“I don’t know what’s happened to him.” Anelisse says to her childhood friend. “He’s gone native.”
“He went to America, not Polynesia,” Naomi laughs. “You wouldn’t reconsider?”
“He’s living in obscurity over there, and giving away his fortune here.” Anelisse shakes her head in dismay. “It makes no sense.”
“A midlife crisis.” Naomi reassures her. “Temporary insanity.”
“He’s converting his family estate to an artists’ retreat.” Anelisse says. “Where would we live when – if– he recovers himself?”
“Are these of utmost importance? His title and inheritance?” Naomi remembers them young, bursting with love.
“Have you seen pictures of those pioneer women?” Anelisse shudders. Her régime de beauté would be a distant dream from that paupers’ exile.
“They have installed electricity and running water.” Naomi tries not to laugh again, seeing that her friend is quite serious. “You’d stumble upon the occasional aesthetician, even some with European training.”
Anelisse raises a finely shaped eyebrow at Naomi, who takes a small bite of egg white. The waiter approaches and, observing a lull in their conversation, pours more champagne into the Austrian crystal flutes.
“True, the same standard couldn’t be maintained at this new income level,” Naomi concedes. “Surely he’s beyond being overly concerned. He does love you.”
Anelisse shrugs. He does, or at least did, and she invests heavily in her appearance. Could a causal link be denied? “Would he have even noticed me if I looked like…” she glances around the walkway below. “Them?” She indicates a group of rumpled, Marks & Spencer clad, hostel-hopping, whooping tourists.
“Well, different social circles.”
“The very crux of the matter,” Anelisse says. “I’d end up pushing a shopping cart through one of those discount atrocities for the masses – with ruddy skin, poorly dyed hair and cellulite.”
Naomi notices the string of sapphires encircling Anelisse’s wrist. “New?”
“A parting gift.” Anelisse brushes her hair back and the matching earrings catch the light, showering constellations over her neck and shoulders.
“So that’s it?” Naomi asks. “Death by cellulite.”
“It would mean…” Anelisse considers. “Forfeiting my future opportunities.”
“Wouldn’t the idea be to stay with him?”
“Should it not work out, who could I expect to meet looking so coarse and common.”
“The limits of love.” Naomi says, as a fairy tale drifts into her thoughts. Cinderella wasn’t asked to sacrifice her beauty, of course. Then again, she realizes, Prince Charming didn’t relinquish his title and castle.
[Song in video: “If I Were a Carpenter,” written by Tim Hardin, 1966. Performed here by Robert Plant, 1993.]
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