It’s Back To School Night tonight and I’m giving one of the welcoming speeches, which means I’ve woken up feeling as I’ve already drunk ten cups of coffee even though I’m still lying in bed.
Things are good, I tell myself. I’m doing good. No need to stress. I just need to relax.
I wish I knew why I have such a hard time relaxing. It’s almost as if I am afraid something bad will happen if I’m not constantly in control.
Voices waft from downstairs. From what I can hear, Nathan’s in the kitchen trying to get the girls to eat their breakfasts. He’s usually so patient with them but unfortunately today doesn’t seem to be one of those days and Tori—or is it Brooke?—begins to wail.
Grimacing I pull on the nearest thing I can find, my Juicy tracksuit, as I think about my day. I’m supposed to meet Patti at noon to discuss the auction and the auction chair meeting scheduled for next week. I’d normally have yard duty but I traded with another mom so I could meet with Patti. The morning’s more or less free and I consider taking an exercise class. I need some exercise.
In the walk-in closet I glance at myself in the walk in closet’s full length mirror. In my track suit I look fine but the soft fabric can hide the truth so I pull up the jacket and pull down the bottoms exposing my stomach, hips and boobs. I do this almost everyday. Sometimes what I see is okay, sometimes I can only see ugliness, can only see where my waist is thick and how I’m round across my stomach where I know it should be flat.
Now I touch my stomach, try to suck it in even more, looking for definition, turning to the side to check my width.
The most fashionable women, the truly stylish women, are all thin. Every month when my new issue of Town & Country comes, I leaf through “Parties” to see if I know anyone. And to see if I look better than anyone.
I don’t like that I do this. But I’m so afraid if I don’t keep on top of the situation, of me, I won’t matter.
Usually all the couples in Parties are well known, society staples and celebrity faces, and nearly every woman looks like a greyhound that’s just come from a spa. Their skin is taut and glows and they’re all racehorse thin. But every now and then one woman looks a little bigger, sturdier, than the rest of the stick figures in their couture gowns, and I breathe a little sigh of relief—I’m not that fat!—even as I feel a prick of pity that they’re not as skinny. Privately, I don’t understand this preoccupation with weight and figures. I never even think twice about the men in the Parties pictures. It’s a non-issue if a man is stout in his tux, or narrow through the shoulder, or thinning at the scalp. Men don’t have to be model perfect. Men just have to be men.
Tugging up my bottoms and yanking down the jacket I tell myself I should go to Pilates this morning. It’d do me good. But it’s LuLu in the studio today and LuLu’s style doesn’t work as well for me.
Instead I drop to the carpet next to my chaise and go through a couple yoga poses, hoping that five minutes floor work will equal an hour Pilates. Closing my eyes I take a pose, focus on breathing, focus on stretching, focus on being present and in the moment.
Less than two minutes into my routine, Jemma crashes through the door, interrupting my downward dog. “I can’t find my butterfly hair elastic,” she cries, her long blonde hair caught in one fist.
“Did you check your room?” I ask, turning my head to peer through my arms at her as I inhale slowly to a count of three.
“Yes, and it’s not there.”
“It’s not there, either. I’ve looked. Everywhere.”
I’m inhaling again and it takes me a moment to answer. “Then I don’t know what to tell you.”
I stand, brush off my hands, trying to ignore the low blue feeling that engulfs me. “Jemma, it’s your hair elastic.”
“And you’re my mom,” she flashes before flouncing off.
Fifteen minutes later I’ve got the girls rounded up, backpacks on their backs, lunches in hand and I walk them to their bus stop. Nathan’s upstairs in the bathroom shaving at his sink when I return to the house.
Our bathroom is enormous, a true spa retreat with heated marble parquet floor, his and her counters and sinks, glass shower, whirlpool tub, and heated towel bars.
“You’re heading to work late today,” I say, leaning against one of the brown and white marble counters. This marble is probably my favorite stone in the house. Dark cocoa richly veined in white. It’s glamorous and masculine as the same time.
He makes a face in the mirror. He’s shaving his neck now and pauses to tap his razor in the sink. “I’m actually heading to the airport. I’ve an eleven o’clock flight.”
“You’re going out of town?” I can’t quite suppress the sharp edge in my voice. “Why didn’t you mention it before?”
“I wasn’t sure I’d need to go until last night and you had bookclub and then I fell asleep.”
I frown. His explanation is suspect at best. “I’d think you would have told me first thing this morning again.”
“You were asleep and then I was getting kids ready for school.”
“You telling me you’re leaving town is more important than feeding kids Fruit Loops!”
He looks at me in the mirror. His brown eyes hold mine. “I’m sorry, Taylor.”
He sounds sincere but at the same time something doesn’t feel right. “But it’s Back-to-School Night tonight.”
He uses a washcloth to wipe away shaving cream residue. “You’ve got it down. You don’t need me there and I need to be in Omaha.”
I shake my head. “Arkansas two weeks ago. Omaha today. What’s next? Bakersfield?”
He rinses his razor, takes his time answering, and when he finally speaks his voice is pitched low, his tone almost excessively patient. “I’ll try to get back tonight, but if I can’t wrap everything up today, I’ll be home tomorrow night. Either way, I’ll call you and let you know when I know more.”
I don’t know if it’s his tone, or his expression, but I feel something small and hard and sharp form in my gut as he combs his hair and then heads for our closet.
He’s my Nathan but he’s also a stranger.
“Don’t you want to hear more about the girls’ teachers and their year?” I ask, following him.
“You’ll tell me,” he answers, reaching for his suit jacket. “You always do.”
His answer perplexes me and I stand there, arms at my side, my brain racing to make sense of what he’s saying and what he’s not saying. This isn’t the Nathan I know. This isn’t the devoted dad who never missed anything pertaining to his children. “Are you okay? Are you not feeling well?”
The cold sharp knot in my gut grows bigger and I open my mouth to ask what I really want to know.
Are we okay?
Is there someone else?
Will you always love me?
But I don’t. I can’t. Instead I kiss him and let him leave.
For a long moment I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what to do with myself, either. I have a half hour before I have to drop Tori off at preschool. I should go sit with her. She’s just lying on the floor of the family room watching cartoons. Instead I sit down at my laptop computer in the little room off our bedroom that serves as my home office/wrapping paper/scrapbook room and get on the internet to check out the flights to Sun Valley for the winter holiday. $380 each. Not bad. Not great. But it could be worse.
I know Nathan said we couldn’t go this year, but he can’t be serious. Sun Valley is the place to be, and I love the town of Ketchum. Tons of our friends have houses or condos there. We usually book two hotel rooms but this year we won’t go to a hotel. We can just stay with Kate and Bill. Their house is enormous—a seven bedroom, seven bath, ten thousand square foot lodge—and they’ve asked us to stay with them every year. I book the five tickets, and then reserve the car. By saving on hotel, it’s almost free, isn’t it?
Back in my room I strip off my Juicy tracksuit, rummage through my built-in wardrobe drawers searching for my tiny pink Cosabella thong panties and the matching pink bra.
Years ago when I bought my first $200-plus bra, I felt guilty and sick. But $200 for a bra is nothing now. All of my lingerie is expensive. But it’s Italian, and French.
Nathan claims that no one in his family ever spent that kind of money on underwear, and that people with real money don’t blow it. The truly rich are far more conservative with cash than those who wantto prove they’re successful.
Living here in Bellevue I’m not sure I agree, but I do know that Nathan’s family isn’t like mine. They have money, lots of money. They also detest me, at least his mom and sister. Nathan’s dad seemed to have a soft spot for me but he died five years ago and his mother and sister have just grown closer, and colder.
It never crossed my mind that Nathan’s family would despise me. I’m an overachiever, a former born again, straight A student, and cheerleader. I wasn’t the most popular girl at Muir High (being born again had its drawbacks), but I was well liked enough to be put on the homecoming court and to be named ASB president.
I didn’t get the same respect at USC. UCLA students mocked us by saying USC stood for University of Spoiled Children, but the truth is, I was there on a full scholarship. A lot of us were on full scholarship, and I had a virtually free ride through a university that cost others over $30,000 a year in tuition alone.
Nathan should have never told his parents about my scholarship. It prejudiced them against me. They were sure I was after his money.
His mom said so to my face. “You do know under California state law, that whatever assets one partner has before marriage, remain with the partner after marriage.”
I’d simply stared at her and she’d added, as if clarifying her position. “If you marry Nathan, you’ll never have one penny of his trust fund. If you divorce him, you’ll have even less.”
Even today, I’m just one step above poor white trash in their eyes.
Nathan’s family is wrong though. My family wasn’t affluent, but we weren’t white trash. At least, we weren’t until my mother fell into the gutter but that was her choice, not ours.
I step into slim pale gold Adrienne Vittadini slacks topped by a pale gold Adrienne Vittadini knit top which has a long matching car coat. Scraping my hair back from my face into a tight, low ponytail I study my reflection.
There are times like now where I realize I’m pretty. I’m grateful that God gave me this face. It’s what attracted Nathan in the first place. Dark blonde hair. Strong eyebrows. Angled cheekbones. Good mouth. Great body. But I work it. I work it every day. Why?
I like being Taylor Young.