“The truth,” Stephanie reached out to cradle her daughter’s head in her hands. They lay side by side on a bed Carly could only faintly remember shopping for as a newly formed tween. Back then Carly beamed with pride as her mother schooled her on the importance of selecting the right frame. “Do not be fooled by the luster of copper and gold” She remembered Stephanie instructing her. “You’ll find, in life a sturdy foundation will always keep you from feeling the lumps.” Now, Carly was all too familiar with her mother’s many lectures and lopsided metaphors. They were unsolicited, hackneyed, and tired by this point in their relationship.
“The truth,” Stephanie continued, “is love hurts more than any scraped knee or broken bone you will ever experience.”
Carly let a single tear fall past her cheek and Stephanie protectively wiped it away. “I am so sorry she hurt you.”
The she Stephanie spoke of, Lori Purifoy had dumped Carly with all the dignity and care that could be managed by a one sentence text message.
“You will heal from this.” Stephanie spoke with confidence to a daughter she was desperate to hold on to. Whatever her faults, she had no intention of being the sort of unfeeling parent her mother had been for her. She felt Stephanie’s body turning beside her, her daughter’s spine stiffened in a familiar way, the way she had trained her, the way that was intrinsic to all Carlisle’s. Even if Carly’s last name was Lancaster, Stephanie had always only viewed that as a formality and unrelated to the truth of her nature.
“I know” Carly finally spoke up with a mixture of confidence and menacing that left Stephanie an undeniable sense of pride.
“Mom, I know I said a life of politics wasn’t my thing…but “ Carly could see her mother trying unsuccessfully to hide the smile forming on her face. “Don’t get too excited” Carly cautioned. “I was just thinking maybe there is a middle ground.”
“Our family does so much charity work, so many good things for the community.” Carly stood up from the bed, she felt like she needed to show her mother she was capable of standing on her own two feet.
“But we’re not seeing nearly as much benefit as we could” She paused for a moment to study her mother’s face. Noting Stephanie’s ever-present skepticism, she corrected herself. “As we should.” Carly pulled out her phone and dove straight into her Instagram. “Mom, all the coverage on our family is about you yelling at randos and dad misappropriating funds…” Carly tried to scroll past the plethora of Lori pics before her mother spotted them, but it was no use. Lori was all over her feed and Stephanie’s eagle-trained eye wouldn’t have missed it for a second.
“You’re saying we need to put a face to our PR efforts?” Stephanie inquired.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying…someone who doesn’t have any skeletons in their closet, someone trained in performance and media…” Carly was teasing at this point, but Stephanie was fully on board.
“Someone like you” Stephanie finished. Sure she was happy to see her daughter pursuing something a little more stable than a career in entertainment, but she had not just fallen off the turnip truck. She knew exactly what Carly was after, and for once, she was more than happy to help her get it.
“You can start with a meet and greet at the community center. I’ll put you in touch with my stylist Bella.”
Stephanie stood behind her daughter, her hand firmly placed on Carly’s shoulder. She studied their reflections in the full-length mirror. Every day she saw a little bit more of herself. Still though, there was something uniquely Carly in that image. It was something Stephanie had lost long ago, something purely good, unaffected, unadulterated, just good.
Ever since she was little all Lori Purifoy wanted was to prove that she was worthy of the massive pharma kingdom she stood to inherit. She thought all she had to do was put in the work, prove that she could hang with the boys, and always, always beat them at their own game. She thought that was enough, enough for her father to see that she was the right choice. But, the more she worked, the more she bucked up against that long-standing boys club, the more she understood. Her father, much as he wanted to envision himself as a nu-age fair-minded male, was no different than any of the rest of the good-ol’-boys. He would never see her as a leader, and she’d be lucky if he ever let her strive past anything other than head of PR.
Lori tapped her fingers contemplatively against the whisky glass she’d been nursing for an hour while she watched the trend lines moving up and down on the company’s social media graphs. She wished she could call Carly. But that was no longer an option, Stephanie made sure of that. Instead, she went for her plan B, thinking all the while of how she’d previously hoped to no longer need a plan B.
“Alex” she called out to her assistant over the phone’s speaker. “I’m board.”
As soon as she spoke the words Alex, a petite woman sporting glasses and a clearly toned physique marched into Lori’s office looking glad to have been called. With her she brought a small case , the kind one might use to carry a small flute or piccolo.
“Why do you look so Surprised?” Lori wondered out loud.
Alex brought the case up to Lori’s desk making sure to close the blinds on her way over. “It’s just been a while” she explained as she opened the case to reveal a series of vials. “What’ll it be today?”
Lori studied the vials in front of her, some containing liquid, some containing powder, until she found one that suited her mood. Alex put the rest of the case away. Lori only clutched the vial, she wasn’t ready for what it meant. “Hold on.” She told herself as Alex removed her glasses. “Hold on” she repeated internally while the other woman removed her top. “Hold on” and she could feel the heat of the other woman’s body crawling up to meet her legs underneath her desk.
She welcomed Alex to the space between her thighs. Her hand still clutched the vial. She’d invented her own version of Russian Roulette where the stakes were higher because she’d been addicted to the bullets. But it was what she needed, to prove that she was stronger than her prior bad acts, that she could hold poison in the palm of her hand and not be owned by it. Lori’s head tilted back as Alex found her way to Lori’s center.
She forced herself to stay focused on the ride. Even as her mind started to wander toward Carly. “Hold on” she repeated until she finally came and her body shook softy with satisfaction. Her thighs contracted around Alex’s head until she mustered enough strength to tap her young assistant on the head like a toddle that’d finished their meal. “Good job” Lori sighed.
Alex got up from under the desk and quickly straightened up. She held out her hand expectantly. Lori finally let go of the still-full vial and returned it to Alex who carefully placed it back in the case from which it came. “You know, parties are a lot less fun without the party favors” Alex teased.
Lori pulled Alex in close to her, the smell of her love still present on the other woman’s lips. “This isn’t about fun.” Lori paused, making sure to lick the last remnants of her juices away from Alex’s mouth. “It’s about power.” With that, Alex walked out. Lori wasted no time ogling the other woman’s well-crafted backside as she exited. It was almost distracting enough to keep her from noticing the alert on her phone, but not quite. Lori picked up her cell and scrolled through her notifications only to be greeted by the sight of Carly Lancaster wearing a meticulously crafted outfit that was just revealing enough to arouse, but not so tantalizing as to detract from Carly’s oh so important good-girl image. Underneath the picture the caption read:
“Meet and Greet with Carly Lancaster at the District Ten Community Center Win a Date with Atlanta’s First Daughter #Pride365”