Foundation. Eyeliner. Mascara.
I didn’t want to go to the party.
The towel I was wearing fell to the floor. I bent to pick it up, and my right temple throbbed.
“You almost ready, Abby? It’s getting late.”
Steve stood in the doorway. His eyes swept across my naked body. He smiled. “Wear that black dress. The one that stretches and stops here.” He tapped his leg, mid-thigh. “And your ‘fuck me’ shoes. The ones with the strap at the ankle.”
“Steve…I have a headache. I really don’t feel like—”
He walked into the room, stood behind me, and wrapped his arms across my waist. His breath tickled my ear. “Hey, no problem,” he whispered. “I’ve got just the right medicine for that. One hit and your headache’s gone.” He stuck his tongue in my ear and licked lightly.
I pulled away and turned to face him. His face was flushed, his eyes bright. “I don’t want any ‘medicine,’ Steve. Though I see you’ve taken some.”
“One line. A skinny, tiny little line. Cal gave me some.”
“What a pal.”
Steve walked to the closet and pulled the black dress off its hanger. He brought it to me. “Come on, Abby. I don’t want to make the grand entrance.” I took the dress, slipped it over my head, and pulled it down. The fabric settled over the contours of my body. “Oh, yeah. Fabulous.”
I couldn’t wait to swallow a Motrin.
The house was crowded, as usual. As usual, the music was too loud, the lights too bright, the food table too perfect. Plump, pink shrimp covered two large cones in a flawless symmetrical pattern, flowers of puff pastry adorned the face of each round of Brie. Waiters in tight black T-shirts and snug white shorts carried trays of champagne. Tonight’s theme: muscled blonds with chiseled features, none under six feet tall. Each wore a small diamond on his left earlobe—a gift from the host, no doubt. Cal was always generous with his waiters.
“Abby! Steve!” Cal moved toward us, his arms flung wide, his heavy rump bouncing with each step. He was blond, too. Last time I’d seen him, he had red hair. He’d called it his “Irish Queen” look. The stud in his left ear was bigger than the waiters’. “Oh, my god, don’t you look gorgeous, Abby! It’s been ages. I’ve really missed you, girl! Kiss, kiss.”
“Kiss, kiss back at you,” I said.
Cal turned and enveloped Steve in a crushing bear hug. “And you, you gorgeous thing.” He let go of Steve and pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket, mopped his brow, and caught the drip from his nose. He sniffed. “So, how are you two lovebirds?”
“We’re great,” Steve said. “Wonderful, in fact.” He smiled at me. I smiled back.
“Good, good. Well…enjoy!” He bounced away, his arms outstretched to the newest arrivals.
“I’m starved,” Steve said. “Let’s get something to eat.”
“I’m not all that hungry.”
Steve shrugged. “Okay. I’ll get something, and you can mingle.”
One of the blond boys carrying a full tray stopped in front of me. I took two flutes of champagne from him and walked into the great room. In one corner, a quartet banged out an A.M. hit. My temple banged along. I settled onto one of the overstuffed sofas and downed the first glass of champagne, and then sipped the second. People I’d met before nodded and smiled, but there were a lot of people I’d never seen. Still, it was Cal’s typical crowd, made up of stylish men and women, all possessing a type of eclectic beauty. These parties always gave me the feeling that I was trapped on some opulent soundstage with a bunch of extras from Central Casting. Five years ago, when I’d first met Cal, I found that aspect attractive. I was a girl from Idaho who had come to Hollywood, sure my talents and good looks would land me a plum role in a blockbuster movie. After all, in Boise I had been a star. I even had a college degree. Who could resist?
Lots of people resisted.
A waiter offered me another glass of champagne. I took it.
I looked up. Lloyd Thomas smiled down at me.
“It’s been a long time, Abby. You look wonderful.”
Lloyd looked wonderful, too, but I didn’t say so. He sat down, took my hand, turned it over, and kissed my palm.
“How’s…Steve, is it?”
“Yes. Fine, thank you.”
“He’s the fellow who builds things, right?”
“Yes. He and his brother have a construction company. And you?”
He smiled. “Still selling junk bonds.”
“Ah…I see. Better be careful.”
“I’m always careful, Abby.” He smiled.
A tall blonde walked over. “Lloyd? Did you want to get something to eat?” she asked.
Lloyd introduced us. Her name was Jenny. Jenny was happy to make my acquaintance, she said. After a few moments of meaningless chatter, Lloyd and Jenny headed for the food table in the other room.
Lloyd Thomas had been my first man, so to speak. He took me to my premier party at Cal’s. I met him while working as a temp at his brokerage firm. At first, Cal’s parties were fun. Sometimes they lasted a weekend, sometimes longer. One room at the back of an old house in Boyle Heights wasn’t exactly my idea of home, so I often stayed at Cal’s, breaking several dozen eggs to feed Cal and his boys breakfast. While I cooked, I answered an endless stream of calls that came in from his friends and various boy lovers. I could stay as long as I wanted if I promised not to get in his way, and I made sure I didn’t. Why wouldn’t I want to stay? There was always plenty of food and drink, plus an abundant supply of nose candy. I remember once, in a mild rush of drugs, roving hands, and tongues, being struck by the notion that I had to be one of the luckiest girls alive. That enlightenment came at the same moment I did.
The throbbing in my temple increased, helped along by the champagne. I walked out to the patio and sat in one of the chairs and watched several men and women play in the hot tub. One of the men was sitting outside the tub, his feet in the water. A head belonging to a brunette bobbed up and down between his legs. She held his penis inside her lips and slid them down over his shaft slowly, until it disappeared. She did it without the use of her hands, and I had to admire her expertise. I couldn’t do it that way. She’d obviously trained the muscles in her face and neck to do all the work. The man moaned. I yawned.