Secrets of the Lottery Winner

Secrets of the Lottery Winner

CHAPTER 27: AFTER THE STAR TOUR

Emily loved Teddy and Sammy, and Gari. She accepted Pasadena. She adored their house and it made California tolerable for her. She loved being in her house, in her yard, and in her neighborhood, and she’d not had much desire or reason to venture beyond these boundaries of comfort. She liked being with her family, even when the boys were rowdy, when Gari was slouching around and she was left to carry the weight. But, she admitted to herself, she enjoyed the stars tour. It wasn’t the tour itself. She didn’t derive tremendous pleasure gawking at driveways and gates and mailboxes, which summed up the sights of the tour. What she enjoyed was the quiet and solitude. She was in a van with twenty people who buzzed at each other and clicked pictures. The driver chatted endlessly trying to paint pictures of what lay at the tops of all those driveways. Yet, there were no children and husband to care for and nothing to tidy up. She didn’t have to haul out the paint and brush to refurbish yet another room yet another time. Sitting in a van quietly was a pleasure akin to soaking in a bath. So when the tour ended and she found herself standing once again in front of Grauman’s, she felt renewed, refreshed, and not at all eager to return to home and hearth. She decided to extend her vacation and loitered among the stars’ hand and foot prints considering what she might do.

She strolled in front of the Kodak Center and it registered with her as the site of the Academy Awards. The space appeared small to her. On television the area seemed to stretch for eternity. Limos disgorged the stars and they walked through a lengthy gauntlet of reporters and fans. Now the space didn’t impress her. Perhaps they enhanced it somehow for the awards. Maybe they pushed back the buildings across the street to make more room. But, of course, that was silly.

She lingered in front of the Kodak Center and before long she had visions of the events inside and the party atmosphere back stage after an actor swaggered in clutching an Oscar. She imagined the Oscar parties as glamorous dress up affairs. The homes of the stars hadn’t been much—a bust really if truth be told. But the parties of the stars, perhaps these were a different story.

Following on the tail of these party thoughts, she recalled Gari was attending a party that evening. It was a Hollywood shindig at the Beverly Hills Hotel, glamour central as far as she was concerned. Gari had played it down as just another dreary business meeting, all the worst because Larry Lefton would be in attendance and the subject was clearly securing new business. But couldn’t she help?

Instantly, she formulated a plan. She phoned home and spoke with Jenny, to assure herself that Jenny hadn’t bolted out the door shortly after Gari and she had departed, or that the boys had cowed her into allowing them to do as they pleased, or worse, that she had a boyfriend over and he and she were providing the boys with early childhood education about the rudiments of sex, or worse yet that she and her Neanderthal had locked the boys in the closet while they humped away the hours in the Garibaldi bed.

None of this proved true, even remotely, of course. And fortunately Jenny could put the boys to bed and stay, if Mrs. Garibaldi could inform her parents and Mr. and Mrs. Garibaldi could return by six a.m. Emily set aside her fears, for really there was nothing to fear, and promised they would be home by then or a bit earlier.

She was dressed for sightseeing and not for a party. Her remedy was to flag a cab and take it to the Century City Shopping Center. She purchased underwear, stockings, sandals, a cocktail dress, and makeup at Bloomingdale’s. It was a huge bill, more than she’d normally spend on herself in a year. But she was a woman in transformation; the bill hardly registered with her. Gari, she reasoned, would be proud she was breaking out of her Wal-Mart shell, as he’d been encouraging her to spend more on herself. She’d been warming up by spending freely on renovating their home. He’d been urging her to pay more attention to her own needs. She was exuberant as she hailed her second cab—what an extravagance!—and directed the driver to take her the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The front desk was quiet, but then it was a late Sunday afternoon and she wouldn’t have expected throngs of people. She was surprised to find the main hotel rooms booked. Blame the business trade who wanted to stay at the swank place. Since she was splurging anyway, she secured a bungalow room for Gari and herself. It was wildly expensive, nearly as much as she’d have spent in her Mundelein days on a vacation to Disney World with accommodations at the Howard Johnson’s or EconoLodge. Yet, as she was signing in she was recalling Gari’s encouragement to think of herself, be kind to herself, pamper herself. He insisted she deserved royal treatment, and he could now provide her with it. She couldn’t count the times he’d urged: “Treat yourself, Emily. You deserve it. We can afford it now.” She shouldn’t allow guilt to ruin her evening and her surprise for her dear, considerate husband. She had nothing to be guilty about. Well, perhaps the boys at home with Jenny; but they’d be asleep in no time and when they awoke she’d be there. No, absolutely nothing to be guilty about.

The bungalow was like a small apartment, but superior in innumerable ways, not the least of which were the elegant furnishings. Standing in the suite filled her with grand ideas for her own renovation.

She’d never been in a suite like this, which accounted for her devoting her first half hour to testing the seating, the bed, the bathroom, and room service: She ordered a split of California chardonnay. Her spirits were high and the wine would send them into the stratosphere.

She whiled away an hour sipping wine, lounging on the bed, and watching television, a habit she hadn’t allowed herself or the boys, though lately she’d been slipping, permitting more TV and discovering herself planted in front of the set more often than ever in her life. Deep in these thoughts, she drifted into sleep and woke in the dark with a start, believing she was at home, nearly tumbling from the bed as it was higher than theirs, finally slapping around the bed and night table until she found the lamp and threw light on the situation. One light led to another and before long she’d switched on every lamp throughout the suite.

It was almost nine when she searched out the clock. Nine was late for her, but not for Hollywood parties, according to Gari. He said they were just getting started at nine and not swinging until eleven. Operating on this logic, she had more than enough time to luxuriate in a bubble bath and leisurely apply her makeup and dress.

Emily was an organized person. She had to be with two boys like Teddy and Sammy. So, while she drew her bath, she laid out her evening attire. She wasn’t much for pastels but shopping she’d had the urge to dress as femininely as she could manage. Before her was the perfect expression of that desire: a cocktail dress, cut low and strapless, shaped as a tube, complementing her figure, over which she’d labored long and of which she was justly proud. The shade was a pink pale as the blush of baby cheeks.

Around ten she affixed a pair of zirconium studs in her ears, twirled in the full-length mirror in the dressing area of the bath, and then grabbed her purse and headed for the ballroom in the main building.

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