Disclaimer: I don't own The First Wives' Club, or any of the actors who portrayed characters in this ficlet *le sigh* or any of the music for that matter… Alrighty then! New movie, new genre, I figured I'd give it a shot. Enjoy. :-)
I. Mysteriously Generous
Elise (Saturday, March 7, 1998)
After Bill, I casually dated a couple of guys I met through theater productions. Brenda called them all "toddlers" when she thought I wasn't listening. Okay, I'll admit- none of them was over thirty-five. But you try finding a straight, single man my own age in the theater. And one who's not an egotistical philanderer? Fat chance.
I certainly still have the looks to attract younger guys. But it's turned out to be a mixed blessing. They're drawn in like flies to honey, and then they find out who I really am and act like I somehow bewitched them. As soon as I talk about being sober for over two years and counting, or my concern for helping women escape and rise above abusive relationships, all of a sudden it's "Why're you being such a downer?" or "You sound just like my mom!" It's like I peeled off a suit made of a young virgin's skin and revealed that underneath, I'm actually the crypt keeper.
So I've gone solo for about a year now. It gives me more time and energy for my work, and my friends. Annie and Brenda routinely alternate between inspiring me and cracking me up- but especially Annie. She'll actually sing "You Don't Own Me" by herself now, at least in front of just Brenda and me. Seems like her catchphrase these days is "Oh, who needs men?" Her daughter Chris certainly doesn't. Many of the women who come to the Center would be better off without theirs. And she and I don't need men, either…
Even if sometimes, in the middle of the night, even the most fulfilling single life is just a little bit lonely.
Bill's last monthly check for the Center was twice what I ask of him. And now, at the Center's two-year anniversary gala, I see him sitting alone at a corner table. I've invited him to all our main events, (it only seems right, since he helps fund the place,) but this is the first time he's bothered to show up since the opening gala.
He sits with his arms crossed, wearing a slight scowl. I delight in the little changes that time brings, but that the makeup artists at Entertainment Tonight try so hard to hide. That line above his brows when he's lost in thought- it's a little deeper than I remember. His curly hair is somewhat grayer.
Brenda sits beside me and offers me a virgin margarita. "You still think he's kinda cute, don'tcha?" she teases.
I just shrug, but that's enough to make her nudge me and giggle. You could say Brenda's the romantic of our trio. After all, she's the one who can freely use the coveted R-word: reconciliation.
Brenda gestures towards Bill, (not as subtly as I would have liked,) and mutters, "So, did somebody die or something?"
She's referring to Bill's attire: black dress jeans and a black sweater. "I think he's just going for the 'beat poet' look," I joke.
"Well it ain't working. Guys in all black only look like beat poets if they're short and skinny. Otherwise they just look like bodyguards… Not that I'm complaining…"
I think to myself: My quiet, bespectacled Bill… playing a bodyguard? Maybe opposite me, playing a queen of some obscure little country, in need of his services to avoid getting kidnapped… The brief movie-fantasy sends a pleasant shiver through me. Just then, Bill glimpses us watching him. Brenda smiles and waves; I give her a death glare.
"Gosh, could you two be any more obvious?" Annie comes and stands in the middle of our sightline of Bill, with her hands on her hips.
"Hello, buzzkill," chirps Brenda. "Hey, did I tell you guys that Morty sold Bill his Lamborghini back?" Annie clucks in disapproval as she pulls up a chair. As Brenda relishes the moment, I stare her down, willing her to spill."Morty didn't like the car all that much, said it reminded him of that… that…" She rolls her eyes. "What was that snotty little twig's name again?"
"Shelly," Annie and I say in unison. We know Brenda didn't really forget the name; she just likes to pretend she did.
"Yeah, her," Brenda scoffs. "Anyway, Morty calls up Bill before calling the dealer, you know, for courtesy's sake. And Bill offers him whatever the dealer'll give him, plus ten percent. Morty said he didn't need the extra, but Bill insisted. Seems like he's swimmin in dough since his last movie." She shrugs.
For some reason this makes my heart sink. "Oh, so that explains the check…"
"What check?" Annie demands. Brenda's eyebrows shoot up into her bangs.
I sigh. "His last check to the Cynthia Swann Griffin Crisis Center was for half a million dollars." Annie gasps. "I was gonna go talk to him," I continue. "You know, thank him for his generosity, maybe ask him what prompted it…"
"Oh you should," Brenda breathes excitedly.
"No, you shouldn't!" squeaks Annie. I swear, these two are like the shoulder-angel and shoulder-demon you see in cartoons. Only I'm not sure which is which. "Clearly you're still attracted to him, and he's the ex," she hisses. "No good can come of this!"
"No good?" Brenda asks pointedly.
Annie blushes. "Well, you and Morty... I'm sorry Brenda, but… you two are very lucky. You're not exactly a typical case."
Brenda is wry. "You hear that, Elise? This one's tryin to tell me I'm abnormal."
"Atypical." Annie is prim, indignant. "There's a difference." Then she notices me still gazing across the wicker tables, towards the mysteriously generous man in black. "Elise, you can't go over there, not if you're going with unresolved issues and expectations. It makes you vulnerable to his tricks."
"No, it made you vulnerable to Aaron's tricks." Brenda mimics Annie: "There's a difference."
I see a storm brewing. To distract Annie, I point out, "Well, aren't you the one who said Bill's a saint?"
"Legally, yes. Psychologically?" she smirks. "I don't think so. He's self-centered and needy and…"
I tune her out. And kind and funny and creative… and appears to have come alone… I get up and straighten my ball gown. "Look, I'm going over there, just so you two can stop arguing over whether I should."
As I make my way through a maze of tables, trembling in my heels but holding my head high, I hear Brenda's smug pronouncement: "Ha! I win."