Brie and Terryn sit in a chocolate leather booth at The Misfit knocking back Jumping Jack Flashes and chomping on lobster nik niks, gabbing about everything and nothing. Terryn is one of those highly educated women who doesn't feel the need to rub your nose in it. Columbia undergrad, a year abroad at Cambridge, Stanford Law (called it), but she assumes no superior position when Brie reveals her own schooling: Long Beach State, Academy of Beauty.
But culturally, Terryn is an alien.
"You like Royal Blood?"
"How about Jhené Aiko?"
"Music" Brie says, popping a nik nik. "What music are you listening to these days?"
Terryn scrunches her nose and says, "Pearl Jam?"
But then she launches with eloquence into the topic of women in the workplace. While Brie is swaying her hips, half wasted at the El Rey, Terryn sits red-rimmed in her office after hours eating soggy salmon salad, fighting wrongful termination lawsuits for pregnant women. The robot is a do-gooder. The robot has a purpose. No wonder Danny loves her. Just like him, she devotes her days to protecting the defenseless. How could Brie ever have thought he could take someone seriously who spends her days upselling women on the latest anti-wrinkle treatment?
Brie sits in silent self-loathing as Terryn explains unconscious bias in the workplace. "At my firm, the female associates who are mothers are routinely passed up for partner for less qualified men who have kids. If you're a mother, the perception at work is that you're not committed, even if you're putting in more hours than the guys. And when you have to leave early to go pick up your kid, they say you don't take your job seriously. But if a man leaves early to go coach little league, he's the best dad in the world. That's unconscious bias, and it's rampant, and it's bullshit. I can't wait until all these old men die off. Just watch, in twenty years there's going to be a massive power shift. Do you know that boys today have 30% of their grandfather's sperm count? Harvard scientists say it's the plastics in the water. Just think of what that means for the world. Testosterone is essentially the driving force of global conflict—war, crime, rape, religious fury, even capitalism—take those things down a few notches all across the world and we've got a much more manageable situation."
Brie finishes her cocktail. "Wowzers."
"Sorry," Terryn says, flagging the waiter. "I get all excited. You know what? I love happy hour!" She orders them another round. "And all this means," she continues, "is that someday soon women won't be demonized for their sexuality. Actually, a friend of a friend of a friend made this thing called a fucket list. She's crossing all her sexual fantasies off her list before she gets married. Isn't that so liberated and smart?"
This serves to buoy Brie's self-esteem. It doesn't seem like she heard it from Danny. "Genius!" she says, raising her drink. "So what would be on your list?"
Terryn takes a big slurp of her cocktail. "Uhh, double penetration, the rubber suit... hanging off a balcony ten stories up, fearing for my life, while someone pounds me from behi—"
"Hey," a voice says, and the two women look up.
"Hey!" Terryn says, sliding over so Danny can slip into the booth beside her.
They both seem stunned to be sitting across from each other.
"Nice to see you," he says.
Terryn is waving down the waiter. "We're doing happy hour. It's fun."
Danny tries to get Brie to look at him while Terryn orders him a beer. "Sorry," he says, dipping his head down to make eye contact. "Hope I'm not intruding. I didn't know you were coming."
Brie looks away, her heart pounding, beads of sweat on her lip.
Terryn nudges Danny's shoulder with hers. "I invited Justin. I have this evil plan to set them up. Don't you think they'd be great?"
Danny makes a face. "No. Is that why he's texting me for a ride?"
"Oh he is?" Terryn says. "No no, you just got here. I'll go. It'll take me twenty minutes." Terryn looks at Brie a little wickedly. "You don't mind, do you?"
Brie's cheeks flush. She looks at Danny.
"Didn't think so," Terryn smiles, raking his hair with her fingers. "He's just so fucking handsome."
Danny stabs Terryn with a look, but she's already scooting him out of the booth and skittering off to the door. Through the windows, Brie watches Terryn pull a tube of lip gloss from her purse and begin to paint it on as she disappears beyond the storefront. She turns to Danny.
"I'm glad to see you," he says, reaching out to her. "How are you?"
She leans back. "Not great. Would've been nice for you to mention that you're engaged."
He sighs wearily. "I didn't know she was coming to see you. I tried to tell her last night that I met someone, and Terryn being Terryn, she took it and ran with it, pretending to misunderstand so she could get a look at you."
Brie sinks back into her seat. "She knows?"
"Yeah, she knows, but she's pretending not to. This is how she is. Look, our situation is complicated. Terryn just made partner at my mother's law firm and she's the General Counsel of my company. We're heavily involved in each other's lives, but there's no romance left, it's strictly business. She seems to be fine with the arrangement, but I'm not." He reaches for her hand. "Meeting you helped me realize that."
Brie sits there on the edge of her seat, looking down at his hand on hers. "To hear her talk there's plenty of romance left."
Brie is full of self-loathing of the most despicable kind. She seduced him two days ago and now she thinks he owes her something? What did she think, that someone like him has no romantic attachments?
The skin outside his eyes crinkles. "Don't listen to her, listen to—"
"Dude, Danny!" says a voice, and a meaty hand inserts itself in the space between Brie and Danny.
Danny follows the trail up the arm to his face. "Mike, how's it going?"
Mike launches into an oratory about his Google stock and the app he's developing and how he just got engaged to that chick he brought to that party at Terryn's house and how are you doing and where's Terryn?
"She's coming," Danny says. "This is our friend, Brie."
Brie gives Mike a curt smile.
"Dude I'm gonna go grab a drink and come join you. Cool?" Mike says, not lingering for the response.
Brie watches the guy's loafers scuff their way to the bar. She looks up at Danny. "I'm not your friend, and I'm not a secret."
Danny finds her knee beneath the table. "I'm not asking you to be."
Brie looks over at Mike, who is shooting the shit with the bartender ten feet away. "Then kiss me."
Danny runs his fingers through his hair, glancing at the bar.
"That's what I thought," she says, standing up. She takes two twenties from her wallet and tosses them onto the table. "Turns out I'm not into threesomes."
YOU ARE READING
Brie Baggio thinks she's ready... for marriage, kids, the whole shebang. She's pushing forty, and even though she's the Senior Anti-Aging Ambassador at Los Angeles's hottest med spa, Botox can't paralyze that nagging feeling that it's now or never...