Chapter IX

“Well I’ll tell you gals, pinked as I was, I just hadn’t a word to retort — the man’s djism was not even runny inside me.”

Gams and Ginger shake heads that are heavy with curlers still, cooing their sympathies and sipping Dark Black from their miniature cups.

Mewsy worries a scone without conviction while she plunges finger-upon-fingerful of honeyed clot-cream between her lips.

“It’s so like him, of course,” she prattles on, narrowing her eyes toward the desert horizon which shimmers in the late morning sun. “One can hardly begrudge it. It’s dear old Joe one feels the slight from. Without even so much as a by-your-leave, to open our doors to the enemy!”

“The man is your husband,” Gams says drily.

“Oh Gamsy, you mustn’t. I just can’t bear censure so early.”

Ginger: “What will he do back there?”

Mewsy pouts a little, which suits her. “Oh, how should I know? Lift wood. Oil chains. Nail things in.”

Gams and Ginger-Ann share a look.

“But natch,” Mewsy drawls, intercepting it. “There was a reason I married him.”

Gams rolls her head back to pluck out her pins. Ginger-Ann dips a tong in the conserve.

“He’s an animal,” says Mewsy. “If a roughly shorn bear found a briefcase and squeezed on a new pair of trou’, he’d wind up as Tybalt Onan-Stahl.”

Ginger-Ann leans in. “What are you going to do?”

Mewsy tosses her head. “Do? Well it’s not for me to do. We’re to start today. Tybalt will sort himself out. He always does.”

“Gawd in Heaven, I need to work,” says Gams huskily. Her liberated hair falls in dark, glossy clouds around her shoulders.

“Oh, I was about to come unstrung,” says Ginger-Ann. She pushes away her teacup and saucer and glides from the table to the balustrade. An arid noonish heat has already begun to settle.

“Miss La La needed only to have hung in for one more day,” Mewsy says, absently staring up into the cloudless sky. “Will they have her back, do you think?”

“Mother of the Bride!” Gams guffaws, “But never, but never. Finch was furious. Betrayed. I’ve never seen her so green with vitriol.”

“Perhaps you’ll look back on all this as the moment things changed for you,” says Mewsy, her hand lightly laid on her colleague’s knee. “Career-wise. You’ve earned it.”

Looking past Mewsy’s shoulder, Gamsy clocks herself in the porch-mirror. “Nobody’s writin’ no memoirs just yet,” she says.

“Say,” Mewsy says, and she lowers her voice, “All this rot about Tybalt will stay entre nous, yeah? Titzi from Front would just crow like a chicken to get any wind of hot goss’.”

“Titzi LeBustier couldn’t pay me to tell her her very own name,” Ginger-Ann says. Gams chuckles.

And there’s Finch-Marie, standing in the door.

“Mewsy, sweet — come up in five? Good morning to you ladies.”

“Ciao, Fi-Fi,” says Gams.

“Good morning Finchy,” says Ginger. “Are you pleased?”

“I’m taking it all one step at a time, my dear,” Finch-Marie says with a guarded smile, “The same as any day.” She turns to go. “Don’t stay in the sun too long, ladies,” she calls back. “The gentlemen don’t want you cooked.”

Ginger stretches all her limbs out long. “I can’t wait to get started. I’m tight as piano wire, and think of it — to finally do something that matters.”