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Vera Saunders

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Member Since: May, 2001

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Good Friends
By Vera Saunders
Wednesday, January 01, 2003

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Reminiscences of a good friend married to a scoundrel.

Have you ever wondered whatever happened to a good friend who confided in you and then just disappeared? Did she break the chains that bound her? Did she rise like the proverbial phoenix out of the ashes?

I ponder these thoughts one cold winter’s day while sitting near a wood-burning fireplace nostalgically leafing through an old photo album seeing barely recognizable faces. Suddenly haunting, dark, mysterious eyes stare up at me. Their penetrating look sets them apart from all the rest. I pause. Dimly, I recall. Ah yes, I see her clearer in my mind’s eye. Sadly, we no longer giggle together over a glass of dry sherry at the Oak Bar in New York. Our last encounter, some forty years ago, was so tense, so full of doubt, her news so unexpected.

I knew Belinda from childhood. In fact, we grew up together, learned to share toys (a daunting task for only children), went on exotic holidays with and without our parents, and, as we reached adulthood, exchanged intimacies about our current beaux.
She wasn’t pretty by conventional standards but with her long, bleach-blonde hair and large breasts, she was best described as sexy. Full of fun, carefree in the way only a girl born of wealth and privilege could be, Belinda was deep down lonely and insecure. In her teenage years, she confided in me once that she was in therapy.

“Why?” I asked, perplexed. “You’ve got it all. A lovely home, beautiful clothes, doting parents.”

She sighed. “It isn’t that simple.”

We went to college in the mid-60s and, intent on broadening our horizons, drifted apart. She liked ballet, the opera, going to gallery openings. Her life centered on charity functions, charity board meetings and having her hair done. The words “career woman” never crossed her lips. I, meanwhile, preferred the outdoors, tennis and meeting down-to-earth unpretentious people. We simply moved in different circles. But because of an abiding loyalty, we socialized from time to time.

However, from gossip traveling at the speed of light even among sophisticated Manhattanites, I heard that she’d fallen madly in love with an up-and-coming lawyer and had decided, at 22, to get married. I was invited to the extravagant wedding.

Bruce was handsome, with dark brown hair, penetrating blue eyes and a smile that showed his pearly white teeth. His conversation was brilliant. Some thought him charming. He’d been partly educated in Europe. His guests found him debonair, witty and cultured for a Brooklyn boy.

On the receiving line, I wished them good luck and after a glass of champagne and a few caviar and smoked salmon canapés, retreated to my mundane lifestyle, more or less forgetting them. So it came as a surprise when, about two years later, Belinda called.

“Bruce and I are giving a dinner party next Wednesday. There’ll be some familiar faces as well as some new contacts of ours. We’d love you to come. Do say yes.”

I accepted her invitation as I was curious to see how she’d had her Upper East Side penthouse decorated. Lavishly, no doubt, but in good taste, was what I imagined.

Upon arrival, a maid in a frilly-white apron helped me off with my jacket and, as I stood in the Art Deco entrance hall, I saw Belinda at a distance laughing with some of her guests. She looked radiant in a short black chiffon dress with high-heeled sling-back shoes and a décolleté that did her figure justice.

Bruce was pouring the drinks. “Belinda, what do you think? Should we join the Hendersons on their skiing trip to St. Moritz this Christmas?”

Belinda replied, “Darling, you know you’ve got to be here to host the Bar Association dinner and what’s more there’s the Jenkins case to wind up before the boss gets back.”

“Oh, I can get around that. I’ll ask Higgins to sit in for me. He owes me a couple of favors anyway.”

Belinda cautiously added, “I think we’ve been going out far too much lately.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Belinda. What’s the point of living in Manhattan if you don’t make the most of what it’s got to offer?”

A Martini in hand, she moved away from her husband’s side and came over to where I was standing with a group of one-time college friends. She asked me to go into the study with her. I was perplexed; her mood had changed. Close up, she looked strained and below the heavy make-up I could see dark circles under her eyes.

“I’ve got to speak to you,” she said biting her lower lip. “A senior partner caught Bruce with his fingers in the cookie jar. The firm accused him of taking money from their escrow account and spending it. Bruce denied it, of course. But there’s been a court case and he’s been sentenced to six months in jail. That Bar Association dinner comment was just a ruse to keep our friends from knowing. He seems to have gone on a spending spree. I don’t know why; after all, I was pretty generous with the family money. All he had to do was ask.”

She paused a moment and wiped away a tear.

“He was always running around. I should have guessed something was up. His custom-made British suits. The Turnbull & Asser ties. The so-called expense account trips to trump up new business. Why was I so blind?”

I looked at her, incredulous. She went on, almost in a whisper.

“I’ve put the co-op up for sale. The market’s not too hot right now. Let’s hope the board don’t turn prospective buyers down.”

Then she winked, and that familiar girlhood twinkle in her eyes momentarily surfaced.

“I just wanted you to know I’m starting work tomorrow as a waitress in a fast-food restaurant. They told me there are plenty of promotion possibilities.” Vera Saunders copyright January, 2003.


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Reviewed by Regis Auffray 8/4/2005
A most interesting account, Vera. I got more "involved" in the story with every line. Thank you for sharing it. Love and peace.

Reviewed by Monette Bebow-Reinhard 3/6/2003
Weak beginning but got better. Sounds like you knew her much better than the beginning let on, you shouldn't have to concentrate to remember someone like that. She'd stay with you, in your thoughts, certainly, all your life. I have friends like that. I know them anywhere. But once I got past that, I was intrigued.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 2/14/2003

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