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Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
"No more of this shit," Brooke told Delia at the campus diner where she, Brooke, and MJ went for a coffee break every day. "I can't stand seeing you like this. He's not worth it! He was a pig, he treated you like swill. And he did it because he could. Do you hear me? Because he could. Because you let him."
But, Delia thought, Brooke just didn't understand. She had everything: confidence, looks, grades, money. Delia had nothing, she came from nothing, and her mother had told her she'd never have anything. She'd never find a man, never get married, never be anything.
But she had -- she'd gotten into college, she'd found friends, and she'd found Frank. But now Frank was gone and she had nothing, just like her mother had said. And in the end, just like she always feared, she was still alone.
She was terrified of being alone.
"I can't," she moaned. "I want him back, I need him, I'm lost without him."
"You're lost, period," Brooke retorted impatiently.
But Delia didn't want to believe she was lost. She had just lost something -- the man she loved. Who wasn't so bad. Really.
Brooke looked at MJ, who shrugged. For the past month, Delia had been mourning this impossible and destructive relationship, and they'd been trying to talk sense into her.
Brooke looked out the diner window that fronted the main street in town. It was a cute town, with lots of old brick buildings holding quaint shops, a nice college town if you wanted to be far away from everywhere -- which maybe wasn't a good thing to be. The place was insular, the school population was too small, and you couldn't hide from your professors, your responsibilities, or your lovers when they didn't call.
This was the lesson that Delia had yet to learn, Brooke thought: You couldn't get so involved at this stage of the game. There was no point to ever getting involved, really. Involvement led to pain. You lost control. You lost self-respect. You lost yourself.
Better just to have sex wherever you could find it. Then you were in control. No one could hurt you; you inflicted any pain.
So much more satisfying...
Brooke twirled the spoon in her cold coffee, feeling her fury rising yet again at the thought of everything Delia had been through with Frank. Everything she herself had gone through, and MJ, too, whose businesslike demeanor protected that heart on her sleeve.
"We've given them control," she said abruptly. "We've just up and handed them everything and given them tacit permission to give back nothing. It started when we were young, because we were always pushed by the need to be popular, to be cool, to be part of the "in" crowd. And so we gave away everything precious in the service of not being the odd one out. Everything, including our virginity. Even now."
Just saying it out loud infuriated her even more. "Damn it -- we're not baby girls anymore. We're not stupid. We know the ropes. Yet we fall into the trap every time: We fall in love. We invest in the relationship, and what do we get? Shafted. Dumped. Dropped."
"Excessed," MJ put in caustically.
Brooke made a derisive sound. "Enough of that. When do we learn the lesson? It's all about sex, anyway. It's never about anything long-term. It's about the five-minute future -- as much time as it takes them to get it up and get it in. That's all they want: five minutes of pussy time. That's their idea of a relationship. And what do we get?"
They looked at her blankly.
"Time to weep and mourn every time they abandon us," Brooke answered her own question emphatically. "Well, hell -- if all we have is time, then you know what? It's time to take control. It's time to make them pay."
An idea skittered around the edges of her mind. A delicious, salacious idea that, when she bit into it and savored how it felt, how it tasted, melted into her consciousness like the most luscious chocolate.
No. That would be -- what?
Smart. Savvy. Scary...
How? What would they be doing that they didn't willingly do now?
I don't know, but it's different. There's something not right about it...
Like good times, good men, just rewards...
Like American Express Reward points?
Her breath caught. Imagine it. She saw it clearly: the three of them wrapped in luxury, swathed in furs, huddled in limousines with gorgeous, elegant, older men...
Why not? What was the difference, after all?
The difference was adult, mature, wealthy men who would prize them and treasure them and treat them like queens, as opposed to the lapping puppy boys with their hot hands, hot words, and horny bodies who would leave them with heartache and misery instead of jewels and gratitude.
"You know what -- " she started, then stopped. This was crazy, they'd think she was nuts. And how could they even do it, anyway?
But MJ and Delia were both looking at her expectantly, hopefully; Delia, especially, with her lank blonde hair and haunted blue eyes glazed with unshed tears, her pale face fraught with longing.
Hell, it was better than anything they had now.
"We should form a mistress club," she said quickly, as if she were uttering dirty words.
"Oh, my God," MJ breathed, as if Brooke had opened a holy book at the page marked epiphanies.
"Oh, we couldn't," Delia protested simultaneously, but it was such a naughty, over-the-top notion that she was instantly seduced.
"No, listen. Listen -- " To what? Brooke was still formulating the plan even as she spoke. "We've been giving it away to jerks who allow us to give them blow jobs, after which they blow us off. They're looking for thirty-second relationships when we're looking for thirty years. So what the hell are we doing? We're investing our emotions and our hopes in quicksand. This is not good business."
MJ looked awed. A business major, who looked all of fourteen this morning with her siren red hair in pigtails and her freckled face bare of makeup, she understood the bottom-line mentality. She got it, immediately and completely.
Delia looked shocked, tentative, interested. At least she was reacting and not crying. This was good. Maybe Brooke could sell this. It sounded good to her.
Hell, it sounded like a career.
"We should take our time about marriage," she went on slowly, conjuring her points from thin air. What did she know about mistresses or what it took to become one, anyway? But she liked the thought of it, the control, the power.
Of getting instead of giving.
Like interest. An investment.
"We should get the most we can while we can," she went on. "Get what we deserve from men who will appreciate us and are willing to -- remunerate us for our -- skills and talents. I mean, if we're going to have sex anyway, wouldn't we rather have it in a luxury penthouse with an expert and mature lover on a mink-covered bed?"
"Oh, come on," Delia scoffed.
"Oh, my God, yes," MJ sighed.
"And the great thing about it is that it's no-commitment sex. They don't want commitment, and we don't want commitment. We just want everything they're willing to give us, for the thing we're most willing to give away. Doesn't that sound like good business?"
It sounded perfect to her as she uttered the words. Not a high-priced call girl. No, she meant each of them to be the chosen paramour of a distinguished man of means who could afford anything and who would shower them with all the luxuries and amenities a woman could want.
"Think about it. Equal power. Lots of sex, lots of appreciation, lots of little surprise gifts. Expensive gifts..."
She let them roll it around in their imaginations. Let them envision themselves on the arm of a wealthy lover, emerging from a long black limousine, or sunning themselves on a yacht cruising the Mediterranean. He would own a yacht, for sure. And go to Cannes every year. Or St. Tropez. Maybe he'd be a producer, a writer, a financier. The possibilities were endless for the kind of men any of them could attract.
Maybe Delia needed a little work. And MJ dressed a little too MTV. But that was easy enough to change. They'd figure out that part of the plan later. For now, it was enough to inaugurate the idea.
She loved the idea. The Mistress Club.
"I hereby call to order the first meeting of the Mistress Club."
MJ's eyebrows went up. Delia looked startled.
"Here's the deal," Brooke said firmly. "We three are the only members of this exclusive Mistress Club, and we are going to spend the next five months until graduation homing in on what it takes to become the most desirable woman in the world. Then, after we graduate, we'll give ourselves -- oh, a year or so to...situate ourselves."
Delia looked confused.
"A year to find that gorgeous, wealthy lover who can't live without us," Brooke amplified. "We'll make it a contest: Whoever hooks up with the best, wealthiest, most generous man wins a prize!" She looked at them brightly. "What do you think?"
"What's the prize?" Delia asked.
"Shit, I don't know. A...a diamond bracelet."
"Ohhh," Delia sighed.
"So all it takes is the mention of diamonds to wake you up and shake you up?" Brooke grinned. "Well, diamonds would dry anyone's tears. Lots of diamonds, showered on us by appreciative men who only want a gorgeous, adoring bed partner. It works for me."
She was gratified to see they were both listening intently.
"We have to start now," she went on, winging it. "You can't just pluck a wealthy sugar daddy off the shelf. You have to first...first -- work at it. Train for it. This is a competition, after all, and the prize is gold...and diamonds and furs and everything you could ever want! Just look at Melania Knauss and The Donald."
Everything that came to mind was so sybaritic that it seemed like a hedonistic indulgence rather than a preparation for a full-bore assault on finding a lover. Massages, pedicures, manicures, facials, trim bodies, great clothes, a fabulous job, perhaps a shift in their usual cynical hard-edged sensibilities into softer, more winning, and more willing personalities.
How hard could any of that be?
"You're serious," MJ said, awed.
"Tell me what's wrong with the plan," Brooke challenged.
"I can't see a thing," MJ conceded instantly.
"So..." Brooke took a deep breath. "We'll start now. Just as if we were gearing up for a job hunt. We'll do a spa track: weekly massages, steam baths, facials. Get ourselves tricked up and tricked out. We'll research the jobs most likely to put us in the presence of wealthy men who want to pay a good price for good company. We'll change the way we talk, walk, dress, and approach everything. We'll focus all our spare time on becoming the kind of women those men want and can pay for. We'll -- "
MJ held up her hand, laughing. "Okay, okay, we get the picture."
"Do you? Because we have to change one hundred percent. Delia has to stop schlepping around like a hippie wannabe and start wearing bras, high heels, and makeup. And you have to start dressing with more taste, more like the kind of woman to whom a CEO would be attracted -- "
"And you?" MJ interrupted silkily.
"Me?" Brooke knew all her faults and failures, but they didn't include the way she looked or dressed. Her jet-black hair was naturally curly, her skin was flawless, her body was model thin, and her hazel eyes changed color with everything she wore. Still..."I need to stop bossing everyone around and acting like Miss Rich Bitch. And I probably could stand to tone myself down and dress more high end."
MJ smiled at her, catlike. "You're just lucky you came up with this insane idea. Because otherwise, given your good looks, size six, and trust fund, we'd have to kill you."
"It's a killer idea," Brooke said. "Don't you think, Delia?"
Delia's blue eyes, teary no longer, slowly focused on her. "Do you really think we could do it? Really, in your heart of hearts?"
"I really, really do," Brooke said gently, urgently. "But it's going to take time, and we have to be resolved and keep our eyes on the bigger picture, no matter what obstacles we run into. Because, my friends, we're aiming at living every woman's fantasy: We're going to become objects of delight and illusion, with no commitment and all the benefits. And we start right here, right now."
Copyright © 2006 by Thea Devine