By Kristen Berry
Clare gasped, the intake of breath so sharp, it sounded painful.
“Look at you,” she exhaled. Josephine gave a little spin; she knew her cues. The tiny, black, pearl-like beads scattered over the short skirt of the dress glittered in the bar light. “When did you get this?”
“Yesterday. It arrived by messenger.”
“Jacques. Something to remind me of him while he’s vacationing in France with the wife and kids.”
“It’s Chanel, isn’t it?”
Josephine nodded, flashing the sheepish grin she knew everyone found charming. She’s so modest, so down-to-earth to be so beautiful, they said.
“God Josie,” Clare said. “I’d kill for your closet.” Clare was wearing head-to-toe Lanvin, from that season. Josephine knew Clare made this statement for the same reason she flashed her smile. It’s what privileged people did to appear humble.
Josephine’s phone sounded from inside her clutch. She plucked it from inside, glanced at the screen, and made an apologetic face.
“Give me one second sweetie, I have to take this, but I’ll only be a minute. Ricardo, darling, how are you? Slow down, what’s happening? Ah, that again. Don’t worry, I’ll be right there.”
“Another of your boyfriends?” Clare asked.
“No, a friend. His boyfriend just broke up with him – again. I’d better run.” Josephine brushed Clare’s immaculately maquillaged cheek with her lips, exited the bar and entered a cab the valet attendant hailed for her.
The car stopped in front of a run-down walk-up beside a Korean market. Josephine handed the driver a handful of bills, climbed the stairs to building, slipped her key in the lock and went inside.
When she climbed to the fourth floor, she ran into Ricardo, standing in the hallway with two large men in dark gray jumpsuits.
“There she is!” Ricardo cried, his face twisted in anger. “I told you, last time was the last time I’d let you have these men banging on the doors looking for you. This is a family building, I can’t have all this noise! I told you, one more time and you’re out!”
“I’m sorry, Ricardo. It won’t happen again. See? I’m here now. Come on,” she said, motioning to the two men, “come get what you came for.”
Josephine unlocked the door, opening it to a room the size of one of Clare’s guest closets, a tiny kitchenette, bathroom, bed, dresser and television barely visible among the racks of clothing and boxes of shoes, jewelry and gifts that filled the space.
The two men glanced at each other, and then at Josephine.
“Go on,” Josephine said, waving them in, “go get them. Just please, be careful of the clothes. The racks are on wheels, we can move them.”
Josephine opened a bottle of Perrier-Jouet and drained a glass as the men removed the television, bed and dresser from the room.
“I need you to sign this,” one of the men said, walking back into the room with a clipboard.
“Would you like a glass?” Josephine asked, holding up the bottle.
“Um, no. That’s okay. I just need you to sign this.”
“Come on,” Josephine said, pouring a glass without waiting for an answer. “Just one.” He accepted it hesitantly.
“I don’t get it,” he said, sipping the champagne. “Why didn’t you just sell some of this stuff? You could have kept your furniture.”
“I don’t need furniture.”
“But you need this? All of this?”
“Did you ever dress up as a kid? Halloween or anything? As long as you were in that costume, you were what you wore.”
“It never mattered what I wore. I was always the fat son of a Brooklyn mechanic.”
“Not me,” Josephine said, refilling her glass and motioning around the room with it. “When I put on these clothes, I become the person I want to be. People talk to me differently, they look at me differently, they treat me differently. They want to be around me. They give me more things, for free, because of the things I already have. They want to surround themselves with people that mirror the image of what they want to be. These things are my key to that. They’re my ticket. It doesn’t matter if you’re the fat son of a Brooklyn mechanic or the skinny daughter of a Queens garbage collector.”
“But no bed?” he said. “All these things and no bed?”
“Isn’t a bed just a thing?”
He looked into his empty glass. Josephine picked up the clipboard, signed the form and handed it to him with a smile.
“Thanks for the drink,” he said, smiling and walking out of the apartment.
Josephine looked around the room. She took her phone from her purse, dialed a number and held it to her ear.
“Donovan,” she purred. “Free for a late dinner? Fantastic. Dessert is on me.”
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