Rent A HusbandBy: Sally Mason
“I was going to come by the house and tell you . . .” Porter’s leading man smile not quite hiding his discomfort.
“Oh, well, what do they say about a picture being worth a thousand words?” Darcy says, feeling very much as if she has just stepped in front of a speeding bus.
By the time Poor Billy manhandles the box into the bookstore, managing to tread on the foot of an unfortunate woman who tries to dodge him in the doorway, he sees that Porter and his pregnant wife are already in conversation with Darcy who has dredged up a smile that resembles a grimace, and even from where he stands he can see that she is fighting to stay composed.
Then he sees Carlotta McCourt homing in on the action, her instinct for gossip as sharp as her tongue, and Billy knows that if he lets this continue Darcy’s oldest enemy’s finger will be burning up the touchpad of her iPhone with calls and texts about the humiliation of the woman she has loathed ever since she lost to her as home coming queen.
And lost Porter Pringle to her, too.
So, this tall, ungainly wannabe knight in shining armor sets off across the store, to do what he must.
When he sees the young baker’s assistant crossing his path with a tray filled with fresh cream cakes, Poor Billy knows this has the making of one of his famous moments, so he swivels away from the cakes, draws his hands up to his chest to keep them out of trouble and when he turns and trips over his own feet and stumbles, his hands are held at the perfect height to cup both of Darcy’s breasts.
Darcy, eyes swimming with tears, sees that gossip-seeking missile Carlotta McCourt advancing, false eyelashes beating like bats wings, mouth open on her capped teeth, slavering with hungry anticipation.
Don’t cry, Darcy, don’t cry, girl.
But the tears are coming, and she feels a sob building in her throat when huge, clumsy Billy Bigelow—like a gift from above—suddenly appears in front of her, executing a spin and stumble that would have done a silent movie comedian proud and ends up breaking his fall by enfolding her breasts in his giant mitts.
Darcy’s sob becomes a laugh as Poor Billy jumps back like he’s been tasered and says, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry . . .”
And Darcy smiles at him and says in her best after dinner speaker voice, “Don’t be Billy, they have gone a little unappreciated lately.” Flicking her eyes over Porter, who has the good grace to smirk. “And I’m sure you’ll vouch that they’re real?”
Darcy says this with perfect timing as she snaps her gaze to the bitch Carlotta’s chest, her top cut low to display her esthetic surgeon’s finest work.
And on that note—an unexpectedly high note thanks to Poor Billy Bigelow—she turns and strides between the books to where her dearest friend Eric Royce has swanned into the coffee shop.
“Darling,” Eric says, kissing the air in the vicinity of her left cheek, “you look absolutely edible. You have to give me the lowdown on that spa.”
Eric, born Ernie Kaminski in the Bronx, affects the voice and manner of a camp Englishman from the thirties.
He draws out Darcy’s chair and seats her, whispering in her ear, “Is that the little cradle-snatchee I see over there?”
“Yes it is. Notice anything about her?”
He folds himself into a chair opposite Darcy. “Mnnnn, all those extensions must have left a Mexican village of Kojaks.”
“Look at her middle, Eric.”
He stares at Porter and Paige as they exit the store and holds a palm to his mouth.
He takes her hand. “I’m sorry, Darce.”
“Hey, it is what it is.”
“The bastard could have told you.”
“I know. Porter’s always been a coward.”
“I would use a shorter word.” He squeezes her fingers. “Anyway, darling, just think of those acres and acres of stretch marks.”
A waitress appears with menus but Eric waves them away. “Just a teeny little espresso for me.”
“Perrier and a slice of lemon, please,” Darcy says. She closes her eyes and sighs. “Tomorrow night is going to be a nightmare.”
“Relax, darling, I’ll be your plus one.”
“That’s just the problem, Eric. Porter will be escorting his young, beautiful and radiantly pregnant new bride to the Spring Ball and I’ll be on the arm of Santa Sofia’s gayest bachelor. No offense, sweetheart.”
Darcy’s Perrier has appeared and she takes a sip. “Where are all the damned single men, Eric?”
“In this town? The possessive wives have them shot as they exit the 101.”
Darcy laughs into her glass of water.
“Didn’t you meet anybody when you were away?” Eric asks.
“Yes, supermodels I could have smuggled out in my purse.”
“At a spa, Eric? Please.”
“I take your point.”
“God, being a single woman in a town like this is so damned inconvenient. You know the other day I even had to call Rent-A-Husband?”
“Darling, you’re not about to reveal something sordid are you?” he says, leaning in to catch every word.