Adelaine finished the draft of the text and pressed save, rolling her eyes and drawing in a breath. Looking around from the safety of a Lexus, the parking garage felt empty. It was early. That didn't stop the tension from surfacing. Rereading the unsent text, she pressed the button to turn off the screen and plucked the goggle-eyed shades from the visor and pulled the earpieces out with a lip still soft from a hot shower, and slid the sunglasses on to hide her face.
Pulling a hood over her still-damp hair, the car chirped as the door clunked. She pulled the bag over her shoulder and walked to the entrance. It never escaped her that a private entrance from a parking garage in a city this size was nothing to take for granted. Even at her level, days were numbered.
Remembering the door key code felt insulting. In her younger days, a bellhop would have been waiting for her arrival, greeting her at the door, “Everything is changing,” she sighed, grateful for an empty elevator.
Waving her cell phone over the handle to her dressing room, the deadbolt clicked. Pulling the heavy door open, Adelaine removed her shades as the door automatically locked behind her. The familiarity of the space lifted the stress from her mind. She glanced over at the large framed print hanging on the wall, opposite the door. Pausing, she wasn't sure if she looked young then or felt old right now. Her masseuse had done his best that morning trying to release the tension and tame her tendinitis.
Hanging her woolen hooded jacket on a sturdy wooden hanger, she mussed her tangled damp locks with gel-coated fingernails and whirled her hair, and struck a pose, glancing over her shoulder at the mirrored wall of the dressing room, blowing herself a kiss. She squinted at what was reflected back. Were her thighs that thick, or did the shadows of the lighting exaggerate them? Adelaine looked back to the picture on the other wall. Twenty years, fifty pounds, she recalled her manager handing her the business card for the plastic surgeon and let out a huff.
Stripping down and slipping on a silk imported kimono, Adelaine said, “Alexa, queue up Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata'”
“Your majesty here is 'Moonlight Sonata' by Beethoven.”
Gone were the days of a makeup assistant. Even with a residency, her agency insisted on controlling costs. Sitting down in the chair she peeled back her lips and exposed bleached teeth. That little chip on her canine, was it that noticeable? It seemed as if the camera caught everything these days. Tracing crow's feet in her reflection she grabbed the magic jar and spun off the lid, massaging the cream into her pores, waiting for it to transform her face into something she still recognized.
After blowing her hair dry, she unzipped the attache; a makeup bag for a woman her age was a travel bag to most. Sponging on the mineral foundation, her face became the blank canvas of her youth. The dark eye shadow contrasted her sky-blue eyes, darkening her eyebrows covered up her Saxon roots. Eyeliner and mascara fluffed her lashes. A dusting of peach rouge and bright red lipstick gave her a reason to smile. Fluffing and curling, her dirty blonde locks framed her face.
Adelaine switched the camera on her cell phone and snapped a selfie of just her face. Something to tease her fans before the show was never a bad idea. She looked again at herself in the mirror. Was she fooling herself? She lost an octave in her range in the last five years. Her tummy would be tightly hidden under an elastic corset, her face under a mineral mask. As her confidence wavered, Adelaine realized it was time for her meditation, time to silence the demons of old age, time to focus.
Pulling her legs into the lotus pose, she closed her eyes and recited her mantra. An investment in transcendental meditation lessons paid off years ago when her confidence was riddled with self-doubt. Thoughts whizzed through her mind like water through a pipe. It took a few minutes to sink to the bottom of her mental pond. Passing the thoughts that erupted like effervescent bubbles, she descended to the source. The calm ether of her subconscious stabilized.
Him. Thoughts were intruders. Was it a coincidence she hadn't sent the text? Years had stretched on like miles of broken pavement, the remnants of a life lived. At her age, she was centered. She didn't need another human to validate her. Calm blue ocean, a cabin in the woods, she forced him out of her thoughts. Envisioning throngs of rabid fans sent chills through her torso.
Opening her eyes, she was confronted again with the truth. Her agent told her not to worry about the empty seats. There was another year on her contract. The memory of the hillside mansion, perched like a rainbow-colored bird on the side of the Caribbean Island, forced itself into her subconscious. She smiled at the way he often pushed his way through the world. The memories of him grabbing her wrists and pushing her onto their bed made her stop and think.
She pulled up the text, her finger hovering over the delete button. It was then she recalled their last conversation from years ago.
* * *
“You know you are always welcome here,” his emerald eyes twinkled as the night fog settled around the veranda, the oil torches flickering.
“Are you sure I don't need an appointment? I've seen the young lassies waiting around here.” Adelaine pulled her lips from the fluted glass after gulping some dry merlot.
“If you were here with me, they would be your servants.”
“Ha! You clever devil. Don't think for one minute I don't know your appetite. You like a snack with your meal.”
“If I dined properly each day, who is to say I would even need a snack.” He arched a perfect dark eyebrow and sipped his wine.
Adelaine's heart fluttered as she downed the last of her drink, knowing what was to come that night probably wouldn't last.
* * *
She wasn't even sure if her eyes were closed, yet she wiped the corner of her eye and let out another imprisoned sigh, seeing herself again in the mirror.
“Alexa, play 'Put your Records On' by Corinne Bailey Rae.”
The soulful song was a salve to her conflicted self. Adelaine closed her eyes and swayed to the melody. Dancing with invisible angels, she tried to put her afflictions to rest.
<Knock, Knock, Knock>
She was jolted from her ruminations. At that moment she realized she should have sent the text.
Opening the dressing room door Adelaine put her hands on her hips and smirked, “What, exactly do you think you are doing showing up here?”