Friday, May 6, 2011

RDC: Turning the Tables

            This week’s assignment from The Red Dress Club is: “Aaah...jealousy. We all have it. We all feel it. And now we'd like you to write about it. We'll leave it open: you can write about something or someone you envy, or a time when your jealousy got you in trouble, or maybe how it makes you feel to be envious. Whatever you want.”

Turning the Tables

            I played with the ice cubes in my gin and tonic, trying to keep myself from gulping it down. I didn’t want my brain to be fuzzy when I saw Sheila. Our twenty-year high school reunion was coming and like a lot of people I haven’t thought about in years, Sheila “friended” me on Facebook.
Sheila and I were classmates, but not friends. Back then her shiny black hair was styled into a perfect Aqua-netted poof while my brown frizzy curls were always in my face. Tall and slim but curvy, Sheila looked fantastic in a huge array of Jordache jeans and Benetton sweaters. My homemade and hand-me-down clothes did little to hide my short and boyish body. She was never one of those “mean girls” who pick on other girls, but I always felt eclipsed by her. As bookish as I was, I’d have given anything to get the kind of attention she got from boys back then. When Sheila suggested we meet for a drink, I was too curious to say no.
I looked at myself in the mirror behind the bar. I have a few lines around my eyes, but my hair is still brown thanks to L’Oreal and I’ve managed to keep my weight in check. My wardrobe has improved significantly. My clothes are flattering and classic. I still look bookish, but that’s who I am and I’m comfortable with that.
            “Stephie?” Sheila squeals. “I’d know you anywhere!” She wraps me in a hug that seems natural for her and awkward for me.
            “Sheila, it’s so good to see you.” I tell her. “You look great.”
            She’s heavier than she was in high school, but she’s gained weight in all the right places. A number of men in the bar are checking her out (some things never change). She’s wearing a purple silk blouse that reveals a little of her lacy bra when she leans forward and a black skirt cut to make the most of her curves. We sit and she orders a cosmopolitan and then turns to face me, “Tell me everything. Are you married? What do you do for a living? Have any kids?”
            Wow, in thirty-seconds, she’s shown more interest in me than she did in four years of high school. I tell her about my husband and my work as a researcher and writer. It’s a life that I love, but I don’t want to bore her so I turn the tables before she loses interest.
            “How about you Sheila?” I ask. “What’s keeping you busy these days.”
            She tosses back the rest of her Cosmo and signals the bartender for another one. “I sell real estate and I’m doing pretty well,” she tells me. “I had a few rough years after high school, with Dad in the slammer.”
            “Slammer? You mean, like jail?” I ask stupidly. I can picture her father and his extravagant gifts—a diamond tennis bracelet when she turned sixteen and a red Dodge Daytona when she turned seventeen.
            “You didn’t know about that? It made the papers in the early nineties. You were probably away at school. You name a white collar crime, he got nailed for it—tax evasion, embezzlement, fraud.”
            “Sheila, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”
            “I’m surprised your folks never told you.”
            “Well, they don’t like to gossip.”
            “True. Very good people your parents.”
            “I didn’t realize you knew them that well.”
            “They let me stay with them when he got taken away. The government seized everything. I had to leave college. Your parents took me in for a couple of weeks until my aunt came and helped me out.”
            “I can’t believe they never told me.”
            “Me neither.  I stayed in your room. I think they even gave me some of your clothes. I’m surprised you never noticed they were missing.”
            “Clothes were never that important to me,” I said thinking how strange my castoffs must have looked on such a fashionable girl.
            “I know. You were so lucky, you know? My Dad thought that love meant buying me stuff. Your parents taught you that clothes weren’t that important. I can’t tell you how jealous I was of you.”

This is a work of fiction. The only bit of truth is my curly brown hair is still getting in my face and I do love a gin and tonic now and then.