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Pockets Full of Posey - Sarah J. Kings

She stood in front of the vanity, which was positioned just outside of the bathroom of her quaint Hoboken apartment. It was tidy and organized, like everything else in her one-bedroom place. Unlike the rest of her home though, which was lush with pillows, throw blankets, plants, and femininity — all cremes and hues of dusty rose— this particular little space was cold and nearly surgical. Little glass organizers and metal tins categorized each beauty item, of which there were plenty. Designed for exacting precision, nothing was out of place. She stared at her bare-skinned reflection which, by any standard, was stunning and made nearly flawless by a combination of microblading, light fillers, and a few other injectables. She had not had plastic surgery; she was only 27 years old. But she had no delusions of beauty being everlasting. In fact, she was keenly aware that it was, at best, a fast-fading commodity that she could only utilize for so long, and therefore she did not scoff at the inevitability of such an idea. She took a tweezer to her brows and removed two insistent hairs. “My fucking face,” she said to her friend who was on Duo Video. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Michelle. You’re practically freaking perfect.” “I think not Anne.” She blew gently on the gray lash glue before adhering a few individual feathery lashes to her left eye. “Do my eyes look even?” She leaned toward the front-facing camera and held still for a moment of evaluation. “Yes. They’re literally perfect.” “Perfect would be not having to glue them on.” Her friend laughed. She applied lid primer, then a gold base shadow, and added a velvety brown color to her crease. “That’s so hot. What brush is that?” Anne asked. “Sigma E25.” She didn’t have to look. Her brushes, like most of the things that adorned that desk, were memorized. “It’s like $15, you should get one.” She used a different brush, a smaller one, to add a light pearl color under her brow. “Seriously, how do you do that?” “Highlight a brow bone? If you’re being serious right now, I can’t even help you.”

“No. I know how to put eye makeup on, you asshole. I meant your hair. How do you always get the waves to look so natural?” She sported loose waves that were meant to look perfectly effortless. Though, reality was quite the contrast. After pretreating with volumizing moose, 25 minutes with a heated wand, and touchups with Frizz Ease, her short blonde hair landed exactly at her chin. Which was how she liked it- now anyway. Ordinarily, she preferred it long but begrudgingly agreed to a cut, after her Manhattan stylist told her that a more cropped look was in. She also told her to add a shadow root, and some ashy lowlights, which of course she did. “That’s because it is natural.” She blew a mischievous kiss to Anne and worked on her foundation. First liquid, then powder. “Of course, it is. Silly me.” “You know, I don’t need to look at the phone to see that eye-roll. I can feel it from Brooklyn.” She moved on to contour. Anne laughed again. “Wait,” she said. “Are you going out with that guy again?” At the precise moment that Anne asked that question Michelle’s phone vibrated. It was that guy, however, that guy wasn’t exactly who Anne thought he was. He wasn’t even the same ‘that guy’ that she thought he was, not that night anyway. “I might be,” Michelle said playfully. “You bitch! You have another date, and you didn’t tell me! How many times have you seen him? Is this still Ben?” Michelle smiled at her before adding a nearly sheer pink stain to her perfectly lined lips. “How many times?” She was overtly coy. “Hmm. I’m not sure.” “What is that? It’s gorgeous on you!” “It’s called Posey, and I love it. It does some medieval shit to guys, I swear. It looks exactly like you’ve just had sex. It fucks with their heads. They’ll do whatever you want. I mean that honestly.” “Well, okay then. R.I.P Ben. Or whoever.” Michelle’s phone vibrated again. She stood up. She was wearing a strapless black bra and a matching lace panty. “Well, damn. Double R.I.P to that poor man. What do you plan on wearing?” “A black Versace mini dress.” Her phone vibrated again. It was not Ben, because Ben was not real, but it was him. “Are you serious? Where the hell are you going on a Thursday night in Versace? Where did you even get a Versace dress?” “It’s rent the runway, but I gotta’ go love.” “Wait. Where are you going?” “It’s just a thing he has to do for work.” Her phone vibrated again. “I have to go though. Love ya.” She pulled the zipper up the side of her dress, tied the straps of her stilettos, and stood back to look at her reflection- full body. She added a tennis bracelet and dusted a tan matte powder over her ankles. She grabbed at objectivity and tried to know that she was what he wanted. The phone vibrated for the fifth time. She glanced in the direction but did not touch it. She thought it better to make him wait a bit, but not for too long. She, Michelle, was curious about what the messages said, but she could not be Michelle that night. She was a brand, a powerful, exotic, mysterious woman, and that image had to be upheld. She removed the tennis bracelet and replaced it with a simple set of teardrop earrings: white-gold and diamond. The phone vibrated again.

Robert: Is everything still on for tonight? I don’t know exactly how these things work. Robert: Remember meet me at the Mansfield – not the Yale Club. We need to walk in together. Robert: Also wear something sexy but not slutty. K?

Three of the vibrations were from Robert, who she would meet for the first time that night. The others were requests to see her. One from Matt, who was a regular, and the second was from Andrew, who she had seen the previous Friday and once before that. They all were clients. They were all Ben. Eventually, though, roughly around the time Anne or Jenna’s insistence to meet “this Ben” was at an all-time high, he would do something irredeemable. Possibly, he would call her the wrong name in bed or maybe wear socks with sandals. Either way, Ben’s quick and convenient erasure from her social life was inevitable, and after some time she would have to replace him with Jon, or maybe Jonah. She liked the name Jonah. She knew a Jonah in college, who was sweet and quiet, and quite handsome though he didn’t seem to know it. She flirted with all three Ben’s through the App, and she decided that soon they would all be Jonah’s. She squeezed as many essentials as she could into her Marc Jacobs clutch, then zipped the remaining items-her keys and the Posey lip stain-into the inner pocket of her cropped black satin bomber jacket, and promptly left. Being late to certain encounters or meet-ups might add allure to her character, but not in this situation. That would not be suitable for a big-time client like Robert, with whom- tonight- she would attend the All-Ivy Ball at the Yale Club. No, being late would not be a part of what he was looking for. She received a few looks and whispers on the Path, though she pretended not to notice. A little girl, holding her mother’s hand, asked if she was a model. The girl’s mother, who wore stretch-pants and dirty tennis shoes, winced as the girl asked it. “No,” Michelle answered. “But I’m going to be a Doctor.” “Really? You could be a model. You could be on TV. I want to be on TV when I grow up.” “Trust me, you want to be a doctor.” The truth was, she was neither of those things, not really anyway. And she knew that she probably shouldn’t be giving life advice to little girls on the train, but she would be a Med, Student, for the night anyway. And she might be one again for any other night that she might need to be. As instructed, she waited for Robert outside of the Mansfield Hotel. She held her clutch against her abdomen, and admired the enormous bouquet of lilies through the tall arched window; the long green stems sat in a simple round glass bowl. She loved beautiful things. Time was slow and life warm when things were clean and neat and pretty. “Desiree?” It was Robert. And whether it was Robert, or Matt, or whomever, she was always Desiree. “In the flesh.” She smiled at him and her white teeth gleamed. “For a second there you looked like you were at the MoMA or something. Can you turn around? Sorry, is that weird? Fuck, that was weird.” “You’re not weird.” She smiled again and hugged him like she hadn’t seen him for a long time as if she had always known him. Her long slim fingers lingered for a moment on the side of his ribs. “And yes, I can.” She said in a half-whisper. She could see the thrill come over him, and as synthetic and temporary as it was for her, she let it rush through her as well. She knew precisely how to intoxicate men, how to intrigue them with flirtation and touch, and she enjoyed knowing it. “Jesus they don’t mess around. You look perfect.” “I only aim to please.” “I wasn’t sure how this was going to go at first, but wow.” “Well, let’s go ‘wow’ them at the Yale Club.” She linked her arm in his, her fingers wrapped around his bicep. “Shall we.” “Um, yeah. Sure.” Robert said. “Should we get coffee first? Go over how it should go.” “We can talk as we walk.” She looked up at him with her green eyes. “What are you worried about?” Each word she said, every minute detail of her mannerisms, were all a careful unfolding of a precise psychological and sexual entanglement. “Well.” He seemed lost for a moment but quickly regained himself. “How long have we known each other, and how did we meet?” “So, we’ve known each other since we were kids. We went to middle school together, and I always had a big crush on you, of course.” She squeezed his arm a bit. “But I had to move away.” “So how are we get together now?” “However you want. It won’t be 21 Questions, I promise. We will go in there, and you will do what you need to, and I will adore you and say all the right things, while you do it.” “Is that how it works, then?” “It works however you want it to work.” She said, and she left a soft kiss on the side of his neck. She could taste the salt of his nerves. She loved the power that seduction can hold.

Inside everything was pristine. The vaulted ceilings, the marble, the crisp lapels on the jackets of the doormen, all had an air of prestige. She, in her rented dress and shoes, appeared to fit right in; nothing a bit untoward was expected. The staff greeted her with pomp and grandeur. Even the young man who ran the coat-check counter waited with a patient and courteous smile when she, quickly reapplied her Posey lip stain and zipped it back into her jacket pocket. The first part of the evening went exactly how she said it would. Exchanges of puffery and business cards, laughter, and whiskey sours were all in abundance. She delivered, as promised, a beautiful display of femininity and charm. She stared at Robert with adoring eyes and touched the sleeve of his shirt at just the right times, so as to tell all the big shots, Isn’t he perfect. I love him, and I’m beautiful; you should love him too. She could see how well it had worked, and she felt satisfied with herself. At around 9:30, one of the elbows that Robert had rubbed asked ‘Desiree’ if she’d ever had the pleasure of seeing the city view from the rooftop. “No, I haven’t.” She gave Robert an inconspicuous wink. “Well, Robert,” the man said. “Then let’s get these fine ladies a drink and head to the roof then.”

The four of them laughed and drank and pretended to squabble about the state of the nation for the better part of an hour. The woman who was with them said that the city was so beautiful from where they stood. “I know. The lights are so lovely.” Michelle said only she didn’t much feel that way. She rested her head on Robert's arm and he breathed in the smell of her hair. Eventually, they went up to the 6th floor and entered Robert’s room. What happened after, was what happened after. Though it was a bit rougher than she had expected from him. His phone rang twice during, and with each ring he became more irritated and aggressive. When he was done he slid away from her slightly. His phone rang a third time. “Don’t say anything.” He said abruptly. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dream of” “Hey Meg.” He answered the phone and put his finger to his lips. “Yeah, it was alright…. Nah, you wouldn’t have wanted to come anyway, these things are boring. Just a bunch of silver spoon hedge fund brats all grownup… Yeah, umm, okay. Let me just shower first. I want to get to bed soon.” He put the phone down. “If you have to go,” Michelle began. “Yeah, she wants to Facetime. You’ve gotta’ go. Sorry.” “Not a problem.” She picked up her bra and dress up off of the floor, and scanned the bed for her panties. “It was good.” He turned the water on in the bathroom. He walked back into the main room with a plush white towel wrapped around his waist. He watched her step back into her black dress. “I feel bad to ask you to leave so quickly. It’s just...” He looked over to the phone resting on the edge of the bed. “It’s okay. Next time.” She said. Her voice was sweet and carefree, but for a reason, that she could not pin down perfectly, this interchange had stung her a bit. “Can I at least help you with your dress?” “It zips up the side.” She grabbed her bag, gave him a wink and a kiss on the cheek, and left. While walking down the hallway she felt a tinge of something painful and imagined that she might be able to tuck it away with something from the bar. On the way down, the elevator doors opened on a wedding. A pretty song was playing, so she stepped out to the balcony and admired the scene below. She breathed in the golden glow of the chandeliers, the perfectly placed hydrangeas, white roses, and Swarovski crystals. The Bride danced in the middle of the ballroom, the hoop of her dress swirled in perfect symmetry, and Michelle felt happy. At the bar, she ordered a dry martini. She answered a two-hour old text from Anne, and one more from Matt. She stirred her drink. “Lucky olive.” A man said, who came up from behind her. “Excuse me?” She recognized him from earlier, though she didn’t remember speaking with him. “It’s just that… Well, I imagine it’s going to end up in your mouth.” “Don’t you think that’s a bit gross.” Michelle snorted and looked at her phone. “You don’t like that.” “Not particularly, no.” She took a long sip of her martini before standing. She put some cash by her glass and turned to leave. “Hey, where are you going?” “None of your business.” She said and headed down the stairs. The stairs were marble, and her stilettos tapped quickly as she made her decent. It sounded exactly like her childhood- rushing through the hall to Tap from Ballet. “Wait.” The man put his hand on her shoulder. She was so shocked that she almost lost her balance. “What are you doing?” “How does this work?” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Do I have to give you the money first or something?” “What!” She pulled away from him. “Come on,” he said. “I know you’re a prostitute.” “I am not a…” Her voice halted. The vaulted ceiling seemed so far away, and her pulse was pounding in her ears. She ran down the stairs, passed the concierge, passed the doormen with their crisp clean jackets. Tap, tap, tap. A little girl, late for class. She ran out of the door. A Valet asked her if he could get her a car, but she ignored him. She ran all the way back to the Mansfield, back to the lilies in the window, before she called a Lyft. Ordinarily, she would take the train, but she didn’t want to see anyone’s face. She didn’t want to feel any stares or talk to anyone’s daughter. She just wanted to go home. When she saw her apartment door she felt a bit better. She knew that inside things would be pretty and clean, and they would make sense. She could shower, and rinse the night away- Robert and the man at the bar, the whole thing. She reached into her clutch and realized that she had left her keys in her jacket, and she had left her jacket at the Yale Club. “Fuck.” She said to no one. She messaged Anne, who was the only person who had a spare key. It was almost 1:30 in the morning on a weekday. She knew that there was a slim chance that the text would be answered before the morning. Defeated and sick, she sat on her Williams Sonoma doormat and began to cry. “You okay?” It was her neighbor. He was shirtless, wearing red basketball shorts, and socks with Adidas sandals. He had a mesh bag full of clean laundry in his hand. “Yeah. I’m just locked out.” Michelle wiped the corners of her eyes. “Do you need help?” He asked. “I’m Adam by the way. You’re Michelle, right? I think we met once in the mailroom. I’m not some crazy stalker or anything.” He laughed awkwardly. “Yeah. No, I remember.” She said. And she did remember. She had an excellent memory, and she recalled thinking that he was a bit bashful and quite good-looking. “I’m okay, honestly, my friend will come by soon with the spare key. “Are you sure?” He took his phone out of his shorts and checked the time. “It’s pretty late, do you want to come in and hang out?” “Umm.” “Until your friend comes.” “Sure.” She smiled and followed him to his door.

His apartment was plain, and sort of reminded her of a dorm room. In the main room, he had a futon, a flat-screen TV, and little else. “Do you want anything?” He asked opening a refrigerator that housed a box from Dominoes, a handful of beer bottles, and ketchup. “I’m okay.” “Are you sure?” He opened a Heineken for himself and tilted it in her direction. “I have pizza if you’re hungry.” “I’m okay. I honestly just need to shower and go to bed.” “You can do that here.” Adam looked at his phone again. “I mean, has your friend gotten back to you yet.” “I don’t have any other clothes or anything.” “I can lend you some,” his voice was soft. He gestured to the bag of newly washed laundry sitting on the counter. “At least you know they’re clean.” He laughed. “Alright. Sure.” She shut the bathroom door and made sure that it was fully locked before she undressed. The water ran over her head and neck. She washed her hair and body with Head & Shoulders, as it was the only thing there was, and she tried to relax in the steam. After a while, there was a knock at the door. “Michelle. Are you okay?” She said nothing. “I’m just going to leave some clothes at the door.” After a few moments, she retrieved the little pile from outside the door- a black Tony Baloney’s T-shirt and another pair of red basketball shorts. She looked at herself in the mirror. His clothes looked silly draped over her thin frame. Her makeup, other than her waterproof mascara, had mostly washed away, and her short blonde hair was straight again and wet against her ears. “I kind of look like an idiot.” She called into the living room looking for Adam. “No. You don’t.” He said. By that time he was no longer shirtless. He had a black t-shirt on under a zip-up sweatshirt. “I look like a 14-year-old boy.” She laughed. “I assure you, you do not.” He smiled. “You do, however, look like you need pizza.” “I suppose I do.” She looked down at the shirt she was wearing and chuckled at the cartoon pizza. “Hot or cold?” “Cold.” “A girl after my own heart. You know, it's sacrilegious to heat left-over pizza between the hours of 2 AM and 10 AM.” He handed her a slice. “If you can call Dominoes Pizza.” She smiled at him and took a bite. “That is so freaking good.” She realized that she hadn’t eaten since the afternoon. “Fair point.” He smiled at her. They talked and ate, and shared a cigarette on his balcony. He didn’t have any furniture out there, only an ashtray, so they sat on the ground. She wasn’t uncomfortable though, and they stayed out there for a while. She smiled and laughed, and it was all real. There was no trickery or tactics in the way she looked at him or the way touched his arm when he made a joke. They were simply honest- existing in a moment. “You ever wish you could erase some of the dumb shit you’ve done?” He flicked his lighter twice and lit another cigarette. “Sometimes.” “Like what?” He breathed in, the orange glint of his cigarette brightened for a moment, and then was dull again. “I mean what would you erase? You seem so perfect.” “Believe me, I’m not.” “That’s hard to believe.” He gestured with his cigarette to see if she wanted a drag. “Nah, I’m good.” Dark pink and orange light peaked up over the edges of the earth and lit the sides of buildings. “Damn that’s pretty.” He said. “It really is.” And that time, when she said it, she meant it. The city was beautiful, like a faraway picture. “It’s like how you think living in New York would be when you’re a kid. Before you pack up and go, and you see it up close. Before you realize that the only way to afford to live there, is to not.” “You’re not from here?” He asked. “No. Nevada.” “Like Vegas?” He asked. “Not at all.” She pushed a bit of air from her nose. “Not at all.” They talked for a little longer, and when the sun was fully up they decided that Michelle’s friend was probably not coming. He told her that she could take the bed and he offered to sleep on the futon. She didn’t mind though if he slept on the bed with her. So he did. He fell asleep easily. And when he did, his arm wrapped around her. It was heavy and she felt safe, and she didn’t mind that they both smelled like Head & Shoulders and cigarettes. She didn’t mind the basketball shorts or the socks and sandals. And she didn’t mind either that Anne had not seen her message that night. She thought to herself, what if she could just erase it all, all the Ben’s and the Matt’s and the Jonah’s. What if there was just Adam. She breathed him in and felt the comfort of his warm body and his Target bedding. She knew that she could not erase time. She could not change real life. When she woke up there would be messages to answer from Matt, maybe Robert, and probably others. But for that moment there was only Adam and sleep.

Sarah J. Kings has a B.A in English and has been accepted into Drexel University's MFA program in Creative Writing.  Her novel, The Ways of After, was published by Willowbird Press in 2015.  Her latest fiction publications can be found in La Piccioletta Barca Literary Magazine,  Retreat West, and other Literary Journals.  

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