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Authors: Kate Klise

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BOOK: In the Bag
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a) meet
b) exchange suitcases
c) enjoy a café and/or some tapas (yummy)
d) see a bullfight (please say no!)
e) rescue a bull from a bullfight (Sí ! Sí ! Sí !)
f) all of the above
g) none of the above
Think about it and LMK, okay?
Hopelessly devoted,
Coco
P.S. I’m wearing your someone still loves you boris yeltsin T-shirt. (Is that a band—or a joke?) Don’t worry. I’m going shopping later today. My clothes-borrowing ways will soon be a distant memory.

CHAPTER 18

Coco

I
felt a little guilty stealing Solange’s “Hopelessly devoted” line. But I liked how it sounded funny and silly and a tiny bit flirty.

I sent the message from the Internet café after telling Mom that I wanted to get some croissants for breakfast. She said fine. She had a phone date with Solange, her friend and my godmother.

When I got back to the apartment, Mom was still on the phone, rattling off a list of things she needed: two stoves, twenty cookie sheets, a driver who could take her shopping, a translator, blah blah blah.

I put a croissant on a plate and slid it in front of her. She barely noticed.

“That’s right. Gas stovetop and electric oven,” she was saying. “And I’d really like an oven thermometer, if you can track one down.”

I tuned her out as I tore off a piece of croissant and started eating.
How crazy would it be to meet this Webb guy in Madrid? And how was I ever going to explain him to my mom?

I watched her talk on the phone while I waited for Solange’s electric teakettle to heat up. Mom was wearing her sexy librarian glasses, but her eyes were closed. She was rubbing her forehead with her free hand.

“No, no, no,” she said. “You don’t owe me anything. Solange, please. This is what I
do
. It’s not a big deal at all. All right? Okay? Don’t worry. We love you, too. See you tomorrow morning.”

She hung up the phone and sighed dramatically. It was her “My life is so complicated and important” sigh, but I knew in her heart of hearts she was thrilled by this new development. My mother thrives on coming to other people’s rescue, especially if it can be accomplished with food. Watching her expression as she talked to Solange reminded me of how she looked when I was a kid and she brought my lunch to school on the rare days I forgot it. It made her feel like a good mom.

I know I should try harder to make her feel necessary in my life. It totally freaked her when I said I didn’t need her anymore. But isn’t that the whole point of growing up? A healthy bird can fly the nest? Roots and wings and all that Hallmarky crap?

“I got a croissant for you,” I said, blowing on my tea. “Hope it’s the right kind.”

“Let me see,” she said, inspecting the roll with her eagle eye. She took a bite. “Oh yes, this is good. Flaky, not chewy.”

As she pulled apart her croissant, she continued to worry aloud about the Madrid event, telling me all the things she could bake and wondering which would be best.

“Do we still have time to shop for clothes today?” I asked, picking at the crumbs on my plate.

“Sure,” she said. “You’ll need something to wear in Madrid.”

No kidding! I need to look freakin’ fantastic.

After we were both showered, we took the Metro to Galeries Lafayette, which is this totally cool department store with a colored-glass domed roof. It feels like you’re shopping inside a Tiffany lamp.

I hadn’t realized how seriously the French take fashion. Women get dressed up, even just to go shopping, which made me feel like a complete bum given the fact that I was on day three of my jeans.

“Let’s start on the third floor,” Mom said as we studied the store directory.

Of course that’s where she wanted to start. That’s where all the fancy schmancy designer stuff was.

As soon as we got off the escalator, Mom stopped to admire an Anne Fontaine black silk blouse. She grabbed a cream-colored blouse, too.

“I thought we were shopping for
me,
” I said. I didn’t mean for it to come out snotty, but it did.

“We are,” Mom replied, carrying the blouses on hangers in front of her. “C’mon. Let’s get some lovely underthings.”

The lingerie department on the third floor of Galeries Lafayette was as big as two or three Victoria’s Secret stores. But instead of teenyboppers giggling over cheesy Wonderbras and fake-out foam jobs, this place was filled with old ladies—like in their thirties and forties and fifties—buying silk bras, underwear, and weird-ass garter things.

“Here,” Mom said, handing me a midnight-blue bra. “Try this on. Oh, and this one’s nice, too. See if it fits. And this is pretty. Try this. And this . . .”

I slunk back to the fitting room. Before I even had my (or, actually Webb’s) shirt off, a saleslady was poking and prodding me.

“American?” she asked.

“Oui,” I answered. I tried to think how I could avoid undressing in front of this woman. “Um, comment dit-on . . . ?”

“No, no,” she said, waving away my question with her hand. “This you must try on. There is no other way.”

So I did. I tried on at least twenty-five bras. There’s something funny about shopping in Paris. The women who work in stores will absolutely
not
let you buy something, not even a bra, unless it fits perfectly and looks great on you, which was half humiliating but half helpful, too. I walked out of that dressing room with three of the most beautiful silk bras I’d ever seen in my life, along with matching underwear.

“This place is amazing,” I told Mom, who’d also picked up some silky stuff for herself.

“Didn’t I tell you?” she said in her singsongy voice. “Do you know how much French women spend on lingerie?”

“Mother,” I hissed as we were getting on the escalator. “People can hear you.”

“Women in France spend twenty percent of their clothing budget on underwear,” she continued, undeterred. “Now do you understand why I told you to pack your worst bras and undies? I always do that when I come here. That way you can wear your old stuff once, throw it away, and replace it with prettier pieces.”

“Keep in mind I don’t
have
any underwear to throw away because I don’t have my bag, remember?”

“Well,” Mom said, pointing to my shopping bag filled with bras and matching underwear, “now you have some lovely new things to wear.”

We took the escalator down to the second floor, home of Mode Tendance, which I translated as cool clothes that were hipper than the designer stuff on the third floor.

Mom and I both found things we liked and retreated to side-by-side dressing rooms. I was trying on jeans with short, fitted jackets. I decided maybe in Madrid I’d wear a jacket with a camisole under it, if I could find one in Solange’s closet. Would that look cool or slutty? I wanted to wear something super Euro chic when I met Webb.

“Do you think Solange would let me borrow a scarf to wear with this?” I asked Mom, showing off my jeans, T-shirt, and linen jacket ensemble.

“Sure,” Mom said. “Turn around. That jacket looks great on you. Would you wear it back home?”

“Of course!” I insisted, unsure if I really would or not.

“Linen wrinkles like crazy,” Mom warned.

“Wrinkles are cool,” I claimed. “I could totally wear this to school next year. And I’ve got five hundred dollars coming from the airline, remember? For their luggage screwup?”

“Right,” she said. “We need to get you a nice pair of black slacks, too.”

“Black pants? Why?”

“Because you’re going to wear them with one of my white blouses when you help me serve at Solange’s exhibit opening.”

Whiskey tango foxtrot?

I tried not to freak visibly. “Actually—” I started to say.

“Stop using that word,” Mom snapped. “Just say what you want to say.”

“Okay,” I snapped back. “Here’s the thing: I don’t want to be your server in Madrid.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Mom said firmly.

Oh, great. This means it’s a done deal in her darkened brain. I’m going to be forced to serve food at Solange’s stupid event in Madrid. Which means the only way I’ll be able to meet Webb will be at the damn event. And then he’ll see me in a dorky waitress outfit. This is NOT going to happen.

I had to switch gears quickly. I had to e-mail Webb and tell him this meeting thing wasn’t going to work out after all.

While Mom was on the ground level of Galeries Lafayette, shopping for makeup, I snuck up to the electronics department on the fourth floor and found a demo laptop with an Internet connection. I honestly planned to log on to my e-mail account and send Webb a message, suggesting we try to meet in St. Louis sometime in May. I was going to use “Meet Me in St. Louis?” as the subject line.

I wasn’t prepared for the e-mail I found waiting for me.

 

Fr: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: About your bag
My answer:
(h) fall madly in love.
Your move, Blouse Girl.

CHAPTER 19

Andrew

I
had enough on my mind. I didn’t need to worry about Webb, too.

But after waiting two and a half hours for him, I gave up and walked back to the hotel. There I found my son, alone, in the business center, hypnotized by a computer screen. A half-eaten sandwich sat next to him on a grease-stained napkin.

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or angry. We were in Europe, for God’s sake. He should’ve been at the Prado, soaking up art. He should’ve been at the Plaza Mayor, sneaking a beer. Or he should’ve been at the Crystal Palace with
me
, where I goddamn
told
him to be.

But if he was going to disobey me, I would’ve preferred that he do so in at least an interesting way, rather than playing mind-numbing computer games or whatever the hell he was doing. Why wasn’t he admiring beautiful young women and falling in love like I did at his age?

Before I became a first-class ass.

I had to stop thinking about that stupid note.

I tried to focus instead on Webb. Ever since he became a teenager, my son had done everything he could
not
to spend time with me. That was okay. That part I understood. But if he didn’t want to be with me, why couldn’t he be with someone or something more interesting than a computer? Why must the competition for my son’s attention be something so dull and banal? I was prepared to tell him exactly that when I opened the door to the business center.

“Hey, Dad,” Webb said. “What’s up?”

The feral smell of dirty socks mixed with chorizo sausage and teenage boy hit me like a club.

“Jesus Christ, Webb,” I said, covering my mouth and nose with both hands. “We’ve got to get you some clean clothes.
Now
.”

CHAPTER 20

Daisy

I
t was worth five hundred dollars to make Coco think the airline was buying her such lovely things. Somehow, it made shopping more enjoyable for her.

But I confess a part of me—the part of me I don’t like very much—thought:
Open your eyes, Coco! I’m the one paying for all this. There’s no Santa Claus and no five-hundred-dollar check from the airline!

But of course I couldn’t say that, just like I couldn’t stop myself from buying a pair of nice black pants for her when she wasn’t looking. Solange wouldn’t want Coco in jeans for the exhibit opening. And they were beautiful slacks. Coco could wear them for years. Somewhere down the line she’d thank me for buying them for her.

Or would she? Would I ever get credit for the ten zillion little things I’d done for her that she didn’t realize I was doing? Or was parenting as thankless as it seemed?

Of course it was.

It didn’t matter. We were in Paris and having a good time—
finally
. I was relieved that she was being flexible enough (not her usual strong suit) to agree to go to Madrid. I really couldn’t let Solange down. She’d been so generous over the years about letting me stay in her apartment. And how hard could it be to whip up hors d’oeuvres to satisfy a few hundred art patrons?

The only problem was trying to decide what people might want. Oh yeah,
that.
Not my strong suit.

BOOK: In the Bag
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