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The divorce club, p.19
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       The Divorce Club, p.19

           Jayde Scott
 
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  "That's out of the question. What would you need to meet her for anyway?"

  I hesitate, considering my possibilities. Telling her the truth isn't an option, but I can't come up with a good excuse either. "I was just hoping to put a face to the name, that's all."

  "So, are you coming over now? We need to pick up your wardrobe, tramp you up and work on our plan," Mindy says.

  "Can't we do it next week?" I sound just like my daughter when she doesn't want to make her bed or help wash the dishes.

  Mindy lets out an exaggerated sigh. "No, or do you want me to get fired because of you?"

  "Of course not."

  "Good, because I'd never find work again. She said if I mess this up she'll write the worst reference ever."

  A pang of guilt hits me, but I've no other choice than to point out the obvious. "I don't have the money to buy something new to wear."

  "Hold on a second." I can hear shuffling and whispering in the background. Then, "Don't worry. She's paying for it."

  I've run out of excuses and my brain's throbbing harder than before. "Okay. Let's—"

  Mindy cuts me off, "Meet me at my place in half an hour. Don't be late."

  Shaking my head, I listen to the disconnect tone. If that girl were a car salesperson she'd be elected employee of the year.

  Half an hour is barely enough time to drag my hurting butt off the chair and out the door, but I try nonetheless, lest the employer make her threat real and come after me with her entire bank account. I arrive at Mindy's house late, hoping she won't be too peeved. As I slam the car door, I notice her peering from behind cream curtains. She doesn't seem too happy.

  "You're late," she greets me at the door. "And you weren't lying. You do look like hell."

  I scan the tiny hall as I walk past. A few hooks hang from the flowery wall, a shoe rack's squeezed between a door and the stairs leading to the first floor. "Traffic," I mutter, my head throbbing in spite of all the Tylenol, or whatever they gave me at the hospital, coursing through my bloodstream.

  "At least you're here. Come on in." Mindy leads me through a door to what looks like a living room slash bedroom slash everything else and points at a tiny sofa covered with clothes. "Take a seat."

  I peer at the heap, uncertain whether it might be considered rude to push her garments aside rather than sit on them. Mindy disappears again, so I move the stuff out of my way, making just enough room to squeeze in. Truth be told, I expected Mindy to be quite the cleaning freak, but judging from the unmade bed in the corner and the cluttered desk she's the exact opposite.

  A loud thump outside the door, then Mindy comes in again, struggling with a tiny tray littered with two coffee mugs, two desert plates, forks, a sugar bowl and what looks like a milk container, but I'm not sure because I haven't seen one of those since my daughter turned three and demanded to drink from grown-up bottles.

  "Coffee?" She places the tray on a side table as I hurry to hold the mugs in place before they shatter on the floor. I have no idea what the desert plates are for because there's nothing on them.

  "Thanks."

  She smiles and stirs two spoons of sugar into the steaming, black liquid, than hands me a mug. I cringe, but don't protest.

  "Let's get started then," Mindy says. "Dressing like a tramp and looking cheap takes a lot of work." I stare at her, unbelieving. I just had a car accident, and the woman can't even be bothered to inquire about what happened. She looks me over. "Your eyebrows need work."

  "What?"

  "Let's face it, Sarah. They look as though two giant caterpillars are sleeping on your forehead. Should we pluck, shave, or wax? And your nails are just horrendous. Do you bite them?"

  "I've had a lot on my plate." I smile. "Besides, my brows are very useful in shading my eyes from the sun."

  Mindy ignores my joke. "You need long nails with French tips. How are we going to get you ready by tonight?"

  "I'm such a lost cause, huh?"

  "You're so lucky I have a makeover DIY manual installed in my brain," Mindy says. "We'll give your hair a good conditioning, throw on some fake eyelashes over glittery lids, maybe some blood-red lipstick. We'll douse you in his favorite perfume too." She jumps up and starts rummaging through her stuff. "Where's the glitter hair spray?"

  I bet once she's done with me, I'll look like a carnival freak.

  Mindy continues, "Nothing says stripper like gold hoops, fishnet stockings and clear plastic platform heels." Frowning, she turns to face me. "Can you walk in six-inch heels?"

  "I own a fashionable pair of stilettos."

  "Good, then you've had practice. One more thing." She holds up a tight leopard dress, her head cocked to the side.

  "Mindy! I'm not wearing that in a million years."

  She tosses it on top of the clothes pile. "Fine. No leopard print. It's too cliché anyway. But we still need to focus on showing lots of cleavage. You have to pull off this show like a pro. You're available tonight, right?"

  "Tonight?" I blurt out. "Ah—"

  Mindy smirks. "It wasn't a question, Sarah."

  "What if he doesn't like me?" My hands turn sweaty; the cave of my mouth feels dry. I've never been a men-magnet. Heck, usually no one even bothers to buy me a drink in the hope of a one-night stand with me. How the hell am I supposed to land a multi-millionaire who most likely could have any pin-up out there?

  "Don't worry, he'll like you. You're definitely his type," Mindy says.

  "I thought you said he preferred prostitutes."

  "Strippers, actually." Mindy takes a sip of her coffee and grimaces, then scoops more sugar into the mug before she dares a gulp.

  "You do realize you just said I look like a promiscuous woman, right?" I keep my voice nonchalant and even infuse a little bit of humor in there.

  Mindy shakes her head. "Not all strippers are promiscuous. Some do it to raise a family or pay for their degrees."

  I'm wondering whether that's how she could afford her higher education, but I don't ask because it's none of my business. "Is that the hubby's opinion of strippers?"

  "He probably believes the same cliché as you." For a moment, Mindy glares at me as though it's all my fault. "Anyway, we'd better get going. It might take a while before we find something suitable."

  Eager to get this over, I stand. "You mean something to cover up all those bruises."

  "No. I was thinking more along the line of something to make you seem like you actually have boobs."

  Why, someone's a little bitchy today. After ten years of being friends with Mel, I should be used to snarky remarks, so I bite my tongue to hold back a response even though keeping my mouth shut isn't my style. It's all for business, I remind myself.

  Mindy grabs her purse and we head out in separate cars because, client or not, there's no way I'll be returning home with her.

  Half an hour later, we arrive at a shopping center and head for the shops, the lingerie boutiques first because that's where the trashy stuff is, or so Mindy assures me. A sales assistant greets us as we step in. I keep my head low, barely acknowledging the young woman, but my eyes scan the floor. To the right, there's a sex toy area badly concealed by a mannequin dressed in a fishnet bodysuit. Opposite from it are racks with bras and knickers in all colors and shapes. Mindy picks up a black lace bustier to inspect it, then tosses it my way. "Try this on."

  "Why? He's not going to see my underwear," I protest.

  "If you want to be a stripper you've got to play the part." Mindy picks a sheer camisole with peek-a-boos where there should be padded cups. I've no idea why she thinks this will boost my cleavage. More likely, it'll make me look deflated.

  Glaring, I put back one piece after another. "I didn't sign up to play stripper." My voice sounds a tad too loud, which earns me an amused look from the sales assistant standing a few feet away. To my embarrassment, she pops over and opens her mouth to speak, but I cut her off. "No, we don't need help. Thank you."

  "Actually, we do." Mindy points at a red s
equined bra that would give Las Vegas' sparkling skylight a run for its money. "Do you have this in a 34B?"

  "Let me have a look in our stockroom." The assistant smiles and disappears.

  I grimace, almost blinded by the shimmering material. "I'm a 34A."

  "Shush. Don't ever say that in front of a man," Mindy whispers, rolling her eyes. "I obviously know that, but it's nothing a pair of chicken filets can't solve."

  "A pair of what?" Surely, she isn't talking about poultry.

  "These." She holds up a box. Dumbfounded, I stare at a pair of silicone breast enhancers.

  The sales assistant appears again holding the ugly red bra. "It's the last one in this size," she says. "They're very popular."

  "Gee, there's got to be plenty of strippers out there." I laugh, waiting for the ladies to join in, but they just stare. I shake my head. "Sorry."

  "Actually, they're quite popular with our male customers," the assistant says.

  "I would've thought men might need a bigger size." I laugh, unable to contain the hysteria at the prospect of flashing my undies to some old, leering guy. I hope one day Sam will be thankful for all I did to pay for the roof over her head.

  Glaring, Mindy pushes me toward the fitting room and pulls the curtain. I'm left staring at my bruised face in the oversized mirror. My hair's in disarray, sticking out in all possible directions. Trying on skimpy underwear is the last thing I want to do.

  "Hurry up," Mindy hisses as though she can read my mind. She's getting scarier by the minute, so I peel off my clothes and slip on the little nothing. The cups sit loose around my breasts; instead of taunt and rosy skin, I see pale, silver lines—faded signs no stretchmark cream could ever remove.

  "Don't forget these." Mindy reaches around the curtain to pass me the breast enhancers. I open the box and squeeze them inside the bra. Actually, it isn't really squeezing, more like dropping them in there like dead fish into a pond in the hope they might fill all the extra space. My breasts seem lifted, peering out of the material in a way I haven't seen in years. Come to think of it, they've never been this plump.

  "Are you finished? Let me see," Mindy says.

  "It's so tight. I can't breathe." I'm not even bluffing.

  "Don't worry, Sarah. I know CPR. Now suck it up."

  In a bold moment of confidence induced by fake breasts, I pull the curtain aside, grinning, and take a step out. "What do you think?"

  "It's—" She tilts her head and nods a few times. My gaze wanders away from her to the guy standing behind a rack with chocolate body paint and massage oils and I feel my smile freeze, all color draining from my face. There's Jamie, staring straight back at me.

  Chapter 20

  I'm mortified and don't want to leave this fitting room ever again. Outside, Mindy and Jamie are still talking, but my heart's drumming in my ears, making understanding a word impossible. From all the gazillion shopping centers in London, how could he possibly have chosen this one, on this particular day, at this time? What's he even doing in a lingerie shop anyway? I thought he was getting a divorce.

  Taking a deep breath, I slip back into my clothes and peer out the curtain whispering, "Is he gone?"

  "Who?" Mindy asks, wide-eyed. "Oh, Jamie. Yes, he is. He asked the saleslady if that sexy angel was included with the bra."

  I gasp. "No way."

  "I'm kidding. Chill out, Sarah."

  I breathe out, relieved, and join the outside world even though I swear everyone within a five-mile radius is staring at me. I'm supposed to be Jamie's confidante and rock. How could he ever take me seriously again after seeing my underwear?

  Mindy rips the bra out of my hands and puts it on top of a heap on the counter. "We're taking this."

  "All of it? Somebody's a very lucky guy," the sales assistant says. Without waiting for an answer, she starts ringing the till, her hands move expertly over the tags as though she's in some sort of competition. She's probably just hurrying up in case Mindy changes her mind.

  I don't even pretend to take out my credit card because I could never afford all this stuff. Not when it costs almost as much as two weeks worth of grocery shopping. Knowing this doesn't make me feel less bad when Mindy hands me the shopping bag outside.

  "Thanks," I mutter.

  "Just do your job." She beams at me when I realize she's actually looking over my shoulder. I turn slowly, dread creeping up on me. He's there, I know it. Mindy grabs my arm and pulls me through the crowd of mid-day shoppers to a small café where Jamie's standing near a table.

  "Hey." His eyes sparkle, the corners of his lips twitch. The guy's laughing at me. I clench my hands, digging my nails into the flesh until it helps numb the anger inside me.

  "Thanks for finding a table," Mindy says.

  I turn sharply. "It was your idea?"

  She shrugs and drops onto a chair. "A girl's got to eat."

  Jamie holds the chair next to his, but I walk past and choose the farthest. If he decides to talk to me I can pretend not to hear him.

  "Nice rack," he whispers.

  "Did you just say 'rack'?" Mindy laughs.

  He winks at me. "I said 'bag'."

  I sit and grab the menu, avoiding his gaze. There's no need to raise his hopes and then shatter them if we ever get intimate—not that I plan to after the stunt he pulled with that lawyer. "If you're talking about my breasts, they weren't real."

  "You think I'm referring to the fitting room? I swear I didn't look." He sounds so innocent that I peer up at him, almost believing his bluff until I see a sparkle in his eyes. His grin widens. "Actually, I was talking about the bag. I hope you won't show it to Sam."

  What's with the bag? I lift it and gasp. There's the picture of a woman dressed in skimpy lingerie with a naked guy standing behind her, his private parts covered by her hand. I've seen soft porn movies that were less explicit.

  "You're such a cool guy, Jamie. Every other man I know would've hit on her in a heartbeat," Mindy says. "I had my doubts about you when we first met, but now I realize all that emotional baggage from the divorce has turned you into less of a jerk."

  "I'll take that as a compliment," Jamie says, still staring at me.

  The way he's sitting there, all composed and sure of himself, pisses me off. I'm not like him. If I can't have my confrontation now, I'll explode before the barista brings our coffee. "What were you doing in a lingerie shop?"

  "I could ask you the exact same thing. Are you planning something special for some guy I don't know about?" Jamie asks.

  "It's not what you think," I say. "It's for Mindy."

  His gaze darts from me to Mindy, then back to me. "Mindy? Is that why you've been so cold to me? Are you two—"

  Mindy laughs. "Sorry, Jamie, but I don't swing that way."

  I glare. "Neither do I, even though I wish I did. It'd make my life so much easier. Let's get back to the question at hand, shall we?"

  He doesn't even blink as though he saw the question coming. "I had to get something for a friend's bachelor party."

  "Are you sure the chocolate body butter wasn't for you?" I cock a brow. I've no idea why I'm so confrontational. After the weekend in France, Jamie and I are no further than when we met.

  "Unfortunately, no, but I'm more than willing to try."

  Was that an invitation? My cheeks burn and my heart skips a beat. I avert my gaze from his twinkling eyes, unsure what to reply. Luckily, a waitress arrives to take our orders, then leaves again.

  "I'm sorry about the accident," Jamie says.

  "How was it your fault?" Mindy asks.

  "It wasn't." I smirk. "Some idiot crashed into us."

  "Wait a second." I can almost see the light bulb go on over Mindy's head. "I thought you had that accident on your way back from France."

  Jamie nods. The waitress arrives with our coffees, then heads back to get our sandwiches. We keep quiet until she's placed the plates in front of us. She's barely taken one step when Mindy leans forward whispering, "You spent the weekend to
gether?"

  "No, we didn't," I say.

  Mindy goes on as though she didn't hear me, "How long have you been shacking up with Dr. Divorce Lady?"

  "I haven't," Jamie says.

  Peering at me, Mindy shakes her head. "No wonder you didn't want to hook up with my boss's hubby."

  "Who?" Jamie peers at me, any trace of amusement gone.

  "It's a work thing." Mindy waves her hand. "He'll totally want to hump her once she flashes that hot stuff."

  "The lingerie," I explain.

  Jamie inches closer over the table and whispers, "Look, if you need money I—" He trails off.

  I've had enough of him offering me cash. It's bad enough I'm buying trashy underwear to please my client; I'm not going to let him think I'm being paid for some shady services. Come to think of it, I actually am paid for pulling a guy. I groan inwardly. Ever since opening this club, my moral compass is spinning in the wrong direction.

  Mindy slaps his arm. "I'm taking back the compliment I gave you earlier. You are a jerk. Boy, I'm glad I didn't ask you out. Sarah might do this for a living, but that doesn't give you the right to make an offer."

  "She does this for a living?" Jamie asks. "I had no idea."

  I wish Mindy could just keep quiet because she's making things worse. It's obvious from the way Jamie stares at me dating a prostitute doesn't feature on his bucket list. Either that, or he's crossed it off already.

  I try to speak when Mindy cuts me off. "She's not a hooker. She catches cheaters. Didn't you read the Divorce Club manual? Sarah will do stake outs and take photos of the cheating bastards, so us women have ammo to use in court if we so choose."

  Did Mel really include all those things in the brochure? I make a mental note to design new pamphlets as soon as possible.

  "You're helping Mindy?" Jamie asks.

  "Yes." I nod. "That's all this is about, I swear."

  "Hey, why don't you join us?" I gape at Mindy, but she just shrugs. "What? He might be of help."

 
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