Black. Nothing but black. Carla had opened one eye slowly, tentatively, fearing the light of the afternoon sun as it hit her hung-over head. But she needn't have worried. She could see nothing but an endless black abyss. Panicking, she sat bolt upright and opened the other eye. Ah, that was better. Sort of. Reaching up to touch her face, she discovered that one of the extra-long false eyelashes she had so artfully applied the night before had glued itself to the top of her cheek, completely occluding the vision in her left eye. Hence, the blackness. With the precise, dexterous movement of one who had performed the action many a time, Carla grabbed the ragged eyelash delicately between her thumb and index finger and gave it a swift tug. A layer of sticky, black, hairy goo came off on her fingers and Carla could see again.
She rubbed both eyes, smearing the heavy application of eyeliner and mascara even more thoroughly over her face, and ran a hand through her long, blonde, sex-and-sleep-tousled hair. Another night, another man. Another morning waking up in a strange bedroom, in a cold, empty bed that held a shadow of the previous night's passion. She couldn't remember very much about her latest lover, but that didn't really matter. They were all the same, these men Carla dated. Or maybe “dated” was the wrong word. “Got together with” was probably more accurate. She would meet them at trendy bars, cool club openings, and hot new eateries. They were savvy young lawyers, hell-bent on making firm partner before they hit thirty, adrenaline-pumped stock brokers who slept with their smart phones tucked under their pillows, entrepreneurs who spent twenty hours a day being married to their companies and the final four in bed with a willing mistress. They were smart, sexy, and powerful. And each night, they found Carla irresistible.
But with the first rays of morning light, Carla always found herself in bed alone. Unlike her “dates,” who had to get up early in preparation for another day in the fast lane, she had no reason to pry open her eyes, drag herself into a hot shower, and knock back two double espressos in an attempt to ready herself for the workday. She could take her time, yawn and stretch slowly, leisurely, and roll out of bed sometime around noon. She had no job to hurry off to, no responsibilities to tie her down. Carla was an heiress. And what was more, she was an heiress in the worst possible sense. She was not the type to host glamorous fundraisers to benefit the needy, or to sit on committees for the Preservation of Important Things. Carla Dupree was your stereotypical, run-of-the-mill, do nothing, lazy bum of an heiress. Her life consisted of sleeping all day, partying all night, and shopping for gorgeous, outrageously expensive clothing in her spare time – and she loved every minute of it.
Carla got out of bed, eventually, and began retrieving her clothes from various spots around the luxurious apartment, where they had been ripped off and strewn in a frenetic fit of foreplay. She took her time showering, then lingered in the bathroom to have a good look in the cabinets. You could tell a lot about a man from his toiletries, Carla had discovered. They gave away much more information than she had ever managed to get from a few hours of sharing a drink and a bed together. Gavin Sawyer apparently had a penchant for brightly packaged, heavily scented products that screamed “Macho Man” at anyone who came within a foot of them. Placed very neatly next to these grooming aides was a large bottle of Prozac. Carla wasn't surprised. It was pretty rare to find a person in New York City who wasn't on some sort of get-happy pill.
Pulling on her black skinny jeans and translucent turquoise top, which displayed the barest whisper of the black silk bra beneath it, Carla looked around for her purse. With a groan of annoyance, she realized that it was nowhere immediately noticeable. She had probably flung it somewhere during last night's surge of lust, when Gavin had grabbed her and begun exploring her body with his eager hands, lips, and tongue. Getting down on the floor, Carla searched under the coffee table, between the cushions in the couch, and in the wastepaper basket, having learned from experience that her belongings were most likely to turn up in the least likely of places.
In the far corner of the room, under Gavin's ornate, mahogany drinks cabinet, Carla spotted a small, dark lump. She crawled closer to it, cautiously, wanting to make sure that it was indeed a fashion accessory, and not one of Manhattan's famous furry foes. After careful inspection, Carla grabbed it, fairly confident that even the most fashion-conscious of mice didn't sport pink satin fringes. Not this season, anyway. She rummaged through the purse, pulling out a tube of hot pink lipstick, a fat wad of cash, and a crumpled receipt for an eight hundred dollar bra from Bergdorf Goodman's until she found what she wanted: her cigarettes. A moment later, she unearthed the lighter and transported herself to a nicotine-fueled nirvana.
As the noxious gray fumes filled the air, Carla toyed with the other items that had been in her purse. She twisted open the lipstick, noting that she'd have to swing by the Laura Mercier shop soon and pick up another; she flicked the crumpled receipt with her thumb and forefinger, curious to see how far she could make it fly. Before unfolding the wad of money, however, Carla hesitated. Cash was something that had never interested her. With the vast amount of credit and debit cards that were available, she simply didn't see the point of it. It was only when she went clubbing, when she was gyrating her way across the dance floor, that she used it. Nobody wants to worry about her cards getting stolen when she's busy busting a move.
Somewhat curious to see how much she had left after a night of reckless revelry, Carla unrolled the wad of bills. She counted out four fifties, seven twenties, and a single dollar bill, then stared at them with disinterest. Realizing that she had no idea how much cash she had taken to the club with her, she had no way of knowing how much she had spent there. Not that it mattered, anyway. Stuffing the larger bills back into her purse, Carla's gaze lingered on the single for a moment. It seemed so insignificant to her, so strange. What was the point of a simple, single buck? Dollars were like people; when there were a million of them, they radiated awe-inspiring intrigue and omnipotence, whereas a single one, alone, was dull and practically worthless. Such had been the case with all the single ones that Carla had met, anyway. Briefly, she considered holding the tip of her cigarette to the dollar, setting it alight, simply to prove its uselessness. But instead, for no real reason other than that it seemed the saner thing to do, she shoved it into one of the heavily padded cups of her amazingly effective push-up bra from Bergdorf's. Somehow, Carla promised herself, she would ensure that this dollar would be different. This single, solitary buck, of all the millions in her possession, would be the only one to be worthwhile. She needed a way to make it stand out from the crowd, to signify that it was special. Glancing hastily around the immaculate apartment, she spotted a pen on the coffee table and snatched it. Retrieving the dollar from its hiding place, Carla drew a large heart – a symbol of love – directly around Washington's head. She sat on the floor, admiring her work for several moments before shoving the buck back into her bra. Then, grabbing her purse, she stood up and sauntered through the front door without a backward glance.
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