Authors: Janice Kaplan
“You can't be happy,” I say. “Admit it. Secretly, you want to get married. You think he's going to leave her.”
“Nope,” Kate says resolutely. “I don't expect him to leave his wife and it doesn't matter.” She looks carefully at the glittery hair clip and uses it to pull back her perfectly cut, perfectly shiny hair. Then she comes over and rubs my arm. “Listen, I'm not against love and marriage. I think it's great that you and Bradford found each other. But Owen and I have something terrific going. I don't know where it'll lead. I'm just going to enjoy.”
I'm sure she will. At least for a while. Kate's in that first flush of infatuation where the relationship seems inviolable, the guy can do no wrong, and rationality goes out the window. Reasoning with her at this point would be as impossible as trying to disconnect a teenager from her iPod. For now, I might as well give up and go for a more neutral topic.
“So where's Owen taking you this weekend that you need this new bathing suit?” I ask, looking at her in her teeny-weeny halter bikini. “I hope it's Rio, otherwise you might get arrested.”
“Do you think it's too skimpy?” she asks, looking in the mirror, and tugging at the bottom.
“No, you pull it off brilliantly,” I say honestly, realizing that Kate, at least, didn't forfeit her right to wear a bikini when she traded in Bonne Bell Lip Smackers for Bobbi Brown concealer.
“Not too young for me?” she asks, still hesitating.
“You look better in that suit than any twenty-year-old possibly could,” I confirm.
Kate glances over at a young blonde who's parading around in the Rubik's cube bikiniâand all the squares are in the right place. The girl has a great bodyâand she obviously knows how to solve algorithms.
“Maybe not any twenty-year-old, but you do look pretty darn good,” I say, laughing. I peek into Kate's dressing room and see three more suits waiting. “Want to go try on the others?”
“No, this one's just right,” Kate says, taking one last appraising glance.
“I don't mind waiting,” I tell her.
“I like this one,” Kate says, heading off to change.
What other woman could find the right bikini so fast? And be confident enough that it
just rightâwithout fussing and trying on thirty others? I've got to say this about Kate. She knows what she wants. Unfortunately, at the moment, she seems to want Owen.
I call over to the hospital three times, but by seven o'clock at night, Berni still hasn't delivered.
“Do you want me to come over?” I ask Aidan, when I reach him on the phone.
“No, that's okay. The room's already pretty crowded. The nurses. The doctors. The drummer.”
“The drummer?” I ask.
“Mood music for delivery,” Aidan explains. “Gets you back to your basic primordial rhythms.”
“Is it working?” I ask.
“I can't tell. You could probably bring in the whole London Symphony Orchestra and it wouldn't make a difference right now.”
“And the hospital doesn't mind having Ringo playing on the maternity ward?” I ask.
“We didn't get Ringo,” Aidan apologizes, not realizing that I didn't really expect the hallways to be crawling with Beatles. “The drummer came with the deluxe package. It was one of the reasons we picked this hospital. Berni showed you the brochures, didn't she?”
She sure did. When I delivered Dylan, the only goody I got was a take-home bag with Pampers and Pond's cold cream. Now with so much competition for the baby business, choosing a hospital is like deciding between luxury hotels. Choice of Frette sheets or Anichini. Reflexologists or accupressurists. Not to mention birthing bed or birthing poolâwhich shouldn't even be a choice. Some crazy expert or other decided that since the baby has already spent nine months in a womb full of water, why not deliver her into a pool of water? Berni nixed the suggestion. She decided Mommy and Me swim class would be quite enough.
“So are you eating?” I ask Aidan, remembering that Berni had preordered a lobster and steak dinner for him.
“There's a great spread here, but I don't dare touch it. It doesn't seem fair. Berni's on ice chips, I'm on ice chips,” he says supportively.
“Well, if you faint from hunger, at least you're in a hospital,” I say. “Hang in there. Call with any news.” I decide not to add that I'm on my way to have dinner at some fancy Chinese restaurant in midtown that Bradford has suggested we try.
Twenty minutes later, I pick up Dylan in the West Village from a playdate with his best friend, and we head to Sianese Palace. It's supposed to be the new hot place, but it sounds to me like a hoity-toity name for a nasty nasal infection. The white-gloved doorman opens the restaurant's heavy gold door, and I wonder what Bradford could possibly have been thinking. Has he forgotten what it's like to have a seven-year-old? Given that there's a noisy, kid-friendly Chinese joint in New York on every corner, did Bradford have to pick an elegant room where the loudest sound seems to be the ping of Perrier splashing into crystal goblets?
Dylan looks around the hushed, child-free room, tugs at the collar on his polo shirt worn especially for the occasion, and looks dubiously at the maÃ®tre d'.
“Do you have fortune cookies?” Dylan asks hopefully.
“Pardon me, sir?” The maÃ®tre d', dressed in a tuxedo and bow tie, looks at him uncertainly.
“Fortune cookies. The Chinese restaurant we used to go to had a big bowl in front.”
a Chinese restaurant,” the maÃ®tre d' says haughtily. “We're Chinese-Thai-French fusion.” He lays down the menus grandly and holds out a chair for me.
What could possibly happen when you fuse all those cuisines? General Tso's chicken patÃ©? Moo goo gai pan bouillabaisse? Must have taken a host of green cards to open this place.
We sip on lemonades for a while, waiting for Bradford. But when he still doesn't appear, I order rice wontons for Dylan, who's thrilled by the rainbow-colored crackers and works his way happily through the bowl. I order another round. Starved myself by now, I absentmindedly munch on a pink one.
“Eew,” I say, tossing it onto the table. “Tastes like Styrofoam. How can you eat those things?”
“I like them,” he says, grabbing another handful. Then he yawns. “I'm full. Can we go?”
The waiter has stopped refilling our water glasses since he's now figured we're making a dinner out of the crunchy Styrofoam wontons. At $4.95 a clip, I think the tab's running up just fine, but he has other ideas. He can't expect that everyone will order the hundred fifty dollar per person Taste-of-the-World Tasting Menu, but he had to be hoping we'd spring for at least a couple of egg rolls.
I'm getting as pissed off as the waiter. Where is Bradford? At least I can keep Dylan amused in the meantime. I pull out two pens and a piece of white paper and put it on the table between us.
“Tic-tac-toe or battleship?” I ask.
“Battleship!” Dylan says with a grin, grabbing a pen.
I draw six rows of six evenly-spaced dots and we take turns making connecting lines. The beginning goes quickly, and then it comes down to some hard choices. Dylan triumphantly closes the first box and claims it with a “D.”
“I'm winning!” he hollers.
“Got a long way to go, buddy,” I tell him, laughing.
He closes three more. “Still winning! Killing you, mom! You're so lame!”
The elderly couple at the next table eyes us disapprovingly, as irritated as if we were playing roulette in the middle of the Metropolitan Opera House.
Bradford, finally coming up behind us, shares their displeasure. Not realizing there's a paper on the table, or that I'm drawing as well, he grabs Dylan's pen from his hand.
“We don't draw on tablecloths, young man,” he says sternly.
Since he hasn't bothered with hello, I don't either.
“Why not?” I say, jumping up and jumping to Dylan's defense. “Lots of great artists have drawn on tablecloths. Picasso did it. And so did Dubuffet.”
“That was different. They were famous.”
“Maybe Dylan will be famous, too,” I say.
“We weren't drawing on the tablecloth, anyway,” Dylan says, since we've both missed the point. He holds up the now-checkered sheet of paper. “See? Look.”
Bradford looks contrite. He tosses me a wan smile and tousles Dylan's hair. “Sorry, guys,” he says, slumping into a chair. “It's been a rough day. I need a Diet Coke and then I'll feel better.”
I try to smile, but I'm still vaguely annoyed at Bradford. Forty minutes late and the first thing he does is snap at us. I've got to say this for Bradford, thoughâwhen he knows he's wrong, he immediately tries to make amends. He takes the paper Dylan's still holding and looks at it carefully.
“All those D's are your points?” Bradford asks, impressed.
“Yup,” Dylan says, nodding.
“You're really killing your mom, Dyl, huh?”
“Just what I told her!” Dylan crows.
“You guys want to finish the game?” Bradford asks, loosening his tie, and then, remembering where he is, tightening it back up again. “I'll referee.”
“Are you kidding?” I say. “No way I can make a comeback. Thanks for the save.”
Bradford takes my hand. “That's what I'm here for,” he says, and then he mouths, “Forgive me?”
I squeeze his hand and Bradford kisses me on the cheek. The waiter comes over, sizes up Bradford and looks relieved. Finally, someone at our table who might order the Peking duck. Bradford reads the funny French-Chinese-Thai food names from the menu and lets Dylan pick his favorites. Fortunately, the food's not quite as exotic as I'd feared.
“I like the one with the âdragon' in it,” Dylan says, leaning over Bradford's shoulder to look at the menu.
“Me, too, Dyl. Let's get it. And how about the one named after the emperor.” All in all, they pick out six dishes and two appetizers and Bradford asks the waiter to bring the chopsticks.
“For three,” he says.
“Nope. I need a fork,” Dylan says, looking slightly abashed.
But when the chopsticks arrive, Bradford has a plan. He secures a rubber band from the now-fawning waiterâordering eight expensive dishes guarantees our water glasses are quickly refilledâand expertly wraps the top of two chopsticks so they click in unison.
“Try this,” Bradford says, placing Dylan's fingers around the chopsticks and showing him how easily they now work. “It's how my daughter Skylar learned. She mastered it before our trip to China.”
“Can we go to China?” Dylan asks, excitedly clicking away. “I think I've got it!”
“Sure. We'll go all sorts of places. Ever been to Paris?”
I give him a raised eyebrow. Bradford knows how I feel about giving kids too much too soon. Just because you can afford to do everything doesn't mean you should. Catching my drift, he adds quickly, “Maybe we'll start with a trip this fall up the Taconic to go apple-picking. Ever done that?”
“Yup,” Dylan says disappointed, dreams of the Great Wall dashed by visions of manual labor. “Mommy and I do it every year. Last year I ate so many apples I threw up in the car on the way home.”
“We won't let that happen this year,” Bradford promises. “Skylar can keep tabs on you.”
“It's going to be fun having her,” I say. “We're so excited Skylar's coming home from her summer trip in two days. It'll be great to be all together.”
Dylan grunts. Maybe I'm the one looking forward to it. Well, mostly. I'm a little wary of the arrangementâSkylar will be alternating weeks at her mom's house and ours. But I know we'll make it work. I have this cockeyed image of a happily blended extended family, with Skylar good-naturedly offering me back-to-school fashion tips. And she'll be my ticket into all those bubble-gum movies I secretly love but am embarrassed to go see myself. Teens need an adult to get into R-rated flicks. And any self-respecting adult needs a thirteen-year-old girl in tow to fully enjoy
The Princess Diaries.
“Skylar called from Rome today,” Bradford says, clicking his own chopsticks. “She liked the Vatican, but she had more fun at Prada.”
“I wouldn't worry,” I say. “Some people consider Prada a religious experience.”
“We'll get to hear all about it,” Bradford says. He looks at Dylan, who's avidly working his wayâwith chopsticksâthrough a plate of Peking duck. Then he turns to me and shakes his head. “I'm a little worried about Skylar,” he admits. “After two months in Europe with her mother, she sounded sort of nasty about you and me when she called.”
I nod. “Don't worry, I'll win her over,” I say bravely.
Bradford takes my hand. “Thanks, honey. I'm glad you're ready for this. Because Skylar may not make it easy.”
THE PHONE RINGS
at two a.m. and Bradford doesn't stir. What is it about men? Women wake up in the middle of the night because they hear leaves falling off the trees. Guys can sleep through Armageddon and never shift sides.
I lean across Bradford to pick up the phone. I'll let him sleep for another fifteen seconds, but I know it's going to be for him. Probably one of his firm's brokers in Japan or London or wherever the heck they trade when it's the middle of the night here, calling with an urgent message. Talk about making money in your sleep.
But it's not business. At least not Bradford's business.
“Hi,” Kate says when I grab the receiver. “What's up?”
“Me, I guess,” I say groggily, rubbing my eyes. “But I wasn't up before.”
“Glad you are now,” says Kate. “I've got a great idea.”
I sit up and punch the pillows behind my back to settle in. Undisturbed, Bradford rolls over in his sleep and flops a warm arm across my thigh. I lower my voice so as not to wake him, but who am I kidding. He lets out such a loud snore that Kate anxiously asks, “You okay?”
“Of course,” I say. “I'm in bed. Where are you?”
“Tortola, British Virgin Islands,” she says, as if I should have known. And I probably should have. How could I have forgotten the bathing suit? My synapses don't work as quickly as they should at two a.m. Or at forty-one.
“How's Owen like the bikini?” I ask.
“Liked it,” Kate says curtly. “For the few minutes he got to see me in it. He had to leave right after we got here. Annoying, really. I'd just slathered myself in Bain de Soleil SPF ninety-eight so we could go to the beach. Instead, he was on his way to the airport.”
I don't know what could have sent Owen to the airport, but at least I understand how Kate maintains her perfectly smooth skinâsuper-strength sun protection in a number high enough to be a basketball score. Though come to think of it, Kate used to have cute freckles sprinkled across her nose. She must have zapped them away when they went out of style. But what if they come back in vogue? After all, nothing stays chic for more than a nanosecond. Wax your eyebrows into a fashionably thin line and suddenly
declares bushy is back. Finally start drinking Bellinis and everybody's switched to ginger daiquiris. Suffer through eight hours of Japanese hair straightening and you can almost guarantee the return of the Afro.
“Owen left? How come?” I ask, getting myself back on track. “Something happen?”
“His wife called,” Kate says grumpily. “She cut short her weekend at Canyon Ranch and had to come home immediately because she'd had an allergic reaction to an apple-and-oatmeal scrub facial.” Kate pauses and adds snidely, “Apparently ânatural' doesn't agree with her.”
I ponder what Owen the real estate mogul can do about an allergic reaction to a facial. Bring roses? It might have been better if Doctor Kate had gone. But then again, maybe not. There must be some AMA regulation against a doctor treating her lover's wife. I think it may even be covered under the Geneva Convention.
“What are you going to do in Tortola for the rest of the weekend?” I ask.
“Follow Owen's advice. Stay in our luxurious cottage by the ocean, order margaritas, and damn well enjoy myself,” Kate says firmly.
I bite my tongue. This is not the time to point out the disadvantages of having a married lover. The words “I told you so” will never cross my lips.
Next to me, Bradford, still half asleep, starts making small circles on my thigh, and I stroke his cheek and gaze at him appreciatively. He pulls his whole body closer to mine.
“So here's my great idea,” Kate continues. “Why don't you fly down for the weekend and join me? You've always said you want to learn how to windsurf. This is your chance.”
Bradford, now more awake, is playing with my hair and softly kissing my shoulder. I stir as his warm lips move sweetly across my neck.
“I can't get away,” I say, thinking about my weekend plans with Bradford. And what appears to be Bradford's more immediate plan for the proverbial roll in the hay. I'm not passing that up for a roll in the surf.
“Too bad,” Kate says. “Are you sure I can't tempt you?”
I put my arm around Bradford's waist and stay mum about what's really tempting me.
“I almost forgot to tell you,” I say instead. “Berni and Aidan called. They finally delivered the twins. Aidan's a little hungry, but everybody's healthy and doing well.”
“Good for them,” Kate says. Then she immediately comes up with a new brainstorm. “If she's done delivering, maybe Berni'd like to join me. She could probably use a weekend at the beach.”
“She probably could, but the doctor said no windsurfing for another twenty-four hours.” I laugh. “Then there's the whole problem about being around to breast-feed.”
“She could bring the babies,” Kate suggests, ever flexible. But even she doesn't sound convinced.
“Maybe the twins should leave the hospital in a stroller, not a 757,” I say.
Kate sighs. “Doesn't matter. I know how to spend a weekend on my own. I'll just enjoy my one hundred hours of solitude. Maybe I'll write a book about it.”
Worse things can happen than spending two days on a beautiful stretch of island, reading beach books and searching for seashells. And if Kate strolls the sand in that sexy new bikini, she won't have to be alone for long. Though meeting new guys doesn't seem to be on her agenda. Maybe Owen's momentarily stepped out of the frame, but he's clearly still in the picture.
When we hang up, Bradford rolls on top of me with a little smile and a long kiss.
“I need your full attention now,” he says.
“You have it,” I say, closing my eyes and savoring the sensation of his strong body against mine.
I hear a sound from the living room and start to sit up.
“Don't worry,” Bradford says, his strong hands on my shoulders as he gently shifts me back against the bed. “Just Pal.”
As if he's heard his name mentioned, Pal gives a little bark. Which seems strange. I've never heard him do that in the middle of the night before. But then all's quiet again and Bradford's smothering me in kisses. We're moving together now, lost in the moment, our bodies finding the same rhythm. My breath is coming fast and I gasp with pleasure.
And I'm not the only one gasping.
“Oh my god, Daddy! What are you doing?” calls out an indignant, high-pitched girl's voice.
For an instant, my eyes lock with Bradford's and we're both too startled to move. Then Bradford leaps off me, snatching the crumpled sheet from the bed to wrap around himself. I grab for my abandoned T-shirt and a pillow. No way I'll find the panties.
“Skylar!” Bradford says, looking into the dim room and seeing the outline of his lanky soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old daughter standing at the foot of the bed. Sounding more cheerful than most men could in the same situation, he adds, “Great surprise! We didn't expect you until tomorrow.”
“Well, I'm here,” Skylar says petulantly, shrugging out of her Prada backpack and flinging it on the floor.
And apparently the party's just starting. Walking into the bedroom now, accompanied by the faithful panting Pal, is a perfectly coiffed Louis Licari blonde, dressed in a hip-hugging blue pantsuit with an expertly knotted HermÃ¨s scarf at her neck. It's the middle of the night, but she looks like she stepped out of an ad on the back cover of
Town and Country.
She pushes aside the duvet and sits down primly on the edge of the bed. She doesn't look at me, but I swear she sniffs the air. “Bradford, what kind of homecoming is this for your wife and daughter?” she asks.
Bradford's ducked into the bathroom and emerges now in a pair of jeans. He tosses me a terry bathrobe. “You're not my wife. My ex-wife, if memory serves,” Bradford says.
“Whatever,” Mimi says, tossing her head. “Who's your latest girlfriend?”
“You've met Sara and you know she's my fiancÃ©e, not my girlfriend,” Bradford says sharply.
Mimi looks me over. And at this moment, I'm at a distinct disadvantage, cowering in a Yankees T-shirt and Bradford's too-big ratty robe. For a man who dresses in Savile Row suits and Loro Piana cashmere sweaters, he sure doesn't pay much attention to what he puts on after a shower.
“So you're his fiancÃ©e. Big deal. Risky business, if you ask me,” she says sarcastically. “You got the diamond and moved in. But you haven't exactly sealed the deal. Have you thought about that?” She looks approvingly at her own well-manicured fingernails and smiles secretively. “Things can change, you know.”
“Wrong again, Mimi,” says Bradford. “The only reason Sara moved in before the wedding is so Dylan could start the school year. But this is a done deal.”
“Are you at least using condoms?” Skylar asks.
Mimi smirks and cocks her head in my direction. “Do you play tennis well enough to be invited to the country club doubles tournament? Do you know how to be a trophy wife?”
“Do you even have a personal shopper at Bergdorf's?” Skylar volleys.
“Has Bradford told you he doesn't like sex in the morning?” Mimi fires at lightning speed.
Whoa. The two of them are shooting questions faster than Tim Russert on
Meet the Press.
But with these topics, any network censor would demand a five-second delay. Skylar sits down on the bed next to her mom. We're certainly an intimate little family group. Maybe I should make some tea.
But Bradford isn't waiting for crumpets. He strides over to the bed and puts his arm around Skylar. “Mimi, cut it out. What are you possibly thinking of, barging in at this hour?”
“You weren't happy that I took Skylar away for so long,” she says, adjusting the gold circle pin on her scarf, “and you said you wanted to see her the moment we got back. So this is the moment. We came here straight from the airport.”
“And I'm tired,” Skylar complains, yawning dramatically.
I get up and offer my hand to Skylar. “After that flight, you must be exhausted,” I say sympathetically. “Come on, let's get you to bed. I'll take you to your room.”
“I don't need your help. I know where my room is,” Skylar snaps, standing up and grabbing her backpack. “This is my house, not yours.”
“Skylar, dear,” Mimi clucks approvingly. “That's not a nice thing to say to this . . . woman.”
“Well, it is my house. I've been here longer than she has. A lot longer,” Skylar says, her voice getting louder.
“And you'll be here long after she's gone, dear,” Mimi says.
“You can bet on that,” Skylar shoots back.
She storms out of the room and I see Bradford set his jaw. “I'm not going to let you do this,” he growls to Mimi in a low, controlled voice. “It was your decision to walk out two years ago and run off with that sleazy CEO. Now you have to live with the consequences.”
“What consequences?” Mimi asks, feigning innocence. “I had a little fling. I'm back. Now you're having a little fling. Come on, darling. How long can yours last?”
“Forever,” Bradford says, taking my hand. “Sara and I are getting married. That's permanent. You and I are divorced. Also permanent. Why doesn't that sink in?”
“Because I've decided I want you back,” Mimi says coyly. “And what Mimi wants, Mimi gets.”
“What Mimi wanted was a CEO who had more money than me, as I remember,” says Bradford. “I can't help it if he was indicted and went to jail for fraud.”
“He'll be out in two years,” Mimi says. “But I never liked him anyway. The sapphire-and-diamond necklace he gave me turned out to be fake.”
Bradford shakes his head. “I'm not going through this old history again. Thank you for bringing Skylar over. It's great to have her here. We'll resume our usual custody arrangementâone week our house, one week yours.” He glances at his watch. “Do you want us to bring her back at three a.m. next week, or should we pick a more civilized hour?”
Mimi plays coquettishly with her Elsa Peretti earring and offers Bradford a winning smile. She leans in and territorially puts her hand on his shoulder. “Oh darling, whatever you want. I wasn't trying to upset you. Skylar's missed you and so have I. It's been too long apart.”
Too long apart for what? Or for whom, more to the point? For Bradford and Skylar or Bradford and Mimi? Lord knows I haven't been missing Mimi. And I'm hoping Bradford hasn't either.
“Look,” says Bradford, his tone softening. “Skylar's welcome here any time of the day or night. The door's always open. Or at least she has the key. But next time you're coming over, I'd appreciate it if you used the doorbell. And some advance warning wouldn't be a bad idea, either.”
“You used to like it when I surprised you,” Mimi says, flirtatiously strumming her fingers on his shoulder. “You know what I mean, don't you, darling? That night in Vienna. The black lace garter belt. I know you remember.”
Bradford looks momentarily embarrassed. Okay, so he does remember. Mimi notices Bradford's expression, too. “I still have that garter belt,” she says, rubbing her hand seductively along her hip.
The woman is shamelessâand appropriately named. For her, life is all about Me, Me, Me. But I refuse to let myself be jealous of Bradford's ex-wife. Mimi's the past and I'm the future. Bradford's told me a million times that he made a mistake marrying the slick, social climbing Mimi. This time around, he wanted something real. Someone real. I pinch myself. Yup, I'm real all right. Though the situation is feeling a little absurd.
Luckily, Bradford's not falling for Mimi's charm act. “I've got an important meeting in the morning,” he says, putting an end to the conversation. “I'm heading out early, but Skylar can sleep in. Sara will be here when she gets up.”