Eve spent the morning going through photos of her boys. As much as she loved them, her life had not been the one she’d desired. Her four boys were now in college and she was proud of them. But she couldn’t stop thinking how different things would have been if she’d had a daughter. Everything would have been more problematic, and yet, wonderful.
She was feeling a mix of anxiety with the news from the doctor, and her strange experience at the coffee house she’d stumbled upon the night before. She wondered, was that place real? Perhaps not, it could have been an illusion brought on by her apprehension of the pregnancy. But it had appeared genuine. The waitress, the two women. The last thought elated her. What if? She thought of the business card. She grabbed her purse, and feeling inside, touched it, held it.
There it was. Claire Winslow ~ Senator from Washington State.
It made no sense. She felt low again, and sat at the kitchen table turning the card over and over while her mind drifted to the memories of the previous night. The portal, the branches from that ancient tree growing over the door during her visit. The molasses coffee falling like a slow action flick. Her hands grabbed the side of her head, her fingers digging deep into her scalp. She looked down to see the card staring up at her. Why was there evidence telling her that the freakish dream was actually her reality?
It was early afternoon when the doorbell rang.
Eve answered the buzzer to see her good friend standing on the porch. Sandy was short, with a few extra rolls around her midriff. Her expression threw Eve for a loop, like they had plans or something.
“Well, are you going to let me in, Evie? I know I’m a little early, but I’d like to ask your opinion about this dress.” Eve was struck by her friend’s bewildered expression. “Come on, Eve. Let me in before the others get here.”
Eve pushed the door ajar to invite the woman inside, but seemed out of sorts. “Sandy, I’m sorry. Did we have plans?” Then she remembered. “My God. I totally forgot!” Looking beyond her friend, she saw the others coming up the drive. “Well, too late for idle talk, look who’s coming?”
It was their reading group, Eve didn’t have any refreshments prepared, and worse, she was wearing jeans instead of the usual show-off attire. She ushered Sandy in, and then waved for the others to join them. These women were her life line, how could she have forgotten?
“Sandy, please get the others settled in the parlor while I put together some drinks, I think I have a pâté that we can snack on.” Eve scrambled to the kitchen, in shock over her amnesia. This was the most important event of her week, a time when close friends got together to talk about their latest read.
They called themselves the Scarsborough Ladies. They lived in a posh neighborhood called Scarsborough Meadows, a gated community full of beautiful homes. The households were situated around a small man-made lake, and a serene golf course intended for use by only the privileged. The groomed yards in the neighborhood matched the lush greens of the course, manicured perfectly with a shit load of fertilizer and installed by a professional who used a special subsurface drainage system that lowered the water table in the green. The result rendered a superior turf growth.
The vegetation throughout the community was organized with a combination of imported hybrids, some of which needed an underground heating system to grow in the cooler climate, and award-winning roses of all colors whose smells infused the air with subtle pleasing aromas. Banana trees had been one of the imported growths, the wide leafy branches gave a flattering sight to the eye, especially when there was a slight breeze that facilitated them to swirl with the same beautiful weaving motion the American flag exhibited in a light wind.
Each home in Scarsborough Meadows was a unique creation, the work of a prestigious designer who entertained the use of pillars, large-paned windows of all shapes, but rarely squared, and high ceilings. He’d used tall doors that towered in height over the usual design as one of his signatures, that and the unusual rooftops that defied the normal shapes found on most homes. Eve’s roof was made from tiled sheets of glass, giving an open feel to an already large space. The effect was a stunning feat in architectural design that had been featured in magazines for the entire world to admire.
These women were the lucky ones who married into the life of luxury. But each of them hated that they hadn’t been entitled to a formal education. Hence, they had formed this wonderful reading group that inspired intelligent critiquing. They had found a back door, in a sense, to educate themselves.
Their current book? Atlas Shrugged.
It didn’t take long for Eve to compile a tasteful platter of snacks along with her best crystal and fine wine. She served the women who had made themselves comfortable in her favorite room, now realizing how grateful she felt to have the company.
“Ladies, what do you think of Sandy’s outfit?” Eve knew how important it was for them to notice he friend’s weight loss. The dress was one that she was now able to squeeze into. She had a way to go, but she was getting closer to her goal.
Sandy twirled around to show off her figure, “Not bad for a woman in her forties, eh?” She frowned at their expressions, “Listen, I know I have more to lose, but at least I’m working on it. We can’t all look like Eve.” She smiled at her host, “What I wouldn’t give for those long legs and your face. That bone structure is something that a diet won’t bring me.”
“Sandy, I may have more height than you, but you are by far the cutest one in this room. Don’t you think so, ladies?” Eve grinned, “And why are we so stuck on our appearances, what about our brains? Isn’t that why we’re all here, to stimulate thinking?”
“And to drink, my friends. To spend the afternoon with this tasty potion.” Marian held up the bottle of fine wine, and with an intense gawk, she kissed her fingers to gesture her admiration of the bottle.
“Eve. When is that good looking husband of yours coming home?” Marian filled the five goblets full to the brim while she made idle conversation. They always used goblets for these occasions, using their female retreat as an excuse to go through a few bottles of wine, or so.
Eve smiled at her friend and replied, “He’s due back later this afternoon.” Her voice trailed off, thinking of the doctor’s voice from the day before. Once again, his words flashed through her mind. But she smiled, and sounding strong, asked the others, “Have any of you ever heard the name Claire Winslow?”
It was Tina who spoke while the others just nodded. “I have. But I don’t know why. Who is she?”
Eve proceeded to tell them about the unusual coffee house she’d found, and the conversation she’d overheard. She did, however, leave out the mystical happenings she’d seen. After much thought, Eve believed that she must have somehow been drugged, maybe something the doctor had given her. But that Claire lady. She had been real and Eve had her business card as proof. She looked at her friends and started to tell them about Claire. “The lady she was with called her Senator. And she…”
“Stop right there. You’re playing with us, right Eve?” Sandy eyed the others, and then a smirk slipped over her mouth. Within seconds, they were all laughing, leaving Eve’s story fragmented.
“Hey, laugh all you like, but that’s what I heard. And, get this. She supports women who need abortions.”
The laughing stopped.
An uncomfortable quietness permeated the air before Tina bravely broke the silence. “Eve, you know it’s forbidden to talk about such things.” She looked around the room, then scribbled some words down in her notebook. Holding it up, she put her finger up to her lips to silence the women. Her words said simply, IS IT SAFE TO TALK IN THIS ROOM?
The phone rang so Eve excused herself, leaving the others in a confused state.
“Hello.” Eve felt tightness inside her stomach.
The friendly voice on the other end of the line didn’t help the nausea that was threatening her with a swift trip to the bathroom. “Honey, we’re having company tonight. I should be back by 5pm. Peter and Heather will arrive about seven. Would you make that French chicken dish? I know it’s a real crowd pleaser.” Jonathan was Eve’s husband. He was a founding partner of Fremont Hart Capital LLC, and Fremont Hart Capital Management. He’d found fame by appearing on news shows throughout the past few years. He was a media star, an important name, and he and his friend Peter were co-writing a book that already had the movie rights bought. Eve should have been thrilled to be married to such an important man.
And his partner, the mere mention of Peter’s name made her ill.
She struggled to finish the conversation, “Sure, Jonathan. I’ll see you later.” She hung up and ran to the bathroom to throw up.
Jonathan put the receiver down and turned to the woman lying next to him. He kissed her and fondled her breasts. No words were needed as he began caressing her, making her hot once again. He would devour her just one more time before his next appointment.
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