The Annulment

by Jenae Marks  

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Courtney woke to the sound of Buddhist chimes, growing gently louder every five minutes.  She fumbled off the expensive and tasteful alarm clock, images of a red face and the feeling of rough fingers becoming scrambled.

Courtney had a baby-girl face, especially in the morning.  Usually there was a plucky, almost hard quality about her face, but sleep erased it, 'til she looked like one of those dreamy, wispy 11-year-olds you sometimes see in ads for cotton clothing or expensive sheets.  Sometimes you see real girls like that, not all glossy and fake, just truly wispy and too vague to be on the make in any way yet.

She'd noticed this about her face, and it made her feel differently in the mornings, like a younger, less in-the-know version of herself, from some previous life, long ago.

Fucking hell of a dream, she thought, pulling on her new pima robe and pressing the button on the espresso machine. 

She heard the tick, tick, tick of the espresso machine and smelled the grounds.  She started fussing with her robe, tugging it closed and pushing the collar off her neck.  Catching a glimpse of her expression in one of the accent mirrors, she didn't see a starlet lounging around; she saw a little control freak.  That's what Jack called her.  Now Linda was doing it too.  Sitting at the table, she lit a cigarette, and then snuffed it out.  She picked a piece of lint off her slipper. 

What was with that dream? She hadn't thought of that in years.  She thought she'd put all that daddy-touched-me pain behind her long ago.

At 14 she had an affair, her first, with Trina, her dance teacher.  Trina spoiled her emotionally, got her to talk all about it for hours.  Sometimes Courtney would cry and Trina wouldn't make any moves at all, just hold her really patiently.  Trina had really, really loved her.

Courtney had been too young to settle down though, too curious about boys, about kids her own age.  She was grateful when Trina made a graceful exit by moving to New York.  They never got caught, thank God.  She didn't give a fuck, but Trina was a great teacher.

Now she held the lighter to the tip and took a deep drag.  So why this awful dream? The espresso machine beeped.   A nice homey sound.  It was Linda, her assistant's, day off.  Better to be alone if I've had a dream like that, she thought, feeling really raw.  Her foot tapped.  She flicked her ash.  She felt heavy raising herself up and lifting the milk out of the frig.

Today she was supposed to sign the annulment papers.

She smiled and kind of giggled thinking about Jack.  She and Jack Frost had met at the Blockbuster Awards.  Everyone thought it was so strange that they'd hit it off.  There'd been a lot of champagne, and then at the after-party there was a lot of tequila.  She was pretty much a lightweight when it comes to drinking.  (She only weighed 109 pounds.)

They started hooking up at events, "Hey! I know you".  "He's my lesbian lover", she would say.  And he’d say, "She's a motivational liar.  In my case, it's a mission of mercy".  And she'd be like, "If I'm such a liar" in this total mila-dyke type voice, "then why are you always trying to fuck me?", and he'd say, "Are you kidding?".

But the nice thing about it was that he wasn't trying to fuck her. That was just a joke they had. He'd never made a move on her. They just really hit it off.

She would introduce him as Butchina, the dyke of my life.  He said if she didn't stop it some jealous man was going to cut his tongue out.

Jack was very famous as the best part of that amazing sit-com.  She remembered how funny it had been at the time, and it still held up in syndication.  In the re-runs, you could see even more clearly how rough it had been.  As it got a little less funny through repetition, the sheer, like, avant-garde meanness of it was more evident.

Anyway, he had never matched it, but he was working and people still totally respected him.  Even the sneaker commercials were not scoffed at.

In her mind the basis of the joke—of course we're not fucking each other—was that he was almost as old as her dad.  She didn't focus on his height or his weight, but he probably did. She felt bad about that.  He couldn't seem to hang out with her without getting a little tight.

"When I'm with you, I feel like an idiot.  Then I drink and I act like an idiot."

"Poor Jack", she pulled at some more lint.  The espresso tasted really bitter and thick.

She went to look for one of those new pre-made meals, everything calibrated to the last spec of fiber or gram of vitamin-whatever.  Maybe the Spanish one.... She pressed the start button on the microwave and sat back down in front of the ash tray.

About a month ago she and Jack had been hanging out in Vegas after the Nouveau Tropicalia opening. Everyone was completely cracking up and being ridiculous.  And she kept insisting "I will fucking marry you, Butchina".  And he was yelling  "Cow shit!  Cat Shit!  Parakeet Shit!  Prove It!"

And they and their friends, some new, some of old, some real, some less so, staggered into an awful little chapel full of the ugliest plastic flowers, really thick plastic petals.

And they were laughing so hard, she almost peed and he said so did he.  (To be honest, they'd both had half a tab of X.) And somehow they actually ended up married.

They even slept in a honeymoon suite, but she just cuddled him.  He stroked her face a couple of times, but then started to snore.  She had a feeling he had a real girlfriend somewhere he was hiding from the press.  Besides, they were just, like, too damned drunk.

The very next day the story came out.  But the idiot press got it wrong, or maybe it was deliberate, because it sounded like she'd married that other Jack Frost, the football player.

Maybe that was better, though, so Jack's real girlfriend wouldn't feel too jealous or embarrassed.

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