Something's Up

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Peyton is Brie's first client of the day, which is like the cherry on top of an already delicious hot fudge sundae of a morning. She spent the night at Danny's, and this morning he made love to her just as sweet and slow as the night before. And when he walked her to her car, he told her to drive safely. As in, don't die so we can get married and make babies and teach brown-skinned children in Ecuador and Africa how to care for the Earth.

Brie walks into the Evaluation Room with Peyton, looking at a picture on her phone of Bruce's young mistress posing in a bikini by a swimming pool. "Look at those boobs."

Peyton flares her nostrils. "Those breasts have never nourished life."

Brie glances at Peyton's surgically reconstructed breasts. "You sure it's her?"

"Oh yeah, I figured out where he stores his deleted sext messages." Peyton sips her lemon collard spritzer. "So I go into the office, and this tartlet starts her thing where she's complimenting me up and down, and then she launches into this whole bit about how Bruce never stops talking about me." Peyton laughs. "So I turn to Bruce and say, 'Honey, we should have Carly over for dinner!'" Peyton raises her collard spritzer. "And he turns about as green as my juice here." Peyton is buckled over with laughter. "Wednesday night is going to be amazing. I think I'll microwave frozen bean burritos."

Brie leans against the counter. "You're my favorite sadist."

"And the best thing," Peyton adds, "is that I'll know instantly if this kiddo was in my house while the kids and I were in New York because JouJou's bark is different when she's met someone before."

Brie hops up on the counter. "This kiddo is fucking your husband. Aren't you jealous? Don't you hate her?"

Peyton swipes the air. "Hate? I can't hate her. She's a kid. She's half my age. I feel sorry for her, actually. She's obviously suffering from low self-esteem if she's sleeping with Bruce. She's either doing it for career advancement, which means she doesn't believe in herself, or she has daddy issues and is seeking out paternal love the only way she can at this point, with her cute little vagina. No no," Peyton says. "Women choose to hate the mistress, but it's the husband who promised to be faithful in front of three hundred people at the Ritz Carlton fourteen years ago who's to blame. But," Peyton polishes off her spritzer and shakes the ice. "Bruce is lucky to be married to a modern woman, who understands there's only one letter difference between monogamy and monotony."

Brie squints. "Three letters difference."

"Whatever," Peyton says. "Okay, what're we doing? I've got an appointment back at the house at eleven."

Brie smirks at her friend. "Espresso machine on the fritz?"

"Damn thing," Peyton laughs. "You know what's funny? The minute I found out Bruce was cheating, the sex with Wade got super interesting." She leans back and sighs. "What about you? How goes the Fucket List?"

Brie dims the overhead lights and spotlights herself with the examination lamp. "There's a chance I'm falling hard for number six."

"The woman?"

Brie shakes her head deliciously. "The stranger."

"Didn't your mother ever tell you to beware of strangers?"

Brie shines the light on Peyton and runs a finger down her laugh lines to see how her Juvederm is holding up. "Yes, and she also told me that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile." She taps Peyton's face. "You need more," she says. "If you add one syringe now, you won't need two in a month."

"Okay, fine. And I want a B-12 shot. So how old is this guy?"

Brie is pleased to announce that he is forty.

"Is he divorced?"

Brie scowls. "No he's not divorced."

"Stop that," Peyton says, pressing the furrow between Brie's eyes flat. "I'm just saying, forty and single, what gives?"

Brie flicks the B-12 shot to settle the bubbles and sticks Peyton in the arm. "Why is it that women waiting to get married is a sign of progress but men waiting means there's something wrong?"

Peyton rubs her arm. "Because single women are like sharks in a feeding frenzy by the time they get to our age, and the male species requires the care of females at every stage of life. Don't give me the stink eye. I'm just hypothesizing that you might be overlooking something? Does he have any skeletons in his closet?"

Brie grins. "I'm signing you up for our new heated saltwater yoga class. Space is limited, and the salt is from the Dead Sea. Classes are sixty each and I'm putting you down for twelve. Wait until you see what happens."

"Okay, fine," Peyton shrugs. "But what's going to happen?"

"Good things," Brie beams. "I can feel it."

***

Brie taps on Marian's office door a few times before entering. The lights are off, and Marian is sitting behind her desk with her eyes closed. Her chest rises in shallow breaths. "Come in, close the door," she says, her voice ragged.

Brie sits across from Marian and waits for her to open her eyes. Her skin looks gray, the lines around her mouth carved deep. Her hair is pulled back into an oily bun. Marian sucks a stream of air through her nose and sits up straight. "Oh it's you," she says, her eyes finally open. They are red-rimmed and dull. She closes them again. "I'm waiting for someone to come do my makeup."

For the first time ever, Marian looks old. "What do you want?" she snarls.

"My commission check."

Marian grips her desk, white-knuckled. "Money money money. That's all anyone ever fucking wants from me! What about How are you? What about Are you okay? Strength is like a solitary confinement. No one can ever care for you again."

Brie is quiet.

"I can give you half tomorrow and half in a week or so," Marian says as she remote controls the lights on. "Can you work with that?"

It seems Dita's comment about Marian not being able to pay Brie's commission did not come out of nowhere. "Marian," Brie says. "What's going on?"

Marian laughs in spite and resignation. "I tell you that I've been stolen from and you're confused why there's no money to pay you? What are you, a dummy?" Marian rolls her shoulders with aggression. "But it's not that I can't pay you. It's that you have yet to prove to me that you are on my side. I'm starting to wonder if I can trust you to help me." Marian looks at Brie, dead-eyed. "Can I trust you?"

Brie holds Marian's stare, trying to decide what she means. "I'm going to Dita's tonight," she says. "I'll let you know what I find out."

Marian taps a key on her laptop and her face glows green. "Good. Like I said, I want every single file from her computer. Don't talk to her about anything. She'll just lie to you, like she's been lying to me all along."

Brie frowns. "What has she been lying to you about?"

Marian sighs like she's suffering a fool. "Just transfer her files onto that handy dandy flash drive I gave you and stop asking questions."

Brie's heart is calm. "And what if I don't?"

Marian closes her laptop. "Then pack your shit and go."

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