Before attending their monthly tea meeting, Lupe considers if she should tell her friends Ramona and Felicia about a disagreeable incident – Carmen has vanished after stealing a dress from her shop. Lupe feels betrayed and embarrassed about the whole thing. Later, Lupe and Ramona feel a bit jealous of Felicia’s love life and her relationship with a young and handsome man. But is all that glitters gold?
Felicia studied herself in the bathroom full-length mirror. For the monthly tea meeting, she had chosen white pants, a tight Balenciaga top, a Louis Vuitton bag that she had bought (vintage, but still) at Buffalo Exchange, and sensible pumps. The high heels she had worn the last time had been a mistake, leaving her with ankle pains for a week.
“After 40 we don’t dress up to impress men, but other women,” she had read in a Cosmo (or was it Elle) article? Men simply stopped paying attention after a certain age. Women still cared, even if just to criticize. Your friends wouldn’t fail to notice if, say, you got highlights the day before.
She remembered Lupe’s comments about El Viejo not “getting at it” after so many years of marriage. Felicia smiled, though she didn’t feel like it. The fact that El Viejo was a 59-year-old chunky professor sort of justified it, but what excuse could a younger, fit guy like Papacito offer for his recent apathy? She glared at a race car poster that graced the opposite wall. Papacito could be so immature at times.
She came out of the bathroom and glanced sadly at the copy of “How to Spice up your Love Life,” half hidden under a cashmere sweater on her dressing table. She would have cut her tongue out rather than admit the truth, but Papacito had paid little, if any, attention to the volume. Or to the “Kama Sutra” (she had also bought it), which he kept calling “Karma Suta.” Felicia remembered that lack of passion had marred her previous relationship with a bearded, older, beer-gutted accountant. Maybe it was all her fault. Why couldn’t she find a hardworking, serious, dependable, honest and passionate man? Was she asking for too much?
Papacito had turned out to be nothing like what she had expected. But at least he had found a job, a part-time position at his beloved Gold Gym, working at the front desk Thursdays and Fridays. Being a Wednesday, he was comfortably ensconced in front of the TV, watching ESPN, a beer in one hand and the remote in the other. He didn’t look at Felicia’s newly highlighted bob when she passed by his side, grabbed the phone from the counter and threw it inside her purse. But the clicking noise of the door lock made him suddenly come alive.
“Chao, sweetie,” he said, blowing a kiss at her. “Have a great time with the girls.”
He had called her “sweetie” and her friends “girls.” The pendulum of her mind started to swing in the opposite direction. He wasn’t half as bad as she feared sometimes, or as Ramona and Lupe suspected. He was not, she repeated, trying to convince herself.
The November menu had been prepared with the Thanksgiving theme in mind. The sandwiches had a spread of cucumber and cream cheese. The black jasmine tea was just right for the cold weather – strong and invigorating. The Digory’s Apple scones, a recently introduced item, were perfect to accompany it.
“I prefer the traditional scones,” Lupe said. “With lemon curd and clotted cream, of course.”
Ramona, still worried about her weight, offered Lupe one of her scones. Felicia couldn’t bring herself to do the same. Besides, that would make Lupe fat. Fatter. If she were going to renounce one of the pastries, she would take it to Papacito.
That day they didn’t talk about Carmen or how-to books. The conversation was focused on Ramona, who was getting bored with her retiree status.
“Too much free time,” she said. “I need something fun to do. Maybe having my own business, like Lupe.”
Suggestions flew around the room, filling the air with entrepreneurial dreams. Ramona wasn’t ready to open a brick and mortar shop because that would be too much commitment, but she didn’t want to work for others either.
“Freelancing is a happy medium,” Felicia told her. “You are your own boss and set your own hours. And you can give yourself a raise any time you want to … or can afford it.”
Her own raises had consisted of rewarding herself by buying something outrageously priced like the aforementioned Louis Vuitton bag. But since Papacito had been added to the household, Felicia hadn’t had the chance to get any kind of luxury items. She didn’t share this piece of information, though.
“I thought of a consulting business to help people with budget management,” Ramona said. “The same kind of work I used to do for the school district, but on a smaller scale.”
It was then when Felicia’s phone rang. She didn’t answer it. In fact, by one of her own bylaws, it should have been turned off, but she had forgotten. She simply ignored it.
She didn’t know it then, but that phone call would change the course of the evening and, eventually, of her relationship with Papacito.
You can find this story in Spanish here.