Lila knew that they were for her, as soon as she spotted Debra though the glass walls of her office at Elbert & Mulligan, walking down the hallway in her leopard print silk shirt, cradling the huge and obviously heavy, arrangement. Flowers had been arriving all day: roses, carnations, some flanked with shiny mylar balloons or accompanied with a teddy bear. But, this arrangement of Hydrangeas, Juliet Roses, Peonies, spoke of David: expensive and showy.
Debra had the reaction that David surely wanted—impressed. With a warm smile and a wink that said, “you’ve got one of the good ones,” she placed the flowers on Lila’a desk without interrupting Lila’s phone conversation. Lila placed her well-manicured hand over the receiver and mouthed, “thank you, “ while trying to conjure a mask that suggested she was truly pleased.
And perhaps Lila should be pleased; but after 12 years of marriage, she knew that David’s goal wasn’t ever to please, but to impress. His outward displays of affection: the constant hand holding and back rubbing, the BMW, the flamboyant 6- carat wedding set were props in his continuously running commercial designed to sell everybody on him. Reality TV was saved for their home: a three story, 7000 square foot, brick masterpiece, complete with a movie theater, state-of the art kitchen, a pool, and many secrets.
Although Lila could park in the garage and walk directly into the kitchen, she always entered their home using the front door, principally because the house never felt like hers. She found it exquisite, as David had hired the best designer in Atlanta to give it a luxury hotel feel; but, outside of the posed family pictures with she, David and their girls, there wasn’t a shred of her personality anywhere.
Today, she dropped her keys on the tan marble table in the foyer and rushed upstairs. Valentine’s Day dinner was at Chez Francois in an hour and David had arranged for a car to pick her up in 30 minutes. First, she had to take a shower. For her, the shower was similar to a phone booth for Superman: in it she could transform. As soon as she got out, she put on her costume: red Valentino dress that showed just a bit of cleavage (enough for people to know that Michael had married an attractive woman, but little enough for them to know that she was professional, proper and most certainly taken); her diamond and ruby earrings, and her Black, strappy Louboutins.
She knew that she had dressed correctly from the look David gave her when she walked up to him and their friends at the bar: approval. She yearned to one day see hunger instead. He wrapped his arm around her waist and gave her a peck on the check. Lila smiled, reached out to hug her friend Stephanie and grabbed the dirty martini that David had waiting for her. She wanted to gulp the damn thing, but daintily sipped it as the men exchanged talk about the stock market. Lila looked at Stephanie and asked, “how are the kids,” knowing already that the answer would be something along the lines of “great”, followed by a list of the kids’ latest accomplishments.
A beautiful, blond hostess in a purple mini-dress is finally leading the four of them to their table. Lila felt a bit fatigued, but luckily; he knew her role. She could do this in her sleep.