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Bitter is the new black, p.18
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       Bitter is the New Black, p.18

           Jen Lancaster
 

  I toss the cigarette-laden tray into the hall and housekeeping finally arrives to collect the crib. I roam around the suite waiting for Fletch to come up. We’re going to open presents together and finally have a few minutes alone. Frankly, it sounds like heaven.

  A half hour passes with no sign of Fletcher…and another half hour…and then an hour.

  By two thirty a.m., I am beyond furious. This is my wedding night—so where exactly is my groom? The one thing I asked him today was not to drink to excess because I didn’t want to get mad at him. I begged him, actually, and he promised he’d behave himself. By my calculations, he’s had access to cocktails for over ten hours, so chances are excellent he’s drunk as a monkey.

  An hour ago, I changed into a VERY unsexy pair of gray flannel pajamas, took down my elaborate wedding up ’do, and washed off my $180 makeup application. Since he’s NOT going to be sleeping in this bed with me anytime soon, he can just forget any notion of a romantic wedding night.

  I’m watching the only thing on TV—a Britney Spears movie—when Todd, Carol, and my friend Jen carry Fletch in the door around three a.m.

  “Hi! Happpppy Weddinnnng!” Fletch greets me, stumbling into the room.

  “WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?” Steam is blowing out my ears. I crossed from angry into bloodlust about fifteen minutes ago.

  Todd answers, “He was downstairs with us. Hey, Jen, I need to borrow a—”

  “I have been sitting up here alone for almost four hours waiting for you,” I seethe. “Did it occur to you to check on me? Perhaps call me and see what I was doing?” I stomp around the room and begin to slam things.

  “Whaaaat?” Fletch slurs.

  “Oh, I thought you went to bed, so we figured it was OK for him to hang out with us,” Todd adds helpfully.

  “Is that the message I gave you? No. I told you to tell him to come upstairs,” I reply. “By the way, Fletch, thanks for letting your friends trash the room. There’s nothing more inviting in a honeymoon suite than a bunch of cigarettes mashed out in an old sandwich. And you’d better hope it’s just beer spilled on the comforter, because you are sleeping with it on the couch.” I pick up my bouquet and hurl it at him. It bounces off his chest, but not before a few of the gardenias explode.

  While I rage, Carol and Jen slowly back out the door. “Bye, Jen.” “Good night, Jen.” “We’ll talk to you when you get back.” “Thanks for everything.”

  “Hey, calm down. We told Fletch it was OK, and we all had a really good time together. Really, you should be mad at us,” my brother says.

  “Todd, Fletch made up his own mind. He decided to get liquored up with his buddies rather than BE WITH HIS NEW WIFE. And that? Is not acceptable.”

  “OK, I’m going to go, but first give me—”

  “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!” I scream while my brother skitters out of the room.

  Fletch loosens his bow tie and falls forward on the bed, attempting to cover himself with the blankets.

  “Oh, no, you don’t! YOU! COUCH! NOW!”

  “No, wanna schhhleeep heeeeere becaussshe itsch a haaaapy weddding,” he mumbles.

  “Not bloody likely,” I spit before rolling him off the bed.

  “Ooof. Owww. Hitsch my headdd. You’re a baaaad wiiiife. Shun’t a gotten marrieeeeed.”

  Can you honestly blame me for hurling his laptop at him?

  PART TWO

  Pandora

  Opening the Box

  From the desk of Miss Jennifer A. Lancaster

  Jen’s Post-Wedding To-Do List:

  Find a job!

  Stop frivolous spending.

  Lose weight.

  Fix up Courtney and Brett.

  It’s the first day of my honeymoon, and the phone is ringing. I’ve barely slept. Fletch passed out immediately after our fight, but I was too mad to sleep and only dozed off as the sun rose. Groggily, I pick up the receiver. “Someone better be dead.”

  “Jennifer!” Oh, great. It’s my mother and I can already tell she’s in a state. “Todd told us what happened! Are you getting a divorce?”

  “Excuse me?”

  “Todd’s here and he said you had a huge fight with Fletch.”

  This has got to be a joke. “Why are you calling me at”—I lift my head and squint at the digital clock, “seven a.m. to pry into my day-old marriage? I’m going back to sleep now. GOOD-BYE.” I bang down the phone.

  Two minutes later, the phone rings again. “What?”

  “GOOD MORNING, FLETCH’S WIFE! HOW THE HELL ARE YA?” Five foot ten, 225 pounds, steroid-free, and without an ounce of fat, Joel is the toughest guy I’ve ever met. But all that extra testosterone means he tends to speak in capital letters, and right now I’m not in the mood for a (VERY LOUD) chat. At some point while I slept, Fletch—still wearing most of his wedding garb—crawled into bed with me. I shake him and hand him the phone. “Deal with this.”

  Fletch doesn’t dare defy me. “Hello? Oh, hey, Joel…Yeah, thanks…What? I’m not sure…. Sorry, I don’t think that’s a good idea…. You know, you missed the whole reception? You’re kidding…. You’re kidding! That’s unbelievable…. OK…OK…All right, see you at home. Bye.”

  Curiosity supersedes my fury, and I demand to know what Joel said.

  “You’re speaking to me?” Fletch asks tentatively.

  “For now.”

  “First he called to tell us he’s in the lobby. He wants to spend the day together.”

  “No fucking way.”

  “I assumed as much. Then he told me what happened to him last night after he left our room. He tried to get back in the reception but the bouncers wouldn’t let him—they said he was too drunk—so he decided to take a nap again. In the landscaping. The police found him, and they brought him back to his hotel.”

  “Maybe when the police here find someone passed out in the bushes, they figure, ‘This guy has thoroughly enjoyed everything Vegas has to offer’ and they’re nice to him.”

  “I think he got lucky.”

  Funny, but just having a simple conversation reminds me how much I love Fletch. Even though I’m still upset, I decide to forgive him for last night. I’m not happy with some of the choices he made, but I may have let my mother’s situational insanity (and that bovine bouncer) unduly influence my mood.

  Also, I did ruin his laptop. “Fletch?”

  “Yeah?” He takes off the rest of his tuxedo and changes for bed. The sight of him in his SpongeBob jammies pants completely thaws my heart.

  “I’m sorry for throwing your computer.”

  “That’s OK.”

  “And I’m sorry for overreacting.”

  “You didn’t overreact. You were completely justified. I did exactly what you asked me not to do and I’m really, really sorry.”

  “Listen, I don’t want to start our married life this way. Let’s say we were both at fault and declare it a clean slate.”

  “You sure?”

  “Sweetie, think about how many episodes of COPS we’ve watched together. Technically you could have me arrested for felony assault. Granted, we were in a luxury suite and not a trailer, and you were wearing a dinner jacket and not jeans without a shirt, but the concept is the same.”

  He considers this for so long, I start contemplating my life behind bars. On the one hand, I’m a delicate flower who’d wilt without access to a hairdryer and MTV. On the other, I bet I’d be Queen of the Prison in no time. Although I’d eschew those awful jail tattoos, I could see my way to allowing the other inmates to give me a flattering but powerful nickname. I’m thinking “Her Majesty” might be nice—I can already picture the other inmates bowing before me to kiss my ring while I dole out cigarettes and favors—

  “Agreed.”

  Perhaps avoiding jail is for the best. We exchange our first marital kiss sans audience and settle in to our respective sides of the bed to sleep.

  “Hey, I have a good idea. When we look back on our wedding day, why don’t we just blame everyt
hing on my mother?”

  My mom shows up at noon while I’m drinking coffee and recounting wedding loot. I’d expected to become rich, but I guess when you only invite a handful of people you only get a handful of gifts. Bummer. However, I am the proud owner of a Cadillac and now am allowed—nay, obligated—to start bugging my single friends about when they’re “going to settle down already.”104

  “I thought you’d want some of the centerpieces,” Mom says, nudging her way into the room. Bullshit. She’s here to get the dirt on last night. She settles into the suite’s sofa and kicks up her feet. “We missed you at breakfast.” I am SO not buying her faux-casual attitude.

  “I told you from the get-go I wasn’t attending a nine a.m. brunch the day after my wedding.”

  “Everyone had a wonderful time. My sisters said it was one of the best weddings they’ve ever attended.”

  “I’m glad.”

  “The whole family is going home today. Todd left for the airport a few minutes ago.” She toys with an obscenely large calla lily on my bouquet until she can’t contain herself anymore. Wait for it…. Wait for it…. “So where’s your husband?”

  “Showering.”

  “Are you getting a divorce?”

  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

  “Then are you going to share what happened with me?”

  “Mom, I already told you it’s none of your business, and I’d appreciate it if you respected my privacy.”

  “But Todd said—”

  “I don’t care what Todd said. Everything is fine. Don’t waste one minute worrying about us. This isn’t the first scrap we’ve had, and it won’t be the last. But we’re generally pretty good about communicating, and when things boil up, they pass quickly. Now we’re cool like Fonzie, OK?”

  “I’m glad to hear it.” By the way she’s fidgeting, I can tell she’s not satisfied with my explanation, but she wisely drops the subject anyway. “What’s on our itinerary today?”

  “When Fletch is done, we’re going to the photography office to look at our proofs.”

  “The pictures are done already?”

  “Mom, this is Vegas.”

  “I’ll come with you.”

  “Buzzzzzt, wrong answer.”

  “But I want to see them!”

  “Today is the first day of my honeymoon and I am spending it alone with my husband—meaning without you. I’ll run the photos by your room later.”

  “Then where are we having dinner tonight?”

  “Mom, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but the mother-daughter togetherness part of this trip is over. Fletch and I are having dinner in the Foundation Room at the House of Blues. Alone. It’s supposed to be all funky and rock and roll and I’m sure you wouldn’t like it.”105

  She pouts. “Well, you certainly don’t seem very grateful after—”

  “I told you I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us. You truly gave us everything we’d want in a wedding, and we’re incredibly grateful. And as soon as I start working, I’ll start paying you back.”

  “Jennifer, that’s not necessary.”

  “I want to. But my point is, as thankful as we are, it IS the first day of our new lives together, and we want time alone. And stop smirking, I don’t mean that in a naked sense because I will DIE before I ever discuss sex with you. Think about it—would you have wanted Noni and Grampa tagging along on your honeymoon?”

  “I guess it would have been awkward having my parents there the first time your father and I—”

  “Shh, stop, too much information. Say any more and I’ll have to wash my brain with vodka. Why don’t you go have a nice day with Dad? That is, if he isn’t still hiding from you.”

  “He did mention wanting to see the Hoover Dam.”

  “Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you later,” I say, shooing her toward the door. When I hug her, I notice she’s still wearing yesterday’s false eyelashes.

  “Mom? You know those come off with a little makeup remover and a cotton pad?”

  “I’m not taking them off.”

  “Why not?”

  “I spent $180 on that makeup job and I refuse to wash my face until I get my money’s worth.”

  Since neither Courtney nor Brett could make it to the wedding, I’ve had to wait till we got home to get them together, and now we’re in one of the horseshoe-shaped booths at Piece on North Avenue. While I should be wolfing down their trademark white pizza and slyly building my case about why Courtney and Brett would make a perfect couple, I’m making a scene.

  “That is such horseshit! HORSESHIT!!” I pound the table so hard that our microbrews slosh out of our glasses. “So that bitch—that breast-pumping, nanny-trouble-having, divorcee LYING BITCH told you I turned down the job?”

  After almost a year, Corp. Com. has decided to reinstate my position and relaunch my old product line. Since I’d been laid off, I should have been first in line for consideration. All my old AEs assumed I’d come back, but Kathleen told them I’d rejected their offer.

  “Courtney, she never called me.”

  “She probably couldn’t reach you.”

  “I’m home twenty-three hours a day. And if I’m not around, I have caller ID, voice mail, and call-waiting. Even if she called and didn’t leave a message, I’d have a record of it. She didn’t call, end of story.” For some strange reason, Courtney likes Kathleen and tries to make excuses for her. “Face it, Court. She lied.”

  “Are you sure you never talked to her? I just can’t see that she’d—”

  “Um, hello? We’re having dinner at a freaking pizza place instead of Morton’s. I’m drinking BEER and not martinis or champagne. For God’s sake, I’M CLIPPING COUPONS in an effort to conserve money. Don’t believe me? I’ve got one in my bag right now.”

  I notice the stricken look on Courtney’s face and try to speak in a calmer voice. “I don’t mean to take it out on you, and I’m really sorry, but does someone concerned about saving thirty-five cents on a can of Friskies strike you as the kind of person with the luxury of being choosy? The last thing I’d do would be to turn down a well-paying job, even if it meant sucking up to Kathleen.” Suddenly I’m struck with an idea. “Court, give me your phone. I’ll call her right now and tell her I’m still available. I promise I’ll be nice.”

  Courtney blanches and toys with a stray pizza crust. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

  “Why not? I can prove to her that I’m still as much of a go-getter as I ever was.”

  Courtney won’t look me in the eye. She takes a bite of her pizza and chews it at least a hundred times before swallowing. “She already hired someone.”

  THAT BITCH.

  I grit my teeth. “May I ask exactly who was more qualified to do my job than me?”106

  “I’m afraid to say.” Courtney shrinks in her seat.

  “Come on, tell me. I’m not going to get mad at you.”

  “Don’t you believe her,” Brett interjects. “She has a long history of killing the messenger.” OK, so I may have yelled at him once or twice for giving me bad news when we worked together at Midwest IR. But when his tech team couldn’t deliver the solution I sold in the time they’d promised and the lost commission was the equivalent of an upscale SUV, what did he expect?

  “Vroom, vroom, what’d you say, Brett, vroom, vroom? I can’t hear you over the roar of my new Range Rover, vroom, vroom.” I pretend to steer the car I SHOULD have been able to buy had his team not been comprised of ham-fisted Luddites.

  “I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

  “Not in this lifetime,” Fletch replies.

  “Will you just tell me already?” I huff.

  “OK, OK. She hired…Taggart.” Courtney winces as if she’s anticipating a blow.

  “Taggart? What’s a Taggart? Wait a minute, is Taggart her goofy, bucktoothed sister?”

  “Yes.”

  “Wasn’t she one of those weirdo, home-schooling, hippie moms? She
has something like seven kids, doesn’t she?”

  “She has four.”

  “And how is she going to educate a stable full of rug rats, work an incredibly time-consuming job, and churn her own organic butter at the same time?”

  “Kathleen got her permission to work from home,” Courtney whispers. She’s slid halfway under the table at this point.

  I whip out my cat-food coupon and wave it at Courtney. “This! This is what I have to resort to because some bulgur-wheat-eating, hairy-legged, über-breeding RELATIVE got the job that should have been mine?” I bang my mug down on the table so hard it shatters, causing our server to inquire if I wouldn’t prefer sitting in the shouting section.

  Oh, terrific, now pizza joint waitresses are making fun of me.

  Brett interjects, “Jen, I didn’t mention it because I assumed you wouldn’t be interested, but your cat-food coupon is a cry for help.” Brett flicks a stray shard of glass off his sweater. “Clearly. Julie has an open position on her team.”

  “Which one was Julie? I thought you only worked with the Joshes,” Fletch says.

  “Julie joined Midwest IR a few months after I left. She runs my old division.” And probably not nearly as well as I did.

  “Lizzie quit to move to San Francisco, so Julie needs another marketing person. The job is still the same as when Lizzie worked for you—mostly writing Web site copy and monitoring advertisers’ traffic stats. The base is about $50K plus quarterly bonuses. Do you want me to talk to Julie about you or are you looking for more?”

  “A $50K salary is WAY less insulting than I used to believe, especially since it’s about $50K more than I make at the moment. Honestly? It sounds like a godsend.”

  Brett asks, “Would you feel weird working a coordinator’s job in the department you used to run?”

  “Probably, but I guarantee you it would be less uncomfortable than the conversations I’ve had with my student loan officer lately. Brett, you’re awesome. Thanks so much.” I lean over to hug him.

 
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