“I’d buy that for a dollar”
One Thursday afternoon, Mary paid a visit to the Lightweight Group offices to drop off some receipts. She was surprised to run into Rosie, who was cheerfully fending off a sales pitch from Lightweight’s secretary, Francis Cadwallader, called Wally by most of the L.G.E. staff.
Wally was a Lightweight institution. He’d been around since Bulstrode had first incorporated and knew the ins and outs of every bar and restaurant in the group. He managed all the HR, a good chunk of the accounting and still managed to keep on top of the best gossip. But what he really wanted was to be self-employed.
“Rosie, your skin is beautiful now, but you need to start a better regimen,” said Wally, brandishing a variety of Ooh La La brochures. Ooh La La was a cosmetics and skin care company in the model of Avon and Mary Kay. Wally was operating as the only male Ooh La La sales consultant, leveraging finger snapping fabulosity and separating the ladies of Lightweight from their tips. This Ooh La La thing was a niche made for an old queen like him. He thought the make-up was fun. And he really enjoyed discombobulating all the old biddies in their knockoff Chanel suits at the biannual sales conferences.
“Thanks, Wally,” said Rosie. “But I’m fine on makeup right now. But how are you doing? Working too hard?”
“Of course not,” said Wally. “Doing quite well, thank you. Well, except your father is being difficult about sponsoring some Ooh La La parties at the bars. He thinks it’s weird. But I won’t give up. There are too many beautiful young girls working in all that smoke and keeping those late hours. They could all use some good product. He’ll give in eventually. In the meantime, you’d better rethink some good moisturizer from me. You won’t always have that wonderful skin. Start now, and your skin will look as good as mine when you’re 45!”
(Rosie had attended Wally’s 50th birthday party four years ago.)
Rosie grinned and cheerily agreed to attend any Ooh La La party that Wally threw. The Lightweight offices were a much brighter place due to his relentless sales pitches.
“Hi, Rosie,” said Mary, who also enjoyed the sales pitches. “And, hi, Wally, how are you and, no, I don’t need any moisturizer.”
“Ah, youth,” said Wally. “When I was your age I was sure I’d always be 25 too. Let’s look at your pores. I have a marvelous pore reducer.” He thrust a hand mirror in front of the two young faces.
Mary looked into the mirror and saw her face next to Rosie’s. She sighed a bit wistfully. She was three inches shorter than Rosie, and fifteen pounds heavier; her hair was a sort of dull brown. Her face was pleasant but plain. Next to Rosie, she felt a little like a donkey next to a unicorn.
“I swear,” said Mary. “It’s hard to maintain any self-respect when I look at me next to you.”
“Well, a little makeup could fix that,” said Wally. “And you’re prettier than you think you are, Mary. You just need a little oomph. I have just the thing.”
“It’s not makeup you need,” said Rosie.
“Yes it is,” mumbled Wally as he rummaged in his case.
“You need to get laid,” said Rosie, ignoring him. “You should take pity on Fred. He’d gladly buy you dinner and shower you with compliments and then take you home and let you order him around in the sack. That’ll put a shine on your apple.”
“Uh uh… no,” said Mary, shaking her head. “The day I let some guy determine my self worth is the day I just give up all together.”
“Well, you should give him a break anyway,” said Rosie. “He’s an idiot, but he’s sweet and he really is crazy about you.”
“He only thinks he’s crazy about me,” said Mary. “But I think he thinks I have my shit together and that I can help him get his shit together. I, on the other hand, am only interested in a guy who’s got his shit together already. Once he gets there, he should pick up the phone and call me. I might fucking answer.”
“Here we go!” said Wally, holding up a blusher. “This will put roses on your cheeks. And Rosie is right, I think. About Fred. He’s a good boy. Going on a date with him doesn’t mean you’re going to get married. I think you’re thinking too hard about it. It’s clear you like him. And you swear too much.”
“I swear just fucking enough,” said Mary, smiling. “And I don’t like him like that. He’s not done baking yet, you know?”
Rosie stopped listening. Tré was walking in with her father. Mary and Wally weren’t offended, though. They were used to Rosie’s short attention span.
“Rosie,” said Bulstrode. “What brings you here?”
“Mommy wanted me to come in and remind you about the benefit tonight,” she said.
“Why didn’t she just call,” Bulstrode asked, glancing through the day’s mail.
“I told her I was going to be down here anyway,” said Rosie. “And I’d make sure you remembered.”
“Well, I hope you remember about church on Sunday,” said Bulstrode. “I want you there on time. And dressed decently, for God’s sake.”
“I don’t wear decent clothes,” said Rosie, throwing a little side eye at Tré. “I wear fabulous clothes.”
That was true. Rosie was famous throughout the Lightweight empire for her ensembles. She dressed for maximum attention. It wasn’t that she dressed revealingly, although she wasn’t shy. It was more that she dressed outrageously, in the thrift shop chic that was popular in those days. This afternoon, for example, she was wearing one of Fred’s sweaters, which came down to mid-thigh, Chuck Taylor high top and a backwards baseball cap. No pants.
“Sunday,” said Bulstrode. “Dressed respectably. I want to be seen with my family. I’ve been told I’m being considered for the board and I want it. I need my family showing up looking civilized.”
“I’ll be there, Daddy. Dressed just this side of Mennonite,” said Rosie, still looking at Tré.
Bulstrode shook his head resignedly and turned his attention to Mary. “Do you have receipts?” he asked. “Wally, find the receipts from last year. I want to see sales comparisons. Tré, you carry on with what you were doing. I like the L.G.E. Presentation idea. But I’m not sure about making The March a flagship. We’ll talk more later.”
“One second, Bully,” said Wally. “I would like to throw an Ooh La La party at The March. You’ve hemmed and hawed too much. I want a verdict and I want it in front of witnesses.”
“Fine, Wally,” said Bulstrode. “You can have your damn makeup party at The March, provided you do in on a Sunday before football starts and you don’t bother any guests.”
“I want wine too,” said Wally, following Bulstrode into the office. “You can give us the cheap stuff.”
Mary shook her head and trailed after them.
“So,” said Rosie, pleased to find herself alone with Tré. “I didn’t really come to relay a message to my father.”
“No?” said Tré. “Then why did you come?”
“I was thinking I could help you out a little,” said Rosie, moving a little closer. “I was wondering if your tour of Lightweight had taken you to Sidetracks, yet.”
“That off-track betting dump,” asked Tré.
“Oh, it’s not a dump,” she responded. “Sidetracks has real charm if you’re with the kind of girl who can expose them. Whaddya say?”
The boss’s daughter wanted to take him gambling on a Thursday afternoon at a dive bar. Everything about this was dangerous. But, damn, she looked good.
“Let’s go,” he said.