By Kathleen Bradean
It was about eleven thirty in the morning, mid July, with the sun shining on the palm trees and the Santa Monica Mountains playing hide-and-seek with the murky haze that passes as air in Los Angeles. I was wearing my black suit, with red shirt, two inch black pumps, and a slightly annoyed expression. I was neat, clean, precise and sober and didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed office domme ought to be. I was doing lunch with money.
The bistro was a little place on Wilshire Boulevard with café chairs out on the sidewalk. Planters of fresh herbs cordoned off the public sidewalk for the bistro's private use. The homeless guy with the slick army green sleeping bag wasn't intimidated by the land grab. Tattooed, pony-tailed waiters in tight black t-shirts gathered near the door to hiss and whisper over the situation. This was the Republic of Santa Monica after all, the capital of politically correct lip service.
Inside, the bistro was blonde wood, crisp corners, bright lights and a cement floor. Noise bounded off the walls and collided with my ears. I'd never met my lunch date, so I paused at the door and let my eyes do all the moving. Power moms fresh from yoga or whatever the flavor of the month sacrifice to the Goddess of Eternal Youth was filled most of the tables. None of them seemed more than mildly curious about me, so I staked out the last table and picked the seat facing the door.
The menu was full of the kind of stuff that's all right if you were doing lunch and not actually eating it. Salads made from lawn clippings and sandwiches on artisanal wheat whole grain ciabatta. A coffee menu with more fake Italian than an old Chef Boyardee commercial. My waiter suggested I try the turkey that got a massage with a courtesy reach around after a hard day out on the free range before being humanely turned into lunch meat. I craned to read the sign across the room through the blinged flesh tunnel through his ear lobes and lost track of what he was saying by the time the words heirloom and locally sourced fell from his pierced lips.
Forty minutes later, I was tired of defending my table from legit customers, so I stood and made ready to go. That's when she finally sashayed in. She was oxblood. The kind of leather that makes a purse fetishist's panties damp. Ferragamo.Weak kneed, I sank back into my seat and let my tongue trace over my bottom lip. She probably had hair and eyes and legs that reached all the way down to the floor too, but my eyes never left the purse.
It's good to know your weak spots so you don't do something foolish like fight against them. Me, I give into purse temptation at every opportunity, but I hadn't had a Ferragamo level opportunity since the day the doc slapped me upside the ass and pronounced me a female to get that first cry out of me.
My lunch date extended her cool hand with that downward angle some women use when they want to make you wonder if maybe you should have kissed the back of her hand instead. Or maybe her ring. Definitely her ass. She was all kinds of trouble for someone. Expensive trouble. Probably drama too.
She slid into the chair and dropped her purse on the floor by her feet while checking the restaurant for someone to air kiss. Her eyes narrowed when she realized she had to settle for me. Her jeans were tight enough to exfoliate her long, thin thighs while she walked. I didn't know her history, but she looked like a third wife. Maybe the forth if he was really loaded. She might have even been a real housewife celebutant. I figure there are enough people out there who keep track of those things that I don't have to.
We chatted a bit about the charity that brought us together. Not that I was the one looking for charity. I definitely wasn't looking for approval, but it was clear that she was checking to see where I rated on the Westside scale of "People Who MATTER." I could have saved her time. I'm not even an all lower case "person who matters." But it wasn't about me, was it? So I let her condescension drip all over me. I'm no sugar cube. I don't melt.
For all his previous interest in my lunch order, my waiter seemed to have forgotten me. I tried to catch his eye, but I was on waiter time out. Since her time was suddenly important, my lunch date slapped down her menu and raised that boney, cold, pale hand into the air. Before I could even groan, she snapped her fingers at him.
Money. It can buy anything but class.
If you're telling a story set in Los Angeles, Raymond Chandler is the go-to narrative voice.