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Opulence by Steve Carr

24 Mar 2017

More … A story for those of you into the examination of greed and self-indulgence,

Opulence by Steve Carr

There is a stillness about Nadia, the way that she lies there as if a queen on her throne holding an audience with her subject. Even the blinking of her eyes seem controlled, the upper lid closing with the bottom one only as she wills it to happen. Her lashes are thick with expensive mascara but there is no weight to them; they flutter with ease at her command. Above her lashes on her eyelids is the faintest hint of baby blue eyeshadow. The shadow matches her eyes. When she changes her eye shadow she changes contact lenses to match the color of the shadow. She was a toddler when she learned how to apply makeup, what makeup was only worn by those with wealth, and she has never forgotten. The makeup is her mask. There are no smile lines around her finely painted lips. Despite her age her face is free of wrinkles. Any that ever appeared were botoxed, lasered away, stretched or surgically removed from existence. Her movements are so deliberate, so planned at a conscious level that the air around her is only disturbed with thought about it beforehand.

* * * Nadia is stretched out on the divan, her head back against a silk pillow, not a single perfectly salon- blended honey-colored strand of hair disturbed that she hadn't pre-planned. Her long neck tapers down to a creamy white blemish-free chest and perfectly artificially enhanced shaped breasts held within the black floor length lace applique lounging dress bought at the most expensive boutique in Soho. Stretching out, her long slender form extends to the end of the divan, her left foot in a handmade black and gold slipper sewn together by Portuguese lace makers with satin imported from Malaysia then shipped directly to her in New York. The other slipper is strategically placed on the floor by the divan. Her naked right foot extends out from the hem of the dress displaying five perfectly privately pedicured toenails of subtle pink blush made and bought at an exclusive shop in Taipei. Her left elbow is bent and resting on her side, her hand in the air displaying expertly manicured fingernails with a peach color polish. She keeps this arm and hand perfectly still as if keeping it ready in the event she needs to summon someone to her or wave them away. Her right arm and hand rest on the divan alongside her side. When she listens she gives no hint that she is hearing what is being told to her. “Marie just disappeared. Gone. Vanished,” Burns tells her. The room is filled with silence, the aftermath of something said that registers no response.

* * * Burns sits back in the custom made hand embroidered overstuffed chair and crosses one long leg over the other. Her private-trainer toned legs are displayed in Mayfair nylons that extend to milk soaked feet inside Gucci strapless black heels. She puts an E-cig to her royal red painted lips and inhales the nicotine loaded vapor. She looks around the room and extends one hand and points a slender finger at a small painting in a gold frame. “Is that your new Matisse?” Without looking to where Burns is pointing, Nadia barely parts her lips as if to do more would be wasted energy and utters a simple “yes.” Still staring at the Matisse, Burns says, “Marie had just bought that Modigliani at an auction. Who knows what she was thinking buying a painting like that one, even if it is a perfect example of his work.” Burns pauses and takes another drag on her E-cig. “To just up and disappear the way she has is so surprising. She just doesn't seem to be the type to do such a thing.” “Marie has disappeared?” Nadia asks at last, indifferently. “Yes just a few days ago. It's being kept very hush-hush.” Looking at her friend on the divan Burns whispers. “They say she was hearing things before she vanished.” Nadia pulls in her naked foot beneath the hem of the garment, hiding her toenails. “What was she hearing?” Burns leans slightly forward, the small pearl necklace around her neck shifting slightly. “It's so odd. Things in the air vents in that fabulous penthouse of hers and under the kitchen appliances. Exterminators were coming and going from her house like lawyers at a nasty divorce proceeding and nothing was ever found. And now Marie can't be found.” “That's too bad,” Nadia says. “Yes it is,” Burns says. “We were supposed to have lunch at that marvelous new restaurant on Friday.” Burns takes another puff on her E-cig. “Marie had the best manicurist in the entire city. I never saw such a beautiful shade of green she had on her nails.” She raises her hand and looks at the pale crimson on her own nails. “To vanish without telling who the manicurist was is just plain rude.”

* * * Nadia lies on her back looking up at the rose colored canopy over her bed. She lifts the remote control in her hand and presses a button and the drapes made of manually weaved fabric on a loom begin to close, shutting out the night sky and the lights of the city. Other than the movement of her finger holding the button down she is perfectly still, as perfectly posed in her bed as a mannequin displayed in a show room. As the drapes close completely her initials, N.A., are revealed monogrammed in large red letters on them. The N on one drape, the A on the other. Automatically the room is diffused in pale blue light beaming out from two recessed spaces in the ceiling. She presses another button on the remote and waits in bored anticipation.

* * * When the bedroom door opens, Clarice enters carrying a silver tray with a small glass filled with a light umber colored liquid. “Here is your L'Art de Martell, ma'am” she says as she brings the tray around to the side of Nadia's bed. Without moving her head, staring at a small framed sketch of a nude male by John Singer Sargent on the wall straight ahead, Nadia says “Clarice I have asked you not to wear any perfume, haven't I? It clashes with my Patou Joy.” “Yes, ma'am. I'm sorry. I didn't think a small dab would be noticed.” “I notice everything Clarice.” She languidly lifts her hand to the tray and picks up the glass of cognac and brings it to her lips and takes a small sip then places the glass back on the tray. “Tomorrow evening Clarice before I come to bed please make sure that my pillows are properly fluffed.” “Yes ma'am, would you like me to fluff them now?” “No Clarice, I took care of it myself,” Nadia says in a tone of resignation, then places her hand in the middle of her breasts then covers it with her other hand. “I'm ready to sleep now Clarice, you can go now.” “Yes ma'am,” Clarice says leaving the room, turning a dimmer switch by the door before she exits. In the artificial moonlight that bathes the room, Nadia pulls a sleep mask over her eyes and thinks, “I must have Frederick do something about those clicking noises.” * * * Wearing a black Alexander McQueen tailored peplum coat, black slacks, black Giuseppe Zanotti spiked heels and carrying a silver Prada clutch, and with a choker of white diamonds around her neck, Nadia enters the restaurant and stares out over the heads of the patrons from the raised entrance way. She does not look left or right, but straight ahead. She is there to be seen, not to see, and stands there as if unaware why she is there or why, or even where she is. The din in the restaurant is annoying; like the buzzing of gnats around her head on the beach in the Hamptons. She runs the tip of her tongue ever-so-lightly around the inner edge of her lips, feeling the smooth texture of the Dolce & Gabbana devil red lipstick, but not tasting it. The aroma of food wafts about her and momentarily she wants to vomit, but her stomach like the rest of her organs are under her complete control, so she waits with perseverance to be waited on and be shown to the table of her waiting companion. “This way Miss Arnault,” a young, handsome waiter in a starched gold silk shirt, white toreador jacket with pearl buttons and tight white trousers says to her as he holds out his white gloved hand for her to take as she steps down the two steps to the floor of the restaurant. With her hand lightly on his she is guided to the table. “Nadia you look absolutely ravishing as always,” Stephany says looking up from texting on her cell phone. The waiter pulls out the chair and Nadia sits down across from her friend. “Send your wine steward over immediately, ” she says to him. “Certainly Miss Arnault,” the waiter says and smiles charmingly, but for Nadia he no longer exists until he is to return with the menus. “I just had to see you,” Stephany says picking up her glass of ice water and taking a sip, not because she is thirsty, but to show off her one-of-a-kind emerald green nail polish. “I was so glad you could meet me, but isn't this place just too horribly wanna-be for words?”

* * * Nadia opens her clutch and takes out a gold compact, opens it and looks at herself in the mirror. “I'm on my way to see my agent and had some time to kill. What was so secretive that you couldn't tell me over the phone?” Stephany leans over the table, her huge breasts encased in a too-tight Ralph Lauren floral print blouse and nearly knocking over the basket of bread sticks. “Women are disappearing and no one knows where they have gone and no one is talking about it.” Nadia purses her lips and looks at the sheen of her lipstick in her reflection. “Burns told me something about it. She said Marie had vanished.” “When did you talk to Burns?” Stephany asks, sitting back in her chair as if pushed there. “Last week,” Nadia says. “Then you don't know?” “Know what?” “Burns has disappeared also. Her husband has been frantic about it, that poor dear.” Stephany leans over the table again. “He told my husband that Burns had been hearing things.” “What things?” Nadia asks. “Noises. Clicking noises coming from her bathtub drain.” Stephany sits back again as if exhausted. She dabs one of the linen napkins to the edges of her pale orange lipsticked mouth. “Her husband went to the police and they only said they would look into it, but that was a few days ago and still nothing. It's a conspiracy and God knows who is listening to our phone conversations.” “Burns said the same thing about Marie,” Nadia says. “What same thing?” “That Marie had been hearing things.” Nadia says just as the wine steward arrives at the table. “What can I serve you Miss Arnault?” He asks. “I'm just dying for a glass of your finest Vieux Chateau Certan.” * * * Nadia watches Frederick as he climbs out of her bed and stands looking at her. “What noises have you been hearing ma'am?” He says as he bends down and slides his large feet into his underwear and pulls them up over his narrow hips. “Noises. Clicking noises. Like someone tapping their fingernails on something.” She looks away, at the drawing done by John Singer Sargent. “How many times do I have to tell you? Just find out what it is and put a stop to it.” “Where are the noises coming from ma'am?” “How should I know? I just hear them and I want it stopped. Doing things around here is what you were hired for, now just do it.” “Yes ma'am.” Frederick finishes dressing and goes to the door. “I hope everything was satisfactory,” he says before opening the door and exiting.

* * * In the fake moonlight in her room, Nadia rises to a sitting position in her bed and pulls the sleep mask over her perfectly coiffed hair and tosses it on the floor. She slips her bare arms into her salmon color Sarrieri Passiflora Chantilly Lace bed jacket and throws the covers aside and gets out of bed. As she puts her panties on she hears it: the clicking noises. Scanning the room, she tries to determine where the noises are coming from, then bends down and lifts the satin sheets hanging over the edge of the mattress and looks under the bed. Out of the darkness from under the bed a hundred roach-like creatures with lobster-like claws and a single bee-like stinger in the middle of their heads rush at her. Nadia falls back onto the floor just as one of the creatures latches onto her surgically perfected nose with a claw sending pain shooting across her entire face and bringing tears to her eyes around the blue tinted contact lenses. It drives its stinger into her cheek and as her body stiffens in paralysis the last thing Nadia sees are the tips of the lobster claws, each claw a different color of nail polish. The End

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