T S I P I    K E L L E R




WHEN MONEY is a given, when your spirit is unencumbered and your mind free of relentless and demeaning bookkeeping, how easy it is to have style. How easy to acquire taste when your resources are limitless, when you come from a home where luxury is perceived as absolute necessity, very much like fresh air. Find a copy - In Association with Amazon.com
Allowing herself a subdued, contented groan, Maggie stretches out on the armchair, as if to extract the optimum, soothing comfort the exquisitely soft leather affords. With loving, covetous eyes, she takes in Robin’s palatial living room, Robin’s tall glass doors which lead to the balcony beyond. The balcony, Maggie knows, overlooks the East River, so velvety dark and menacing at this hour. Her entire apartment could fit in this room, and the armchair alone is worth more than the sparse, second-hand furnishings she has haphazardly put together in her own home. At least, she muses with a touch of self-deprecating irony, she has it in her to appreciate beautiful things.
It is Sunday evening. Tomorrow is Monday. Maggie abhors the fact that a new week is about to begin. She hears the blender going in the kitchen and feels a certain vindication tinged with gratitude for Robin who is laboring on her account, mixing frozen margaritas. Maggie would have been satisfied with a simple glass of wine, but Robin, magnanimously, suggested margaritas, and Maggie, thinking of the cold wind blowing outside, hesitated a moment, still opting for wine, but then said yes, she would have a margarita.

“All set,” Robin’s voice rings out as she marches into the room, carrying a tray; Maggie, ever so imperceptibly, straightens up in the chair. In her cashmere turtleneck and leather mini-skirt, Robin looks her chic and sexy best, and Maggie’s heart swells with envy and admiration. She now regrets not having bothered to change into something more seductive than her black jeans and sweater before leaving the house. How does she expect to attract attention to herself when she goes out, especially with Robin at her side, if she doesn’t put more effort into it?

Robin has set the tray on the low coffee table and now kneels down on the carpet, picking up the blue glass decanter and pouring their drinks into beautiful matching goblets. Robin’s every gesture is assuredly poised as if, like a geisha, she’s been versed, from a very young age, in the high art of entertaining guests. Kneeling down as she does she epitomizes the accomplished, gracious hostess; Maggie looks forward to the day when she, too, will be established in such, or perhaps even grander, surroundings where, at last, she’d have the opportunity to reveal her exceptional gifts.

“I just know you’d love the Bahamas,” Robin says, handing Maggie her drink. “Just think. The water is so warm and caressing, and we both know how much you love the water.”

Robin’s voice is also warm and caressing, and Maggie is pleased by the notion that her likes and dislikes are important enough to earn Robin’s attention.
“That I do,” Maggie says, letting out a short laugh. “I love the water.” She takes a careful sip of the icy margarita, remembering not to swallow too fast. “It’s delicious,” she says.

“I’m glad.” Robin tears open a pack of M&Ms and sprawls herself on the leather couch. “I’ve never steered you wrong, have I? Paradise Island is a dream, and it’s so close! A couple of hours on the plane, and we’re there, in Paradise.” She smiles at Maggie, and Maggie marvels again at how Robin’s eyes are always bright and shiny, as if reflecting some pure, inner light. Which is a source of confusion to Maggie because she knows that Robin is far from pure.

“Did I tell you?” Robin pauses a moment. “Last time I was there”—she pops a couple of M&Ms into her mouth—“I fucked my brains out, and gambled a lot. I even made some money which helped pay for my trip.”

As if mesmerized, Maggie watches the M&Ms disappear in Robin’s mouth. She mulls over, “fucked my brains out” so casually uttered by her friend. She finds herself admiring the audacity, the implied violence, the hard-core sexuality of those few words. Only Robin could say such a thing without sounding cheap. Robin is too white, too creamy, to ever sound cheap. Her good breeding shows on her face, on her smooth skin. Especially tonight, as she sits on her black leather couch, wearing her lavender cashmere turtleneck.

Robin can afford cashmere: on top of her salary, she gets a monthly allowance from her parents. Good breeding and class; it is clear that Robin never lacked for anything. Robin, who is secretive about her exact money situation, but lets it be known she comes from wealth, every so often dropping a hint or two about her glamorous parents in L.A. She is lavish when it comes to her own needs, but calculating and quite the tightwad when it comes to others. When Maggie and Robin go out to dinner, Robin orders the most expensive dish on the menu, but never offers to pay more when they split the bill. Often, Maggie resolves that she, too, will order an expensive dish, but can never bring herself to do so, reasoning that by this act of rebellion she’ll be only punishing herself, having to pay even more in the end. Resigned, she concludes that some people, people like Robin, are generous to themselves and miserly toward others, while some people, people like her, are generous to others and miserly toward themselves.

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