The Duplicity of Margie Brown
Margie stood in front of the full-length mirror in her bathroom and regarded her naked body without any pleasure. She was a slight puddle of a woman, not exactly fat, but definitely not leaning in any other direction. She lifted the soft fold of skin at the bottom of her stomach for a moment and turned to the side. If she held her breath for a second, she could almost see the memory of her formal self staring back at her. She let it go with a sigh and turned back to wash her face. Bending down, she picked up a large bath towel from the floor and simultaneously picked a piece of toilet paper from her foot. Wrapping the towel around her body, she finally opened the door to her bedroom to get dressed.
Another surge of displeasure coursed through her as she picked a pair of jeans out of the drawer and searched for a bra without a rip or a wire bursting forth from its rightful place. Finally finding a lilac one that was still mostly intact, she wiggled her breasts into it and yanked a t-shirt down over it. She whipped her hair into a ponytail and stepped back out into the hall to get on with her day.
The morning passed as most did; she put on the coffee and made a lunch for her husband while munching on a piece of toast for herself. She fumbled through the house and located the various socks, tie and other accoutrements needed by her husband as he set out to work and as the house quieted with his departure she was left once again with the mess and the solitude that both consumed her and set her free. Although she chose to spend a year at home away from the stress of work to ‘find herself’ as Sam put it, really the house was holding her captive. It was far too easy to just lock oneself away and stay inside, eating, napping, watching endless TV and movies. Yet this was not where she spent most of her time. Most of her time was spent in her daydreams. An intricate fantasy that she had built for herself on the life she might have had.
Shuffling her way into the kitchen, she poured herself another coffee, set the CD player on with her favorite mix of show tunes and began to wash the dishes. It was a matter of repetition, she did it without thinking, dumping out the dregs of milk and cereal, swiping the crumbs off into the garbage as the sink filled with hot soapy water, letting the voluminous music wash over her and escaping into the world in her mind. As her hands went through the well-practiced motions, her imagination flew away.
She stood in the rehearsal hall, wearing the comfortable pants and slouchy shirt that hung over her left shoulder the way she loved just for practicing. It made her feel sexy. Around her the band were practicing the new music that had been laid out for them for the day. She cleared her throat, took a sip of cool water and picked up the microphone.
“Okay fellas, let’s try to get this one before tonight, we don’t want them to think we don’t know what we’re doing.” A few of them chuckled as Burt; her manager looked up at her from where he was going over the contract for the show in the corner. It fell quiet for a moment, and then the music rose and Margie closed her eyes to await her cue. She sang true and clear, letting the magic of the song sweep her up and shut out everything else.
When the song ended, the room dropped once again into a brief moment of still, and then Burt piped up through his scotch, “Well done, think you’ve got that one down. Let’s add it after the break; great tune to come back to. Margie, come over here and sign this so I can get back to that club owner.”
She sauntered over to him, needlessly picking the shirt back up over her shoulder only to let it fall gracefully back down again over her silky skin. She knew that it drove Simon, the sax player crazy, could practically hear him sucking in his breath behind her. Smiling, she flopped in the chair opposite Burt and flicked her fingers in a motion for him to hand her the pen. She signed with a flourish, then grabbed his drink and finished it in one.
The band started packing up and leaving for the afternoon.
“So, what time tonight?”
“9:00 and don’t be late this time.” Burt lifted his hand and traced her neck with two fingers, following the line of exposure left by her slouched shirt all the way down to the top of her breast. She snatched his hand away.
“You ain’t getting any younger babe. But hey! I don’t mind. I always did like a girl with a little something to grab onto.” He smacked her on the ass and laughed as he strolled from the room. Margie stood in frustration. She made a mental note to wear something really sexy tonight, to prove him wrong. She may be getting older, but every woman has that one dress that hits all the right spots and makes them look like sex in heels, and hers had just come back from the cleaners.
Margie jolted out of her daydream and took stock of the kitchen. The dishes were done and it was only twenty after nine. She plodded up the stairs to the bedrooms to search out dirty laundry. In the bathroom, the usual assortment of discarded wrappers and toilet paper tubes lay on the floor intermixed with the castoff outfits of the day before. Picking up a basket, she moved on to her bedroom. Sam’s socks were all over. They were on the chair in the corner along with about three of his ‘work’ shirts, under the corner of the bed on his side, on the floor of the closet. She hated his socks. Generic black cotton ones that seemed to get crispy with wear. He never threw them in the basket. But she would not complain about it, at least not anymore. Years ago when they had first gotten married, she would fuss, she would cajole, even once or twice fight with him about it, but as the years went on, they just seemed to become a part of the architecture of the house. Sam never seemed to notice. As she tossed the items into the basket, she hummed along with the CD that was still on downstairs and took a look through the closet. Suit, suit, suit. A few items from sports teams that Sam insisted belonged hanging up to keep them in good shape. Her side looked like the cleaners; most of her old working clothes were still in plastic from the last time she had taken them in. Further back there was her black funeral dress, some sundresses for the summer and the red dress. She had bought the red dress on Sam’s insistence. They had been shopping together, buying a new pair of golf shoes for him finding a nice floppy sun hat for her when they had walked past the dress hanging in the window. Try it on, Sam had insisted after seeing the look of pure longing on her face. When she had come out of the dressing room, the whole store stopped and looked at her. The dress was perfect, as if it had been carved out for her body alone. It clung where it needed to cling, hugged her waist high to disguise the folds that were already starting beneath, and floated above her knees as if it were tickling them with whispered kisses.
“You see!” Sam crowed to the other patrons, “I have the most beautiful wife in the world!” And he scooped her up and kissed her right then and there.
But, Margie thought, where in the world was she to wear something like that? So in the closet it lived, holding all its possibilities with it there on the hanger. Margie pushed the closet door closed and shifted her basket onto her hip to march down to the laundry room. She loved the way the music grew louder as she passed the kitchen and then faded into the background again as she descended the stairs. Once she was in the laundry room, the automation of the movements carried her away as the refrains of the music again floated her off…
Margie started off out of the building towards her car. Burt was waiting for her outside.
“Something you forgot?” She asked. He grabbed her arm and pulled her in close, the liquor on his breath stinking in her face.
“Don’t ever act like that to me in front of the guys again. I’m the manager; I manage you and don’t forget it. You’re here to perform and you better be in good shape tonight. Nobody wants to see lounge acts anymore, you’re lucky they even booked us here missy. Get your fat ass home and get it together.”
Margie shoved him off of her and drew herself upright. “Don’t touch me like that again.”
“Aww baby, you used to like it. I own you, without me, you don’t get bookings, and I think you know that.” He moved in to plant a kiss but she turned in disgust so that his lips only found her cheek. Burt shrugged and left her there, hopped into his car and peeled off down the road.
Margie shook her head. Her daydreams had always been so good before. She was successful, happy and the characters she had built up were never so mean. She made a resolve to stop it today, no more fantasies. Clicking the switch on the washer, she went back up to the kitchen and turned off the music. Then she grabbed a book off of the shelf and sat down on the couch. There was no way she was going to let her dream world start turning against her. But the book couldn’t hold her attention. She was still thinking about her vision. She even rubbed her arm believing for a moment that it was sore where it had been grabbed. That was impossible. She picked up the phone from beside her and called Sam.
“Hi there doll, everything okay?”
“Yeah. Sorry we didn’t get to talk much this morning. I miss you today.”
“What’s the matter, you sound kind of down?”
“I don’t know. Just feeling a little out of sorts today.”
“I hate to tell you this honey, but you’ve been out of sorts for a while now. I’m worried about you. Maybe you should go and see Dr. Anderson again. You really seem to be off in your own world lately.”
“Maybe. I might give his office a call later.”
“Okay babe. Hey, do you want to go out tonight? Somewhere special, just the two of us?”
“Sure. That’d be nice.”
“I’ll set it up. Cheer up okay. Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay, bye Sam.”
She hung up the phone. Dr. Anderson that kook! Margie had no intention of calling him at all. She had been to see him three times after she left her job and had even told him about the daydreams and he had the audacity to suggest that she was highly stressed and needed to be on some kind of medication to mellow her out. Margie hated pills; she never took them, not even for a headache. There was no way some wacko doctor was going to get her to take two of them a day. Besides, Dr. Anderson looked exactly like a bug, and the way his thinning hair stood on end, you’d swear it was antennae. Sam was sweet though. Anyone could tell that he was still just as in love with her now as ever. People used to ask them all the time why such a happy couple didn’t have any children, but for now they were just contented to be on their own. Sam made enough money that even though she wasn’t working for now they were comfortably off, and neither of them was ready for a baby yet.
When they had met, Margie was an accounting manager at an insurance company who spent a great deal of her free time going to karaoke bars. Sam was a sports writer for a major magazine. They met when his bosses had taken him out to a bar one night to celebrate his promotion to fully fledged columnist and she was out with her friends, singing her heart out to an old ballad on the makeshift stage. Although his whole party was celebrating and hers was loudly cheering her, they couldn’t take their eyes off one another. By the end of the night, Margie and Sam were sitting in a quiet booth learning all about one another. By the end of the year, the rings were bought. They had now been married for six years.
Back at her apartment, she grabbed an orange from the bowl on the counter. In the living room she flopping on the sofa, clicked on the stereo and picked up a magazine from the table. She peeled her orange, watching as the strips of peel fell into a neat curled pile beside her. She split it into sections and bit into a luscious segment as she thumbed through the pictures of perfectly decorated rooms with an assortment of pictures of a happy family dotting the available surfaces. Margie looked up and surveyed her own room, stuffing another sweet piece into her mouth. The only pictures here were ones of her performing, or pictures of the band. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a real home and a real family? Then at least she would have someone to deal with that asshole Burt.
She got up off the couch and went into her bedroom, careful to keep her sticky fingers from the clean dress that was hanging on the back of the door. Maybe tonight would be the night that she would sever ties with him. Maybe she could talk to Simon about splitting off and going in their own direction. She slid the last piece of fruit in her mouth and went into the bathroom to run a bubble bath. Lots of time to think of that later, right now it was time for her ritual before a performance night; bubble bath, glass of wine, Ginny up to give her a massage, light supper and then get dressed and do her makeup.
Margie jolted as the doorbell rang. She was standing in her bathroom with the water running. It took her a minute to catch her bearings. She was a little scared; there was water in the tub and a pile of orange peels on the counter by the sink. Something was seriously wrong with her today. First the sore on her arm and now she was wandering around the house through her daydreams, seemingly acting on ideas that her fantasy self was playing out in her head.
She ran down the stairs and to the front door, where she nearly fainted upon opening it.
“Hi, I’m Ginny. Your husband hired me to give you a massage. Can I come in?”
Margie wordlessly led her into the house.
“I’ll just set up in here, okay?” And she unpacked the folding massage table and got to work setting up sheets and some towels, using the coffee table to lay out her massage oils and other accouterments. Margie went into a kind of haze, allowing this girl whom she was so sure that she had made up help her onto the table and rub her shoulders and back with expertise. Her brain was in turmoil. Maybe she should call the doctor after all. The massage seemed to drag on and on to the point where Margie fuzzed out into oblivion, not daydreaming, not really present, not really anything. It was a shock when she heard Ginny’s voice asking her to get dressed and thanking her for her time. She was vaguely aware of being handed a card as she left the house.
Margie went into the kitchen and stood on her tiptoes to reach the cupboard above the fridge. She grabbed the bottle of scotch and poured herself a large neat measure which she drained almost immediately. Then she put the glass down on the counter and stared at it. She didn’t like Scotch, Sam did. Her mind was reeling. She grabbed the phone and began dialing the Dr.’s number, but hung up before the connection was made.
Margie got out of her bath and roamed around making herself some coffee and slipping a little Bailey’s into it. She sipped at her hot drink and noticed Ginny’s card resting on the small table by the front door next to her invoice. That’s funny, she didn’t remember her coming over…and yet, and here was the bill as if she had already had the massage. She stared down at her cup and thought that perhaps she should lay off on the alcohol for a while; it was messing with her head. There was a message blinking on her phone. Pressing the button, she listened as Burt rambled on about punctuality and then rudely suggested that she wear some kind of support garment to hold the extra pounds in that she had put on recently. Then he had the audacity to make a suggestive comment that they get together after the show to discuss her future. Hmm, any future I have won’t include you, she thought. The next message was from Simon. He wanted to wish her luck and asked her to join him for dinner on Monday. Margie clicked off the machine and went into the kitchen to dump out her drink and get a glass of water. Wouldn’t it be nice to fall for someone like Simon, settle down and have a normal life for a change?
She went into the bedroom and lifted her dress for tonight out of the closet. It was a gorgeous red one that hugged her body in all the right places and made her feel beautiful, sexy. She tossed it onto her bed and checked the clock. Time to get ready. Back into the bathroom once again where she grabbed her makeup bag from the shelf and set it on the counter before her. She undid her robe and let it slip to the floor. It was no longer a matter of narcissistic pride to look at herself naked, now it just reminded her that if she was seriously thinking of making a big life change and snagging a man, she had better do it while there was still a small semblance of her formerly sexy self left to snare him with.
That night as Sam escorted Margie into the club, he made little comment to her on how quiet she had become. Everything about this night was freaking her out, but she was too afraid to speak. They found a nice table for two near the stage and Sam excused herself to get them both a drink from the bar. As Margie rose to use the restroom, she felt a hard hand grab her elbow and yank her off to the side of the stage.
“What the hell are you doing? Burt hissed in her face. You were supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago, get your ass on the stage.”
Stricken, she glanced at the clock on the wall and then hopped onto the stage as her band struck up the opening notes of her first song. As she began to belt out the tune, Margie looked out into the audience and saw a handsome man sitting with a woman in a dress just like hers.
They look happy, she thought. She dashed a glance back at Simon, who winked at her. Maybe someday she thought to herself. Maybe someday.