“Your mom has such a cute accent,” Lorelei* assured me, “If she showed off her figure more I’ll bet she’d get lots of boyfriends.”
I rolled my eyes. “Uhm, I think my dad wouldn’t like that, Lorelei,” and changed the subject. Lorelei’s mom had LOTS of boyfriends, so I knew where she was coming from. She shrugged, and resumed plucking my eyebrows.
Lorelei’s dad apparently didn’t mind that his wife regarded marriage as something you did when you didn’t have a date, but that sure wasn’t the way it worked at my house. Mothers who dated were in the same class as extraterrestrials, as far as I was concerned.
Of course I didn’t realize just how lucky I was to have a real family, or that people sometimes put a good face on pain. Lorelei said her dad just laughed about it, and said when he had two such beautiful women in the house there would always be lots of men around.
Lorelei’s mom was vivaciously pretty, but Lorelei was the real stunner. Tall and slim, with a beauty queen figure while the rest of us were mostly kids, she had big aqua eyes and wavy strawberry blonde hair that flowed down to her butt. There wasn’t a square inch of Lorelei that wasn’t perfect.
You got used to stopping traffic when you hung out with her. She was the only girl I knew who’d been in a magazine, had actually been to a real rockstar party. The boys were afraid to approach her, the men weren’t, and the girls just frankly hated her. I have no idea why she hung out with me at all, and she didn’t do it often.
I’d discovered early on that beauty could be another word for nasty, so I’d ignored her until a school project threw us together. To my surprise she was shy, sweet and fun, even if she did have nutty ideas. When she was free, we hung out, grooming.
Grooming me, to be exact.
Lorelei didn’t need it. But she’d heard my best friend Jane laughing about my shaggy eyebrows, and that was enough to start a makeover: Lorelei plucked those brows to death. I’ve still got a couple of bare spots to this day.
Under her tutelage I started using makeup and facial masks, and developed a lifelong hatred of ruffles. “Not with your boobs,” she warned, alarmingly. Cleavage was in; anything that added to the acreage was out.
When she started dropping fashion hints about my mother, though, I’d had enough. Mom already looked like Jackie Onassis so it wasn’t like she needed it. Anyway, she was fiercely proud of her southern roots and more than a little fed up with people who couldn’t see the brains behind an accent. I tried hinting to Lorelei that offering to uplevel Mom to match her accent was simply begging to weed the front AND back yards for life, but she wouldn’t quit.
Finally, I got mad. “Lorelei, cut it out,” I said, “Not everybody wants a bunch of boyfriends.”
She looked genuinely shocked. “But what happens when your mom gets old and your dad doesn’t want her anymore? She has to plan for her old age, doesn’t she?”
I couldn’t quite work the logic on that one, but I didn’t feel like debating. “Just cut it out, OK?” and we had a huge fight. She didn’t talk to me for awhile, but then bounced up one day in the cafeteria with a peace offering.
“You wanna give us both plastic surgery?” I said, incredulous. My dad’s a doctor, and in our house you only did medical stuff if NOT doing it would make you croak or something.
“Plastic surgery on WHAT, Lorelei? Your whole body’s perfect.”
“My mom’s getting some work done and she thought it would be fun to do it as a mother-daughter thing,” she said defensively, “And she says I have this bump on my nose that’s really ugly.” She fingered the dainty bridge of her nose, “Mom wants the surgeon to shave it down.”
She gave me an appraising look. “Mom says you could come with us and she’d even pay. There’s LOTS you could do, like bigger lips, or maybe your nose (my pug nose was a bone of contention). Or raise your cheekbones.”
I’d actually seen surgeries; recreational scalpelwork held no appeal. “Thanks, but I’m pretty sure my parents won’t let me.”
She shrugged and took off. In the end, whether the surgeon refused to operate on a kid or Lorelei’s dad for once put his foot down, only Lorelei’s mom went under the knife. Soon after, she pulled Lorelei out of school and I didn’t see her again until summer.
“My parents are getting a divorce,” she said, when she finally turned up. Seems that Lorelei’s dad minded his wife’s dating after all, and at last did some dating of his own. In those days your mom had to be a gun-toting, drug-addict madam to lose custody of the kids in a divorce, so her dad didn’t even try.
“He’s starting a new family, so my mom and I are gonna be best friends all by ourselves,” she said bravely. I guess as self-fulfilling prophecies go, Lorelei’s mom was dead on. She got engaged to one of her boyfriends and they moved to LA to start Lorelei’s movie career.
She left no forwarding address. Lorelei and I had never been BFFs anyway, so it honestly didn’t make a huge dent in my world.
Every once in awhile somebody reported on her doings, though, and she became a kind of legend: Lorelei had copped a big modeling contract for a cosmetics company in New York, Lorelei had signed a movie contract, Lorelei was dating the drummer of a rock band, or maybe the whole rock band. Lorelei had become the mistress of the local fast food tycoon and had her own San Francisco penthouse and a Maserati.
I doubt any of it was true, but we were all too caught up in the exotic romance of it to believe anything else.
Time moved; I got married and pretty much forgot Lorelei. A couple of years after my husband and I moved back to Fresno, I saw her in the mall. We hugged, and sat down to do the girlfriend chat thing, but we really didn’t have much in common. There were long periods of silence between the bursts of conversation.
She was a bit too thin, a bit too loud. She’d finally had that nose job, and it had sharpened her face. She was still lovely, but the glorious, stunning beauty of her teen years was tempered by a thin sheen of something else. Desperation, maybe.
I felt a flash of jealousy, so maybe all that was in my head; she was still gorgeous, still stopping traffic, something I’d never really managed.
She told me she was in sales, that she had married and divorced and was now dating “a really nice guy in the office. He’s separating from his wife, and we’re getting married next year.” She showed me a giant sparkler on her finger, probably three carats of blue-white diamond, “I’ll send you an invitation.”
Her mom had married and divorced a couple of times and was currently between boyfriends in the Bay area. “It’s fun because we get to just be girlfriends for awhile again,” Lorelei said enthusiastically, “We can do all the stuff we can’t do when we’re married.”
I took in the ring, the expensive clothes, the BMW keys dangling from her hand, the Prada bag, and wondered why the jealousy had evaporated.
Blood tells, I guess.
*BTW, Lorelei is NOT her real name. Or at least it wasn’t when last I saw her.