It's still Kim Green week at Jordan's Muse. Today we bring you an excerpt from her published novel Paging Aphrodite. In Kim's own words: "this is a scene where two women, 40-something australian mom Claire and 30-something type-A interior designer Parker, meet in a Greek taverna for the first time and compare sob stories."
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From Paging Aphrodite...
I realized Tony was fidgeting in the plastic seat. Over his shoulder, I saw the Australian, whose name was apparently Claire, slide into her regular spot. We smiled at each other. On impulse, I beckoned her over.
“I think they’re ready for you, Tony. You better go over before they decide your ruthless good looks are out of their league.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I only put up with you because you are good customer.” He turned to Claire. “Nice to see you, beautiful. Free dolmas for my two favorite ladies!” he announced, and lurched off toward the statuesque blondes.
“He’s a piece of work, that Tony,” Claire said. “I think he’s had a different woman in his lair every night I’ve been in, which is every night.”
“I don’t know how he does it, but he could bottle it and sell it,” I said. We sat silently for a moment, listening to the island’s dusk settle around us. During the day, the sun baked the scrubby wildflowers and shrubs, leaving behind a confectionery tartness in the air.
“I’m Parker Glass. I felt sort of silly not introducing myself, seeing you night after night.”
“And I’m Claire,” she said in a cheerful Aussie accent. “On holiday with your friend?”
“Yes,” I said automatically.
An image of the Neil nestled in a foxhole with his face pressed between the Belgian’s breasts popped into my mind. The tiny bubble of hope I’d been cultivating swelled and burst in my heart.
“I mean, no, no I’m not,” I said slowly. “Actually, my husband seems to have, um, taken off.”
The amber eyes pooled with empathy, which, strangely, did not piss me off.
“We can talk about something else,” I said hurriedly.
Claire drank deeply of her wine. “Or we can talk about this,” she said, shrugging her shoulders as if either route was okay by her. Something about this woman made the knot of muscle in my neck loosen.
“This trip was supposed to be our honeymoon. Neil—that’s my husband—told me our life wasn’t right for him anymore and joined Habitat for Humanity, I think so he could assuage his WASP guilt, which kind of fucked up the honeymoon part of honeymoon, you know? I thought things were going okay, but then I had a total meltdown in front of a client. My business partner pretty much gave me the choice of going on vacation to Greece or seeing Dr. Lobotomy every week. Since she’s also my best friend and I’m not exactly good at the therapy thing, I chose the former,” I said with a hint of pride. Damn, this wine was sour. I squeezed my eyes shut and gulped.
To my surprise, Claire laughed. “Okay, my turn. I’m Claire Dillon. I’m forty-six but I’ve been told I can pass for thirty. Sadly, all the people who said that are legally blind.”
“Here’s to the legally blind!” We raised our glasses and clinked them together.
Claire continued. “My husband Gary cheated on me. His girlfriend’s got three kids by three different fathers and pronounces cabernet ‘cabernette’ and gives massages for a living. I swear, I’m not usually such a snob, but it’s just so, I don’t know, so perfectly awful. It’s not like it would be better if she was an English professor or something, it’s just that I have to wonder what it is that she’s got that I…”—she held her palm upright in the air—“…Ugh, I don’t even want to go there. It was actually even worse because I used to go to her spa for the occasional shiatsu…oh, nevermind.” Claire paused and shuddered as she downed her wine. “Since we’re doing the confessional thing, I should add that my younger son is gay and his father hasn’t spoken to him for seven years and I don’t think I could have stood another year of it anyway. Now I’m just trying to find something other than these awful Sidney Sheldons to read in English and deciding if I should kick Gary out on his arse when I get home.”
“Here’s to getting out while you can!” I tried to sound as cheery as possible, under the circumstances. We clinked again.
Claire inched her chair closer and lowered her voice. “Just so you know, I was considering having an affair with this gorgeous young bloke called Sven, but then my American friend beat me to it. But I’m not ruling it out. Even if I am forty-six years old.”
I stared at the tablecloth until the red checks blurred together.
“God. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or cheer,” I said.
“How about all three?”
I refilled our glasses, spilling just a bit onto the white paper tablecloth. “I would like to say you trumped me, Claire, especially with the whole cabernette thing. But I’ve got an ace in the hole, you see. I’m afraid I’m a certifiable nut job. Diagnosed!” I cleared my throat and mimicked Dr. Lobotomy. “Control freak, with anal retentive tendencies, a tad obsessive-compulsive and possibly a small prescription drug habit.”
Claire nodded sagely. “But I haven’t even told you about my singing career, cut short in the bloom of youth by an unplanned pregnancy! It’s positively Jackie Collins!”
“Yeah, well my marriage only lasted eleven days!”
“I cut up all of Gary’s boxer shorts!”
“I deleted a message from a law firm I didn’t want Neil to work for!”
“I once sang ‘You Light Up My Life’ to a man in a convalescent home who had died ten minutes before we arrived!”
I paused. “Are you serious?”
“Well, okay, ten minutes after,” Claire admitted.
“I’m sure it was no reflection on your singing,” I said.
She sighed. “You thirsty?” Claire held up the empty bottle so it swung back and forth. The setting sun cut through it, sending green rays across her pretty, smile-lined face. Her auburn hair flamed red at the edges. I felt something tickle at the edges of my mouth and suddenly realized it was the sort of tingly joy you feel when you’ve just met someone you really, really like and who seems, miraculously, to like you in return. For a second, I almost forgot that Neil had absconded with our life, I was a failing interior decorator with an anger management problem and there were three Xanaxes bobbing around in my pocket.
“God, Claire. In this light, you look about eighteen,” I said, quite truthfully.
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