Authors: Marie Ferrarella
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental. All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Copyright © 2014 Marie Ferarella
Cover images from Shutterstock.com
Sapphire and Shadow
By Marie Ferrarella
Table of Contents
It wasn’t where she wanted to be.
Johanna Whitney impatiently ran a hand through her straight blond hair. She shifted in the very expensive, very uncomfortable Louis the Fourteenth chair, watching thin women with fantastic bone structure, small waists and no breasts parade before her wearing designer dresses that would cost the average man two months’ salary. She could easily buy several without so much as a second thought. It didn’t matter. It hadn’t mattered for a long time now.
The chair’s intricately carved design hurt her back and forced her to sit up straight. It made her empathize with West Point cadets standing at attention. Their lives were beyond their control, too, at the mercy of the nebulous powers that ran things.
Just the way hers was.
Johanna crossed and uncrossed her legs, trying to support herself by balancing her weight on the armrests but to no avail. The pain in her lower back was spreading to the base of her neck.
This wasn’t where she wanted to be. It wasn’t where she had hoped to be.
At thirty-four, Johanna knew her world was the kind that women daydreamed about as they did the laundry or shopped with a wagon-load of squabbling children. They fantasized about things that she actually possessed as they sat, stuck in traffic, squeezed in subways, jostled in buses. Hers was a fairy tale world, a dream come true. At least, she thought with an unconscious curl of her lip, from the outside.
She felt lonely, useless, unfulfilled.
Along the back wall was a huge mirror to enable patrons to see both sides of dresses that were paraded before them. Johanna looked at her reflection and stared at the woman who was gazing back at her. Who was this woman? Who was she? What was all this going on around her?
Her thoughts became jumbled.
Like her life.
For a moment, she became detached from herself, from all that was going on around her. It was almost as if she was having an out-of-body experience. She hovered high above the ongoing procession of women in the room. She floated above it, seeing the models, the boutique owner who stood behind her chair like an obsequious servant, everything in short staccato clips, flickering before her eyes. Unreal. It was all unreal. Like her life had become.
The thin lipped, carefully made-up woman who was attending Johanna frowned behind her back, careful not to let the mirror capture the annoyance on her face. This was taking too long. The fashionably dressed director’s wife hadn’t shown the slightest bit of interest in any of her best creations thus far. Americans never knew what they wanted, only what they didn’t want. Her native British patrons pleased her far more.
She touched Johanna’s arm lightly. “Would madam be interested in something else?”
, Johanna thought.
I’d like to go back into the past, back fifteen years and start all over. Maybe I could do it better this time.
Better? How could she possibly do it better? How could she correct her error when she didn’t know what had gone wrong in the first place?
Johanna ran her fingers across her lips. She was thirsty. Actually, more like dehydrated from the last headache tablets she had taken.
A woman in her position should be happy
, Johanna thought sadly. She shouldn’t dwell on what was missing. She should concentrate on what she had. And what she had made her the envy of so many. She had prestige, money, servants, two homes—no, two houses, she corrected herself. A home was something very different. A home had been that apartment on Seventy-second street in New York when Harold was just starting out, when they had lived on love, dreams and sardine sandwiches until she thought she’d developed gills. It was a tiny apartment crammed with secondhand furniture and first hand love. Wonderful, exquisite, soul wrenching love. Somewhere along the line, a trade had been made. Their furniture had been upscaled and their love had deteriorated until there were moments now when she didn’t think it was there, that it had ever been there at all. Perhaps she had imagined it all. Perhaps she had wanted it so badly that she had created it all in her mind. Maybe it never existed. In any case, right now it was just a distant dream, far beyond her reach. But it was something she wanted to experience again. She needed to feel it again, to live that dream once more instead of being trapped in this waking nightmare.
Was it normal to feel so dead at thirty-four? So empty? Her life was full of glitter, her photograph appearing in newspapers and magazines as she graced Harold’s arm and elegantly bestowed her presence on his movie premieres. And yet, it was all meaningless.
Her life was full of emptiness.
Johanna roused herself. It was time to get out of this damned chair before her legs permanently atrophied.
“I’ll take the rose one.”
What did it matter, anyway? Harold never noticed anything she wore anymore. He never noticed her any more, except to make some sort of snide remark.
“The Givency?” the boutique owner asked, her hands folded across the flat expanse where a bosom should have been.
Johanna wondered if the woman had ever been a model herself. She had the structure for it. “The beaded one,” she answered absently.
“The Givency.” She offered her most approving smile. “An excellent choice.”
Johanna knew that the woman would have said those exact same words even if she had opted to buy the curtain that hung in the background and had asked for a gown to be fashioned out of that, Scarlett O’Hara style. Everyone was always saying things they didn’t mean, she thought hopelessly.
Johanna rose, smoothing her skirt absently. “Thank you.”
The other woman waved back the next model, signaling an end to the private show. “When will madam be available for alterations?”
You don’t have to talk about me in the third person, I’m not dead yet
, Johanna thought, annoyed at the woman’s subservient manner
. I just feel that way
She shrugged her shoulders carelessly. “Now’s as good a time as any.” Megan had taken Jocelyn for a tour of one of the museums. There was no reason to hurry back to the suite. No reason at all.
“Yes, of course.” The woman studied Johanna’s figure.
Her eyes rested on Johanna’s breasts. They were high and firm and made for complications. “We shall have to make allowances for madam’s—“
“Cleavage?” Johanna supplied, amused.
Cleavage. Harold had had another name for it, Johanna thought suddenly, her mind gravitating back to the sun-filled little apartment. He had hardly been able to keep his hands off her then, had stirred her, and made her body sing just for him. There had been no money and they had spent a lot of time dreaming, the radio playing softly in the background. And a lot of time making love on a bed whose mattress insisted on folding inward. They hadn’t minded. They had slept together, their bodies as entwined as their lives had been.
Now they were two strangers living beneath the same last name, sharing a daughter and a past and not much else.
Johanna allowed herself to be ushered into a dressing room that was decorated in soothing mint. A heavyset woman who moved with amazing agility fluttered around her, making nips and tucks and murmuring under her breath, supposedly making conversation but obviously satisfied to work without any response from her.
Johanna closed her eyes, drifting back.
Oh God, she wanted to go back.
Harold had dreamed such big dreams for them that she had almost felt overwhelmed. She had put aside her own budding career as an artist and devoted herself to him, only him. He had had that kind of magnetism then, that kind of charisma. She had adored him as only an idealistic nineteen-year-old could. Who would have thought that when those dreams began coming true, they would go on to ruin everything else for them?
She opened her eyes and looked down at the top of the woman’s head as she did something with pins to the front hem. There was the tiniest barren spot at the crown. “What month is it?”
The woman looked up at Johanna, a flicker of curiosity in the close-set brown eyes. Was this thin-boned woman on something, she wondered. Everyone knew what month it was. “August.”
“August.” It had been August then too.
“You know what I want, Jo?” Harold had asked, stroking her body slowly in the aftermath of lovemaking.
The pre-dawn air had been hot, humid, with the promise of more unbearable weather as soon as the sun came up.
She had tried not to let her mind flow away from her as it always did when he touched her that way. “No, what?” She moved restlessly under his hand.
He raised himself up on his elbow and looked into her eyes. He moved his palm against her erect nipple. It excited both of them. “To marry you and make love like this forever. “
“Ask me,” she had coaxed.
His sandy brown hair had fallen over his forehead and into his eyes the way she always loved. It made him look so boyish. It stirred protective feelings within her. A whole cauldron of feelings, protective, sexual, everything.
“Will I what, Harry?” She remembered fluttering her lashes and trying to look coy, as coy as she could with nothing on but the gold ring she always wore. It had been her mother’s.
With a laugh and an oath, Harold had rolled over on top of her and her body had immediately responded to the long, lean frame that she had come to know better than her own. “Marry me, you shameless flirt.”
“Well,” she pretended to consider, “I guess I’d better. I never argue with a naked man just before he’s about to make love to me.”
“You’d better, or I’ll be forced to rape you.”
He had brushed the silver-blond hair made damp by the sizzling New York heat from her face, his tongue glazing the pulse at her throat.
“Sounds interesting. Show me.”
And she had, wildly, deliriously, joyfully. They made excruciatingly wonderful love. He had been her first lover. Her only lover, but she hadn’t had to have others to know that this was something rare, something very, very special.
They had gotten married the next weekend in Maryland. His family hadn’t attended, but his uncle, Senator Whitney, had sent a huge bouquet of red roses that had stunned them both. Her father and two sisters had rushed out to be with her and they had all gone out for Chinese food afterwards. Her fortune cookie had promised her a happily-ever-after existence and she had hung onto that for all she was worth, wanting to believe it, wanting to believe anything that promised her that what she had would never end.
Just goes to show you, never trust a fortune cookie,
she thought cynically.
When had it started to go wrong? When the Hollywood lions had nodded their sage heads in approval at his efforts? When each success had become that much more terrifying to him because he felt he had to meet it, to best it, with his next effort? She didn’t know. She only knew that she had lost him and a part of herself, a part of herself that she missed fiercely.
, she thought as she looked at her reflection in the mirror, seeing the thin frame, the ample breasts, the sad, faraway china blue eyes cast in a pale face that had once served as an artist’s inspiration.
I just haven’t lain down yet.