Road Trip for Three?
They were three girlfriends whose love lives had seen better days, and they were driving to a reunion in New Orleans, the town they'd left behind.
MJ, a gorgeous younger woman whose older husband died in the bed of well, let's just say he died in a compromising position; Bitsey, an overweight housewife who can't believe that's all there is; and Cat, a twice-divorced designer whose pristine present is small compensation for her past.
The trophy wife, prom queen and trashy girl had a vision: the men of their present didn't hold a candle to the boys in their past.
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Read an Excerpt
By Rexanne Becnel
Thorndike PressCopyright © 2006 Rexanne Becnel
All right reserved.
My friend M.J.'s husband died on a Friday, lying on the table during a therapeutic massage. A massive heart attack, that's how the newspaper reported it. But that's only because his son and the PR firm for their restaurant chain made sure that's what they reported.
The truth? Viagra and the too-capable ministrations of a pseudowoman, pseudomasseuse wearing a black oriental wig, a red thong and fishnet hose are what did in Frank Hollander. The table was actually a round bed covered with black satin sheets, with an honest-to-God mirror on the ceiling. The House of the Rising Sun serves a very good hot and sour soup downstairs, but the therapy going on upstairs isn't the sort that the chairman of this year's United Way Fund Drive could afford to be associated with.
Needless to say, the funeral was huge. The mayor spoke, the bishop said the mass, and the choir from St. Joseph's Special School, a major beneficiary of the United Way, sang good old Frank into the ground. As pure as those kids' souls were, even they couldn't have sung Frank into heaven.
Afterward, M.J.'s stepchildren entertained the mourners at her home, where everyone came up to the widow and said all the things they were supposed to:
"If I can do anything, Mary Jo, just call. Promise me you'll call."
"Your husband was a great man, Mrs. Hollander. We'll all miss him."
Blah, blah, blah. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. But Bitsey had given me my marching orders and I knew my role. I was there to support M.J., not to air my opinion about her sleazy bastard of a husband and his gang of no-good kids.
Thank God for Bitsey — and I'm not using the Lord's name casually when I say that. Thank you, God, for giving me Bitsey. She's like the voice of reason in my life, the perfect mother image for someone sorely deprived of that in her biological parent.
M.J., Bitsey and me. Three girls raised in the South, but trapped in California.
Well, I think that maybe I was the only one who felt trapped in the vast, arid beigeness of southern California. But then, I felt trapped wherever I was. I was slowly figuring that out.
That Tuesday, however, at M.J.'s palatial home with the airconditioning running double time, and Frank Jr.'s Pacific Rim fusion restaurant catering the after-funeral festivities, we were all feeling trapped. Sushi at a funeral is beyond unreal.
Bitsey had explained to M.J. that she had to stay downstairs until the last guests left. She was the hostess, and it was only right. But yes, she could anesthetize herself if she wanted to. Everybody else was.
So M.J., in her perfect size-six black Giselle dress and her Jimmy Choo slingbacks, sat in Frank Sr.'s favorite fake leopard-skin chair and tossed back five vodka martinis in less than two hours.
M.J. drank, Bitsey ate, and I fumed and wanted to get the hell out of there. That awful, morbid couple of hours sums up pretty well how the three of us react to any stress thrown our way. And God knows there's enough of it. When Bitsey hurts, she eats. Even when she was on Phen-Fen, and now Meridia, if she's hurting — especially if her husband, Jack, pulls some stunt — she eats. Considering that Jack Albertson can be a coldhearted bastard, and unlike Frank, doesn't bother to hide it, it's no wonder she's packed close to two hundred pounds onto her five-foot-four frame. The more she eats, the fatter she gets, and the more remote and critical he gets. Which, of course, makes her eat even more.
But I digress, which I do a lot. According to my sometimes therapist, that's a typical coping mechanism: catalog everybody else's flaws and you'll be too busy to examine your own. M.J. drinks, Bitsey eats, and I run. New job. New man. New apartment.
Today, however, I had vowed to hang in there, bite my tongue and generally struggle against every impulse I had.
"So sorry, Mrs. Hollander." A slick-looking man with a classic comb-over bent down a little to give M.J. his condolences. His eyes were on her boobs, which are original issue, contrary to what most people think. He handed her his card. "If I can help you in any way."
After he wandered away, Bitsey took the card from M.J.'s vodka-numbed hand. "A lawyer," Bitsey muttered, glaring at his retreating back. "How positively gauche to hand the bereaved widow a business card at her husband's funeral. Is there even one person in this entire state who was taught a modicum of manners?"
"She's going to need a lawyer," I whispered over M.J.'s head, hoping the vodka had deadened her hearing. "Frank Jr. isn't going to let her get away with one thin dime of his daddy's money. Her clothes, yes. Her jewelry, maybe. In a weak moment he might even let her keep the Jag. But the house? The money?" I shook my head. "No way."
"Shh," Bitsey hissed. "Not now."
M.J. turned her big, fogged-over blue eyes on Bitsey. "I need to use the little girls' room."
"Okay, honey." Bitsey patted M.J.'s knee. "Do you need help?" Somehow we guided M.J. through the crowd without it being too obvious that her feet weren't moving. Good thing she's only about a hundred pounds. The girl is as strong as an ox, thanks to Pilates three days a week, cross-training two days and ballet the other two. But she doesn't weigh anything.
Instead of the powder room, we took M.J. to the master suite where we surprised Frank Jr.'s wife, Wendy, scoping out the place. The bimbo didn't even have the grace to look embarrassed that we'd caught her in the act of mentally arranging her furniture in M.J.'s bedroom.
But when I spied the delicate ceramic bunny rabbit she held in her greedy, sharp-nailed clutches, I saw red. Bloodletting red. Bitsey had made that rabbit in the ceramics class where she, M.J. and I first met. She'd given it to M.J., and a cat figurine to me. I glared at Wendy until the bitch put the bunny down and flounced away.
Bitsey gave me a scandalized look. "Please tell me she wasn't doing what I think she was doing."
I rolled my eyes, hoping M.J. was too far gone to have noticed her stepdaughter-in-law's avarice. But as M.J. kicked off her shoes and staggered to the "hers" bathroom she muttered, "Wendy wants my house. Frank Jr., too. She's always saying how a big house like this needs kids in it."
M.J. paused in the doorway and, holding on to the frame, looked over her shoulder at us. Tears spilled down her cheeks. She was gorgeous even when she was drunk, miserable and crying. If she wasn't such a lamb, I'd hate her. "Like I didn't try to have children," she went on. "I always wanted children, and we tried everything. But . . ." She sniffled. "I just couldn't get pregnant. She always lords that over me, you know. We're the same age, but she's got three kids and I don't have any." M.J. went into the bathroom and closed the door.
Bitsey looked at me. Her eyes brimmed with sorrow, but her mouth was pursed in outrage. "And now Wendy wants her house?" She fished the lawyer's card out of her pocket.
I snatched the card and tore it in half, then tossed it in a garbage basket. "No. Not that lawyer. If he's here at Frank's funeral it's because he's a friend or business acquaintance. Some kind of way he's connected to Frank Sr., and therefore Frank Jr. When M.J. gets a lawyer, we have to make sure it's someone who doesn't have any ties to the Hollander clan."
"You're right. You're right," Bitsey conceded. "You have a very suspicious mind, Cat. But sometimes that's good."
"A girl's got to watch out for herself."
Bitsey gave me a warm, soft hug. "And for her friends."
M.J. went alone to the reading of the will. We found that out later. I would have canceled my appointments to be with her if she'd asked. Bitsey would have gone, too, not that she would have spoken up against a room half full of lawyers — all men — and the other half full of relatives — all bloodsuckers. But at least M.J. would have had one person on her side.
M.J. went alone, though, and when I called her that afternoon to see if she wanted to have dinner, all I got was the answering service. Even the housekeeper was gone. That's when I knew something was wrong. Ever since the funeral, M.J. hadn't left the house except for her exercise classes. I called Bitsey.
Excerpted from Old Boyfriends by Rexanne Becnel Copyright © 2006 by Rexanne Becnel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great Read! So rare to have a character over 40 and in this story there are 3. I identified with each of the ladies and felt their pain and joy. Easy to read, and easy to love. I highly recommend, you will not be disappointed.
Ever wonder how your old boyfriend turned out? Ever wonder what might have happened if you had stayed together? Everyone has. Men do the same about their old girlfriends, at least the men with hearts do. The others, well we won¿t go there. In OLD BOYFRIENDS, Rexanne answers these questions beautifully and gives us a lot more. This is a skillfully crafted novel that is much more than a road trip or coming-of-age book. It gives us insight into the angst of so many modern American women. Take the ride from California to New Orleans. Feel what these women feel, ride their thoughts and emotions. It¿s a great trip.
I loved this book, every girl has an old boyfriend somewhere & wonders what would have happened if???? I couldn't put it down.
Rexanne Becnel has skillfully crafted an exquisite coming of (middle) age tale to which most readers will be able to relate. ¿Three women raised in the South and trapped in California¿ decide to go together to their home town of New Orleans after one of them has received an invitation to her 30 year high school class reunion. While there, they can¿t help but check out their old boyfriends to find out if they missed anything good. From the time they leave their homes in California, to the long journey on Interstate 10 to New Orleans, to the time spent in New Orleans prior to the reunion, and to the reunion, the three examine their pasts and experiment with their futures to rediscover themselves and realize their true life lessons as they experience both tragic and comic episodes. Old Boyfriends kept me entertained, interested, and wondering from the moment I picked up the book to the moment I put it down. The characters are exciting, interesting and realistically portrayed in an all-for-one-and-one-for-all relationship. Rexanne Becnel does as well in modern romance as she does in historical romance. Old Boyfriends is a great read. I recommend it highly.
This book is fun and captivating. Three middle-aged women return home looking for closure for their pasts...not to mention maybe a little romance. A great book to read on the beach!
In Southern California, everyone pays respect to the ¿great¿ man, but his widow Mary Jane ¿MJ¿ Hollander knows her bisexual spouse¿s final breath was on a round bed of a ¿pseudowoman¿. While his adult kids and their spouses salivate over the inheritance, MJ makes it through the platitudes and the sushi served by her stepson only because her two best friends Cat and Bitsey are truly there for her. --- The three transplanted southern amigos get together to help MJ with her grief and discuss the men in their lives including the one that memory serves as being their ideal mate. Bitsey is married to her lord and master Jack Albertson who never appreciates her efforts because if he didn¿t do the chore then it is not perfect; however, he never does it with her nor helps with their Stepford kids. Cat has less patience with the lesser gender than her friends having two divorces on her belt. Sick of selfish perfection, avaricious stepchildren, and failing husbands, the trio agree to visit each one¿s hunk that got away to see if the memories match the realities or their dead, ex, and living husbands. --- Though middle age female buddies star, OLD BOYFRIENDS is an amusing coming of age relationship drama. The three women learn about themselves during their often comic escapades as they realize how much their behavior as an individual and as a trio impact on the rapport with others. Though the fine story line lacks a specific center to hold the tale together due to the constant rotation of perspective, fans of a jocular tale with a moral ¿to thine own self be true¿ will hitch a ride in the Jag. --- Harriet Klausner
Three very different women, bound by friendship, offer readers their perspectives on their lives and the lives of their friends as they set off on a journey of self discovery, to see if the one that got away was worth catching. MJ, Cat, and Bitsy have all had their hearts stomped on, whether by a husband who takes complete advantage of them and shows no appreciation, two divorces, or a closet bisexual husband who died in an awkward position, leaving her to the unmerciful care of her step children. Each woman has one man in her past who was better than all that, at least in memory. So, hoping that memory lives up to reality, they set off in a semi stolen Jag to reconnect with their Mr. Someone, and with themselves. Along the way, whacky adventures and belated coming of age occurs for each of them. Not everything is up to what they expect, but in some ways, that is better. ...................... Campy and tragic by turns, this rambling travelouge suffers from the frequents shifts between narrators. The plot itself lacks true focus, so that whatever life lesson there is, gets lost.