A normal life
Alice scrutinized her crow’s feet in the mirror, squinting and making her eyes as wide as she could. She pulled her temples back, posed, and puckered her lips to check for things like new signs of damage, or possibly a reduction of lines from the array of creams and natural remedies she tried. She angled her face side to side in the huge double mirror. She brushed on mascara, concealed the purple tired eyes and dabbed on tinted lip gloss. Not a lot of make-up, just the basics, enough to enhance or hide what she already had and enough to look a little less, forty.
Her husband was downstairs, loudly preparing his smoothie She took one final look over her face “OK” she whispered
She had been married to John for 16 years, together as a couple entirely, 19. They met when Alice was 21, bar tending nights to pay for college, and he was on a Baseball outing with a busload of his friends, a die hard Cubs fan, clean shaven with blue green eyes, ashy blonde hair and a wide perfect toothy smile.
They had flirted, and chatted most of the night in between her serving and clearing, and when his friends left in the early hours of the morning, he stayed. From that day on, they were inseparable. They called it love at first sight, that kind of connection that eventually drags you down the aisle.
They moved in together after only 4 months, then engaged after 9 months and on their two year anniversary from the day they met at that Wrigley Field bar, they had their wedding day. She wore a tight strapless lace dress, and he wore a dark navy tuxedo. They said their vows in front of a small group of around 50, promising they would always be together, no matter what.
3 years later and 2 IVF rounds they finally became pregnant,. Staci and Abbi, their precious twin girls were born to the lovers. After many years building on his career, with late nights, holiday sacrifices and saving they were able to build their dream house on the North Shore of Chicago, a huge 5 bedroom 4 bathroom 4000 square foot open living Americana home, lush gardens, monstrous kitchen and all the trimmings.
“How many dogs you got today?” John asked drinking down his green smoothie
Alice headed for the sink and packed the dishwasher, “6, I think”
“Hey Girls!” he upped the tempo, his precious twin girls dragged themselves to the breakfast bar and plonked onto the stools either side of him.
“Morning” The girls yawned, not so spritely. Abbi added “dad you need a quieter blender”
“yeah, it wakes us up” Staci yawned
“good, you need an alarm” he retorted
“we have phones dad, they have alarms!” Staci exclaimed
“I have the trip to the Expo next week, leaving Thursday and coming back Saturday” Alice reminded John as the thought popped in her head.
“Vegas baby, you and Kat. Is Bea going too?”
“Yes” Alice grinned
John liked Bea, Kat’s mother. She was a feisty woman who had been like a mother to Alice, too. John and Bea would banter back and forth, they were comical to watch, like a sitcom. The woman was a smartass with a heart of gold and looked like a fat happy little garden gnome - with bright red lipstick. Kat was Alice’s best friend, inseparable since they were 8.
“Should be interesting”
“I know” she said
Each year a pet industry Expo was held in Vegas, she hadn’t been before but had always wanted to go. She owned a pet boutique with a grooming salon, and ordered most of her stock online. This year, now the kids were older she had planned the getaway with Kat, and yes it was for the shop, but the way things have been around the house, she wasn’t opposed to some Vegas fun, a break from her repetitive and unexciting days.
Her phone beeped on the counter, Kat texted almost as if she could hear Alice’s thoughts
Kat- Let’s go shopping for a Vegas wardrobe
“Speak of the devil” Alice announced to John
Kat- What time you finish work today
A- Around 4
Kat- bring girls, I’ll be waiting!
The girls were leaning over their cereal chewing, still barely awake and cranky, their dark brown hair falling over their identical faces, and she announced.
“Girls” she said “looks like we’re going shopping tonight, with Aunt Kat”
Once they comprehended, they drew in a sharp breath and squealed to each other stomping their feet under the table, suddenly filled with energy and vigor, much to their dad’s defeat between them
“Alright settle down” Their dad arose from the middle, his precious girls had become too high pitched for the morning.
“Be ready when I get home. Gotta go” she squeezed the girls in tight and squealed with them, gathered her keys phone and purse and called back “Bye”
Her first grooming client today was little Muffy, a mean ugly toy teacup poodle she hated, unknown to Mrs. Steinman, her equally feisty owner.
She drove the Escalade down her quiet suburban street, so perfect and manicured. Every house was grand, with expensive cars in front of their white houses being taken care of by gardeners, painters and house staff. She had help too, once a week she had someone come in and do a nice deep clean, and every other week her garden was maintained.
The salon was only 15 minutes from home, ‘Fur Divas’ hung with copper writing, on a sage-washed wood sign over the door.
She parked around the back, said ‘hi’ to her shop neighbor and went into the stylish store. She sat down at her desk in her office in the back and sorted out the lists for the day. Lee would be in any moment with their Latte’s, Donuts and some juicy gossip from his never ending romps in Boystown.
“Morning” Lee said from the front of the store 15 minutes later
“Morning” she sung back “lights”
“That little shit Muffin or Muffy is coming in first isn’t it” he said as he walked through the racks of designer doggy gear straightening a few things with his free hand balancing keys, coffees, and his phone with the other.
“yup” she nodded
He passed her coffee and put a small box of little pastries down.
“Love those Jeans. Only seen them a million times”
Alice looked down at her bootleg blue jeans. They were a little worn but fit so good. They may have been outdated
“These jeans are classics and I’m not wearing good stuff here, it gets ruined”
Lee was 27, black hair blue eyes chiseled face, full pouty lips and gleaming straight teeth, a dimpled chin to just add the cherry on top - and the women loved him. Most of them didn’t guess he was gay, just thought he was a typical yuppy north shore guy. He used those looks, able to sell anything which done him well with bonuses every month. Alice made him store manager a year ago, his skills undeniable and the raise well earned. He and Alice were close, he knew more about her than Kat did and she would have been his perfect mate, if it weren’t for her vagina.
“You look nice everywhere else though” he said
“I’m going shopping with Kat tonight”
“How come you didn’t ask me to come?”
“You want to come?”
“Ok then” She smiled at him
“Speaking of coming...” The door bells jingled and Lee stopped himself, “I’ll tell you later”
He switched on his charm “Hello! Is it time for your Spa day Muffin?” He tried, as Alice chuckled sipping her latte
“Muffy” Mrs. Steinman sternly corrected him, unimpressed almost insulted he didn’t know her name
“Right, Muffy” He followed her to the back of the store to the salon where Alice stood encased in glass room with one grooming table, a porcelain tub, dryers, a chest of drawers, a radio and counters full of grooming tools, shears, clippers, all painted in a sage green with a copper accent wall.
Alice politely discussed a growling Muffy’s style, Mrs. Steinman gruffly explaining the dislikes and don’t do’s for her darling, again. Alice would have loved to tell her to fuck off but she paid top dollar, tipped very well and was there every 2 weeks, and spent a small fortune on dog couture. It was worth the grief. When Mrs. Steinman was done talking at her and advised of her return time Alice exhaled as the door closed.
“Cunt” Lee called through the window after Mrs Steinman, who was crossing the street to the beauty salon where she got her pedicures at the same time as Muffy’s grooms.
Alice looked at Muffy, who was shivering with wide eyes glaring back at her, and returned the look.
Later on they sat down for lunch, Burritos from the organic Mexican place around the corner. Alice opened it up and ate the insides. Lee watched her pick at it, eating around the tortilla, checking each piece of chicken making sure it was all white meat, no skin or rubbery bones or ligament pieces. The food was good there, but sometimes the chicken, well wasn’t the best of cuts.
“So tell me about the guy” Alice remembered Lee had a story he didn’t get to finish, and always enjoyed listening to Lee’s shenanigans.
“Oh yeah, so I was at the place I went to last week, where the model from New York was?”
“Yeah yeah” Alice chewed
“Well he was back”
“I know. He stayed on for another week hoping to run into me again”
“Aww that’s so sweet” she mumbled through a full mouth
“I know. Well turns out he lost my number and I never called him because he didn’t text me but he did leave yesterday but he’s coming back next week for another shoot. I have to show you his Facebook”
“Yes you do” She nodded
Lee got out his phone and squatted next to her. The photos showed a gorgeous muscled twenty something, adorning only jeans hanging from his obliques, right above the pubic line
Lee’s cologne was distracting, she felt like she wanted to put her face to his neck and draw in the woodsy pheromone. “You smell good”
“Yes, I always do” He cocked an eyebrow at her “are you alright?”
She blinked “He’s gorgeous” she addressed the Facebook pics
“I know” he gazed at the pic “so can I really come shopping?” he asked again.
“Of course. Just remember, Kat” she warned
“I know” He reminded himself of the many occasions Kat’s obnoxious groping and sexual innuendos were relentless.
“I can’t control her. If you offered, i think she would actually sleep with you”
“If I was going to bat for the other side let me tell you, Kat would not be the one to change me” he winked at Alice
The shops bells rang, her second last for the day.
“Hi” Lee greeted a woman and her Cockapoo.