Don’t Ask Me How Long It’s Been

Knitting!! I began taking classes and like magic (maybe even some of Olivia Newton Johns’ Magic), I understood it and fell in love! I used DPNs or 5 double pointed needles. It looks nuts but really not that complex. Below those are a cute cowl I made!

I guess my story inspired me to have a go at creating clothes/accessories or whateves? Check out my uber Cubana coverlet.


Soup cute!!

Soup cute!!

Very soft merino wool. I can tie it into a simple knot or fasten with a smart brooch. Just need to find one.

Very soft merino wool. I can tie it into a simple knot or fasten with a smart brooch. Just need to find one.

Excuses, Excuses

Ah! I have done it again or rather I didn’t do it. Although I have been working on several versions of the same chapter, I have not posted in far too long. There is a reason, I promise, well there are a few.

Go Sounders!

Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders (image, associated press)

It had been a long time goal (Ha! Ha! Excuse the pun.) of mine to follow international football and American soccer.  As a native Midwesterner, I’ve been a long time fan of the National Football League (NFL), but it wasn’t until I came down with the flu in April of this year and missed a full week of work that I was able to indulge in watching the afternoon and early evening matches of the English Premier League (EPL), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA Championship League) and the start of the MLS (Major League Soccer) season.

The matches were incredible. They move much faster than an NFL game and the athleticism is beyond belief. I had never been more pleased to be so ill in my life. The only problem was that I was a little stupid about the rules/regulations/culture/teams/ the whole lot of it was a huge mysterious puzzle. So while lying on the couch, laptop on lap, to Google I went entering into the search bar, various names of English teams, what the hell was meant by ‘they won on aggregate’, how the world cup was determined and so many other pieces. Well now I have a slightly better understanding of the game and am enjoying it to the point of obsession (I mean, I’m writing a blog post about it!).

Now it is mid-June and since the EPL has concluded its season, I’m indulging in the MLS matches, the World Cup qualifying games and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Today, I’ll have the opportunity to enjoy watching the double header, Mexico vs Italy and Spain vs Uruguay. But I’m highly anticipating the USA team’s road to Brazil match on Tuesday. Below is one my favorite players and the captain of the national team,  a Texan with a seemingly charismatic nature, Clint Dempsey. But then there is also the local flavor on the USA team, Federal Way, WA native Eddie Johnson, also a Seattle Sounder, scored one of the two winning goals against Panama last week in Seattle and the stadium was on fire! That game put the USA team at the top of the Hexagonal (Google it!).

Okay, now it’s back to writing the next chapter..Well maybe after one or two more matches!

Eddie Johnson, score 2nd goal, USA vs Panama, World Cup Qualification match, Seattle, WA

Eddie Johnson, scores 2nd goal – USA vs Panama, World Cup Qualification match, Seattle, WA (image, getty images)


Dempsey mocks a Jamaican player, during the CONCACAF World Cup Qualification match. (images, sb nation)


Dempsey, USA vs Costa Rica – CONCACAF World Cup Qualification match, Denver, (image, reuters)

Perfect Pop – Part 3

Chapter 4 – Part 2

Turtle Island

BabyTurtleIslandAs Cynthia John’s leaned across Sara and her husband to meet Nora, the fit and flare navy eyelet dress stretched around her midsection for its dear life. Cynthia, as her family and close friends referred to her, loudly introduced herself, as Cyndi, with an i. Impressed with the English suburban mother’s style, Nora took her hand and earnestly admitted how nice it was to meet her.  Cyndi’s thick dark blonde hair perfectly curled on its ends bounced euphorically while she sipped her vodka cranberry and explained how she and Robbie’s older brother, Roger, had decided on their way back from the West Coast, to stay in New York a few days longer to catch the rock and roll VIP experience. Accepting another vodka-cran from the server, she leaned in closer and shared her secret to get completely and utterly obliterated. Roger, almost a dead ringer for his younger brother, except perhaps the thinning hair and growing paunch, drew his eyes in embarrassment to the ground. Noticing his disapproval, Cyndi lobbed him on his shoulder and emphasized that it was not everyday that she had a holiday away from her children and if only that included him.  Nora and Sara both threw their heads back and laughed.

“Welcome to New York,” Nora extended to the couple.

The women clinked their glasses leaving poor Roger out in the cold. Overwhelmed with her beauty, Roger, unable to look Nora in the eyes, soberly watched his thumbs wrestle and explained how due to his work, he and Cynthia frequented the States. Nora politely asked him what he did for a living. Before Roger could reply, Cyndi interrupted, insisting that no one was interested in hearing about the tediousness of programming. Sara, nearly fed up at this point with Cynthia, explained to Nora how it was Roger who had convinced Nigel to start his own business.

“We spend every Christmas with the Johns, well sans Robbie of course,” Sara remorsefully admitted as her eyes searched the room eventually finding Robbie and the rest of the Herberts seated at a table with a queue of fans patiently and excitedly awaiting their autographed photos.

Beneath the warm exuberate conversations and laughter, the filtered lights dimmed and the music became more audible. Beach House’s “Turtle Island” caused Sara to complain about the band’s musical choice, insisting it was macabre. In a very matter-of-fact-tone, Roger stated that it was a rouse to get the fans through the line quicker so that the lads could get back to the hotel to relax, party or whatever it was that they fancied. He went on to express that he noticed this stealth method was carried out at every show they had attended. Nora nodded, impressed and stated that she, not being as extroverted as say Ms. Cyndi, would incorporate this when entertaining. Sara balked at her, and pointed out how Nora was always playing depressing music and that since Nora entertained so rarely, what would be the point.

Putting the eyelet to the test, Cyndi leaned over again and asked Nora, “Do you ever eat, love?”

Roger dropped his head in his hand and groaned. Sara nearly spit her cocktail out and awaited Nora’s reaction. Nora’s large black eyes widened but remained soft. She gently touched her new acquaintance’s knee and simply replied, ‘who eats anymore, darling’.

“Oh, you cheeky bitch!” Cyndi roared.

Restless and seemingly bored, Alex drummed the table and signed his fans’ photos. Agreeing with Sara, he complained to Robbie that the music was too bloody gloomy. Robbie, trying to remain engaged in conversation with a teenage fan about the significance of each and every Herbie button covering her denim jacket, shook his head and gestured to Alex to pay attention to the fans. He signed the 13-year-old’s photo and taking Shelly’s tapping on his shoulder as his cue, stood to be photographed with the small girl clad also in Dirty Herberts earrings and a pink baby doll t-shirt covered in a silk screen image of his face. He crossed to the other side of the table and happened to glance over the crowd. At the same time, across the room, Cyndi complained of wanting to stretch her legs so she and Nora stood from the worn black leather couches and started for the bar. Shelly guided the young girl to her mark and asked her nicely to wait for Robbie. The dark haired girl constantly flipped her bangs from left to right and thanked Shelly profusely. Shelly turned back to instruct Robbie but he had disappeared into the tightly packed crowd. Annoyed and tired of dealing with the radio station winners, Shelly asked Alex where in the hell Robbie had buggered off. Alex shrugged and suggested that perhaps he went to change the dreadful tunes. Exasperated, Shelly was forced to go after him.

Free of his bodyguards and Shelly’s shield, the eerie sparse drum machine’s beat guided Robbie through the groping fans and friends. The dark nursery rhyme melodies glowed over him and enveloped those that tried to impede him. Floating through the rolling warbling slide guitar the opaque persistent vocals sang the words forming on her lips. In her tall heels, swaying, she seemed in slow motion – laughing and drinking with his sister-in-law. Behind him, angry and very worried for the young star’s safety, Shelly and his enormous square shouldered personal bodyguard, Squid, quickly followed behind.  Aware of their tenacity, Robbie camouflaged himself behind the very tall Sir Lionel long enough for the search party to pass. He felt Sir Lionel’s hand pat his back and request that he do something about the mood killing music. Unable to stop, and having already interrupted his course, Robbie simply kept moving and in envy, observed Cyndi and Nora trading secrets. Never taking his eyes from her smile, he surprisingly found himself at a loss for how he might begin their conversation. As he approached closer, the butterflies in his stomach seemed to breed by the thousands.

“I’m Robert Michael Johns,” he seemed to have blurted.

Cyndi tried but couldn’t help but chortle, which caused Nora to laugh causing Robbie to assume that she was laughing at him.

“Robbie, you little shit!” Not wanting to miss her moment, Sara quickly crossed to the bar and wrapped her arms around his neck.

Barely audible underneath Sara’s arms, Robbie mumbled, “Hello Mrs. Stone.”

“Mrs. Stone!” Embarrassed, Sara fussed with her bangs and protested, “What am I 50? My God, call me Sara!”

“Yeah …umm…” Robbie stuttered.

With his momentum thwarted, he fell to Squid and Shelly. Shelly said a polite yet hurried hello to the Johns then explained to Robbie how she understood that he wanted to visit with his family but at this time, his obligation was to his fans. Recognizing Nora from the images she had presented to him as well as from the New York Daily covers, Shelly glanced at Nora then quickly to Robbie. In all of the years Shelly had worked as his tour manager and assistant, it was not uncommon for Robbie to act out against, what he perceived as Shelly being overbearing and too maternal. Her star was enraptured by another beautiful woman and was not going to listen to reason. She checked her watch and feigned a patient smile while listening to Roger’s technical inquiries. Robbie stepped in closer to Nora and dreamed of her blinking the sleep from those desperate black eyes while he ran his hand along the curve of her naked hip.

“Robbie, we mustn’t disappoint your fans,” Shelly tried to reason.

Keeping Jackson in mind, Nora tried to smile platonically in hopes that speaking with Robbie, wouldn’t be another broken rung added to Jacks’ ladder. Robbie stayed planted while Shelly and the guard fidgeted and waited it out. By this time, Alex had demanded that the music be changed and while Roger and Nigel had begun to gather, slapping his back and congratulating the band on a show well done, the Black Eyed Peas’, repetitive “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” replaced the mysterious “Turtle Island”. Shelly continued to check her watch and resisted grabbing Robbie by the ear and dragging him across the room. At 18 or 19-years-old this action might have been appropriate but now that Robbie was a man, she would have to resort to more adult tactics. She whispered into the singer’s ear that he was holding everyone up and that perhaps if he invited the young lady to the Four Seasons, they could chat there.

Still feeling the sting from Robbie’s address to her, Sara attempted to steal the focus, “Nora, you do know that this is your fiancé’s rival, right?”

With the spell having been broken, Robbie finally acknowledged his surroundings; he hugged his brother and Cyndi and shook hands with Nigel.

“What happened to your face, mate?” Robbie quickly asked Nigel while trying to keep his eyes on Nora.

A large red scratch crawled from Nigel’s chin to his eye. Robbie’s question caused Nora to look to the ground, Sara to slam her drink and got Nigel stammering. He tripped over his carefully crafted words of a drunken journey to the loo, which somehow ended with a metal piece on his watch slicing open his face. The group seemed satisfied and put all attention back to the star of the night.

“Robbie, we really need to get on with it,” Shelly was losing patience.

He pleaded, “Just one more minute, please?”

Shelly, Squid and it seemed almost everyone, instantly backed off and allowed Robbie to wrap up his romantic encounter. He turned to speak to Nora but instead came face to face with Sara. He had reached for what he thought was going to be Nora’s hand and accidentally brushed against Sara’s hip.

“Robbie, we should at least wait for the ole ball and chain to leave, right?” she flirted referring to Nigel.

Robbie gave a half smile and scanned the area for Nora. He found her tucked in on the other end of the bar chatting with Cyndi and Sir Lionel. Sir Lionel was attempting to charm the two women with one of his many tales of touring with various well-known pop stars. Cyndi, more star-struck than Nora, was guffawing at his every notion. Sara, realizing where his gaze lay, tried to be the obstacle in his path.

“Oh don’t bother with her, she’s only here because of me, and besides that, she’s Conlon’s fiancé,” Sara said and gently removed a stray hair from Robbie’s eye.

“I understand Mrs. Stone,” he said quickly and rushed to the bar.

“I suppose for someone who is engaged to one so famous, my name dropping isn’t all that impressive, is it?” Sir Lionel accused Nora.

Nora finished her drink, set it on the bar and wondered why this man was trying so desperately to impress them. She was quite surprised at how many people were aware or cared of her relationship or knew who she was. Ignoring Nigel’s longing stares, her mind raced trying to determine whether or not damage control was necessary. As she pondered her every move and word, Robbie crept up from behind, and placed his hand on the small of her back.

“Hello?” he timidly whispered behind her.

Terrified of someone misreading her inculpable sentiments, she proceeded to take a step away from him, but tripped on a bar stool and losing her balance, she stumbled backwards.  Acting on instinct, he reached out and caught her on the elbow, then kindly warned her to be careful. Just the touch of her small arm, to him, was bliss and he prayed that he would never have to release her. Nora’s eyes nervously scanned the room for gossiping onlookers and in that moment, he noticed that her slight limb had become rigid. He slowly released her arm, placed his hands at his sides, and muttered an apology. Feeling silly and unnecessarily paranoid, Nora tried to dodge the moment and commented on the music.

“Was this your idea?”

Realizing what she was referring to, he assured her that he was not a fan of the popular hit. Nora, expressed how she much preferred Beach House, and he snapped his fingers and in an instant, a young man called Charles appeared. Robbie whispered into his ear and Charles was off again. She stood awkwardly, swirling the vodka in the rocks glass while he watched Charles talk to the DJ. In a few moments, to the rest of the party’s dismay, “Turtle Island” oozed its way back through the speakers. Seeing Nora’s bright American smile was 50k well spent. She closed her eyes mouthing the words while he resisted with everything he had not to touch her. Immediately following Beach House, jolting a shock back into the party, all around them the floor hopped up and down to Icona Pop’s driving hit, “I Love It”.

Keeping his hands at his sides, he carefully leaned into her and joked, “Is there room in your purse that I might squeeze into and escape?”

“Are you not enjoying your own party?” she asked taking another step back and forcing a platonic air.

Shrugging, he tossed his moppy fringe from his large brown eyes and apologized for sounding so dashed. Recognizing that his lexicon had been lost on his American friend, he clarified that he meant not to come across as such a depressed bastard. She excused him and empathetically explained that large parties weren’t exactly her forte. She fell back into her usual silence and hoped that either he would leave her alone or someone would interrupt their tete a tete. Why hadn’t Cyndi butted in with a crass remark or quip? Or that annoying busy body Lionel? Nora observed that everyone – the band, their fans, the Stones, and even his family, although they shot curious glances in their direction, never approached Robbie and her. She felt completely surrounded but totally alone with him.

“Are you reticent because of Conlon?” his question echoed in her head.

She tried to limit her smile and thought that perhaps if she demonstrated disinterest he would find another skirt to chase or the esoteric air would be lifted. She attempted to gain the attention of anyone within close proximity but whenever her gaze was met with another, all eyes were cast down. He tried again.

“Did you like the show?”

“Yes,” she said hoping an aloof one – word answer would send him the message but he only pushed her further.

“Oh yeah, what was your favorite song, then?”

Unable to answer him and overwhelmed with the cultish tableau, she fell into a fit of laughter. Uneasy with her change in mood and not sure of how to handle her, he teased her further, that Sara had already told him that they had dragged her to his show, kicking and screaming.

“I’m sorry, it’s just…” she tried to explain but didn’t know what to say.

“I’m just havin’ a laugh, forgive me,” he smiled and lifted her chin to face him, “I have to get back but can we can please talk again tonight?”

Nora’s face burned with fear and confusion. Talk again? She had hardly said a word. Before she could respond, Squid appeared and ushered Robbie back to the autograph table. The music was turned up, and the chatter and laughter increased. As she scanned the room she noticed everyone’s eye trying to steal a glance at her.

“Weird,” she said to herself then ordered another drink.

“Well, what did he say?” Cyndi asked siding up next to her.

Nora shook her head and lied, “Not much.”

“Well that’s a first,” Cyndi said matter-of-factly.

Nora shrugged and shook her head.

“… My brother-in-law at a loss for words,” Cyndi verified and toddled off to find her husband.

“Well he’s certainly set his sights on you,” Lionel said now alone with Nora.

Nora looked at him puzzled, and continued to protect Jackson, “I’m engaged, so…”

“Yes, my dear, and how does Ian fit into your engagement?”

Angered, Nora demanded, “Who the fuck are you?”

“Well now look at what I’ve done; I’m sorry, Lionel Sebastian Witheby,” he said and extended his hand.

Ignoring his hand, Nora demanded to know how he knew her. He admitted that he and Ian, at least fifteen years ago had played metal together in London. Lionel had recently accidentally run into Ian in a small pub in London. They shared a pint and to Lionel’s surprise, Ian had just narrowly escaped serious trouble with the New York City police. He went on further and revealed that in order for Ian to avoid permanent deportation, he was ordered to immediately leave the country. Lionel expressed confusion that to him it seemed that being ordered to leave the country was deportation but since Ian was already back in the States, he supposed that there was indeed a difference. Nora dropped her drink and stared through Lionel. He gently touched her shoulder and delivered Ian’s message.

“He hopes that you are well and happy but he doesn’t suspect nor does he expect that you have forgiven him.”

Her body began to tremble while tears streamed mercilessly down her cheeks. Lionel, trying to console her, placed his arm around her shoulder.  She brushed his arm off of her and with all eyes at her back, rushed out of the room.

 Image: Andrew Lee | Environment Artist –

Perfect Pop – Part 3

Chapter 4 – Part 1

Fitch Sandals

Old Madison Sq. Garden“How’s it going to look with you at his goddamn show?” from London, Jackson yelled at his ex-fiancé, “but I guess that’s really not your concern anymore, if it ever was.”

In the non-smoking building, Nora secretly dragged her cigarette, and with Jackson screaming, gave thanks to the hysterical Dirty Herberts fans. She no longer saw the point in raising her voice to contradict him or justify her wanting to actually meet his nemesis or Sara’s dream boat. Who was this entrepreneurial self proclaimed king? Jackson continued to attempt his lord over Nora but she smiled, not listening and reminicsed about the dancing clump at Bryn’s and drinking wine again with Sara. Was this what all those shiny happy assholes were on about? Although not ready to admit to being one of them, she couldn’t deny her exuberance that morning when a pair of Jimmy Choo black lace and glitter sandals, magically appeared on her doorstep.

No longer an employee of St. Clair house, Nora ceased living in the world in which such designers ‘loaned’ fashion houses such coveted footwear. However, when engaged to Jacks, one of the perks she did enjoy was of course his bankroll which made such items, at least to Nora, still seem to come free. Now that she was single, she realized that without Jackson and thanks to her New York Daily exploits, she had become a regular schnook that would now have to clip coupons to afford the little extras. But that morning UPS had arrived on her doorstep with a package from Eva St. Clair. Eva had heard it through the fashion grapevine that Nora had spent the night partying with Bryn Harris, who throughout the early 1980’s graced the pages and countless covers of St. Clair magazine. The Fitch sandals were Eva’s way of saying hello to her favorite notorious freelance designer.

“Nora? Nora?”

She listened to Jackson calling her name and admiring her shoes she finally replied, “Yes, I’m here…you sound stressed, are you okay?”

The crowd cheered endlessly for a second encore and Jackson said nothing. Nora held the phone to her ear and scavenged for her box of cigarettes or Slims as Sara had once referred to them. As she drew it to her lips, a large black shadow of shoulders appeared in the hallway. Nora quickly ripped the Slim from her mouth and asked Jackson whether or not he was going to make it. Laughing, he seemed to have relaxed a bit but after clearing his throat, he launched into his allegations.

“The record is dying and you’re gallivanting with the enemy…getting your goddamn picture and an autograph! You’re trending on Twitter – ” he paused briefly.

“I’m doing what to who?” unable to hear him, she was confused.

“Look, I know that we’re no longer together and I know that you wouldn’t be there if not for Sara but please…can you please try not to add any more loose rungs to my ladder?”

Two and half years ago Jackson, outside of Grandma’s Fabrics, had appeared from nowhere and literally knocked her over. Mortified, he quickly extended his long arms, reached down to the pavement, where Nora laid laughing and pulled her to safety. She had taken his hand without any inhibitions, she remembered, because his eyes seemed kind. But what she had never actually admitted, not even to herself was that she craved to do to someone what Nigel had done to her. She immediately knew that exploiting Jackson’s sincere concern for her and instant attraction could be yielding. It was stupid luck that he also was the lead singer and songwriter for the Shanty’s.

She immediately tried to become a part of his jet set lifestyle but Jackson rarely, if ever, wanted Nora on the road with him. He admitted that she would be too much of a temptation. The roadies and his bandmates, wouldn’t be able to keep their hands off of her and he didn’t want the headache of having to play referee every night. Doused were her hot Mick and Bianca fantasies, in the perfect photo op-ed, dressed fantastically in white. Instead, night after night she waited for his call from whatever exotic place he visited and listened to his complaints. Homesick and no longer interested in young groupies, Jackson, after just six months, asked his seemingly loyal girlfriend to move in.

On the phone, at Madison Square Garden, Jackson sounded tired and depressed. Listening to his latest LP, either the pain was from the overdose or most likely the publicity that had surrounded her explicit affair, it was quite evident that Jackson had been ripped apart. Gone were the bouncy funky inspired beats that were typically at the center of his songs, earning the Shanty’s the best indie “dance” band title. His faux affected but charming English phrasing was replaced with a depressed scratchy mournful blues impression. Although the critics couldn’t keep their tongues from the bands trousers, the fans, and radio stations could. And though he had played to a sold out audience at Wembley Stadium six hours before, the Shanty’s record was doing poorly. Jackson bemoaned that he feared that by taking an artistic risk, he had isolated his fans.

“What in God’s name are you doing back here? They’re about to do the final encore,” Sara discovered Nora outside their VIP booth.

Nora flashed her phone to Sara to show Jackson’s caller ID image and then motioned that she’d be off in one minute. Turning her back to her, Nora strained to listen. Startling her, Nigel, tapped her shoulder. Nora jumped, shrieking into the phone. She assured Jackson that she was fine and felt her heart drop to her guts. His sincere concern for her after all that she had schemed or all that she had put him through, was still alive. Staring at Nigel’s image in the dark, she told Jackson that she never deserved him. She promised that she would do her best not to make matters worse or uncomfortable for him, but she could not predict how the press would treat them. She genuinely wished him well, and hung up.

“Sara sent me to fetch you,” Nigel slurred obediently, “off we go then,” he said and started back towards the booth.

“Wait,” Nora looked around quickly then standing on her toes asked into his ear, “what happened at your hotel?”

In the darkness, Nigel scratched his unshaven face and glibly admitted, “Room service knocked on the door and by time I went to answer the door and came back, you had passed out in the bed relinquishing me to the living area to entertain two burgers and a full bottle of bourbon.”

Nora sighed a sigh of relief and trying to return to Sara, Nigel took her by the arm and led her further down the hallway. Placing her against the wall, he put his arms up on either side of her and kissed her. Nora let her head fall back and kissed him deeply. She was back in London, in Sara’s family house, with the bedroom door locked, making love to Nigel, while Sara showered, getting ready for their date. She let him touch her underneath her silk white blouse and down the front of her Marc Jacobs’ Mirah black leather jeans. He bent his leg, used his knee to spread her legs and swiftly ran his fingers inside her and rubbed her vigorously. Nora’s breaths escaped loudly and erratically. He quickly pulled his hand from her pants and covered her mouth.

“Shh, love, cut out the dramatics,” he warned then began to undo his belt. As he worked on his trousers, Nora tried to push him off.

“Don’t!” she mumbled.

Nigel ignored her and tried to get her pants down. Nora clawed at his wrists eventually getting him to stop. He took a few steps away from her and raised his hands in surrender. Sounding pathetic, Nigel explained that she had showed him at the hotel that she still wanted him, and in the shadowy dark hall, he begged her to be with him.

“You said you’d do anything for me,” he yearned into her ear and attempted once more at getting her out of her clothes.

“Stop it!” in the lull of the cheering crowd, her small voice echoed.

Stepping back yet again, he quickly glanced towards the booth then wiped her lipstick from his mouth and blamed too much bourbon for his behavior. Nora adjusted her clothing and in the darkness told Nigel that he was never to touch her again or she would tell Sara everything. And yesterday, she warned, while she and Sara were making up, had Sara not had a hair appointment, she would have known everything. Causing his head to spin, in another lull of silence, she admitted her deep regret of hurting his wife and Jackson. Not wanting to admit his own guilt, Nigel tried to continue his seduction.

Playing on her guilt, he cradled her face and told her of when he had sat with Robbie, in his suite at the Four Season’s and had been asked to play drums with this famous little shit he’d known since he was a baby. Comforted with the feel of her skin, he smelled her neck and amongst the concert noise, whispered to her how he had nearly turned the opportunity down because he knew that he could not live in the same city as she. No longer could he ignore that because of her, his marriage was failing and that for the past five years or maybe it was six, it had been a corpse that on a daily basis he had strung up, like a marionette, and by pulling on its strings forced it back to life.

Still cheek-to-cheek, Nora felt him growing against her hip. He kissed her neck lightly and meticulously opened her blouse’s tiny pearl buttons. By the small of her back, he lifted her slightly and shoved himself against her. Her large round breasts peaked outside of her blouse. Nigel grabbed her breasts and with his tongue drew circles around the pink erect nipples. Nora clawed at the concrete wall panting and moaning. He slid his hand inside her pant’s zipper and reminded her to keep quiet. His words brought her back to the days of her begging him to leave Sara and to stay inside her forever. Her begging, excited Nigel, he enjoyed his upper hand and to her requests he would shut her mouth either with his hand or a pillow over her face and finish. Now, it had been over ten years and here she was still being told to keep her mouth shut, pressed against a cold wall hidden in a dark hallway like a whore. She listened to Robbie Johns thank the massive crowd for the thousandth time then clawed the side of Nigel’s face.

“I told you that if you touched me again, she would know everything,” she hissed buttoning up her top.

She groped in the dark for her zebra print DKNY clutch she had let fall when Nigel first kissed her. Nigel, finding it in a patch of rare light, scooped it up and offered it back to her. Snatching it from him, she shook her head like a disappointed parent and walked down the hall. With his hand on his left cheek, he watched her meld into the darkness and listened in horror as the black and lace Choo’s clicked the floor taking her closer to his wife.

Image: Getty Images (from

Perfect Pop – Part 3

Chapter 3

The Poet in My Heart

friendship-bffNora pressed a dainty finger to her temple then dumped the steaming dark roast coffee into a white porcelain mug. Her shoulder squeezed her cell phone to her ear and listened to Paulie complain of feeling as if he might die and ask if she felt the same. She assured him that her head throbbed endlessly and she was amazed that she was able to get out of bed.

“What time did you get home?” Paulie moaned.

She rummaged her hand through her thick matted curls and as if he could see her, she shook her head. Realizing this, she tried to snap out of it and explained that when she had come home the sky had taken on a gorgeous red and purple hue so she assumed it was dawn. The colors had moved her so much that she had tried to capture them in a sketch. Now sitting at her work desk, with the drawing laid in front of her, she laughed observing how the jumper’s colors were intended to be purple and blood red were all actually green. Paulie giggled and congratulated her for creating a drunken Girl Scout.

“You and Rada seemed to hit it off,” he said with a raspy voice.

Clearing her throat she tripped endlessly over her words, praising the Russian designer for her flawless skin and kindness. Rada had inspired her, she divulged then confessed that although she had come out of her coma several months ago, it was not until last night that she truly felt awake.

“All right, calm down Anthony Robbins,” laughing at Paulie’s jab, Nora coughed.

“Look I gotta get my shit together, Rada and I are meeting at Grandma’s in an hour,” Nora explained dreading having to leave the flat.

“Wow, fast track friends! Who knows, maybe she’ll replace that God awful Sara.”

“You damned imp!” she chortled and choked on her coffee causing some of it to shoot out of her nose.

Wiping spats of coffee from her face and robe, she recalled, with great shame, how she had recently made a fool of herself trying to coax Nigel into sleeping with her. If anyone was dreadful it was certainly not Sara. A loud knock echoed in the wide empty foyer. Nora froze, and just in case the visiting stranger was able to hear him, she shushed Paulie. She kicked off her slippers and avoided walking on the creaky long planks. Through the door’s peephole, widen and distorted, stood a rather impatient looking Sara. Somewhat in shock of Sara’s arrival, Nora covered her face with her hands then whispered to Paulie that Sara’s ears must have been burning. Paulie demanded a prompt call back and hung up quickly. She placed her cell phone down on the foyer end table and replacing her slippers, she pulled her kimono taught. The pink fuzzy slippers brushed and slapped against the floorboards at what seemed one million decibels. Sara knocked again.

With her heart beating inside her throat and her head throbbing for hydration, Nora tried to greet Sara with as much warmth as she could muster; however, when the door opened, Nora’s anxious expression resembled what Joan Rivers might look like stuck in a cab with Nicki Minaj. Seeing her expression, Sara began to fidget with the burnt orange scarf, perfectly placed around her neck, and tied in a large poof that somehow only Sara could have elegantly pulled off. She stood quite stiffly, in low-rise dark blue jeans, a loose fitting black blouse with three quarter inch sleeves, and medium heeled black and gray pumps. Her mind was flooded with thoughts of the last time she and Nora had spoken. Underneath her overly long blonde fringe, her gray eyes nervously darted to and fro. After all, the last time the two women had spoken it had ended in a mad brawl in the filthy snow while café patrons cheered them on. It would have been quite fitting had the crowd been shouting,

“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”

Her curvy hips had grown wider and the very elegant blouse, as Nora observed up close, seemed to rub slightly against a growing belly. Was she pregnant or was she keeping late night company with her Cheese It pals? Nora blamed her Cheese It pals as she recalled Nigel, the night in Gramercy, vehemently complaining how his wife whom did not work, cook or clean also refused to give him a child.  And considering how he had rejected a pregnant Nora several years before, that night, several weeks ago, she stood in her best friend’s tracksuit with the jacket opened in awe of his statement. Now face to face with his wife, Nora swallowed her heart wondering what had actually happened after she opened the jacket then blacked out. Hitting her harder, she pondered what did Sara know if anything, about that night? Breaking the guilty silence, Sara climbed atop her soapbox and quoted months and months of research.

“According to my many sources, all women want the violence to end; but many do not wish for the relationship to end,” she paused waiting for a response. Nora’s round black eyes stared back unblinking.

Sara spoke confidently, “And they say that most women believe that once the violence ends then their relationship will be normal and happy. But the truth of it is Nora, it isn’t your fault and you can’t change him,” she shifted her jacket and the clutch hidden underneath into the other arm and continued, “You stayed because you believed in love and you were desperately still in love with him and as your friend, I should have known this, I should have been there.”

She paused briefly allowing Nora to ask, “Would you like to come in?”

Nora was deeply touched and relieved that Sara had not overheard her phone conversation. Sara tossed her hair out of her eyes and entered into the flat. Her heels hit loudly against the hardwood. Landing in an awkward silence, they stopped and stood in the hallway between the bedroom and the kitchen. Nora fidgeted with her robe’s sash while Sara constantly ran her hands through her thin silky hair. Standing across from one another they glanced out the large bright windows, and tried to avoid each other’s eyes.

“Nigel says, at times, that I can ride on my high horse; I suppose he’s right…I mean, when you needed me most, I arrogantly flung in your face my prestigious education and did nothing,” she paused again and waited for Nora to respond. Nora continued running her fingers over the silk sash and said nothing.

“My God! Are you to stand there, then, and…and…say nothing?” Sara argued.

“Sara, you’re the poet in my heart/Never change/And don’t you ever stop!” hoping to change the painful subject, one she had recently blocked from her mind, Nora mocked Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 hit song, Sara.

“Nora! I’m quite serious and…wait…were you just singing?”

Still trying to avert the Ian topic, Nora laughed and stuttered how she could never stay mad at Sara for too long and that she missed her desperately and why not forget it all over a nice bottle of wine. As if she hadn’t heard Nora, Sara, began to pace and ramble on about how she had been researching online the effects of domestic violence on its victims. She pontificated how the physical pain that victims endure pales in comparison to them trying to give up their lover. Sara went on chastising herself and explained that she had no right to not at least try to put herself in Nora’s shoes and walk that painful mile. Amused with Sara’s dramatics, Nora finally stopped her and again, accepted her apology. Sara dropped her jacket and clutch atop the foyer tabletop and followed Nora into the kitchen for a glass of wine.

“Well, now that we’ve got those nasty bits behind us, cheers, love,” raising her glass, Sara had dropped the dramatics and took a huge drink of wine, leaned against the counter casually and asked, “so how are you and Jackson?”

Nearly forgetting her and Jackson’s deal, Nora stumbled through her words, “Oh…yeah…it’s good, I mean we’re fine.”

Hoping she wouldn’t notice her awkwardness, she poured Sara more wine. In a successful attempt to distract her, Nora spoke nervously as Sara sipped from her glass, about how impressed she was with the surprising cherry notes and spice in the firm Argentinean Malbec. An easy prey to such pretensions, Sara agreed whole heartily and added that the floral bouquet was especially enjoyable.

“Nora,” Sara started, “I don’t mean to cast a maudlin air on such a beautiful morning, but, what did ever happen with…well Ian?” she asked, hardly able to speak his name.

Nora shrugged, shook her head and told Sara that she had not seen nor heard from Ian since that night. Sara poured herself more wine and sighed angrily. Ian, she thought was the reason for Nora’s overdose yet the pathetic coward could not be bothered to make sure whether or not she had survived. Holding her tongue, Sara complimented the wine again.

“Oh shit!” Nora suddenly blurted.

Startled, Sara’s hand jerked causing the wine to swish and swirl and eventually splash onto the counter. She apologized profusely. Nora waved her hand to show that she was not bothered by the spill and tossed Sara a dishtowel. Sara wiped up the spill while Nora called Rada, who she was late to meet at Grandma’s Frabric.

“Rada? Hi, it’s Nora,” she sounded breathless.

Sara stood listening and wondered who was Rada. Judging from the phone call, Rada wasn’t polite, as she seemed to interrupt Nora each and every time she tried to speak. Feeling protective and jealous, Sara asked Nora what Rada was saying. Nora waved for Sara to be quiet and continued to fail at explaining herself. In the quiet apartment, Sara could hear Rada’s loud complaints.

“Jesus!” Nora said finally and placed her phone on the counter.

“What was that all about?” Sara begged.

Nora shook her head in disbelief and confessed that she did not know. She explained how Paulie had talked her into attending Bryn’s party and that she had met Rada. She reminded Sara that Rada was the designer that had invited Nora to Russia months ago to collaborate on a new line. Sara advised Nora that she rethink working with a woman that doesn’t allow her to get a word in edge-wise. Nora sipped her wine and laughed.

“She must have been hung over or something because she was so angry. I mean, I was only five minutes late,” Nora tried to reason Rada’s behavior.

Sara rolled her eyes and suggested that perhaps Rada was just rude, and she offered that if Rada was one of those Czarinas she’d been following in the Times then she most definitely was rude and spoiled. Nora panicked imagining that her tardiness could have cost her such a lofty opportunity and at this point, her only opportunity. Rada was preparing for a huge show at Bryant Park, who wouldn’t be on edge? Nora continued to defend her created image of Rada. Sara, not buying it, stuck with her original assessment.

“Trust me, those wealthy Russian designers are not to be trusted. They are born with everything, then, once in the States or England, they lie insisting that they have and come from nothing.  And the western world just seems to gobble it all up,” Sara exposed.

“Oh bugger!” Sara blurted checking her watch. “I’ve a hair appointment, so I must be off.”

Sara hurried to the foyer and gathered her belongings. Still feeling anxious about Rada, Nora followed behind and thought how she would ask Paulie for his opinion. Sara turned to Nora and extended her arms. Nora embraced her and assured Sara that all was forgiven. Sara laughed rather loudly and charged for the door.

“Oh my God! I nearly forgot! You are coming out tomorrow night with Nigel and I,” Sara ordered to a confused Nora, “Nigel has scored us some VIP passes to Dirty Herberts!”

“You must be ecstatic!” Nora smiled.

Sara, in her very English manner, hurriedly revealed that although Nigel had finally become the man she had always wanted him to be, that it was now quite unfortunate that he seemed so unattractive to her. Nora felt a rush surge through her entire body while Mrs. Stone pondered quite rationally, that perhaps it was a typical marital stage that everyone had to sort out together, but what was so bloody awful was that she didn’t really want to bother. In Sara’s eyes the pain seemed unbearable. Nora had always secretly known and perhaps even hoped that their relationship would fail eventually but at the time she had thought that she would have been happy for it; instead, at that moment, she felt that she was to blame. Had she caused a permanent rift in the couple’s relationship? Was she so arrogant to even think it had anything to do with her? Probably so but it was time that Sara knew what sort of friend and husband she was really dealing with.

Nora started to confess but was swiftly cut off, “Oh Nori, I’m sorry to unload this on you after we haven’t even spoken in months,” Sara groaned beleaguered.

“Stop it! It’s what I’m here for, but Sara I should tell you…” Nora began again but Sara’s tongue was always too quick.

“Bugger, I’m going to be late. Look, you’re going tomorrow and I’m not taking no for an answer. Be to our flat by 5pm and we’ll chat more then,”

“You two got a flat?” Nora asked surprised.

Sara shouted behind her, “What, did you think we’d live in a hotel forever? I’ll text you the details! Ciao, love you!”

Resources: Why Battered Women Stay by Susan McGee, -Excerpted from an article of the same title by Susan G. S. McGee


Perfect Pop – Part 3

Chapter 2

Czarina By The Sea

Black-Sea-mapIt was reminiscent of an interview with rock stars of decades past – the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles or Duran Duran.  In a superfluous effort to promote their two-night sold out shows at Madison Square Garden, the band sat patiently at a nondescript table, littered with microphones, half empty pints of ale, water and wine, as national and local New York press crammed into the Four Season’s small conference room to question, accuse and critique Robbie Johns and his Dirty Herberts.  Johns, seated in the center, amusingly addressed most questions, accusations and critiques. In response to their question about whether or not this would be the band’s last tour, he turned to his mates and put the question to them. Alex, the drummer, smirked that it would depend on what a down payment for a New York City townhouse would cost. While, Thomas, the bass player added, that with his third child on the way, he highly doubted it, which caused Robbie to accuse his bass player of being a sex maniac and that didn’t he have enough children. Amused, the press gobbled it all up to be spit right back to the fans.

In a decade, Dirty Herberts had managed to abandon their teen pop status and prove that they were a band with long lasting appeal. While they themselves seemed aloof to their stardom, Robbie Johns’, thanks to his prolific songwriting, had catapulted them, forcing the world to take them seriously. Millions watched the band on television, computers, iPads, Smart phones, laptops, etc., while the Twitter feed averaged, 5,000 tweets per hour and thousands of questions from Facebook poured in every second. The Four Seasons Hotel lobby swelled with ecstatic Herbies, as the fans were referred. Young girls and boys, women and men, black, white and brown and everyone in between, wanted to be near them, or at least try to catch a glimpse.

“In all the success that you have achieved, Mr. Johns, is there anything that you feel that you still must conquer?” asked the pretty young reporter from the New Yorker.

Although he had been asked this mundane question at least one million times before, he acknowledged that it was his fans that appreciated these mundanities and in his obligation to them, he feigned to ponder it seriously and answered,

“I’m very grateful for our success and feel an immense abundance of luck but I’ve worked hard as well and feel that I…I mean…we as a band deserve to be where we are. We are richer beyond belief and thanks to the fans, more popular than any band in the world, ever. I mean, I’m not gonna lie, it’s good to be the king,” the room erupted with laughter, “but what, you ask, must I still conquer, I guess that would be to find my queen. And then my royal subjects, yes, then, I would have it all.”

Floating high among the exposed wood beams, floating in time with the rolling bass, light-as-a-feather vocals begged her hips to move. Stubbornly, Nora slightly swayed to the music, sipped on her third vodka and revealed to Paulie that she and Jackson had finally called it quits. She poured out to him how Jacks had seemed to have only concern for the press’ reaction to the couple’s split. And although she knew she had been a miserable fiancé or girlfriend to him, she was still miffed about his seemingly aloof response. In the loud room, directly into her ear, Paulie admitted that Jackson was very cute but that was about it. Nora threw her head back and laughed. She grabbed his hand and they joined the others dancing on the loft hardwood floors.

Paulie had somehow managed to convince his brooding friend to be his number two at a photography industry party. His project manager, Bryn Harris, an old London friend, adored Paulie and had insisted that he be the principle photographer on an international project she and a colleague had created. Bryn, once a fashion model in the 1980’s, still fancied herself to being on the cutting edge of fashion. She wanted to travel the world and explore its myriad examples of cutting edge fashion. The project would allow Paulie the chance to visit the romantic countryside of Italy or the dark and mysterious regions of Iceland to the perilous and exciting regions of Africa. Having put his photography on hold since moving to New York City, Paulie, although feeling very rusty, jumped at the chance to reunite with his first true love. In hopes that her love for her craft too might be invigorated, in his unselfish manner, to accompany him, he had invited Nora.

At the same time she had been fired from the St. Clair fashion house, Nora’s contract with H&M had also lapsed with no plans for the company to renew. Paulie hoped that by the end of the evening this ultra trendy soirée would not only take her mind off of Jackson and Ian, but also remind Nora what it was that she was born to do. So far, his plan seemed to be working. They danced merrily, were drinking too much and flirting with everybody and anybody. Under the 20-foot high ceilings, in Bryn’s 700 square foot modern flat, the partygoers hardly even seemed to mind bumping and slamming into one another. Through the thicket of drunken artists, models, designers, and photographers, caterers had the audacity but adept success with carrying on trays, stemmed glasses of champagne and various small nibbles. Nora picked a glass of champagne off the daring caterer’s tray and observed the ostentatious fashion show that gathered.  She turned her nose up at the done to death empire waistline trend that didn’t seem to want to die. One woman’s swirling orange and red chiffon dress with its daring low cut back had caught her eye. A shoestring of rhinestones held the dress together from the nape of the neck then cascaded down her back and attached right above her curvy hips. A stunning design clearly of the woman’s own making but very reminiscent, at least to Nora, of Versace. The woman and her locked eyes. She looked familiar but Nora could not place her. Letting it go, she finished her champagne and grabbed from another tray a glass of vodka.

“This is fantastic, yes?” Bryn sang into Paulie’s ear.

He turned to her and smiled broadly. They wrapped their arms around each other and danced. Bryn reached her hand then for Nora and they all danced as one drunken clump. Returning, the woman, with the shoestring rhinestones falling down her back, approached Nora and tapped her shoulder.

“Nora?” she shouted titling her head.

Nora turned to face the woman and in an instant she was reminded of the woman’s identity. She was Rada Belov, Russia’s brightest rising star designer. She had invited Nora, several months back, to collaborate on a transcontinental couture project. The women hoped that in their collection, they might capture the upheaval of Russia, a nation in rocky transition and America, a powerful and rich nation that too was experiencing its own transition as it battled one of its worse economic downfalls in decades. Bringing the two nations together, the designers imagined what those collaborated worlds might look like and learn from one another. They hoped their ambitious collection could socially bring the nations together.

Nora reached for Rada’s hand and attempted to absorb the green-eyed beauty into the dancing clump. Rada, resisted at first but was soon seduced by Nora’s dancing ebony eyes and Kaskade’s, Back On You. In a unison trance, the thick crowd bounced and swung to the carefree rhythm. The two designers eventually freed themselves from the dance floor and finding a secluded wee balcony overlooking an unkempt courtyard, they talked. Nora beamed with joy and excitement, a feeling she had not known for months. Surprising herself, she had an overwhelming need to want to share her joy with Rada. Rada was a radiant Russian beauty. Her light green eyes glowed amongst her soft olive skin. The flowing chiffon draped and fluttered seductively about her tall thick but shapely frame. Nora was in awe of her new colleague. Rada spoke to her American friend of the small village along the Black Sea where she had spent sewing and crafting her haute couture styles for her first grand fashion show. Becoming wildly famous for her bespoke precision, Rada was capturing the attention of designers throughout the world. According to a New York Times article, Rada’s talents and abundant family wealth were being compared to other successful designers like Ulyana Sergeenko or Vika Gazinskaya. The Belovs were well known throughout Russia for their agricultural empire in the wealthy province of the southern region of Krasnodar.

Nora hung on to every heavy accented word. A tinge of jealousy surged in her body but was quickly usurped with admiration and inspiration. Ms. Belov’s gentle and kind spirit filled Nora with memories of her own dreams and desires. Why had she let these men try and ruin her, nearly crushing her and leaving her for dead? Rada took out her cell phone and revealed from her collection a few stunning images. Nora praised her for her special attention to details and craftsmanship. In the small village, Rada continued, she had purposefully secluded herself from the outside world. She lived and wanted only from what the village had offered. For a year, she shut out the fashion world trends, it girls and boys and industry gossip. In her seclusion, she explained that with nothing but the village and her own creativity to move her, organically her design skills had become impeccable. With great pride she spoke of the sea’s natural beauty and the cold frigid winter’s ability to warm her heart and produce original and innovative ideas. Rada’s words had moved Nora to tears. Rada, touching Nora’s cheek asked why she was so sad. Shaking her head, Nora raised her vodka glass to indicate that she may have had too much but also confessed that she had not felt close to her work in months. That listening to her, Nora realized that she had lost sight of what was most important to her – creativity. Laughing heartily, Rada hugged her new friend and with Nora’s coaxing, continued on about the village along the sea.

Realizing the time, Rada interrupted herself and asked, “What do you do on the next Friday?”

Nora, shrugging, thought to impress her by making up something fabulous but instead, staying true to the pure moment, admittedly shook her head. Rada reached into her rhinestone bag, another of her own designs, and pulled out a white card. She handed it to Nora and insisted that Nora attend her show. Rada’s eyes were lively as she apologized for not having invited her sooner but with moving to New York, she explained, in trying to keep everything straight, she had nearly lost her mind. Feeling as if she had to convince Nora, she guaranteed her and a plus one, seats at the edge of the runway and to introduce her to all of those whom she knew. But most importantly, Rada wanted Nora to size up her new boyfriend, a man she had met at a small London fashion show for local designers. Feeling able to speak very freely with Nora, Rada confessed that she never had felt so much emotion for someone that was not related to her. She was in love and wasn’t quite sure if he shared her same sentiments. Empathizing, Nora promised that she and Paulie wouldn’t miss it and she added that if this man did not love her as she loved him, then he was indeed a fool.  The two women hugged one another, and Nora watched the orange and red chiffon, whisk away gracefully.

Image: Nasa’s Earth Observatory website

Resources: PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 191 September 2011; “Violence, Politics, and Ethnicity in the “Russian Riviera”, Nona Shahnazarian, Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University (Sapporo) and Kuban Social and Economic Institute (Krasnodar)


Perfect Pop – Part 3

Chapter 1

Metric Beauty

Autumn 2004 – London

When he noticed the swirling wind lift and drop her dark curls in and out of her startled watering eyes, Nigel stopped speaking. A warning that autumn was on its way, in the chilly breeze, underneath the burnt orange sheer, goose bumps raced up and down her bare legs. Her brand new nails clawed her chest. He was going to marry Sara and he seemed to make clear, that she should have known that sooner or later this affair (a new term he used to refer to their two – year relationship) would have to end. She hopelessly recalled that just one week ago, while still inside her, he had confessed that his mother would turn in her grave at the thought of her blood even considering marrying a girl like Sara. A good Sicilian, she used to tell her son, should marry his own. He confessed that although his mother’s words were hypocritical – she had married an Englishman – as he held Nora he knew in his heart that his mother would have preferred her. He clarified that he realized that although Nora was not a Sicilian, to his mother, a half moulinyan would be better than an English woman. They rolled about the bed laughing at his mother’s old country anecdotes and in that moment Nora was sure that he would finally break-up with her best friend and they would be together. He kissed her hungrily, held her arms down and pushed himself deep inside her.

On the late summer day, she stood freezing and embarrassed. He had made her his whore, and like Nigel, she would let her mother down by letting him get away with it. Unable to control herself, Nora grabbed onto his arms and begged him to take it back. She hurled insults that he was already unfaithful, what made him think that marriage would suddenly make him true? Her words had already been a consideration that nearly prevented him from going through with the engagement but deep in his heart he knew that Sara was meant to be his wife. He couldn’t however, erase the guilty thoughts of he and Nora fucking right underneath Sara’s nose or the consistent lying. He cancelled dates lying that he either had to work late or needed a boy’s night out. When in fact, Nora would take the train to his cottage in Kent and spend the entire weekend. Nora was right, he thought, he was a fool to marry Sara, so long as this sublime beauty would be near, infidelity was inevitable. His sublime beauty clawed into his arms. Her black eyes pleaded.

He grabbed hold of her and ignoring his contemplation, scolded, “Enough! This should not be a surprise to you!”

“I’m pregnant,” she revealed.

His calloused fingers slowly released her wrists and breathing out a large sigh, she noticed his eyes grow soft. Giving in to her naivety, she took his hand and placed it against her belly. He held it there and noticed that underneath her long lashes, her midnight eyes danced.  With his other hand, he cradled her cheek and drew to his, her parting red lips. She threw her arms around his neck and gave in to him completely. Running his hands over her shivering body, the dissipating crowds, in Regent’s Park, hadn’t mattered.

He whispered softly, “Are you sure it’s mine?”

In the increasing wind, she rubbed her arms and watched the grey clouds slowly march across the sky. Looking back into his light brown eyes, she slapped him. Nora attempted hitting him again but was quickly thwarted. He grabbed her, and wrapping her arms around her body, he pleaded that she calm down.  How could he ask her such a question? The two – year affair had taken Nora by surprise. She had planned to attend the London Fashion Institute in two years, and returning to the States, in Seattle, WA, she would develop her knitting skills. The time she dedicated to being available to him accompanied with her heavy school workload, had left her no time for dating other men. When she had first arrived in London, Sara was amazed with how in droves the boys had pursued her new housemate. When the affair was in full swing, Nora’s gradual lack of interest in dating and brooding moods started to affect Sara and Nigel’s courting and eventual relationship. And when confronted, Nora would either deny that anything was bothering her or insist that she was homesick. Sara, feeling sorry for her foreign housemate, regrettably and on many occasions, invited Nora out with her and Nigel. Nora took advantage of her kindness to be near Nigel but also to prevent the couple spending time alone together. Falling for Nigel or anyone was the furthest thing from her mind. On that day, however, she stood, accused of trying to trap him, cold and pregnant.

“It won’t inconvenience you in the least,” Nora shook trying to choke back tears.

“Nora, please…” he began then paused to think, “I…I don’t know what you thought that this was. I made it clear from the beginning that Sara was the one and now you expect me to drop everything because you got yourself knocked up?”  He labored the point, insisting that he was late and that his fiancé would be sure to give him at least ten lashings if he didn’t hurry. He quickly turned and ignored Nora’s extended hand. Unable to hold back her tears, she reached out and watched him disappear.

Spring Present Day – New York City

“Nora,” Jackson called.

“Huh?” she jerked startled.

“Are you listening to me?” he asked.

Nora stared down at her vomit and shook her head, “I’m sorry, baby, what did you say?”

“I said, I don’t want a huge industry wedding, I just want a special day for just the two of us.”

Jenny Soldeinbaum returned holding a Starbuck’s coffee cup. She sucked in her stomach and clomped up to Nora, who was holding the balcony door open, and curtly asked, if, she and her fiancé were quite through viewing the townhouse. She also blared that treating her, as a discarded pet was cruel and quite unprofessional. Ms. Soldeinbaum, in her 15 years of New York real estate, had never been treated with such disrespect. Jackson attempted to wipe the sick from his feet and entered the flat. He rubbed his hands through his hair, apologized for Penny’s over exuberant remarks, and explained to Jenny that he and his future bride would need time to discuss the large investment’s pros and cons. Nearly startled to death that Jackson was on the other side of the door, a befuddled Jenny, laughed coyly, and inviting Jackson in for a hug, opened her arms. Unsure of what to do, he accepted.

“Ah, darling,” she cooed rubbing his hair, “you take all the time you need and if there is anything else you’d like to see, just tell Jenny and she’ll take care of her favorite rock star!” And awkwardly turning on her black pumps, she tipped her macchiato and gestured the couple out.

Landing on the front stoop, Nora blocked the bright sun from her eyes then lit a cigarette. Using his long hand as a visor, Jackson searched beyond the budding dogwood and cherry trees for his rival. Beyond the glistening new grass and the birds’ mating calls, he had vanished. Trying to hide his concern from Nora, he threw his arms around her shoulders and laughed loudly about his realtor,

“Now I’m not saying that I’m all that, but was my realtor flirting with me in there?” he joked.

She picked a small piece of tobacco from her tongue and forced a laugh. Jackson turned to his fiancé and lifting the cigarette from her mouth and stomping it under his shoe, he suggested again,

“So, what do you think, why not get married today?”

“Why are you all of sudden wanting to elope? I mean, what about your mother?” she asked nervously and dug deep into her bag for another Virginia Slim.

A comforting warm breeze lightly brushed against his cheek. He failed to respond to her question and instead, he kissed her lips. When their lips parted, she cocked her head up and assured him, for such shenanigans, not only would his mother disown him but she would completely blame her new daughter-in-law. With a frustrated sigh, Jackson rummaged his hands through his mane and suggested they get a cab. Nora cradled her Salvation Army coat in her arm and pretended not to see Jackson’s disapproving glance.

“You are going to ruin yourself with those things. And since when do you care what my mother thinks?” he challenged.

While, she scoured her large bag frantically for another, her bedazzled heels stabbed out her other smoke. He considered while in the bright light, underneath the dark red color, as they wrapped the cigarette’s filter, her lips were cracked and dry.  Along with that, he noted, on the unexpected warm day, that although they were glorious, her long legs unceasingly knocked together. And perhaps in a desperate attempt to steady herself, Nora slouched her small shoulders forward and continued chain-smoking. Jackson blamed his success for her failing health. To him, in an obvious cry for his attention, she had been unfaithful. By ignoring her silent pleas, to her, Ian’s angry possessive world had been enticing. His atonement, he supposed, like the sisters of Notre Dame, would be to devote the rest of his life making her happy. However, struggling to stand in her dream neighborhood, she was too thin and still throwing-up make-believe breakfasts.

He towered over her and knew that she would be the worst decision he could make for his career and personal future; but somehow, to him, even amongst all of the lies and her failing health, she glowed. Even now, when he noticed that her shoulders were bent over from weakness, he saw her postured, like one of her sketches, in an elegant couture pose. And only in his eyes did her melancholy smile brighten any day.

Stabbing her last cigarette, she answered him, “I don’t have a problem with your mother, remember, it’s the other way around,” she ravaged her bag for another pack then gave up. Jackson did what he usually did and said nothing. He had learned that bringing up his mother’s scathing opinion about her, she could avoid his probing questions about why she was late or who was on the phone or his marriage proposal. Instead of playing into it he asked her flatly whether or not on that day, she would marry him.

Pulling back her shoulders, she straightened her posture and pushed her weight onto her tall heels and observed, “You stood directly in my sick and didn’t say a word about it.”

Recalling the stomach bile that had encircled his shoes, he grew saddened. In his fantasy world he imagined that perhaps she was pregnant but now looking at her and really seeing Nora, he knew that even if she were with child, her starving condition could never support a baby to term.

“What can I say that I haven’t already? If I ask if you’ve eaten, you tell me yes and if that is true, you discard it two minutes later. I don’t know what else to do anymore,” he was tired and disappointed in his failing perk and continued, “throw on top of that the fact that I just can’t trust you…” he trailed off hopelessly.

“I want to call off the wedding,” she said clearly and triumphantly pulled from her purse, her actual last cigarette.

He expected that this news would feel differently, maybe more shocking or even devastating, but her words continued to demystify their relationship. Her beauty unfortunately had always belonged to her – not even Ian could take possession, nor anyone else. It was, however, Penny’s metrics, that created the falsehood that her beauty had been a tangible item to exploit. The last ten or so years had been spent chasing a number one record, earning the appellation of humbled celebrity, and chastising Dirty Herberts for their unapologetic arrogance; yet in that quiet dark moment, it all seemed ironically arrogant. After all, it was her beauty that had captured his and the world’s heart. Wherever he toured, from Kansas to New Zealand, they all showered him the same congratulatory speeches – how does he leave the bedroom with such a beauty? If she were my girl, I’d lock her up, so no one else could even look at her. Even her more notorious moments had aided in his reaching and holding the number one spot, throughout the world, trumping Dirty Herberts. He had finally claimed the throne; and in obtaining the enviable goddess he was the new rock god. Without her on his arm, would he survive?

Her wet midnight eyes tried to search his thoughts, giving up she confessed, “I thought since you had saved my life that it was my obligation to give you mine. But trying to visualize our future in that over priced flat, I realized that I need to give you back yours,” from her finger she pulled the 3-carate princess diamond and placed it into his hand, “I’m sorry, Jacks.”

He folded his long fingers over the ring and dropping it into his pocket he asked if she would keep their break-up quiet.

“At least until the last leg of the tour. I’d like to dodge the gossip hounds and just concentrate on doing good shows,” his eyes pleaded, “and they all still love you.”

That his first reaction expressed concern with how he needed to handle his press and the Shanty’s fans, annoyed her but also left her feeling justified and realizing that the days of putting up with this sort of aloof passivity were over, she shrugged and assured her silence. Taking full advantage of his PR concerns, she also suggested that if she stayed in the flat while he was away, this too would limit the gossip hounds from suspecting anything. He agreed full knowing that she had had nowhere else to turn. He felt good about allowing her to stay put this time. After all, despite putting her on too high of a pedestal, he genuinely had loved her very deeply.  She thanked Jackson and wishing him a safe trip, she quickly ran off to a fabricated lunch appointment.