Passion is Life's Perfume
|In Macy’s That Day|
Finally I can relax, spread out on this table, cloths draped in just the right places. The room is cold, not dark like I'd expected. But it doesn't matter. For once I am at peace. Pain no longer lingers in my aching body, and I am limp as George works his strong hands down the length of my arm. He lets my left appendage drop and moves to my other side proceeding accordingly as trained. He's methodical at best, but it's a freebie, so who can argue. I certainly can't. Such attention has always eluded me – so I've set my mind to relish it.
He's working on my legs now; numbed out years ago when I began my stance behind the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. I would greet and service all the pretty women who hurried upon me for a last minute touch-up before lunch with the country club wives. They always took hours balking between liquid or powder, Rose-Clair or Buffy-Beige foundation. As though foundation hides the wear and tear society life crimps into an aging face – one too many late night cocktail parties and days at the racetrack. Ever heard of sunscreen my darlings?
But Anita McCoy took the cake. Always wondered how had she ever captured that man, Casey McCoy. So stunning. He was the kind of Brad Pitt lawyer type to kill for. It was the firm of McCoy, Daniels and Duke where she found and hired him for her D-I-V-O-R-C-E. And everybody knew his grand efforts for her (both in and out of the courtroom, if ya know what I mean) won her the ex's Mercedes, the house in Westlake, the condo in Vale, the alimony, and a new marriage proposal to boot. Just as fast as she squeezed that two caret dud off her fancy divorced finger, she was slipping on a three-point-fiver that made her wrist limp and crow lines grow just to look at it.
She must have been 10 years his senior, although she worked very hard to camouflage that gruesome little detail. To my chagrin, she did a great job. You know the Cougar Mama: early fifties, looking no more than 30 at best; personal trainer, skin peels, great body, blonde, tan and bubbly, born and married into money. Her T zone was a P zone – perfection. Ugh.
We all hated her. All "the girls" smiled wide Rosebud Red smiles while pitching the newest, most expensive, Swan Silk Gelee after bath splash and matching anti-aging grapefruit-goop to go along. She bought everything and had her favorites at the counter, both in product line and personnel.
She was Lane Martin’s client, and he let none of us forget it. So most of us ladies hated Martin too boot. Handsome commissions aside, Martin’s flawless skin and clothes and posture and perfectionism were downright disgusting.
"No, no Honey!" he squawked at us. "Never let 'em use the cotton ball twice. Germ-laden puffs dear, that’s all it’s about. Now let’s act like professionals shall we?" Martin is the reason I am on this table – the single solitary reason. I hate him and his sterilized cotton balls.
George has me face down now and is now fiddling with my scalp. I wonder if Martin would like to come in here and stab me in the back again? I’m still unable to forgive that dandy who cost me everything — my dreams, my perfect man, everything.
Well, we were all happy the day commission-king Martin got fired for stealing cosmetics. You know those kleptos who take things even if they have plenty of money or don’t have a need, well that’s him. I know he took samples of Duck a la Orange lipstick and the matching blusher Coral Caverns. And orange is not even his color. He is a rose tone all the way ,dark hair, fair skin. Maybe he was stealing and giving things to his "lady friends" as presents. He was the type to do that after all.
The whole thing started when Martin’s favorite customer, the glamorous Mrs. Anita McCoy, had her accident. Driving her Mercedes around the bend out at Canyon Crossing, Anita just lost control when the radio newsman wrecked her precious world with the announcement: “Attorney, Casey McCoy, the city of Dover Hill’s best-known and most feared divorce attorney, is being brought under investigation by the Austin D.A. Sources accuse McCoy of accepting salacious personal favors in exchange for legal fees.
Anita should have suspected this. Hell, I could have told her six months ago. The charmer was always at the counter buying gifts not Mrs. McCoy’s scent or color. I could have saved her the doctor’s fees, and the damage to her roadster to boot. But well, she’s not my customer. Nonetheless she threw a 360 on Packsaddle Pass and got head-ended by a Borden Milk truck.
She was having facial re-constructive surgery the day Mr. McCoy came to the counter to tell us "the horrific news" about Anita's catastrophic milk bath. And that’s when I noticed Martin acting rather flirty with Mr. McCoy and just a tad too concerned for Anita’s condition.
"Now Casey, what in the world kind of make-up will Anita wear after this? Will she even wear make-up Hon?"
'Hon?' Really? Martin tossed his hands in the air and dabbed at the nape of his neck with a monogrammed handkerchief, LM in pink script against black satin. He barraged Mr. McCoy with questions. "Will that woman ever leave the house again?” And “What does this mean for us Casey?" Mr. McCoy looked rather disturbed, as Martin took great gasps of air while desperately fanning himself with a perfume card.
“It simply means Martin, that while the key is still under the mat, delivery of Mrs. McCoy’s cosmetics wont be needed at the house for a while,” Casey answered.
Martin gave Casey a dead pan stare and changed the subject. “Oh, you like this new line Hon? He pushed the perfume card under Casey’s nose. “I don’t like it one bit, but it does remind me of my Auntie's old lingerie drawer." Martin giggled and tucked the card in the pocket of his black Lancôme apron for safe keeping.
Finally, Mr. McCoy smiled and assured Martin that Anita would be back to the counter in no time, which seemed to calm the boy’s erratic whining and whimpering for a little while. Mr. McCoy then went about selecting a moisturizing lotion for his wife’s ever-drying hospital skin and handed Martin a credit card.
"As always, a pleasure doing business, but don’t expect any more client referrals, handsome," Martin mused.
By the time Mr. McCoy returned for tube number two – the prognosis was a bit worse. Mrs. McCoy would require four or five more reconstructive surgeries before looking anything like herself again; and that meant Martin’s commissions would plummet, and he would resume stealing his fair share of things. Sure enough, our manager finally caught him red-handed.
It was the same day Martin stumbled upon Casey, um, Mr. McCoy and me in the Clinique closet.
They had just hauled Martin off to be fired, when Casey appeared at the counter all coiffed up in some preppy pre-tennis get up. Fancy casual, I think they call it. He wore nice beige shorts and a tight white Polo shirt with his biceps bulging from the sleeves. He smelled as if Jerry, the spritzer guy, had tagged on the way in. Thus, it was this afternoon that the 6-foot, tan-skinned, green-eyed devil winked at me.
"Now where has that Mr. Martin run off to?"
Mr. Martin, I explained, "is off to getting fired." I watched Casey’s, um Mr. McCoy’s right eyebrow raise a tad in question. It was a lawyer-like expression he obviously thought I’d think was charming. I admit, it worked, and I offered to help him.
"Hmm," he smiled, "I bet he’ll need a lawyer?"
"Probably," I said, "Can I help you? I’m Lorraine."
"Lloorrrainne," he drawled my name out on his tongue. "Pleased to have you at my service."
"Pleased to be of service," I chimed back. Now why the hell did I say that?
He leaned in across the counter like he was trying to smell me. "I like your red hair dear, it’s fiery. I once dated a fiery red head not unlike yourself."
"I’m not surprised," I said with a tolerant twist of my lips. What did he think? That I lived behind the counter? That they did not let me away from brow plucking long enough to read the papers? That I did not know who he was and had not heard about his slithering around with "clients"?
"Can I help you?" I asked with waning patience.
"Yep, I need a tube of….uh… that cream…that cream that uh. Now what was that called again?"
I tapped the glass countertop with my nails and took a moment to check my lipstick in the bright round mirror between us. The orb hid all but the man’s darting iguana-like eyes.
He fumbled for words, "It’s uh for those scars, those nasty marks women get on their uh, well, you know, everywhere."
"Stretch mark cream?" I questioned, peering just over my glasses. “Yeah that’s it," he clarified.
Casey had to be in desperate denial to worry about what his wife's ass looked like while her once perfect face resembled ground chuck. Poor thing, with stretch marks to boot. I actually felt sorry for the woman.
Stretch mark cream was not the ideal gift if hubby was trying to get back on the Mrs.’ good side – a big order considering. So I suggested the $500 Boundless Beauty Basket. He agreed it was a time calling for extreme measures.
"Can you just toss the stretch cream in there too? I think it might help with … well,” he cleared his throat, “some difficult areas."
I explained I needed to go in the back to pull it all together, and it was right about that time when Martin, back to gather his what-knots, barged into the storage closet to find Casey on his knees massaging Sonres Stretch Relief Cream on the inside of my thigh. With my foot propped up on a display table, I just know it looked worse than it was. I pulled my leg down and pushed Casey’s hand aside attempting to explain.
“Martin,” I choked, “you know how impatient Anita is with instruction. This is simply a lesson on application.” But the very pissy Martin would have none of it. He tore into a rampage, tossing boxes, stomping bubble wrap, and calling Casey every name in the book.
"Well mud-mask me and set me in the sun!” he exclaimed. “You are not going there!" Martin shrieked at Casey, and proceeded to march into a monologue fit for the best daytime television.
"You fence-riding freaky ass bitch! First you seduce me into falling in love with your ass. Then I refer you my darling Anita - my best customer - and you marry her!" Martin grabbed a Clinique promotional umbrella from an old display case and was now madly darting it about the small room.
"Next thing I know, your sorry ass is messin’ roun’ nasty with clients, and Anita’s face is torn off!
Martin took a moment to suck in some air and for an instant I thought he might be done. Then he blustered again. “You have ruined my life,” he squawked as Long Lash Midnight Black tears ran in dark little rivers down his powdered cheeks. Watching him swing that umbrella, I could not help but think how he looked remarkably like a sad deranged clown.
Casey leaned calmly against some boxes, seemingly entertained by Martin’s dramatic dialogue. I took a few safe steps closer toward Casey. But Martin was just getting started.
“I lose my precious job, and now, with my pink slip still wet, you’re fondling her." Martin pointed the umbrella at me, "Ugh her!" He stressed “her” like I was last year’s fall colors worn this year in May.
And that’s when it all came down – like Boy George, Martin’s Karma Chameleon character changed so fast we hardly knew what happened. He launched toward Casey, and I jumped between them. “Now Martin really,” I said backing him up slowly. “Are you so naïve? Do you really think you’re the only one?”
And that was my big mistake. As soon as I spoke the words, I knew they would be my last. Martin exploded toward me, vaulted over a case of blue mascara, and lunged a multi-colored promotional parasol in my immediate direction. I turned fast toward Casey hoping to read the expression on his face, to verify these outrageous revelations, to be saved in his arms. Instead I met the horror in those iguana-like eyes as a stabbing pain shot between my shoulders and turned out my lights for good.
And now I’m here with George, and it’s my turn to be pampered; and Ms. McCoy is recuperating in her hospital bed. In addition to learning about Casey’s "favored clients," Anita was most upset to discover Casey and Martin were lovers all along. She was further pissed that Martin, sitting in jail on murder charges, is now on Casey’s “client” list as well.
Martin is telling the cops it was self-defense, that I was jealous of his big commissions. That I, the plain, middle-aged, overworked and underpaid sales woman, dreaming of stealing his handsome attorney, spitefully ratted him out to our boss and then laid in wait for him, umbrella locked and loaded in the supply closet. Stupid thing to say if he is trying to clear himself of murder, but you know the make-up counter.
Martin said he confronted me about reporting his kleptomania, and I promised to get rid of him for good. Casey is now corroborating the story. They say I hid in the storage closet and waited for Martin to return to collect his things. They say I secretly knew about and disliked their illicit affair, and would do anything to get the hot attorney to myself. They say Casey showed up only a second after I was dis-umbrellaed, moments before the parasol opened like a rose from the pointed stem in my back, planted there by Martin in self-defense. Maybe one day Martin will ‘fess up like Boy George did in his autobiography, Take It Like A Man, "I was lying through my lipstick-stained teeth."
Truth is … the "sister" was high on Obsession… motivated like any of the svelte characters are in the numerous perfume ads from the fragrance counter, Passion, Eternity, Chance, Emotion, Heat, Intrigue, Crave, they all-filled the air in Macy’s that day.
As for me, I’m still laying here on this table. George is finished with his routine, and now I am getting my make over. I heard Mrs. McCoy, felt so bad I got pulled into the whole thing she hired a professional make-up artist to come over to the funeral parlor and do me up right. The lady is working on me now. She's using my Macy’s ID to get things just perfect. I think maybe using a tad too-much blush to really look like me. I was always pretty pale to begin with.