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My God, the wedding was beautiful. So what if the bride with the translucent skin and white-gold hair (courtesy of the ex-gay-porn-star hairdresser with the pregnant Amazonian wife) had fucked every one of the groomsmen at one point or another in her short life.
Back up. Clarissa Alpert's life wasn't actually as short as she liked to let on. She deemed herself twenty-eight, which was a surprise to everyone who'd grown up with her in the relative impoverishment of the (Lower) Beverly Hills flats, where bungalow after bungalow had trudged only recently into the half-million-dollar range. In fact, she was thirty-one, but to her twenty-seven-and-a-half- ("halves" were still important to the boy) year-old bridegroom, the damaged scion of an old-money family, she was twenty-eight. Even her brittle-boned, anorexic, four-pack-a-day-smoker, Jewish mother, confused by the conviction of her daughter's lie, came to believe she had given birth to this unnatural force twenty-eight years ago.
Clarissa had set her sights on Aaron not long after dumping Sean Penn.
She hadn't really dated Sean Penn. However, Aaron Mason, of the Mason Department Stores, the largest midlevel chain in the South, idolized Sean Penn. Aaron, an SMU film school grad, was a nascent producer, new to Hollywood and its ways. Clarissa had discovered him tripping off the bus (in this case, out of his 2002 Bentley at valet parking in front of the Ivy). She always had had a thing for handicapped men, and finding one who happened to be driving her favorite luxury vehicle was enough to make Clarissa, confirmed atheist, a Sunni.
Clarissa had dated all kinds of men with various afflictions they ranged from dyslexics to a blind Moby-knockoff singer for a techno band to a wheelchair-bound Emmy-winning screenwriter. Clarissa had found herself, unfortunately, in like-plus with the screenwriter: she had enjoyed wiping spittle from his face, she had treasured his incoherent affections.
But a screenwriter? And a television screenwriter at that? Clarissa was only twenty-eight (she insisted); she was not ready to give up the brass (platinum, Tiffany) ring quite yet.
Aaron's affliction was a clubfoot. Clarissa watched him like a tiger eyeing a fatted wildebeest as he made his way from his navy Bentley up the ziggurat-like patio steps of the Ivy to his awaiting table, where three men with chubby egos yelled obscenities into tiny cell phones.
The limp cinched the deal.
Their romance was short; two weeks longer, it could have been called "whirlwind." Clarissa squired her prized cabbage to parties from the graffitied, Ecstasy-laden banks of Silverlake to the gilded, coke-encrusted shorelines of Malibu. Aaron could not have known what hit him, though he may have known (as we'll later learn) that Clarissa had slept her way, without mercy, regret, mourning or conscience, through Greater Los Angeles. But he could not have known that she lied about her age, religion (Episcopalian at the Bel Air country club, Jewish at Hillcrest), mating habits, hair color, plastic surgeries, level of education, her mother's nose job, her upbringing, her downfall, her rehab stay(s), the number of pregnancies she'd experienced three without an actual birth, and that she lied to anyone at any time for any reason.
At least, in the beginning, he could not have known Clarissa was a sociopath-in-training, as common to L.A. as envy and palm trees. He could not have known, emerging from the relative norm that is suburban Georgia, that sociopaths are even more prevalent in Los Angeles than in Washington, D.C. and more celebrated.
And here, Clarissa Alpert was very celebrated, indeed.
Prologue, or How This Whole Mess Got Started
10:42 P.M., New Year's Eve. The following was being scribbled onto a Le Domaine cloth napkin:
January 1, 2003, Wish List: Men I, Clarissa Alpert, being of soundish mind and incredible (aux natural!) body, would like to acquire this year:
1. Bruce Springsteen (too old, married, children [ugh], probably happy. Level of difficulty: 9+)
2. Peter Morton (rich, Hard Rock (Planet Hollywood?) restaurants, etc., divorced...rich, rich, rich, engaged. Level of difficulty: 6)
3. Ted Field (rich, heir, ext. rich, likes tall, skinny, beautiful blondes. Who are 18. Who have proof of being 18. May be difficult: 10)
4. Graydon Carter (ink-hasn't-dried-divorced, dozen or so kids). Powerful, underlined. Semi-British accent yummy AND peculiar. Level of difficulty: 8+ P.S. Prefers classy girls with exquisite taste...UGH.)
Clarissa Regina Alpert was making up her yearly to-do list. Lists, she knew, were important to the goal-oriented life; writing them imbued focus and direction. She had learned this lesson from an ex-ex-ex...ex boyfriend bartender/actor/stuntman with a permanently curled lip who learned it from a Dianetics course at the giant, Smurf-blue Church of Scientology (which he'd joined to meet Tom Cruise, John Travolta, or, at the very least, Jenna Elfman, better known as "Dharma").
Clarissa tried to learn one tidbit of knowledge from every man she'd ever dated; though she was never a great student of school or life, she happened to be the Valedictorian of Men.
She had written her "Man List" every year, on the New Year, since she had turned eighteen (twenty-one). Most of her waking minutes were spent in the company of girlfriends, but this was one tradition Clarissa saved for her own company; planning her future demanded her full and immediate attention.
She scribbled on, using Larry the Waiter's chewed pen. She was on her third Kir Royale, and work was to be done...
"You a screenwriter?" said a voice. Male. (No one in Los Angeles who appeared to be a writer could be anything but a screenwriter. Poets and novelists, much like vampires, hate the sun. Even if it's shrouded behind a smog burkha.)
A gorgeous "hairless" was standing in front of Clarissa. "Hairless" or "Leos" or "Preschoolers" were terms Clarissa and her girlfriends used for men under twenty-five.
However, Clarissa looked not at his unmarked, eager face, but at his shoes.
They were not Prada. They were not Gucci. They were not even Kenneth Cole.
They looked suspiciously like Hush Puppies. Vomit, Clarissa thought. Sherman Oaks studio apartment, music industry mailroom or worse, agent-in-training...
"You may leave," Clarissa said, and went back to her mad scribbling.
"Excuse me? You don't even know "
"Go. Away. Now. Take your ball, go on..." She said, with the warmth of an injured cobra.
Poor boy; he looked shocked. He almost frowned, but, unused to the expression, settled for a pout.
He made the mistake of trying to talk again.
"Look, I've eaten at your table, comprendez-vous? Not interested." Clarissa cut him off.
"Bitch." But he used the invective under his breath; the Leo was afraid.
Clarissa emitted a proper bobcat hiss, her precisely bonded teeth briefly displayed.
Back to the list. This year, the list had taken on greater importance.
"Think, Princess," she said to herself. Clarissa checked her watch. She had many, many girlfriends but they weren't to be trusted with her secret list. Much as she loved and adored them, why should she give her friends any ideas? However, she had promised to meet up at the Playboy Mansion (Silicone Valley, Tits Central, Home of the Free and the Laid) with her girls later. There was much fun to be had there among the cheesy food, the failed sitcom stars, the dank, infamous grotto that reeked of semen, desperate laughs, and cash, and then, the endless river of gorgeous women, so many they had to be bused in, and all so aggressively beautiful that ugliness itself became a welcome commodity.
But right now, there was work to be done.
5. There has to be more than four.
Clarissa thought, out loud, "Have I dated everyone on the bicoastals?"
Larry the Waiter came by again, lanky as a rubber band. "Si, oui, affirmative that would be a yes in any language," he said, and set down another champagne cocktail. Without having to be asked.
All men, Clarissa thought, should be gay waiters.
"You should know, Mother," Clarissa agreed.
Clarissa wrote a name down.
"Larry the Waiter knows all, Miss All-That-and-More. You've been sliding in here since you were legal."
5. John F. Kennedy, Jr. (rich, good family, married [unhappily?]. Dead. Level of Difficulty:...8)
"Correction. Before I was legal." Clarissa loved Larry the Waiter. He was gay, smart, bitchy, and bald. A yummy combo.
"Listen, honey, if you don't land one of these jumbo jets soon, I'm going to tie a yellow ribbon around your head and declare you a national emergency."
"I'm not interested in landing just any foolish rich man. Where's the sport, I ask you?" Clarissa said. And then she added, softly, "There's a small part of me that wants to fall in love."
Weddings, babies, children, young mothers in SUVs, young fathers with rolled-up shirtsleeves, old fathers in wheelchairs, Clarissa was surrounded. Her world had grown up around her, and she was determined not to be left at the station labeled "She Was So Cute, Remember?"
Clarissa shook her head like a wet dog. She thought maybe she had reached her alcohol limit.
"Uh-huh. Which part would that be?" Larry the Waiter looked at her list and declared it "Sold out. This isn't the nineties."
Clarissa looked down the names. Was he right? Gay waiters are always right.
"Look, Sweetness. Do you want to end up here in ten years with fake lips and helmet hair toasting a guy with half a pancreas?"
Clarissa looked at him. "Not Clarissa. I'm not going to end up like a retired Breck girl." They stared down at the end of the bar. Two Clairol blondes in their forties, their lips wrapped tightly around numerous collagen injections, their noses a matched set of early eighties ski slopes, were laughing with practiced hilarity at something an older man with spotted hands and a gut spilling out over his elasticized waistband had managed to spit out.
Clarissa noticed that one of them had a rip in her nylons. She noted the scuffed shoes.
Clarissa was all too aware of this tragedy; it was her own personal Clarissa Regina Alpert nightmare. Los Angeles was known as the land of broken dreams (blah, blah). Saunter on your Jimmy Choos into any of the better restaurants the standards, Spago, Mr. Chow, Nobu, Ivy, Chaya, Giorgio the tyros the House, Lucques, Chadwick and there was always the table Clarissa avoided like the plague (or retail...or
J. C. Penney...or Estée Lauder foundation), the table that was either closest to the bathroom or the kitchen, the one with the two women, 90 percent of the time overblonde, with delicate, oval faces that looked good when...
They would eat their salad ("appetizer size, please") in tidy forkfuls and engage in the appearance of conversation that both were too tired for, and if you didn't watch closely (as Clarissa did, for she couldn't help herself how many get to see their future so clearly?) you wouldn't notice that they didn't share eye contact, that they didn't laugh. That they got up to go to the bathroom at least three times, and they walked slowly, heads up, face set, knowing this, this, was no longer a dress rehearsal; that they always ordered three glasses of house chardonnay but never dessert.
That they were watching your table, watching you watching them. Running their eyes over you like a truck.
And you didn't blame them.
Clarissa shivered. She had to get married before the end of the year. Her timeline was clear: she would be twenty-nine (thirty-two) in November; she and her lucky husband would have two children within four years; she'd be divorced by forty and still hot (thanks to Dr. Drew Franklin of the Beverly Hills Triangle) and living the good life while the nannied, tutored, personal-trained kids attended out-of-state boarding schools.
But if they fell in love, well...Clarissa wondered about the odds. She'd been in love once. Had she already used up her chits?
A plan. Clarissa always had a plan. (Important Subplot: Her father, the Horrible Teddy Alpert, was threatening to stop paying her rent. This meant two things: a. Clarissa would have to get a job. Impossible, because, as she told her father, "I am my own full-time job"; leaving: b. Clarissa would have to get a husband who had a job.) Also, Clarissa felt she was, at her age, walking around with an expiration date on her head.
The waiter took Clarissa's pen from her frozen hand and wrote these words:
6-10: AARON MASON.
He wrote it in all caps, as though the name were bigger than the sum of itself.
"Who?" Clarissa looked at him, hazel eyes widened with curiosity, greed...and hope.
"Your last hurrah. Read your trades, Missy Miss."
Clarissa drove her convertible BMW (the preferred driving instrument for young hot women with acquiring minds) to the all-night newsstand at Fairfax and Third and bought copies of the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and a couple music trades, though she loathed anything having to do with the music industry. After she told the ancient cashier to keep her change in order not to touch his hand, she didn't bother waiting to read the papers. She sat in the open air of her driver's seat as homeless people beckoned.
"Quarter for a song?" a black man with aging dreads asked.
"I'll need more than that," Clarissa said. Clarissa loathed reading under the best of circumstances (in her defense, she did enjoy Vogue and Cosmopolitan and sometimes Marie Claire, when it didn't get all "intellectual"); she needed to concentrate.
He was taken aback; he thought he'd heard wrong.
"You want me to pay you?"
"Look, Frank Sinatra, Jr., okay, I'll give you a dollar to walk away from here without singing."
He took it.
And Clarissa found her man: Aaron Mason had bought something called the "underlying rights" to something called The Gay Divorcee, an old Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical (Ugh. I hate old musicals, Clarissa thought) for $1.5 million, paid to the inheritors of the original play
"One-point-five mill !" Clarissa exclaimed. The number gratified her, then made her angry that someone would spend so much money on something that wasn't even in color.
Aaron explained, in the article, that among the things he loved growing up, "the lonely scion of a Forbes 500 family" (the reporter's words), was old musicals. And his very favorite was The Gay Divorcee.
"I adore old musicals!" Clarissa said. And then proceeded to the twenty-four-hour video rental store on the Strip, a place frequented by blow hounds on a bender, garden-variety insomniacs, and porn addicts. She instantly forgot about the Playboy Mansion and its gaudy clarion song.
Clarissa Alpert had homework to do.
Clarissa's mom was taking a dump in Clarissa's own bathroom; Clarissa hated this because waste moved through Clarissa's mother's body and came out the other end with little molecular restructuring: If she ate corn, out came a cob; if she ate carrots, deli salad it would be; if she ate steak (she rarely ate steak, or anything with more than 150 calories a serving, for that matter), out came a Hereford.
"Mom!" Clarissa shouted. Her voice was naturally scratchy, like Demi Moore after a week of screaming at assistants. Some found it sexy, some merely annoying. Clarissa picked up the remote control and rewound. She was on her seventh viewing of The Gay Divorcee; as far as she could see, the movie was about how tap dancing could lead to wedding bells.
Her mother always said "Wha'?" instead of "What?"
"You know what I told you about taking dumps in my fucking bathroom?"
"You should wash out that mouth, that's wha'."
"T! T! T! T! What!"
This meant "Shut your mouth, dear daughter, you mean little cunt, or I'll cut you like a knife."
The problem was, her mother was hooked on a molten something called "Dieter's Tea." It contained an enormous amount of "natural" laxative, enough to clean out a 747 engine. Clarissa drank it once, after a Thanksgiving dinner she was going to have sex that night with an entertainment attorney with an enormous shlong and bigger Mercedes, and though she loved a heavy meal, especially Thanksgiving dinner, she also loved sex.
She drank it, and almost laid a brick right in the middle of foreplay.
The tea had made her sweat and cramp; she crawled to the bathroom, bent over like a halter-topped Quasimodo. The attorney never called again, except once that next morning, because someone had taken his favorite meditation CD, the one with the stupid monks or something, and he had to ask...
Well, of course Clarissa had taken it. She knew he wasn't going to call again (there's always a first time!) and she wanted to punish him.
Oh...what Clarissa learned from the entertainment attorney: Never drink Dieter's Tea before sex. Never.
Also: Big Mercedes, like the 600 series, drive more smoothly than the small, sporty models.
Her mother was addicted to the hideous brown, bark-tasting liquid; she drank it three times a day. Once Clarissa had convinced her mother to stop drinking the foul tea; her bowels got so badly backed up, Clarissa had to rush her to the hospital so a dashing Indian intern could stick a long, dark finger up her mother's tiny, crepey butt.
Clarissa subverted her own rules (don't date anything that can't get you into the VIP section of a premiere or table seven at Mr. Chow) and had three dates with the intern until realizing, on the traditional third-date screw, his dick had the circumference of a number two pencil. She was hoping he'd be a "Grower, not a Shower," to no avail. The shock was so great that Clarissa retired, staying home every night for a month, with only Oreos, Red Bull and vodka, and her Bunny Ears vibrator to keep her company.
Finally, her mother came out of the bathroom to face Clarissa's grimace, which wasn't what it used to be, because of the botox.
"Don't star "
Start! Clarissa screamed in her head. Her mother was Jewish Bolivian, the granddaughter of a Bolivian general, once very beautiful, still petite. Clarissa looked like a Chechen weightlifter downing steroids for breakfast when she stood next to her.
"Mommy, did you read the article?" Clarissa shifted gears smoothly.
"Leave that boy alone." Not smooth enough.
"So Not Supportive," Clarissa tried to whine, but she was not a natural; her whine came out more like a Volkswagen engine straining over the Sepulveda Pass.
"He's not going to marry you."
"Want a bet?"
"Bet. Bet. You want to bet."
"Mom, it's not gambling. Look, he's having lunch at the Ivy next Tuesday." Clarissa knew this because, posing as a ditsy secretary who didn't wish to incur her boss' wrath, she had called every upscale restaurant on the west side to ask if they had a reservation under "Aaron Mason."
"I'm not going with you."
"Yes, you are. I can't invite my friends. They're either too hot or they're too evil there'd be nothing left of him. He'd be man dust."
Her mother waved her hand, as she often did when she was agitated.
"Don't say that, Mom."
Her mother waved her hand again.
"I'm not going to use him, or ruin him, or whatever it is you think I do to men." Clarissa uncoiled herself from her red velvet couch, purloined from an ex-boyfriend's defunct nightclub (from whom she'd learned to always keep chilled vodka on hand). "I just want to meet him."
Her mother narrowed her eyes and gestured once more.
"Great. I want you to wear the black Armani suit, the silk one with the silver buttons."
Mom's hand fluttered up and down.
"It does not make you look fat. You couldn't look fat if you were fat Jesus!"
Clarissa rose from the couch and strode to the bar (otherwise known as "the mantel") in her rented off-Robertson duplex; her apartment was a place where scores of girls like her settled until boys like Aaron (only less rich) married them. Clarissa had stopped counting the girls in her five-square-block neighborhood (Robertson to La Cienega; Beverly to Third) who fit her description when she reached into the thirties: 25-34 (same as the coveted, ideal 9:00 P.M. Fox TV audience), straight blonde or brown hair (if not naturally straight, blow-dried twice weekly), tallish, but not supermodel tall, drinkers of cappuccino (morning) and vodka (evening), and eaters of...not much. They lived off Daddy and Mommy, though their stipends didn't cover designer shoes and rent and subscriptions to forty-eight beauty magazines. And, lastly, they were jobless, or, at the very least, on the verge of being jobless.
And not at all worried about the prospect.
Their signature personality statement was that they never worried. About anything: poverty, war, dinner, children, grandparents, the melting of the polar ice cap.
Clarissa made two Belvedere vodka tonics (filling hers, first, with maraschino cherries she liked only red drinks) and walked toward her mother, putting her large gold head (a friend once remarked that it belonged on the face of a coin) on her mother's tiny shoulder.
"Please, Mama." The clincher.
Her mother patted her head; Clarissa knew she was home free her mother would never let her down.
On the fateful day, the most important day of young(ish) Clarissa's life, her short, skinny, black-lunged mother totally bagged out on her. Clarissa told her mother to "screw herself sideways" and hung up on her, but not before they made early dinner plans at Mr. Chow; Clarissa was les screwed she couldn't have lunch at the Ivy alone; nobody had lunch at the Ivy alone. The whole point was to go with someone else, then pay no attention to them; she'd stand out like a sore pseudo-AMW (actress/model/whatever). Clarissa careened through her Palm Pilot like an Indy racer, determined to find the one name who would combine three important qualities: 1. relative attractiveness (i.e., a mousier, perhaps chubbier version of herself); 2. relative popularity (i.e., well known, well respected, not popular with men); and 3. relative desperation (i.e., someone who, on an hour's notice, could meet at the Ivy).
Well into the Rs, Clarissa struck lunch-companion gold. Roberta Raskin, she of the shiny red locks, the doe-eyes, the six-foot (but with extra poundage) frame she would do. Roberta was a partner in a big P.R. firm, in her early thirties, desperate for male companionship, but dull as an undernourished houseplant. Normally, Clarissa couldn't stand Roberta all the girl talked about was some half-brained, quarter-dicked, hair-plugged television director who dumped her five years ago; the man was married to an uglier version of Roberta with two equally ugly kids, for God's sake. However, Roberta was always good for a party invite; she represented young comic talent, and that talent was becoming big and Roberta always remembered Clarissa whenever there was a premiere, or a soiree, or a Vicodin-addicted bachelor.
Inviting Beige Roberta turned out to be a stroke of genius. She was there on time, securing the perfect table outside (next to a bevy of older, anesthetized blondes with diamond watches as dazzling as their husbands' bank accounts), where they could see and be seen, and waited patiently for Clarissa, who showed up twenty-two minutes late.
Roberta, in her brown Jil Sander uniform, looking very Third Reich- chic, had eaten through the bread basket and sucked the lemon out of her iced tea by the time Clarissa waltzed in, wearing tan leather pants, a silk and cashmere Gucci sweater, and a bright pink face from her acid peel.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry!" Clarissa squealed, simultaneously taking note of the restaurant's seating arrangements and silently cursing the dermatologist who told her her pigletlike complexion would be perfectly normal in a half hour; she'd have canceled her check had she ever bothered paying him she made a mental note to stop blowing him on their twice-monthly dates.
"Not at all I'm putting out fires." Roberta set aside her silver Nokia. "You look fabulous."
"You think?" Clarissa asked, her eyes widening. She wondered why she didn't call Roberta more often.
And then, jogging Clarissa's memory, Roberta sang out a refrain almost as familiar to Clarissa as Bing Crosby's "Christmas Song": "He took out another restraining order."
Clarissa remembered why she didn't ring; she sank into her chair and thirty minutes of Roberta's married-with-children director-ex saga. She would have rather sat through the entire sixth season of Murder, She Wrote.
Clarissa was on her third iced tea, trapped in the haze of Roberta's nonexistent love life, when the midnight blue Bentley drove up, forever dividing her (relatively short) life into "Before" and "After."
In Clarissa's unpublished but popular underground "Rules of Dating," there was a list of cars she preferred (to be seen in). She did not know the difference between a Rolls-Royce and a Bentley and did not care; both makes were at the top of her list, in a three-way tie with the Mercedes V12, convertible or hard top. Porsches, any insurance salesman with a bank loan could buy. BMW screamed anal retentive, very possibly wife-beater. Range Rover said the man was trying a wee bit too hard to appear sporty; Clarissa loathed "sporty." However, the inevitable problem with the Rolls or the Bentley is the person driving it would be: a. Old. Old like Hefner old. Old like Fernando Lamas (if he's still alive) old; or b. A Rap Star. Clarissa was not attracted to rap stars. To her, rap and opera were in the same category: She could not understand a word, and she didn't like the clothes. Also, as good as she was at lying, especially about her background, she had difficulty contending she was African American, though in college she once told a USC football player/biochem major with irresistible, shiny onyx skin that her grandmother (a smaller, meaner, Yiddish-speaking version of her mother) was Creole.
Clarissa let out a gasp.
"You're right, I can't understand why he left me," Roberta snorted wetly into her napkin; her chin quivered like a landed goldfish. Clarissa would have slapped her under any other circumstances.
"Who?" Roberta whined.
"Shoosh," Clarissa said, sounding just like her mother, God Rest Her Soul. Not that she was dead. Yet.
Aaron Mason got out of his Bentley and walked up the stairs, and every pair of eyes in the restaurant was locked and loaded. This guy was the real deal tall, dark, handsome, yes but also, rich.
He wouldn't last long in this town full of maneaters. Clarissa would have to move fast.
Then she noticed the limp. Clarissa took one look at that limp and knew beyond anything she had ever known before that Aaron was the man for her. She mentally scratched every other power cock off her list; trapping Aaron would require her full concentration. She'd start popping vitamin C and echinacea. She'd get a B12 shot tomorrow, and wondered about an early flu vaccine; she'd need all of her physical strength and mental vitality.
"Peepers," Clarissa said. She shot up and walked off, one foot directly in front of the other, heel-to-toe, giving her hips sway and her plan momentum.
She cut a swath through the murmuring, heaving, ringing lunch crowd and realized ("plus de luck!") she had screwed one of Aaron's lunch mates outside her friend's Malibu Carbon beach house two summers ago. He drove a Range Rover with a spacious backseat and surprisingly supple leather interior; she'd escaped with nary a rug burn. She had filed this particular tryst under BAF, for "Backstage Access Fuck"; he had just signed a lead singer from a forgotten band.
"It's so all about connections," Clarissa congratulated herself, as she crossed in front of Aaron's table, Vera Wang wedding dresses and ivory Manolos dancing through her uncrowded head.
She stopped, midpounce.
"First rule, Princess," Clarissa admonished herself. "To get a man's attention: Ignore him."
Clarissa scooted around Aaron's table, looking off in the distance as though Prince William himself were flashing her from inside the kitchen.
"Clarissa!" She made the fuzzy-looking man at Aaron's table wait as she tried to remember his name. She remembered body parts so much better than names.
Cone-shaped penis, hairy shoulders hairy like Dan Haggerty, Grizzly Adams hairy...Jamie, Joe, John, Ian, Kyle, her mind scurried like a hamster through her mental Rolodex.
"Maxi!" She turned and greeted the man as though the last time they had seen each other was on a train platform before the Great War. Tooth enamel-peeling enthusiasm was the only acceptable greeting mode in Hollywood, especially in the case of enemies. The more hated the person, the more enthusiastic the greeting.
Clarissa traded a triple-cheek air kiss (new to California, but all over the Paris scene, according to French Vogue) and thousands of hellos with Maxi, her largish but well-shaped melon ass hovering at eye-level with Aaron Mason ("Mrs. Aaron Mason, Ms. Alpert-Mason, Mrs. Clarissa Antonia Alpert Mason, no hyphen...," the names danced circle jigs in her head); her butt swayed with her every breath, as though carrying on its own conversation with the chain-store heir. Clarissa, expert at the ignore-him-until-he-throws-something-sharp technique, burned holes into Maxi the Agent's brain with practiced interest, all
the while feeling every flicker of an eyelash off of Aaron, every tap of a toe against his shoe. As Maxi rattled on about his semifamous clients, his third-row-center Laker season tickets (Clarissa to Clarissa: "Not impressed everyone knows the only seats that count are on the floor, okay."), his St. Barts boating scare, and his weekly basketball game with Clooney and Damon, Clarissa weighed the pros and cons of ivory versus eggshell, Queen Anne silk against four-ply satin, emerald cut versus brilliant versus solitaire...
"Have you met Aaron?"
Finally, you hirsute fuckwad, Clarissa smiled to herself, the words she had been waiting...
"Hello," Clarissa lowered her voice and raised her eyebrows, but not so much as to wrinkle her forehead. She smiled, dazzling Aaron with her...
"You have something in your teeth," Aaron's Georgian accent came out as flat as her mother's breasts (before the lift).
Oh my God, Clarissa thought, smoothly running her tongue over her not-yet-paid-off wonders of cosmetic dentistry, he's rude! That's so me!
"Maybe I'm saving it for dessert," Clarissa said.
He had dimples, one higher than the other. A slightly chipped front tooth (childhood accident? college fisticuffs? beer bottle cap mishap?). A crease between his dark, full eyebrows made him seem deep in a world of shallow-end swimmers. His dress was prep school gone wrong, and, Clarissa felt, irresponsible for a young man of his means: He wore no-name sunglasses with a shirt that was too big and a tie a pinch too small and a sportcoat that would have been rumpled, given a nice ironing. He looked like a very bad Catholic boy.
And then there were his shoes, which were not shoes at all, but boots. COWBOY BOOTS!
Not only wrong borderline unforgivable.
Aaron Mason was a lump of clay (albeit a gorgeous lump of clay), but in Clarissa's hands...Clarissa ran her eyes over Aaron with the same speed and intensity she employed as a hardline shopper at the Barneys Annual Warehouse Sale. And long before she had assembled information on the label and material and point of origin of Aaron Mason's slacks (and guessed about his underwear she'd bet her fall wardrobe he was a boxer man), Clarissa blessed Larry the Waiter. With a tweak here, a fresh coat of paint there, a good tweezing (wax?), a haircut by Chris McMillan, here was the new "Mr. Alpert."
Copyright © 2003 by Last Punch Productions, Inc.