Alexia entered the boutique she shared with her friend Katy, "Well-Heeled Etc." in a rush and with visible anxiety waited for a chic young Asian customer to leave her alone with Katy, who was clumping around the small store in heeled sandals which accentuated her waif-like slimness and five-foot height.
If she hadn't known Katy long before her recent marriage to a worldly, wealthy, sickeningly youthful investor who adored her—if any more reasons existed to hate her, none came directly to mind—Alexia's envy would have doomed any possible friendship.
But having known Katy when she was a sobbing, abandoned wreck—the guy had oozed desire to meet her Mom and Stepdad, only to vanish the next weekend—Alexia had written off her own loneliness and her friend's newfound marital bliss as either Fate with a capital F or Karma with a capital K.
Though they shared a similarly tawny color of hair, even this resemblance was deceptive, for Alexia wore her hair shoulder-length and loose while Katy kept hers in a neatly trimmed pageboy. Other than hair color, they shared little but a history of romantic dissatisfaction—that is, until Katy nailed down Mr. Dreamboat, Alexia thought; and that's a gulf between us that I'll never ford.
As she'd waited for the young Asian customer to either buy something or leave, Alexia recalled her own marriage to Viggy. It was doomed from the start, she signed inwardly, and we both knew that; but I was pregnant and we were supremely confident marrying was the right thing.
Her miscarriage should have ended not just her pregnancy but her marriage, but by then the young couple had already accepted the gifts and muddled through the big-church wedding, and they'd agreed to stay together a year and a day just for propriety's sake.
As she impatiently awaited the customer's exit, Alexia wondered, was I ever in love with him? At least I thought I was—not at first, but by six months. And if he wasn't in love, she remembered with rueful amusement, at least he was constantly desirous of me, which was more than I'd expected. He was fun in a goofy, boyish way, she thought wistfully; but I guess it wasn't really love, because five years later he did fall in love—just not with me.
Maybe if I'd had a baby, she mused, he wouldn't have strayed; but that wasn't meant to be, either. It had come apart three years ago, and her one serious fling—a wild-heart burst of girlish entrancement if there ever was one—had ended with a shattering rejection: I never cared about you, you were fun in bed, don't expect anything else of me, and so on, in a detached, lecturing voice that still haunted her.
In her worst early-morning moments, Alexia feared she sought men who would reject her as insufficiently pretty, witty, upscale, social, sexy, something. And in response, she'd withdrawn into a shell without dreams; it was far less painful that a futile hope stripped bare by rejection.
The chic Asian woman finally swished out to the sidewalk, and as the bell attached to the door tinkled merrily, Katy looked up in alarm at Alexia's drawn expression.
"There's an axe murderer after me, some online troll seeking revenge," she said huskily, and Katy's eyes widened in surprise.
"Sweet Loretta, slow down," she said, patting Alexia's shoulder. "Do you want one of my anti-anxiety pills?"
Irked by her friend's skepticism, Alexia blurted, "It's true. I beat this guy out of two auctions on eBay and so he snapped up the one poster I need most in the whole world.”
"And his eBay profile helpfully lists his occupation as axe murderer?"
"You wouldn't be so cool if he was after you," Alexia said accusingly. "He buys toasters and throwing hatchets."
"Maybe he's an outdoorsman," Katy replied. "Who knows, he might be cute."
Alexia's disdain was palpable. "I should have known you'd suggest dating an axe murderer."
Katy grasped both of Alexia's hands and looked up at her friend with strained sincerity. "Look, life is passing you by all because one jerk dumped on you. You're in the prime of life—you need to get out there."
Alexia’s distemper melted. "I know you mean well, Katy, but if I answer one more ad from a guy who says he loves walks on the beach and then I find he needs a cane to cross the street, I will really, truly scream."
"Not every guy lies," Katy said defensively, and Alexia bore in for the kill. "No, just the guys I contact. How about that debonair yachtsman in Marin who lived on a charming houseboat?" With a derisive snort, Alexia huffed, "He'd been on Social Security for five years, and his charming houseboat was a garbage scow that smelled like fish-head soup. An alley cat would have loved it."
Before Katy could reply, she hissed, "I can't even meet a guy who can walk upright without assistance."
"What about that securities analyst? He could walk upright, and he was cute, too. You were robbing the cradle."
"He made me miss the creaky guys with canes," Alexia snapped. "He thought first dates were for feeling me up in his Porsche. I felt like grapefruit in Safeway being tested for ripeness. Let’s face it, all I get are strikes, not one hit."
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.
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