Authors: Jodi Weiss
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Literary, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary Fiction
By Jodi Weiss
This book is a work of
fiction. All incidents, dialogue, names, and characters are the products of the
author’s imagination. Where real-life locations appear, the situations,
incidents, and dialogues concerning those locations are entirely fictional and
are not intended to change the entirely fictional nature of the work. In all
other respects, any resemblance to persons or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Jodi
For information about
permission to reproduce a chapter or selection from this book, or to offer
comments or questions, contact the author through her website.
this is action, this not being sure, this careless
sowing the seeds crooked in the furrow,
ready to forget, and always coming back
the mooring of starting out, that day so long ago.
I have often felt completely alone.
There is always in this life something to
The days and years have gone by in some sort of
On the whole, I am satisfied. —Alice Munro
The sun still a promise
in the pre-dawn sky, Tess Rose glimpsed a figure in the middle of the street as
she approached the stop sign at the Whitman Drive intersection. He seemed to be
trying to walk on the double-yellow line that divided the road, like a drunk
testing his sobriety.
Only no, up closer, Tess
could see that he was staring up into the sky. Nothing happening up there
except some pigeons flying by.
She slowed down when she
was a few feet from the man, beeped her horn, and opened her window. The dank
April-morning air from Jamaica Bay chilled her. Being situated on the water was
the catalyst for a strong real estate market in Mill Basin, a remote corner of
southeastern Brooklyn. Families liked boats and beach in an urban environment.
“Wake up, mister,” she
said. “Get out of the way or I’ll run you over.”
He grinned at her, nodded
his head, and waved. Surely, he must be high on something. He grew faint and
distant in the rearview mirror as she sped past him
That was it. She
was going to have to meet with the neighborhood association. She was not going
to let these crackpots wander the neighborhood if she could help it. She paid
enough in taxes to have her say.
Goodness gracious! She
screeched on her brakes the moment before impact. She had been so caught up in
the jerk behind her, that she almost slammed into a fat, mangy, orange cat as
he darted across the street, pausing directly in front of her car. Just what
she needed—to start off her week killing Garfield. She beeped and the cat fled
as quickly as it had appeared.
When she hit the red
light at the four-way intersection of Avenue U and 66
image on the billboard at the bus-stop shelter smiled back at her. Below her
cheesy, smiling face, the caption:
Why buy from the rest when you can buy
from Best Realty? If you are in need of Real Estate solutions, call Tess Rose
Did she really look that old? In the rearview mirror she
lifted her eyebrows and rearranged her strawberry-blonde curls with her
fingers, working the banana curls this way and that from the roots. The dew
always managed to frizz her hair so that she looked like Shirley Temple. So
much for living on the water. More wrinkles on her brow, more surrounding her
eyes. Every day now, more wrinkles. She pulled out her blackberry and scrolled
to her to do list:
call photo guy
, she typed with both fingers, her foot
pressing the brake.
Fix up face,
and tossed it back into her bag. After
all, it was quicker and less painful to fix her face in a photo than it was to
get plastic surgery. She tapped her steering wheel. The traffic light seemed to
take forever but then she remembered that she was one of the advocates in
getting the civic association to put in turn arrows after all of those
accidents. Houses didn’t sell well on a block that had a history of car
accidents. In her rearview mirror, the character in the middle of the road was
making his way towards her. Freak. The way his bald head shone in the
early-morning light reminded her of Mr. Clean.
Some days the 15-minute
ride to her office was luxurious: precious minutes to shut off from the world
and gather her thoughts. Other days, like today, the ride seemed to last
forever. She had three real estate deals to close this morning, which meant
that she had on her black power suit, the skirt falling just above her knees
with a slit to show off what she thought to be her best feature: long, shapely,
well-defined legs. The blazer was double breasted and hugged her narrow frame.
As she drove past the stores on Avenue N, her black BMW convertible reflected
off the storefronts. Michael, her ex-husband, had fought her on getting the
black. He thought it was too much of a funeral procession car. She, on the
other hand, had seen it as sharp and sophisticated, and after splitting from
Michael, whom she had promised herself was to be her last husband, she wanted
something hot and sexy in her life.
She waited for a clearing
to make a left turn into the parking lot of Best Reality. One car sped by, then
another. This was one of the many things she
about Brooklyn: no
one would stop to let her turn. The more she looked at the mustard-yellow and
white Best Realty sign, with its fancy scrolled lettering, the more it reminded
her of squiggly lines of mustard on hot dogs. Michael was opposed to changing
it. He liked to remind her of what the big-wig marketing consultant who had convinced
them that it was the right logo had told them: that the yellow and white
coloring would remind buyers of a price tag, so when they came to Best, they
. “Besides,” as Michael said, “If it’s not broken, why
She pulled into her reserved-for-owner
spot and immediately saw Michael’s pale-blue Mercedes in his spot across from
hers. Couldn’t she get one morning of peace and quiet? Tess’s third husband,
David, had introduced her to Michael, and was instrumental in bringing Michael
on-board as Best Reality’s in-house lawyer. Tess had never imagined herself
with Michael, although she found him handsome with his steely blue eyes and his
salt and peppered hair. There was something too Ken-like about him, and yet the
first time they kissed, Tess had fallen for him. It wasn’t long after that she
and David split and Michael and his wife split, and Michael moved into her
house in Mill Basin. Why she married Michael, she didn’t know. She wondered
sometimes if they hadn’t gotten married if they would still be in a
relationship. But if they hadn’t have gotten married and then divorced, she
wouldn’t have gotten to sell him her dream house in Mill Basin, and it would
have killed her to have sold that house to just anyone.
“All I want is a few
hours here alone to get some work done. Is that too much to ask?”
“Good morning to you,
too, Tess. You asked me to meet you here early today, remember? We need to go
through some contracts before your meetings.”
“Have you put on the
“Has anyone ever told you
that you’re a piece of work?” Michael asked.
“You did, dear, all two
years we were married.”
“Shhh. Listen. Hear that?
Either the Gods are peeing in the kitchen, or maybe, it’s coffee brewing.”
“Do you ever get tired?”
“At around 12:00 a.m.
Tess dropped her bag on
her desk and plopped down on her chair.
“How is it that I can be
exhausted already and the day didn’t even begin?” she said.
“You’ll drink your coffee
and feel fine.”
Tess traced the lines on
her forehead, creasing her brow and releasing it. The pockets under her eyes
“Do you think I look old
in the billboard ads?” Tess asked.
“My dear, if you look
old, then I look old.”
“And your point is?” Tess
“We’re both 55.”
“Will you answer my
“No, Tess, you don’t look
old. And if you think you do, go to a plastic surgeon,” Michael said.
“Just what I want.
Someone cutting my face up.”
“How was your weekend?”
“There was a weekend?”
“Tell me you weren’t in
here working all weekend.”
“I wasn’t in here working
all weekend,” Tess said.
“Now tell me the truth,”
“I was in here working
“Did you relax at all?”
on Saturday night.”
Michael sat down on the
edge of her desk, knocking over one of her hollowed metal tristate Realtor of
the Year awards, which he quickly picked back up, smirking. She knew he thought
her displaying the awards was tacky and she generally agreed with him, but she
felt that they served as a reminder to her staff of her credibility.
“I love the fact that
inside that workaholic exterior, you’re a sap. How many times have you seen it
now?” Michael said.
Tess shrugged. “I lost
“What is it with you and
“I love that Maria does
the unexpected. Maybe it makes me think that there’s hope for me.”
“Do you have plans
tonight?” Michael said.
“Don’t worry, I won’t try
to woo you. You’ve made it clear that it’s a losing battle. Besides, I’m
waiting for you to come to me and tell me that you’re in love with someone
“Well, you’ll be waiting
a good, long time, because that’s not going to happen,” Tess said.
“Man-lover to man-hater.”
“I am not a man-hater,
Michael. I just don’t want to be bothered with romance anymore. It gets me off
“And your course is?”
“Work,” Tess said.
“Go with me to a yoga
class tonight. My treat,” Michael said.
“A yoga class?” Tess
said. She pushed herself away from her desk and propped her legs up on her
“Don’t start, Tess.”
“Don’t start? I’m
intrigued by your venture into spirituality, go on.”
“It’s not a venture into
spirituality. One of my golf buddies told me that yoga has helped his game and
that the teachers are pretty attractive, too.”
“Oh, now I see. You want
me there so that you don’t look desperate when you hit on other women. If
you’re there with me, they’ll think you can’t be half so bad, right?” Tess
“There’s an 8:00 p.m.
class—we could shoot into the city after work and give it a whirl.”
“Michael, my dear, I gave
up yoga when I was a teenager, or have you forgotten that my mother was, is,
the spiritual, Buddhist, healer of Woodstock? My yoga days ended when I left
that god-forsaken upstate town.”
“Was your mother a
stressed out workaholic?”
“Well no, because she
didn’t work. Unless you consider being a guru work.”
“Tess Rose, your mother
is the freest, most joyful person that I’ve ever met.”
“Let me remind you of
your reaction when I first took you to Woodstock—you felt sorry for me for
having grown up there, and when the folks started piling into my mother’s house
at 6:00 am to meditate, you were ready to check into a hotel.”
“Look, just come with me.
What do you have to lose?”
“I do not need yoga. I’m
glad to leave my past in the past. But thanks for thinking of me.”
“If you ask me, you’ve
spent the last 30 or so years of your life trying to undo your past and it
doesn’t seem to have gotten you anywhere.”
Tess dropped her legs to
the floor and pulled herself closer to her desk.
“What’s that supposed to
“It means that you fled
from upstate New York to Brooklyn, got an MBA, married four husbands, own a
thriving real estate business, and lead a stressed-out, neurotic life.”
“For your information,
I’m far from stressed out,” Tess said. “Is that coffee ready yet? I don’t hear
it dripping anymore.”
“I’ll pick you up at your
place at 6:30 tonight and don’t tell me you need to work late. It’s 7:00 am.
Get to it. I can’t wait to see you in your yoga clothes.