in Dallas and her drinking had escalated. At first, she always carried around
a small bottle in her purse and would often drink during the day when she was out
making sales calls.
Then one day a client had called her boss and she had been questioned and warned
that drinking during working hours wouldn’t be tolerated. Suzanne’s career was her
lifeline, so from that point in time, any drinking she did was in the evenings or
on weekends. She was now a Regional Sales Manager and had learned to keep her drinking
and her private life to herself.
The mystery man stirred beside her. Suzanne groaned in agony. Shame flooded her body
as she surveyed her nakedness, trying to forget any memories she had of how she had
gotten here and what had happened last night.
Her clothes were scattered all around the room. Without even looking at the man in
the bed, Suzanne grabbed her belongings and headed out of the bedroom. Pulling on
her clothes, she walked toward the door and stepped outside. The morning light assaulted
her as she gazed around the apartment complex’s parking lot. She couldn’t find her
car, but she was used to that.
Her stomach contents pushed up into her throat as she rushed behind a nearby tree.
Afterward, she limply clung to the coarse bark. Then wiping her mouth, she pulled
her hair up and away from her face, walked several blocks until she found a phone
booth, and called a taxi to take her to her car.
It was Tuesday and Helene typically played tennis on Tuesdays. This morning she had
struggled with whether she should, but it had been a week since she had attempted
to talk to Thomas and apparently it had helped. He was coming home after school each
day and spending time with her and Lily, the way he had since he first started school.
She convinced herself that Thomas was no longer missing school and that he must have
just had a bad week or two.
As Helene drove her Mercedes into the wide circular driveway of the country club
in an upscale suburb of Atlanta, her stomach tightened. It always did that. Even
after all these years of clubhouses, cocktail parties, and fancy restaurants, her
stomach still turned into knots when she interacted with the wealthy population in
which she lived. Although she was an adult and sophisticated on the outside, on the
inside Helene still felt like a little girl, with long dirty braids, dirty elbows,
and clothes that were old, wrinkled, and often stained. Even though she was always
appropriately dressed, she often felt like she was holding her breath, waiting for
them to make fun of her, to tell her she didn’t belong, yet she was never quite sure
who “they” were.
The valet stepped out from the curb as she pulled up to the front of the country
club. “Morning, Mrs. Foster.” He smiled as he opened her door. “Nice to see you today.”
“Thanks, Nick,” Helene said with a smile, then headed inside.
Laura, Catherine, and Stephanie were waiting for her in the lounge, and although
it was still morning, Stephanie had a mixed drink in front of her, and from her demeanor,
Helene could tell that it wasn’t her first.
She smiled as she walked up to the group of women, her “friends” she spent time with
at the club. “I hope you haven’t been waiting long. Lily insisted I sit down to have
a muffin and fruit before I left.”
“Really, Helene,” Catherine sneered. “She’s your servant. How can she insist you
do anything? I just don’t understand why you let the hired help interfere in your
life the way you do.”
They had had this conversation before, and Helene didn’t want to get into it again.
Some people couldn’t understand that Lily was her friend, probably the only real
friend she had. She could be herself with Lily. Here she couldn’t. She knew there
was a guise of friendship with these women, but beneath the surface their claws were
long and sharp.
Her mind jumped to a reoccurring dream she had where she, Catherine, Stephanie,