Verushka’s Earrings by Cassandra Rittenhause

Everyone said Connie Shapiro looked like Snow White. Ivory skin against cropped black hair, the exquisite blue eyes. Even at 46, she retained a fairy tale presence. In the heat of June, she threw amazing parties at her home in Long Island. The talk tonight was Woody Allen – and his girlfriend. The Shapiros lived in his apartment building uptown.

“One moment, she was plain, guys. We saw her in the elevator. Just some girl with hair in her eyes. And then Soon Yi blossomed. ”

Her long time friends, Daphne and Lucas Evans, lounged at the deck, and swirled their brandy, all tension.

“That’s ridiculous, Connie!” remarked gorgeous, voluptuous Daphne. You could tell she was getting drunk and when she drank she got mean.

Her eyes were translucent sapphire. She had cheekbones like glass. Like Connie, her hair was cut short now, in a trendy shag. Bur unlike Connie’s smoky darkness, her hair was pure wheat, lush as it had been in college at Hofstra.

“Mia Farrow was the beauty. A real deal movie star and Woody left her!”

“You’ve got to admit,” her husband chimed it. “He always liked teenage girls more than women. Remember Muriel Hemingway in Manhattan? His girlfriend does homework!”

“Thanks a lot, Lucas,” she snapped.

“Ahh, Muriel Hemingway!” crowed Connie’s husband Ruben. He adjusted his glasses, shielding dark eyes. “What a knockout! Such a beauty.”

“I think I need to go home,” murmured Daphne, coldly.

Daphne strode down the stone path, her kitten toe heels clicking awkwardly. Staggered might be a better word. She hated these Long Island parties. Lucas loved the Shapiros, they were their closest friends, but at times they could say the most lacerating things. They were brilliant, clearly, and liberal, but they made her feel like a bimbo.

Maybe it was because Daphne was a WASP, with those traditional Westchester roots. Her academic professor father Hank had raised her with values. But the Shapiros were a touch nouveau. It was undeniable. Of course, the Shapiros had the biggest house in Manhasset, a house keeper and a swimming pool and real Warhols. Of course, this talk about Woody Allen was on his side, their fellow mensch.

They drove home in near silence. When they finally were back at their condo in Westchester, they undressed. Daphne slipped on a silky, beige negligee. Lucas did not even look at her figure at all. Here it was again. Another night, of silent treatment mused Lucas. You never knew Daphne’s moods.

“So what’s the deal? Does Woody have an Asian fetish? Does every man?”

“Now, I don’t think it’s every man,” chimed Lucas, loosening his tie. ‘Lighten up, Daphne. No more! Let it go!”

The first time Daphne caught him cheating, it was with her best friend Verushka. That little domestic moment had been frozen in her brain. It was a winter party at the Shapiros (those culprits again!). Verushka, who was Indian, was wearing a turtleneck and dangling earrings. They were sparkling gold hoops. Against her sparkling ebony hair. She was clearly buzzed. Lucas, who at that time, in his 30’s, had long blonde hair to his wide shoulders, looked a little like Jeff Bridges. He was a handsome, beautiful man, the Nordic type, and girls loved him.

They were just talking, with coy looks. Laughter. Him next to her on the couch, the both of them intent on where this flirtation was going, not caring that it was like a crazy train going to crush Daphne.

Sometimes when she ruminated on that moment, the moment she caught them laughing, she thought it was worse to catch them talking than actually cheating. That betrayal was more violent, and it lit up her pit — a gut instinct to attack him. Still, she was an upper class WASP. One didn’t fight, or attack things, or get jealous. One turned the other cheek.

That night, Daphne lay on the bed and looked at her chic vases, and paintings, and curtains, all done in the lovely 90’s style called Shabby Chic. It suddenly struck her as dated. She felt ridiculous. She thought about Soon Yi taking from Mia, with the cruelty of youth. She thought of a boy she knew in high school who had loved her, but she had not wanted him. Lucas glowed in the shadow of the bathroom, his stomach and chest bare. He seemed unattainable.

“It must be nice to be you,” she spoke, her voice cold and brittle as the night. Lucas walked towards her and held her. She let herself cry, that almost luxurious feeling of submitting and giving up. Maybe it would get better, she mused. Maybe this is how things went. Were they stronger now? He traced his fingers over her bushy eyebrows.

“I love you, Daphne.” he said and kissed her forehead. And she held him. This was enough.

Cassandra Rittenhause has been in over 20 journals, among them Eunioa Review, and White Ash Review.