Title: Shattered Perfection
Series: The Perfection
Author: Heather Guimond
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: August 30th, 2015
Mimi Bishop found the man of her dreams when she met Vance Ashcroft in a chance encounter. During their whirlwind courtship, they learn they share a sparkling and dynamic chemistry, filled with humor, happiness and steamy sensuality. Their relationship is effortless and blossoms into a passionate love. Soon Mimi is living her happily ever after with Vance as his wife until his behavior mysteriously begins to change.
Vance grows cold, then hostile, finally becoming violent one fateful night. Her perfect life and heart shattered, Mimi attempts to move on to a life without Vance. Powerful memories of their love haunt her, making it almost impossible to heal and become whole again. Just when Mimi thinks she can finally put the past behind her, she learns a devastating secret about Vance that threatens to shatter her forever.
***WARNING: This book contains explicit material intended for ages 18 and up.
“You’re a stupid, worthless bitch!” Vance screams as he throws his dinner plate at the kitchen wall. I wince as I watch the gravy drip down the stark white wall and leak between it and the baseboard, before pooling onto the floor while Vance rants and raves about how inedible my cooking is. “All this time and you still haven’t learned to serve anything at the proper temperature. Your potatoes are lumpy and the broccoli tastes like it was steamed with a sweaty gym sock,” he sneers. “I don’t know why I continue to put up with you. Everything about you is inferior. The way you dress, the way you behave…you’re a total bitch to my coworkers and friends…hell Mimi, even the way you fuck. You're absolutely worthless.” I sit there calmly, listening to words I have heard dozens, maybe hundreds of times before. “What are you waiting for?” he asks in a mocking tone, that infuriating smirk on his handsome face. “Go on, clean up this mess.”
I take a few seconds to indulge in the fantasy of grabbing him by his wavy dark brown hair and driving my index and middle fingers into his piercing blue eyes. It’s gruesome, I know. However, I’ve spent the last six months of our year and half marriage enduring scenes like this. I think anyone would be driven to graphic, if not homicidal, imaginings by now. I know it’s crazy to put up with the abuse, but there are a couple of reasons why I do. First, he wasn’t always like this. He used to be attentive and caring. He was kind, loving and generous. He is intelligent, has always had a playful sense of humor that never failed to make me laugh before, and we almost never disagreed. Until recently, I still saw snippets of that man. The second, I suppose, is my pride. I married Vance only a few short months after meeting him in a chance encounter at Los Angeles International Airport. We had an intense, passionate love affair, both of us falling head over heels from almost the moment we met. Logic told me not to rush headlong into things, to back off and take my time getting to know him before making such a serious commitment, but he was the one. I don’t want to admit to myself that I was wrong. Sighing, I rise and move to the closet by the sink and grab the mop and the dustpan. “No. I want you down on your hands and knees, with a sponge, like the dog that you are,” he spits out. I can't take anymore. The anger flares inside me, rising like a tsunami of venom. Months and months of suppressed emotion bubbles up and out of me, seemingly spilling onto the tile floor, splashing over every surface of the room and coating us in its hatred.
“I am not a dog, you vicious mother fucker. Nor am I lazy, stupid, or worthless. You have been right about one thing recently, though. I am a real bitch.” Lost to the emotions flooding my system, I grab a glass from the drain board on the counter and pitch it at his head. He swiftly dodges it, lunges out of his chair and is on me in an instant. The breath rushes out of my lungs as my back hits the floor and stars burst behind my eyes as my head slams against the tile. His hand presses against the base of my throat and he squeezes tightly. “Do you think you can smart mouth me, Mimi? Throw things at me? You must have lost your mind. I should kill you for this.” His grip tightens, causing my vision to dim around the edges. For the first time, I am genuinely afraid. I clutch at his wrist, my nails scratching futilely at the skin. I writhe beneath his heavy body, my legs trying to find purchase on the slick tile floor, but his weight keeps me pinned. Suddenly, he releases my neck and I gasp in heavy gulps of air. His hand twists into my blonde hair, wrapping it around his fist and tugging my head to the side. He buries his face into my neck and bites down hard. I cry out at the sharp pain as his other hand grabs ahold of the collar of my blouse and rips it down the front. I pummel his shoulders and back with my fists, trying to get him to stop, but he is completely out of his mind. He raises up off me slightly and reaches for the front of my pants, tearing those wide open too. In desperation, I drive the tips of my long fingernails into his ear canals. His full weight crushes me as he drops down, gasping in pain or surprise, I’m not sure which. His breaths come fast and hard, but he is no longer savagely pawing at me. He inhales deeply and rolls off, sprawling out on the hard floor, his arms and legs splayed wide. I curl away from him into the fetal position, my body shaking from the adrenaline pumping through my veins. We lay like that for five, ten minutes, an hour. I don’t really know. Eventually, my trembling subsides, but I’m afraid to move. Vance finally stands and nudges me with his foot. “Clean this room up.” He says quietly, before exiting the room on soft feet.
Once I know he is upstairs and well away from me, I rise and test my muscles. I’m bruised in spots, there is a knot at the back of my head, and I know I will most likely be sore as hell tomorrow morning. Given the gravity of the situation, things could have turned out a lot worse. I walk through the kitchen to the adjoining laundry room and sort through the basket of clean clothes I have not yet taken upstairs. It’s a stroke of good luck, under the circumstances. I quickly shed my ruined clothing and don a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt from the load that I folded earlier in the day. I find a pair of flip flops by the back door and slip them on. Traveling back into the kitchen, I grab the mop and dustpan once again and head to the sink. I fill the sink with warm water and absently watch the bubbles form after I add a few squirts of dish detergent. I look down at my unsteady hands, wringing them together in an effort to still them. I know I provoked him, but Vance has never been violent before. I don’t even want to think about where he was headed before I was able to stop him. What if I hadn’t? What if…what if…what if… It doesn’t bear thinking about. I can’t stay any longer. Suffering the verbal abuse was enough to make any sane person leave long before now. I know I shouldn’t have tolerated it for as long as I have already, but there is no way to delude myself into believing there is a reason to endure physical confrontations between us. Physical abuse, possibly attempted rape, and death threats? Even my love and pride can’t overcome those things. I set about mopping up the now congealed gravy, chicken and other detritus from my failed meal and push it into the dustpan. I dump it into the garbage can, along with the cold contents of my plate. I rinse out the mop, drain the sink and scour it out well, all the while making a plan to start a new life. Sure, I had considered leaving him before. I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about it, but I’d always somehow convinced myself that the good outweighed the bad, or that things would magically get better. Assuming that were even possible, I can't stick around and wait for it to happen now. First things first. I need a place to go. A hotel would do fine for a couple days, but I'm going to need an apartment. I have a good job as a corporate paralegal, but Vance’s salary from his work as a mergers and acquisitions attorney paid all our bills. I don’t have a realistic perspective as to how far my wages will go to support me in Los Angeles anymore. I had done fairly well before I married Vance, so I suppose I shouldn’t worry too much. It would only mean saying goodbye to our charming bungalow in the Fairfax District, a quiet enclave flanked by West Hollywood, the Miracle Mile and Beverly Grove. It was Vance's house, where he had lived before I met him. Prior to our marriage, I had been living in a small studio apartment in the San Fernando Valley. I wasn’t much of a social climber or status whore, so this would be no great loss to me. I didn’t have a problem doing a little extra driving to my job downtown again.
As I finish cleaning up the kitchen, I make a list in my head of things I need to do the following day. I plan to call work and take a week off. I have plenty of time off stored up, so even though it is short notice, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll pack up my clothes after Vance has gone to work and find a hotel over the hill to stay for a few days. I could go to my friend Grace’s house. I’m sure she’d let me stay in her spare bedroom, but I know Vance will come looking for me and that’s the first place he’ll go. I don’t want to involve her in this mess any more than crying on her shoulder, if I can help it. After I get settled, I’ll start my search for an apartment. No, wait. I have to apply for a restraining order. As I realize this, that's when the night's events truly hit me. He attacked me. He bit me, he choked me and it seemed like he was getting ready to rape me. This man, the man who once swept me away on a wave of passion and overwhelming love, threatened to end my life tonight. My chest expands and contracts involuntarily, forcing a heavy sob out of my throat. I hang my head and cry tears I have not allowed myself in all this time. I cry for all the suffering I have refused to acknowledge, for all the humiliation I have endured through his words, but mostly for the death of my love for him. I know all this must make him seem like a monster but it wasn’t always this way.
Eighteen months earlier
Standing in line at the security check point at LAX, I pushed my carry-on bag ahead of me with my toe as the line shuffled forward. I scanned the ticket in my hand as I heard a deep, but seductive voice coming from just over my shoulder. “Headed home?” the honeyed, but masculine voice dripped in my ear. A tingling sensation began at the back of my neck and moved to encompass my entire scalp, culminating in a ringing in my ears as I turned to see a very tall, very handsome man, about thirty years old, standing over me, smiling. He had a dark mop of hair, somewhere between dark brown and black (I wasn't sure which, but would have been thrilled to get up close and personal, running my fingers through it to make a well-informed determination). He had thickly lashed blue eyes, the kind that seem to glow when the light hit them just right, just as they were doing at that moment. He also had those high cheekbones that all demi-gods have, and full sensuous lips I imagined would have been at home on just about any inch of my skin, surrounded by just the right amount of scruff. He also had what my mom would have called a Pepsodent smile, probably the product of years of orthodontic work (which, somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt was reassuring; perhaps he wasn't actually born completely perfect). All that was missing from the picture was a halo, a sunbeam and a pair of white wings. Perhaps also a bare, oiled chest and a white drapey covering over his hips, but who was I to be so choosy when I already had this Adonis speaking to me. Being the extremely cool and confident young woman I was, I'm sure I gave him a slightly deranged looking smile in response.
“Uhhh.... leaving home, actually. Short trip to New York. Going to visit an old childhood friend,” I said with all the wit and brilliance of a canned ham. Undaunted by my own awkwardness I blundered forward. “How about you? Leaving L.A. after working on your tan?” I said with what I hoped was a saucy wink, but probably looked more like a nervous tic. He laughed outright (to my great relief) and shook his head. “Nope. I’m leaving home just like you. I'm also headed to New York.” The line inched ahead again, and we moved forward with it. “Wow, that's a coincidence,” I said. “Business or pleasure?” That sounded like a fairly normal question a fairly normal person would ask, I told myself. I cleared my throat and stood a little straighter, hoping it wasn't too late to salvage my image. “It’s a business trip, but I’ll be there a couple of weeks so I’m hoping to fit in some fun while I’m there.” His eyes lit up a little. “I love the city, you know? If it were all work... well that would just suck. I want to do it all, take in the sights, see the shows, eat the food, and watch the people...” He looked at me sheepishly. “I suppose that's expecting a little too much for a work trip though. They're paying me to actually get a job done.” “They must be some crazy bastards to bring you to a place like that then expecting you to work around the clock for two weeks straight, resisting the temptations of New York. What nerve.” I said, shaking my head in mock disgust. “It could be worse, I guess. They could be sending me somewhere in Kansas.” “Ah, but then you could visit the world's biggest ball of twine.” I offered earnestly. He looked at me skeptically. “I'm think I'm afraid to ask how you know that.” “Sadly, I'm filled with a million useless facts. The good news is I'm a great partner for Trivial Pursuit.” “I didn't know that game was played with a partner,” he said. “Err...well that's usually the only way anyone will play with me,” I said looking at my feet. He laughed silently for a moment, one hand pressed against his mid-section, which appeared to be extremely taut beneath his tight black t-shirt. Although it was probably a very bad idea, given my already embarrassingly strong physical attraction to the man, I took a moment to look over his lean physique. His shoulders were broad and muscular and his pectorals were clearly defined beneath the cotton clinging to his form. His chest tapered to a trim waist, and his faded denim jeans were slung low on his hips. A pair of scuffed black boots completed his look. I wondered what he really did for a living, because all he needed was a leather jacket, and I could easily imagine him on a motorcycle riding from town to town doing odd jobs for pocket money. His eyes twinkled with amusement as he looked at me. “Don't look so sad. Nobody plays Trivial Pursuit anymore, anyway.” I smiled at him as the line continued to move forward at a snail's pace. “So what do you do for these horrible people who send you to New York to do nothing but slave away for them while the city pulses with life and atmosphere?” “I'm a suit, unfortunately. I sold out and went to work for The Man after law school,” he said, looking a little ashamed. “Oh wow, you're an attorney?” I said, slightly surprised. He winced a little, before saying “Please, don't be too impressed. It's just a way to earn a living.” “Oh I'm not impressed,” I said, then hurried to add, “I mean, I am. It's great. All that school, now you have a good job that pays well, and I'm sure you had to work hard to get it too, and oh shit, I'm really fucking this up.” I stopped and took a deep breath while he looked at me with an uncomfortable expression on his face, clearly clocking the nearest escape route from the crazy gold digger in front of him. “What I mean is, it's just that we have something in common. I'm a paralegal.” “Oh hey, okay.” He let out his own relieved sigh. “What area of law do you work in?” “I work for a large practice downtown that houses many specialties, but I work in the corporate department,” I said. “Pretty boring stuff, but it pays the bills.”
He laughed and shook his head. “Which firm?” he asked. I looked at him skeptically and slowly said “Miller and Dickerson. Why?” He grinned and said, “Because I work for the competition, DuPont, Browerson and Ajax. As a mergers and acquisitions specialist.” I couldn't help the wide grin that split my face. “Your building is just two streets away from mine. We literally work within a mile of each other, and yet we meet here?” “Life can be random that way,” he said continuing to smile at me. On impulse, and in what was probably the most awkward move in the history of meetings between young men and women in airports, I thrust my hand out in front of him. “I’m Mimi Bishop.” He gently took my smaller hand in his large one and held it firmly, enveloping it with his warmth. He didn’t shake, just simply held it, while looking deep into my eyes. “Hello, Mimi Bishop. My name is Vance Ashcroft. Will you marry me?” Something electric happened between us for a split second. In that moment, my vision tunneled, the cacophony of the airport faded into the distance and the world just stopped. In an instant it was over, and we both dissolved into a massive fit of laughter. It wasn't the nervous tittering of a joke gone awry, but great big whoops and belly laughs. “What the hell was that, Vance? Do you use that line often?” I said as I wiped a stray tear from my eye.
“I always wanted to, but it’s the first time I ever felt I had the right audience,” he said grinning at me like a fool. We approached the security scanners and I hefted my carry-on from the floor to put it into one of the security tubs. Vance reached in front of me and placed it on the conveyor belt, where I tossed my purse, as well. Slipping out of my shoes, I told him, “Well, it was brilliant. Best laugh I’ve had in a long time.” I placed my tennies in another tub and moved through the security scanner toward the waiting TSA agent for my pat-down and highly impersonal groping. I was almost looking forward to it since I hadn’t seen any action in months, except the TSA agent was a large and formidable looking woman. I was putting my shoes back on at the end of the conveyor when Vance joined me. “I really think someone should buy me dinner after that man-handling.” He said as we both reached for our bags. “Did you ask her to marry you, too? She might have gone a bit easier on you if you had. You know, maybe skipped the whole cavity search in public,” I said with a sweet smile. He gasped. “Mimi! I am saving myself for you. You are the only one for me. Although…,” he put a finger to his lips in thought. “Bertha back there might be able to show me the merits of having overdeveloped grip strength. That could prove interesting for some private time in a secluded parking space.” I'm sure I looked at him like his hair was on fire. With the smuggest smirk I have ever seen, he put a finger to my chin and slowly pushed my mouth closed.
“I think I may have done the impossible and rendered you speechless. Tell me, was it what I said that shocked you, or the image it put in your brain?” I groaned and pressed my fingertips to my eyelids as we turned and walked from the security checkpoint. “Did you really have to say that? I wasn’t picturing it, thank you very much, but now I have the lovely image of “Bertha” with her manly hand, scraggly, halfbitten fingernails and all, wrapped around your… ” “Enough! No more! No more! You win. I hadn’t pictured it either, but now I am as traumatized as you,” as he shook his head in distress. “My own humor turned against me like a weapon. Why are you a paralegal? You should be a lawyer. You would be lethal in a courtroom.” He looked at me with a sideways grin and bumped my shoulder with his, as we walked along the concourse. I grinned up at him, enjoying how easy things had become between us, how my nervousness had vanished. Vance may have been a pretty face, but he sure didn't act like it. Too bad our time was coming to an end. I checked my watch. Sure enough, my flight was scheduled to leave in twenty short minutes. “I’m flying out of here on American. How about you?” I asked, crossing my fingers behind my back. Given that we were at the airport at the same time, with the same destination and walking in the same direction through the airport, the odds were better than average that we were on the same flight. While it was highly unlikely we’d be seated together, we would at least have the next twenty minutes. “Yes, Flight 330. Same as you?” I nodded, beaming brightly at him.
“Score!” He exclaimed, pumping his fist exaggeratedly. I rolled my eyes. “You really are a dork, you know that?” “Now that hurt, Mimi. I’m just a man who happens to show enthusiasm when things go his way. I am happy that I get to continue with the pleasure of your company.” He dropped his voice to a sinful growl. “Would you deny me my pleasure?” he asked arching that brow at me again. I shoved him away from me by the shoulder playfully. “Pervert and a dork.” He grabbed my hand as we reached our gate and pulled me to a couple empty seats. We fell into them and looked at each other for a moment. Slowly, he lifted my hand to his lips, pressing a quick kiss to the backs of my fingers and whispered, “Yeah, but I’m thinking that’s just your type.” I was stunned. Sure we had been having a very fun and friendly conversation to this point, perhaps even mildly flirtatious, what with the whole faux marriage proposal and all, but this? This was a thunderbolt. No, a starburst. Fuck that, a freaking rocket ship to Mars. I opened my mouth to say something, not that I would have been able to come up with anything at the moment, clever or otherwise, but the attendant called for pre-boarding for our flight. Puffing out a sigh, Vance stood and shouldered his carry-on, while giving me a slightly embarrassed look. “I’m in first class,” he said with a grimace. So much for those twenty minutes. An inexplicable tightening in my chest made it hard to speak, but I managed a surprisingly bright tone of voice. “Well, it’s been quite an experience meeting you, Mr. Ashcroft. Don't let the slave drivers work you too hard over the next two weeks.” He looked at me like he wanted to say something, but simply put out his hand. I took it as he said, “It was an absolute honor, Miss Bishop.” Then I watched quietly as he turned and walked toward the gate. Resting my chin in my hand, I kept watching as he disappeared through the doorway to the gangway, and continued staring after he was long gone, until they called my seating section. As I embarked, I scanned the first class area hoping to catch another glimpse of him, even if it was just to see another one of his smiles. I didn’t see him sitting in any of the seats, though. It seemed curious, but I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it as the stream of people behind me propelled me forward. I made my way to my seat, near the back of the plane. After cramming my carry-on in the already stuffed overhead compartment, I stumbled over the rotund, gentleman with the six-hair comb-over sitting in the aisle seat to reach mine next to the window. Evidently, common courtesy had deserted this fellow in the face of his fear of flying. At least, I assumed that was the cause of his shaking hands and profuse sweating. I tried to shrink against the window as he mopped his face with a handkerchief that had seen better days, making myself as small a target as possible, just in case any stray bullets of sweat came flying my way. I pulled the flight safety card out of the pocket of the seat back in front of me and studied it closely it for lack of anything better to do.
“Excuse me, sir,” a familiar voice carried over to my seat. “How would you like to sit in first class for this flight?” I looked up to see Vance looking expectantly at my seat mate, who appeared somewhat startled and confused. “I’m offering to switch seats with you, sir. My seat is 3B, up in the first class section.” Vance spoke slowly, as if the man were learning impaired. “I would like to change seats with you and sit here, with the lovely lady next to you, while you enjoy the fine service and leg room first class has to offer.” He pressed his hands together in front of him, bowing slightly. I just refrained from rolling my eyes. The nervous flyer struggled out of his seat, his shirt buttons straining mightily at his waist, and popped open the overhead compartment without a word. He grabbed a gray laptop bag out of it and hustled down the aisle, presumably before Vance could change his mind. Vance stowed his gear and closed the compartment before flopping in the seat beside me. He leaned his head back against the seat and turned toward me with a wide grin. I smiled back innocently and asked, “Are you sure you want to sit there? It might be a little… moist.” The horrified look on his face was priceless and my resulting laugh was loud and wild, provoking many dirty looks in my direction. Vance lifted his hands from the armrests, pretending to shake them dry. He looked around questioningly before calling out, “Does anyone happen to have any hand sanitizer?”
I was reduced to another laughing fit as the elderly woman across the aisle produced a small, travel size bottle from her handbag and offered it to him with a warm, grandmotherly smile. Vance squirted a small amount into his palm and handed the bottle back with a wink and what I was coming to realize was his signature charming grin. As he rubbed his hands together, he turned to me and gave me a wicked smile of my very own. “That was not very nice, Mimi.” “Yes, it was. I was trying to warn you of the hazards of occupying the same seat as Captain Von Sweatyballs.” Vance groaned painfully and squirmed uncomfortably in the seat. “Now, how do you know that his balls were, in fact, sweaty?” “Well, not having actually inspected them personally, I can’t say with a one hundred percent degree of certainty, but I think it is fair to say that in all likelihood, they were indeed sweaty.” His face lit up with barely concealed hope. “Aha! You concede that you could not possibly be, without a doubt, certain. It is possible they could have been as dry as the Sahara.” “Let me ask you this, since you have balls, I presume.” He nodded, and motioned with his hand for me to continue. “Have you ever, at any time, had your entire body be covered in a sheen of perspiration, yet had your balls remain as dry as the Sahara?” He leaned back in the seat, his fingers threaded over his abdomen, and a thoughtful look on his face, as if contemplating numerous sweaty occasions, and the condition of his private parts. “You know, Mimi, a bit of antiperspirant works wonders under such conditions.” Once again, my mouth dropped open. “Do you put antiperspirant on your balls, Vance?” “Now, that's a very personal question, Mimi. We've only just met. You can hardly expect me to tell you something like that.” I sputtered, “You're the one who brought it up! You can't back out now!”
“Actually, I think you're the one who instigated this whole gonadal conversation.” “Quit dodging the question. I’m going to assume you must, or you wouldn't have suggested it.” “Even men like to have that 'fresh' feeling every now and then.” He stopped and looked in the direction the unfortunate sweaty man had lumbered off toward. “Well, most men.” We quieted down as the airline attendant began his safety speech. Shortly thereafter we were in the air and sipping flat soda from little plastic cups. We managed to get our silliness under control and spent the entire six hours lost in conversation, covering a wide variety of subjects. It turned out we had a great deal in common. We both enjoyed the outdoors, preferring to spend a day hiking and biking than even an hour in the gym. We liked to read, though our tastes in literature were very different. He was a fan of the classics, while I favored contemporary works. We learned we were both liberal in our politics, with strong feelings about social issues since we each grew up under less than ideal economic circumstances, he with his single mother and never knowing his dad. My own father died when I was very small, so I knew the hardships of living in a single income household, and had felt the absence of a father figure too. Neither of us had siblings. The more we talked, the longer the list grew. Big things, little things, we ticked so many of the same boxes it was eerie. As we talked, I found that I genuinely liked Vance. He was incredibly handsome, but beneath all that physical perfection was a rather naughty silliness, underscored further by an intelligent and thoughtful person who was completely unaware of his own attractiveness. As our flight circled John F. Kennedy International Airport, Vance turned to me with a serious expression. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out at first, giving his face something of the appearance of a gasping fish. He took my hand and for the first time since I met him, he looked slightly unsure of himself. “Mimi, this was probably the best time I've had in a long time, and it was only a plane ride. I can't even imagine what a date with you would be like, but I'd really like to find out. I know this is a vacation for you, and you probably have your itinerary all planned out, but do you think we could get together one night this week? I really want to see you again, and I am positive it will kill me if I have to wait the two weeks before I am back in Los Angeles.” The most incredible sense of relief washed through me. In the back of my mind I had been dreading our landing, the uncertainty of any future time spent with Vance looming on the edges of my consciousness. It didn't matter what plans my friend, Laurel, had in store for me while I visited. I would carve out time for this man on any day he wanted to see me. She would just have to understand. “I'd really like that too. I'll give you my information, and as soon as you know your schedule, give me a call and we'll figure something out this week,” I said, still trying to play it cool, when all I really wanted to do was throw myself into his lap and squeal like an over excited fangirl. Once the plane landed, we gathered our belongings and disembarked hand in hand. We continued to tease each other playfully as we made our way to baggage claim, but I was aware of a new vibe humming between us, just below the surface. I wondered if he felt it too, or if my imagination was running away with me. The carousel was already turning as we approached and searched for our bags. Vance found his quickly, a silver wheeled case, and a simple black garment bag with shoulder strap that had frankly seen better days. His luggage was a study in opposites, from each side of the economic spectrum and I was puzzled by the dichotomy. Before I could make a comment, I heard a feminine voice calling my name. “Mimi girl! Over here!” I looked over my shoulder to see Laurel hopping up and down and waving her arms as if she were trying to take flight. Her auburn hair was swirling about her head, getting caught in her mouth and her chic but nerdy glasses slipping down the bridge of her nose as she made a spectacle of herself. Standing all of five feet tall, she had huge green eyes, a pert little nose and a lithe figure. She was wearing a conservative navy suit with a high collared white blouse, a short skirt and five inch spike heels. She looked something between a sexy librarian and a wood sprite on meth. I waved back at her letting her know I saw her, before she fell and broke an ankle or something. She smiled and gave me the best jazz hands she could, considering she was holding her smart phone in one of them. Assured she'd been clocked and identified, she shoved the phone in front of her face and began furiously texting someone. I turned to Vance and laughed. “That’s Laurel.” I said, hitching a thumb over my left shoulder. “She’s a little… ” “Enthusiastic?” He offered. “Yes, that’s one way to describe her. Out of her ever-loving mind would be another.” “I can’t wait to meet her. You’re planning to introduce me, right?” he asked. I saw my suitcase come around on the carousel and attempted to heave it off, nearly knocking the passenger next to me down to the ground. Vance stepped in, grabbing the handle and fluidly lifting it over the lip, and lowering it to the ground beside me. He raised the telescopic handle and waved his hand toward it with a flourish. I just rolled my eyes. “I totally had that, you know,” I huffed. I wheeled the case around and headed towards Laurel with Vance and his stuff right behind me. Laurel didn't look up until I stood right in front of her, tapping my foot. When she looked over my shoulder and saw Vance, her eyes immediately darted back to me. She leaned in and whispered loudly, “You know you have a slice of mancake stuck to your backside, right?”
Nodding, I deadpanned, “When they asked me if I wanted nuts on the flight, I said yes. This is what I got.” Laurel checked Vance out shamelessly for a moment, then turned to me. “Well, let’s go. We’ve got stuff to do.” She strutted off and I heard her mumbling to herself, “Man, I really gotta start flying American.” We followed her out of baggage claim and onto the sidewalk. Cars were moving aggressively down the street before us, cutting each other off and honking like crazy. Insults and hand gestures were tossed out the windows at dizzying speeds and I wondered why anyone willingly chose to drive in this city. Especially cab drivers. Vance and I pulled up alongside Laurel as we headed toward the taxi stand. I nudged her in the arm to get her attention and pointed to Vance. “This guy is actually a friend of mine. While we established on the plane that he does have nuts, he also has a name. This is Vance Ashcroft. Vance, this is Laurel O'Malley, my old childhood friend.” They quickly shook hands as I explained, “Vance and I are going to have dinner sometime this week, and no, you are not invited. Hopefully it won't interfere with any plans you have lined up for us.” Laurel gave Vance another long look, as we queued up for the taxi. She shrugged and said, “Fine with me. Any day but Wednesday. We’ve got tickets to see Wicked that day. Any other day we can move our plans around, but under no circumstances can we move Wednesday and you will not be bailing out on me that day. Capisce?”
“I got it, Dona O'Malley. You got a ring I need to kiss now?” “No, just had a little Al Pacino marathon with Stevie the other day. Don’t mind me. Things get a little sideways sometimes, Vance. Don’t worry though, you’ll catch on quick staying quiet like you do.” Vance just chuckled. “Between the two of you, I don’t see where there’s much of an opportunity to do anything else.” Laurel leaned in and patted him on his chest a few times. By the look in her eye, we were about two and a half seconds from her copping a feel. I growled softly enough that only she could hear, so she backed off, but not before purring “I do so love a man who catches on quickly,” then cackled unattractively as she approached the taxi that pulled up in front of us. I turned to Vance while shaking my head. “Please do not judge me by my friends. I have kind of an eclectic group of people in my life. You know how some people collect odd things? Well I kind of do that with people. Laurel is one of my prize oddities.”
“So, if I’m hearing you correctly… Laurel is your pig fetus in a jar?” “Ew... no. Well, maybe.” “Fair enough. So where are you headed? Do you want to share a cab?” He asked hopefully. “I think we’re heading to the East Village. How about you?” “Ah, well I’m headed to the Upper West Side. I’ll catch the next cab. I’ll give you a call once I’ve gotten everything nailed down and we’ll plan our dinner. I'm really looking forward to it, Mimi.” He leaned in and placed a soft kiss to my cheek just as Laurel started banging on the roof of the cab. “We ain’t got all night you two. Let’s go, Mimi. The party awaits!” She shouted. I wrapped my arms around Vance’s neck and pulled him in for a quick but tight hug. I couldn't resist a little more contact than that polite cheek kiss. He hugged me back, placing his hands at my waist and resting his cheek on top of my head. He whispered to me, “Soon, little Mimi. Very soon.” We smiled goofily at each other as we parted, lingering for only a second more, then I jumped into the cab next to a squealing Laurel. The driver lurched into the erratic and noisy traffic of the airport, leaving me feeling dazed and giddy at the same time.
Heather R. Guimond has been writing short stories for fun and entertainment since her teen years, but Shattered Perfection is her debut novel. She is a self-professed bibliophile, with a Kindle library larger than her wardrobe has ever been (and that's saying something). She is notorious insomniac with a well-known coffee addiction.
She resides in a small enclave just north of Los Angeles with her husband, aunt, 3 children, and their cat, Syndi (with whom she has a tenuous relationship).