and good ol’ Phux!” Even though I had barely sipped my coffee, I felt as if I had snorted ground espresso beans. I was kinder, wiser, better. The world was bigger, brighter, righter.
    “I liked the old you better,” Susie said, sliding her hands out of mine.

Stay tuned for part six...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happy Birth Day...

19 years and 18 hours of labor ago, we brought forth on this continent a new baby girl, conceived in
liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all animals are created equal (shout-out to Leo!), manicures and pedicures are a god-given right, and hope for making this world a happier place! XOXO, Gianna!

Where Are The Tweezers?

You can't just borrow a lady's accoutrement and not return it. C'mon. All I have left in my arsenal is one high-priced, needle-nosed pointy tweezers that could target a single wisp of down until someone used them to remove a splinter FROM A V-6 ENGINE. I could get more traction from a pair of plyers. Please. Where are my tweezers?

Grazie mille!

Thanks so much for reading and all of your kind comments!!

Once Upon A Time - Part 4 (Halfway there!)

Let Down Your Hair...
(Part four of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 4
Just Lust
    It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, following no phone calls, no emails, no text messages, not even work-related or pretend work-related, that Dino swung by my desk.
    “Hey,” said my man of few words.
    “Hey?” I said. “Hey? That’s all you’ve got to say? I have bruises that have stuck around longer that you,” I said in a whisper. I did, too.
    “Shh, sorry,” he said, looking around. No one was anywhere near my cubicle. “I know I look like a total jerk, and I apologize. Friday was un-fucking-believable,” he said, his lips curving up at the ends.
    I could hear Susie now. “You want a relationship with a guy who uses the word ‘un-fucking-believable’ and uses it in concert with the most precious experience a girl can have? You’re better than that.” Truth was, I didn’t think I was better than that. I picked up every crumb he dropped.
    “I can’t stop thinking about you,” he said. While I was seated at my desk, I swiveled my chair around to face him. His hands were in his pocket and he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, thrusting his hips back and forth, maybe juggling his other set of balls, who knew? He stepped in a little closer and all I knew was that if I turned my head a few inches he could have popped his guido right into my ear. Although why he would want to do that I couldn’t imagine. I shifted back in my chair, and away from that disturbing image, afraid I was going to break out in the laughing-at-a-funeral chuckle. I swallowed, and tried to ask myself. WWSD? What would Susie do?
    I had to set aside emotions and petty thoughts, and keep my eye on the ball, er, prize. What did I want to happen here? Other than Dino dropping to the floor on bended knee and proposing, that is. I guess, if I had to be honest, I did want his commitment to being in a relationship with me, even though it did happen a little backwards, what with all the mind-blowing passion kicking things off. Even though I knew Dino had his suspicions, I knew our hook-up was not merely a result of the Rapunzel perfume or Phux factor. If it had anything to do with it at all, it may have added a little Sriracha hot chili sauce to the enchilada, a little Party in the USA to the dance floor, a little anti-frizz gel to the blow dry. So yeah, I wanted to do it again, and this time sans any so-called aphrodisiac. I wanted to do it after a real life, honest to goodness date. I wanted to be wined and dined and wooed--I wanted to learn his middle name for goodness sake--what does a parent stick in between a Dean and Dineno? Was it too much to ask for him to get to know me, the real me? To find out that with a name like MaryBeth, you didn’t even need a middle name.
    “What do you think about me?” I couldn’t resist flirting and even tried to wind a strand of hair around my finger. Strand was such a strong word.
    “You know. You. That night. God.” He ran his fingers through his curls and I was consumed with jealousy of his hands. He looked down at me. “Was it really the perfume that caused all that?”
    “What do you think?” I tried to make my voice husky, alluring, without sounding like I was from Australia or something. My inflection wasn’t the problem; my question was. Never ask something you don’t want the answer to. No wonder I wasn’t in a relationship, I didn’t understand the rules.
    “Well, to be quite honest, yeah. I think you put that stuff on to drive me crazy.”
    His hands were now resting on his hips, a defensive stance against my feminine allure?
    “You’re kidding right? You...” I had to stop. “You really think just because I put on a dab of perfume, you were hypnotized and lured in by me, not acting of your own free will, but powerless to resist my charms?”
    “You’re a nice girl, and all, MaryBeth. But, come on. Well.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I think you kinda liked me before. A lot. I used to catch you staring at me.”
    He noticed. Drats. Regroup. “Yeah, Dino, I liked you. I still do. I thought you were cute. But I never, ever, set out to trap you. Especially with some lame celebrity scent. How was I supposed to know you were coming back that night? You were the one who left your cell phone. I was minding my own business. You can’t really believe one whiff of me in that perfume and whammo! You were under my spell?”
    “Since you’re throwing around those kinds of words like ‘spell,’ and ‘hypnotized,’ yeah, I have to tell you, I felt bewitched.”
    “It’s called lust,” I said with a sigh. “Just lust.” I started to turn my chair back toward my desk, but then I stopped. I couldn’t go on living this way, waiting for his call or text that never came. I had to say what I wanted, and want what I said. “I had enough passion for the both of us, Dino. I didn’t need any aphrodisiac. I thought we were having fun that night, dancing around the office and goofing off. I guess maybe that gave me a little boost of confidence. Did you ever think that was what you were attracted to? Not some magic tantalizing aroma, but maybe just plain ol’ me?”
    I felt the tears squinch up behind my eyes. Some girls can pull off damsel in distress weeping, encouraging TLC from a nearby Lothario. I was not one of them. Mucus would build up and spew in an uncontrollably geyser from my nose; tears would cascade over my entire face, making sure to powerwash every last drop of mascara and eye shadow I had on, creating dirty purple/black rivulets that congealed on my cheeks, and whichever sounded worse, a braying ass or cat retching up a hair ball, that’s how I sounded when I wept. I almost hyperventilated in my efforts not to cry, especially not in front of Dino.
    His hand reached for my shoulder and squeezed. I decided anger beats sorrow any day. “You never noticed me, Dino. I have a lot to offer.” I gulped back a sob which came out like the hideous megaphoned hiccup during a yawn. “I happen to be an awesome drummer at RockBand.” I sniffed. “Maybe there’s a girl in here that’s worth getting to know, but guys like you who are always blinded by blonde hair and boobs have no idea what you’re missing out on...”
    “What are you guys talking about?” La-ura snuck up on us, as usual; she was wearing 8-inch stilettos, what else could she do but tip-toe?
    “Rapunzel,” I said, answering La-ura.
    “RockBand,” Quick Draw McGraw said at the exact same time.
    “Um, yeah,” I added. “We were trying to figure out what kind of music could go with the perfume campaign, you know, to try to get a handle on the branding.”
    “Well, since the perfume was created by a rock star, I would say you should start there, don’t you think?”
    “Yes. Of course.” I smacked my forehead with the palm of my hand.
    “They want to see some creative by the end of the week. Can you handle that?” La-ura asked me, still looking suspiciously suspicious. Even though I didn’t now what all she heard, I was pretty sure her ego would never ever consider me a threat.
    “Yes, sure, Laura. I think we’ve got some good ideas...”
    She cut me off and yanked on Dino’s tie. “I need to speak to you.” I watched her sashay down the hall toward her office, Dino following in her wake. Again, Susie’s words came back to taunt me. He did kind of remind me of Fred Flintstone’s pet dinosaur, yammering down the hall looking for a juicy bone to chew on.

Stay tuned for part five...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Once Upon A Time - Part 3

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part three of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 3

    I had to go into work extra early on Monday, to print out my list of garbage for La-ura about the new perfume campaign. I told her I accidentally dropped the bottle. It took every ounce of self-control I had, not to add: “on yer boyfriend’s penis!”
    We had a big department meeting and as I jumped into the elevator to ride down to the fourth floor conference room with the rest of the team, Dino got on right behind me. As luck would have it, I had been going cross-eyed all morning, looking out for him, wondering what he would say or do, or how he would look, or look at me. The second I let my guard down, poof! There he was.
    Gulp. “Goo...” I started. Then I coughed. I turned to face the front of the elevator and position myself among the other bodies. Then I probably turned a brighter color than Little Red Riding Hood’s cape. The whole Rapunzel debacle, as I was beginning to think of it, had put me into a grim fairy tale mode.
    “Hey, MaryBeth,” Dino said. “Skip, Rosie, Selene...” he nodded and greeted the morning’s cast and crew. Poor Susie, would I really make her try to figure this encounter out, too? I sincerely hoped not.
    La-ura was already in the conference room and was busy handing out the preliminary report I had done. Her smile, meant to be private and pointed at Dino, as if at an inside joke, might as well have been gussied up in bright neon lights announcing to the world, “I huffed and I puffed and I blew Dino’s...” I snorted. Damn, I was a gruesome ogre, the crone with a poisoned apple, the cropped-top Goldilocks who had no business sitting in someone elses boyfriend’s lap. This could not end well.
    The meeting didn’t do much to improve my attitude. With my heightened state of alert and all senses set to Dino, it was all I could do to answer when people had questions about Rapunzel.
    “People, people.” La-ura clapped her hands. We need to brand this and make it desirable to people who don’t have long hair, like men, and,” she backhanded her thumb toward me. “Even MaryBeth.” The room laughed.
    I swiped my palm over my head, hoping to kill two birds with one sweaty stone--act like I was cool with the teasing, and smooth down my hair to look like I meant it to look like it did.
    “Yeah, but La-ura, I don’t think ‘let your hair down’ is intrinsically for people with long hair.” One of the other copy writers, Steven, looked at me and nodded. “Right, MaryBeth? Didn’t you intend this to be a ‘let your hair down’ as in let loose, relax, party?”
    I nodded my head, my eyes darting toward Dino. He saw me and quickly looked down, tapping his pen on the table. I just couldn’t read him. The girl who still believed in happy endings knew that he had to feel the same way I did. He was just playing it cool, until things could be sorted out. Like, until he dumped La-ura’s sorry ass and proposed to me.
    My stomach churned, not buying any of that. I have been accused of being a glass half full girl. This time, however, the pessimism in me was filled to the brim, in fact it was even spilling over the edges; the only thing I had left that I could count on was my belief in my pessimism that things weren’t going to turn out well at all. In addition to being loved and left, I wouldn’t have been surprised had I even been mauled by three bears.
    I fiddled with my pen, wishing I could take a nap. I was so sleepy and bored I began to write grocery lists in my head to try to stay awake, and to stop thinking about ‘what-ifs’ with Dino.
    “What’s this pher0mone stuff about?” Joe, another account executive asked. “It sounds kind of hot.” I had included a synopsis of ingredients in my report, and briefly detailed the super-secret Ph-uX. I took a deep breath and cleared my throat and prayed to God that my cheeks weren’t nearly 1/100th as flaming hot as they felt. Before I could respond, La-ura spoke up.
    “P-H-dash-U-X is a proprietary ingredient that we don’t want to bore our consumers with. Some scientific mumbo jumbo doesn’t sell. Sex sells.”
    Ain’t that the truth, I thought, my eyes inadvertently winging left to seek out Dino. Was he actually whistling, trying to appear innocent? He looked like he would be confessing to the whole office in a matter of seconds. I could just hear him now, whistling his tune and singing:

“Hi ho, hi ho, off to work I go.
I love my boss,
But I screwed and lost...
And what’s the cost?
Hi ho, hi ho...
A magic potion,
A big commotion,
There goes my promotion...
Hi ho, hi ho...
Cheers to the aphrodisiac
I morphed into a maniac,
Thanks to Ph-uX,
My life really sucks.
Hi ho...hi ho...

    Dino was looking down, I couldn’t make out his expression.
    “Really, La-ura? Sex sells?” Thank goodness Steven interrupted again. “Well, maybe we need to take a look at your secret ingredient again.” I knew it would only be a matter of moments before someone figured it out. “P-H-dash-U-X? Think about it. Say it out loud.” People around the table started laughing.
    La-ura looked around blankly. “P-H-dash-U-X.” She raised her hand and shrugged. “So what?” Everyone started laughing louder.
    “PHUX!” Someone finally called out. La-ura stood there with her arms crossed, waiting for people to stop: giggling, wiping their eyes, and saying “phew.”
    “Are you quite finished?” she asked. A few more laughs answered her. “Grow up.” She picked up my paper again, and read it closely.
    “MaryBeth!” She barked in my general vicinity. “We’ve all heard of pheromones, but what’s the deal? Do you mean to tell me Rapunzel is claiming to have a secret ingredient, one that makes it an aphrodisiac?”
    Twenty eyeballs stared me down, waiting for my response, but the only ones that mattered, the brown sparkly ones that had shimmered and nearly wept over me, were now busy, suddenly occupado; seemingly mesmerized by his long, strong fingers rubbing at an imaginary smudge on the laminate tabletop. I stared at the rubbing motion, moving back and forth, a synchronized rhythm that caused me to shift in my seat. I crossed my legs.
    “Ah, MaryBeth!” La-ura repeated again. “You’re the only one who smelled it. What did you think? What was it like?”
    “It was nice,” I finally managed to say. I wished again for the kabillionth time that my superpower was the ability of super fast, witty repartee. I could be SmartMouth Woman. SassyPants. Barring that, I’d even settle for a pause button, one that would allow me time to write out my responses to whatever life threw me. If only I could edit my words, re-write, clean up, delete and rearrange, check for typos and grammatical errors, before engaging the send button. My work performance would be enhanced, for sure, to say nothing of my love life. Oh, to be able to orchestrate the words I needed, like a maestro directing a concert with a pen, and have the time to consider, or better yet, reconsider, the most appropriate responses.
    “It was nice? What does nice smell like, exactly?”
    “It was a very fresh, clean smell,” I said, biting my lips, trying to snort out the smell of lust that lingered, clinging to some memory molecule from Friday night. The room waited, uncommonly silent. “Undertones of patchouli and citrus,” I mumbled. I shrugged my shoulders and doodled on the paper in front of me.
    “Any phux effect you’d care to share with us? Did you notice anything before you, ah, ‘spilled’ it?” The room laughed, as La-ura used air quotes around the word spilled. “What?” La-ura continued. “Did you drink this stuff? Did you get lucky? Did it turn you into a sex machine?” She fired off questions, looking like she actually wanted a response.
    ‘Didn’t have to,’ ‘Yes,’ and ‘Yes!’ I wanted to burst out. “It definitely had something different...” I began. “It smelled different in the bottle, more medicine-like, almost antiseptic. Then, when I dabbed it on my wrists,” I made the motion, waving my right wrist around, “it was very light and soothing. It was like I couldn’t stop smelling it, like I was addicted to the scent and trying to find out what the aroma was.”
    La-ura swished the air in front of her, waving me on to continue. “Did you get turned on?”
    “La-ura,” Dino said. “Seriously, lighten up. You’re putting MaryBeth on the spot. We’re here to sell perfume. If it has an X-factor or phux factor, cool. We can sell that; like you said, sex sells. But to think there is some magic hocus-pocus serum that turns people into sex maniacs...well...” he finished with a small laugh. Was it just me or did that laugh sound rather pathetic.
    Eyeballs now swiveled toward Dino. La-ura was no dummy. “Why are you defending little Miss Muffet?” She jerked her head toward my end of the table.
    Perhaps because a little over 48 hours ago he was sitting on my tuffet? I thought despondently.
    I dared a smile at him, and his answering look semaphored back an accusing glare at me, as if to say, “you bewitched me,” giving him a free pass out of the little pickle he was in.
    “So, did you give Rapunzel a test drive after you spilled it?” La-ura asked me. Believe it or not it was her way of apologizing.
    I gave a little shake to my head. No. “La-ura,” I said. “Sorry. It is kind of awkward. I’m just a little embarrassed,” I said with a gush of laughter. “I thought it was a great perfume, and I think it could have a lot of potential for marketing. People love secrets, people love sex, and if you put the two together...” I drifted off, shrugging my shoulders and extending my hands. “When I read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page, I have to tell you, I was intrigued.”
    “What disclaimer?” Joe asked.
    “Just about the pheromone that may or may not be included, being proprietary information, with a patent pending,” I said. “That info is often a template used as a matter of fact, just to cover bases, but it’s interesting how much detail they went into, including naming of a secret ingredient.”
    “Phux!” Joe said, slamming his hand on the table.
    While everyone else laughed again, I continued. “Yes. Patent pending, new, improved, consumers go for it. I think we should utilize the ‘wow’ factor as much as we can. I don’t know what the legal department would say, but it would be fun to get as close to the word ‘aphrodisiac’ as possible, without making unwarranted claims that could get us in trouble.”
    The eyes of all the men in the room seemed to glaze over, as if the word itself was doing its job. Even the women seemed a little uncomfortable; Peggy was tugging at her neckline, Angie was checking for split ends, and La-ura was running her hand up and down her thigh; you just knew she was making sure everyone knew she was wearing her infamous thigh-highs.
    “Anyway,” I said. “I called the company and ordered some more samples.” At that announcement, the whole table broke into clapping. Even though it wasn’t for me, I accepted their excitement with a nod. “Just wait.”

Stay tuned for part four...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Once Upon a Time - Part 2

Let Down Your Hair...

(Part two of a novella fairy tale)

Chapter 2
Freaky Friday
    I was not looking forward to Friday. La-ura was more stressed out than usual and like an evil stepmother, took it out on her underlings. But, Friday was looking forward to me.
    I heard the last ding of the elevator take its final cargo of the day, sans me,
on to brighter, happier, drinkier pastures. Dates, dinners, movies, hook-ups, were all going to be happening without me in the mix. I sighed and pulled my hair back in a ponytail, until I reached up and remembered ponytail was such a strong word in relation to my hair--an eleven month-old baby would have had a larger cluster of curls to clutch. Had I tried to pull it back with a scrunchie, the scrunchie would have fallen to the floor. Oh well. It would grow--or so I’d been telling myself that for the past eight months.
    When I didn’t change my name, I had made the next logical, radical move and had my hair chopped. Seriously, that was the name of the cut, the Chop. I went to the uber-trendiest salon in the Loop. Can’t remember it’s name, since I threw away my stylist’s business card before I was even finished trying to re-comb what I called the Hack. I had done a better job cutting my own hair--when I was seven. They were so trendy, they didn’t take tips and saved all the shorn hair to recycle--into placemats or something. Here’s a tip, no one wants to eat off of placemats MADE OF HAIR. While six foot tall runway models can pull off the Chop, five-foot-three-ish, brownish-haired with cowlicks, MaryBeths with freckles, have a much tougher time. Well, at least my blow-drying time had been cut in half. Who was I kidding? It took me all of four minutes.
    Back to the drawing board. Miracle of miracles, Miracle actually stood a good chance of winning a really good account; instead of the kitty litter or organic soup crap we’d been dealing with, Dino had actually helped put us in the running to do the marketing for a new celebrity fragrance. I can’t name names, let’s just say it’s a world recognized rock star with a wicked sense of humor, or unfortunate drug habit; how else to explain the name of the fragrance, Rapunzel. 
    We just received a sample that afternoon, which was why I had to spend a good part of my evening trying to slam down some catchphrases. I always tried to get the bad stuff out of the way first. I also always used pen to paper, believing that I was more creative with a direct physical sensation flowing from my brain, down my arm, through my fingers, drawing out the words, before doing clean-up on the computer. In a pinch, I would use magic markers on watercolor paper--it was as fun as coloring.
    I made my list of possible catchphrase candidates for Rapunzel, knowing that even the stinkers could trigger a winner. I got the obvious out of the way first:
Let Down Your Hair
    I knew La-ura would think it too trite, and heaven forbid a copy writer ever gets branded for being too trite.
Happy Endings
    Alluding to the fairy tale, I didn’t think Happy Endings would fly either; conjuring up seedy back room massage parlors with a payoff, was the last thing this celebrity would want to tout.
Three...Third Item...Starting Now...La Di Dah...Hmmmmm....
    I colored and shaded my initials, drew a heart around it and added a TLA with Dino’s name. I was so paranoid I spent another five minuted blocking out his name. All I could come up with for bad idea number 3 was Rapunzel...Rap, Rapture...nothing. Damn. Why can’t I use my powers for good? I even tried writing with my left hand. So much for that theory of using the non-dominant side of your body to explore new horizons. The only other thing I could come up with was Once Upon A Time. I could hear La-ura now, “Been there, done that.”
     I decided to do some research. I read the ingredients list from the lab that came along in the little white cardboard box. The perfume itself was in a nondescript brown medicine bottle--the design of the container would theoretically coincide with the marketing branding and image, or simply be decided based on a huge discount of perfume vials from the manufacturer. The vial was wrapped in a folded, white sheet of paper that contained a typed list of ingredients. It itemized the usual suspects, bergamot, ylang-ylang, vanilla, sassafras; interesting choice--who doesn’t love the smell of root beer, I thought, as I continued to scan. Along with vetiver, which is used in over 90 percent of most perfumes, it looked like a pretty standard recipe. I had learned and surprisingly retained a little bit of my fragrance formulation knowledge from the dog perfume campaign we had done last year. The jingle would still occasionally get stuck in my head. “I think I “ruff” you...” sung to the tune of the old Partridge Family hit. It had been a disturbing promotion featuring television commercials with the owner falling in love with his pooch, sharing his bed and licks of his ice cream cone.
    I shook my head. Focus. I continued reading to see if there was anything else that could help spark some sort of idea here. Though the ingredients were listed, dosages and amounts were, of course, never revealed, guarded as closely as celebrities’ real ages and weight. Insider trading and espionage didn’t only happen on Wall Street. What the? Something caught my eye.There were a bunch of ingredients I didn’t recognize, ending with -ynols, peptides, blah-bety-blah nucleosis sounding words. There was even a warning in fine print at the bottom of the page. I read it aloud.  
 “Patent Pending: PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL! Proprietary information related to formulation and subsequent distillation may not be discussed or disseminated among public or private parties, and is available only upon approved request, subject to legal review. Pheromone technology may or may not be contained in above formulation and is the sole right and property of the manufacturer. Pheromone adaptations obtained legally through organic compounding thereby not subject to regulatory mandates will be heretofore referred to as Ph-uX: Ph-uX is considered the legal and intellectual property of aforementioned formulary and not available to be used, distributed, manufactured, or copied in any way, without the express written consent of owner.”
    Hello? Ph-uX? I would imagine it was meant to be referred to by the individual letters: “P-H-dash-U-X. I did have to wonder which rocket scientist came up with that moniker. I could just picture a room full of scientists who had never in their lives been on a date; sitting their in their wrinkled white lab coats, greasy hair and dirty glasses guffawing about their new secret ingredient that will change the world. Either they were so far gone down their self-absorbed scientific journey of discovery and had no idea what they were naming their magic ingredient, or there was one, lone guy with a chance, with a sense of humor. “Ph-uX!” I said out loud. “Me likee!”
    All I knew about pheromones were that they were the holy grail of sex--a chemical signal of attraction, odiferous clues used to entice and/or select a mate. La-ura had said something about a new compound that was very exciting, meaning she hadn’t read the report or understood what she read. I’m guessing Rapunzel was operating on the premise of a guarantee to get laid.
    Rapunzel was to be an androgynous perfume, for both teams looking for love. The warning only served to pique my interest. What if it was truly an aphrodisiac? Since the Middle Ages, just as alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold, herbalists had tried to distill that most elusive elixir of all, sexual desire. Given a choice, I would bet any scientist worth their salt would go for the passion-producing perfume of sex appeal every time, over a little cold, gold rock.
    I shook the bottle and held it up to my computer screen. It was a pure liquid, no sediment stirring. I unscrewed the top and took a deep breath. I dabbed a little at the pressure points on my wrist. I sniffed. The top notes were crisp and clean smelling. I couldn’t stand sweet, overbearing perfume. I waved my arms around, letting the perfume settle, and interact with my skin chemistry. While I waited, I looked around the empty office, far from being creepy, it was awesome being all alone and having the power to do whatever I wanted. I kicked off my shoes, cursing the sadists who lusted after the first woman to stand on her tiptoes and subsequently decided to imprison the rest of us in heels, and punched up Pandora on my laptop. In homage to my one true love, I play-listed a bunch of Dean Martin songs to try help get my creative juices flowing. Other assorted juices of mine apparently needed no help.
    I started dancing around. Sometimes motion helps knock loose a few brain cells, forcing them to do a little work. I dabbed a few more wafts of perfume on some more pressure points, not much pressure between my cleavage, but there you go, and one at the hollow of my neck and one little dribble behind my ears. I am not usually a perfume girl. I had been blessed, or cursed, with a hyper-olfactory system. I go through periods when fake scents can gross me out, but I was enjoying this formulation and waiting for inspiration. The middle notes of the scent were addictive, and I almost hyperventilated, sniffing and sniffing.
    I wasn’t sure if what I had read had planted those seeds of the promise of being indescribably alluring, or if I was just hypersensitive, inhaling the new aroma, trying to get a feel for it.
    The base note of the formulation, or theme of the perfume, was elusive. I was gyrating around, belting out a loud and proud “Everybody Loves Somebody...” and trying to think about what I was smelling. It was good, but I couldn’t say why.
    The music was so loud, the perfume so strong, my mind so scattered I never noticed the announcing ding of the elevator. It took a full second to realize someone was clapping. At me! “Bravo, bravo,” said the man of my dreams. I stopped mid-twirl.
    “Dino,” I said. “What are you doing here?” I clapped my hand to my chest and inched over to my computer to turn down the music.
    “I forgot my phone, can you believe it?” Dino said. “You’re working on the perfume, huh?” He walked closer. “Let me have a smell.”
    I cannot to this day believe my audacity, but I lifted my head and threw out my neck, as if issuing an invitation to a vampire. He leaned in and over, his dark head of glossy curls brushed my chin as he inhaled my scent. I was so sensitive to him, I could feel the draw of his breath whooshing back up his nose. His lips were slightly parted and felt like a kiss on my collar bone. I think I may have whimpered. I locked my knees so that I wouldn’t dip into another curtsy; and hoped I wouldn’t swoon.
    Dino stood back up. “Nice.” He stared at me for a second and leaned back in. “That’s really great. You smell awesome.”
    While Dean Martin segued into “Memories Are Made of This,” Dino segued into my heart, and personal space, drawing up my hands to his chest.
    “May I have this dance?”
    I giggled and we sashayed and spun and tangoed around the office. Even though I was stone cold sober, I felt I had never danced better before. Sometimes we’d catch each other eyes and just grin; sometimes he’d pull me close. Nuzzled into his embrace I could hear his heart beating, before he sent me off into a spin, his warm hand confidently twirling me away, before pulling me back.
    The song ended along with the best four minutes of my life. I held my breath, as Dino held my hand. “MaryBeth.”
    I tilted my head and smiled, trying not to leer.
    “You wanna...” Dino began.
    I had no idea what he was going to ask me, because we pulled together, a magnetic force greater than the both of us, kissing, kissing, kissing as if to save our lives. Hell yeah, I wanna, my hormones hulaed.
    He broke the kiss but not contact. His cheek rubbed against mine, his hands caressed up and down my arms. He took my right hand with his left and squeezed. I squeezed back and he pulled me down the hall behind him.
    I am not ashamed to say I was so aflame with desire, I would have done it on his desk. Props to him that he had a little more class than that and steered us out to the alcove in front of the elevator.
    Waiting for the elevator could have been a little awkward but our love coach arrived right on cue. He pushed me in ahead of him, jabbed the lobby button and we commenced making out. I pushed him away for a split second, to look at him, to capture this magic moment, and also to make sure he saw me. He lowered his head and looked at me, his eyes darting back and forth; no words were needed. His shy smile was chased away by my kiss.
    This was the best four minutes of my life, and no matter what happens, I will always have special feelings for that elevator. Some elevators are tricky. Any engineer of any building is first concerned with safety, weight, capacity, drag. That’s a given.
    A good engineer will require extra safety features, going above and beyond standard specifications and recommendations. Maintenance protocols are followed to a T, knowing that precious cargo is being transported day in and day out, and the efficacy of any building is its access.
    But a great engineer, a great engineer will not neglect the feng shui of the insides of an elevator. Soft lighting will cascade from the ground up, not glare down harshly from above, like a lone naked lightbulb in a police interrogation setting. Industrial lighting, while sufficient, serves to highlight shadows of too long noses, breakouts on the chin, and features the shaded shifty eyeballs of the desperate, rendering a gaunt expression as if to reveal what someone would look like as a skeleton.
    A great engineer will sped a few more dollars to have soft carpet. He or she will choose soothing complimentary colors, preferably from nature, but not green because green is tricky and not everyone can pull off green, especially in low light. A great engineer will make the inside of an elevator look as if it were lit by candlelight, a place where magic can, and will, happen.
    We bounced around the three walls of that elevator, kissing, licking, sucking. Forget Dino’s desk, it would have been awesome to have done it then and there; the thought of a security camera only making it seem that much more thrilling. Dino pushed me back against the wall, grinding into me. I knew I would end up with bruises, and I couldn’t wait to witness proof of our love; badges of honor.
    I usually ride the El, but Dino hailed a cab. We ended up at my place in about fifteen minutes. I lived in a fourth floor one bedroom walk up. Since I didn’t have a boyfriend or anything, I had nothing but time to make sure it was kept clean enough. It wouldn’t have mattered. Dino didn’t notice. We had held hands the whole ride home. Walking up the sixty-five sets of steps, I felt as if I got to know everything about him based on the push, pull, caress, and interlocking squeeze plays of our fingers.
    As soon as my front door slammed behind us, we lost all control. I could no longer smell the perfume, although perhaps I had become inured to it. Dino unbuttoned my blouse, nuzzled my throat and groaned. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” His hands grabbed at the short ends of my hair and pulled and pulled. He cupped my head and squeezed it, murmuring how sweet I was. I would never forget how he said my name. “MaryBeth,” he had breathed. “Oh, God.”
    I tucked my fingers inside the starched collar of his shirt. I had no idea where his suit jacket went. The backs of my fingers tickled inside his collar, down his thick neck, parting his shirt to kiss his neck. I pulled him down to the couch and reached for his belt. Time stood still as I undid the button of his pants. He held his breath as I pulled his zipper down. I love that part.
    I always thought I looked much better in my bra and panties than full on nude, but my nipples were thrusting for his attention, and Dino’s mouth, like a heat-seeking missile, zoomed in to them. In the soft glow filtering from the kitchen light, backlighting Dino kneeling before me, he looked like he could have been Rapunzel’s prince. OK, there were a few details missing: long locks for him to erotically entwine himself in, for one. Didn’t seem to present a problem. In fact, I loved how he was massaging my head, his fingertips even taking the time to gently rub the tips of my stubby curls between the pads of his fingers. I swear, that hardly perceptible touch made me shiver. He then moved on to caress my breasts before kissing all the way from my ticklish bellybutton down...
    As I breathed in, my mouth parted and I could smell and taste Dino. If he had worn aftershave or cologne, it had long worn off, leaving behind the much more erotic theme of his own chemistry. His skin temperature was elevated, his arms warm and slick with sweat. I licked his bare shoulder, causing him to clamber back up my body. He cradled my head with both hands again, crushing his sculpted torso against the full length of my lascivious body. I felt each cell strain to lift and cushion his weight. “MaryBeth,” he whispered again. I was so glad I didn’t change my name to Mystery. This felt so right, so real. He skimmed his lips across my jawline and m-m-m’d on my ear lobe. “You are so beautiful. What are you doing to me?”
    I heard something drop to the floor. As I glanced down, even in the dim light I could see it was the vial of perfume. I must have tossed it into my purse without even thinking. I grinned. Time for a little more fuel to the fire. Dino groaned as I stroked my hands down his back. I let my left hand drift off, fingers wafting to reach the bottle on the floor.
    I wedged my hand with the perfume between us. “What do you think, Dino? Do you like this new perfume?”
    He nudged the bottle away with his cheek to kiss me deeply. He pulled away. “I think I like you better.”
    I unscrewed the cap. “Smell it,” I said.
    He took a quick whiff and then burrowed between my breasts. “Ah, God. You are driving me crazy. You smell better that any perfume.” I felt and heard him draw a deep breath. His right hand reached up to bat away the bottle. It spilled, splashing the remaining precious drops on his hand.
    We laughed and I tried not to think of how I was going to explain to La-ura that I needed another sample. All I could think about was that I wanted to pre-order a case load.
    Dino’s hand, still damp from the potion, worked its way under the lace of my panties. He knew his way around my body as if we had done this may times before. Maybe it was his perfect pressure, or the synchronicity of his caressing friction, or maybe it was all enhanced by the power of the perfume, and that crazy Ph-uX ingredient; I had never felt so close to perfection before. My writhing panting paused as I felt that hollowed out vacuum feeling in my ears, which always happens right before I...
    “Dino!” I whimpered and said his name again. I may have even screamed. Once. Or twice. Dino joined me in his own greedy, orgiastic hootenanny, a strange exhausting primitive experience where we were both abandoned of all etiquette. “Ph-uX,” I whispered, which seemed to send Dino into an even greater frenzy. I do believe that is my new favorite word. “Ph-uX.”
    Unbelievably, I fell asleep. I have no idea how long I slumbered, missing out on my very own real life dream. How dare I? In what universe would I go to sleep after achieving nirvana? I had just remembered feeling so complete, I had had no control.
    My eyelids fluttered as I felt a kiss swoop down on my brow. “Hey, sleepyhead,” Dino said. We were on my couch, laying sideways but facing each other, with Dino cradling his arms around me. Even in that position I wasted time multitasking, kicking myself for wasting precious seconds. How could I have fallen asleep? The defining moment of my life? The apogee of my dreams come true and I’m snoring on Prince Charming? Oh dear God, I hope I didn’t drool. I licked my lips.
    He kissed the tip of my nose. “You are so sweet.”
    “How long have I been sleeping?”
    “Too long. Play with me some more.” He kissed my lips.
    I stared up at him. He smiled. “What?” he asked. “You don’t snore. You didn’t blurt out embarrassing requests like, ‘spank me, pull my hair, make me call you daddy,’ or anything.”
    My stomach rippled as I laughed. “Thank goodness for that.” I was embarrassed to have fallen asleep. It almost seemed more intimate than what went on right before I fell into a coma. Almost...but not quite.
    “I say we move our headquarters,” I said.
    “Right behind you,” Dino agreed. He held my hand as we moved into my bedroom.
    The time for shyness had long gone; its mast had set sail, rutting into my thigh right about the first time our tongues had said a ‘howdy-do’ to each other. Yet, I found myself holding my breath as I invited Dino into my boudoir. I didn’t have much money, but heaven knows what little I had added up to incredible wealth compared to my talent for designing. I worried that he wouldn’t like the haven I had created for myself.
    As long as you didn’t peer into the corners too closely or strain your neck checking out the ceiling line, I had done a decent enough job painting my room. I chose the paint based simply on the name, Periwinkle Pearl. I should note that I do not have a great track record pulling stunts like that; I once had to ruin a perfectly good manicure because the ‘Pink: Love Guaranteed’ nail polish color I had once chosen was anything but pink, and guaranteed nothing but ten days of anguish.
    The only thing special about my bedroom, other than the palest pearlized blush of the bluish-lilac shimmering color, captured from the sky mere seconds before dawn in springtime, was that it was celibate monk cell clean. By not trying to design or decorate I had come up with a style that was perfect for me. I had finally gotten a headboard the year before, yay, welcome to adulthood. My mom had donated two ancient round end tables that had been butt ugly in my family’s living room my whole life, but when placed on either side of my bed as night stands, they managed to grab a second chance at funky chic. I had simply replaced the drawer pulls on an old, mismatched brown dresser with shiny stainless steel knobs. The only other furniture in the room was a giant rectangular mirror, framed in a wide band of silvery curlicues, standing on one end on the floor. My comforter and sheets were a wonderful crisp clean boring white. I always felt like I was entering a spa when I came into my bedroom. Unfortunately my zen-ness did not extend to my drawers or closet; enter at your own risk.
    Dino seemed to like it well enough, but truth be told, at the time I was flattered that he only had eyes for me. I could have made out with him forever, but like most guys, Dino played to win. At risk of downplaying the most important moment of my life with a sports metaphor, I was his biggest cheerleader.
    Dino was gone the next morning when I finally woke up. I stretched and smiled and reached for my cell. He had left me a message. I kissed my phone as I played it. “Hey MaryBeth,” his message began. “Wow. You are amazing. I had such a great time last night.”
    “Hee hee hee,” I laughed.
    “Um, listen, though...”
    Da da dum...I heard the ominous drum beats of doom begin. What the Ph-uX? I heard him clear his throat on his message. “I really like you and want to see you, but it will be awkward right now so we need to be careful.”
    Hm. Awkward? How? And for whom? I thought we were in love. What happened last night just doesn’t happen to everybody. OK, ass. How ya gonna get out of this one?
    “Let’s just take it slow, and keep this between us, OK?” He said. I guess I could see his point. La-ura was our boss and it could get ugly. One of us could even be fired and it didn’t take a genius to realize that I wasn’t the one playing hide-the-sausage with La-ura, or the one she’d miss most...if at all.
    “I have some plans that I can’t get out of this weekend, but we’ll definitely talk this week.” Long pause. Then he hung up.
    I do not know how I made it through the weekend. It certainly wasn’t by coming up with any new slogans for Rapunzel. Susie came over on Sunday and I made her listen to Dino’s message fourteen times.
    She blew out a breath. “You know, MaryBeth. He almost had me, until the part about ‘we’ll definitely talk this week.’ Why the word ‘definitely’? Why hasn’t he called back and talked to you in person. And, finally, he never said his name, or La-ura’s name, so you can’t even blackmail him.”
    “I don’t want to blackmail him!” I said. “I just want to be with him. Limbo sucks. This not knowing. Does he like me? Is he going to break it off with La-ura? He does have to worry about his career, you know.”
    “Just seems like he could be a little more gallant about it all,” Susie said.
    “I’m not giving up yet. Who knows what Dino could do next?” I said.

Stay tuned for part three...