Copyright © 2012 by Randi M. Sherman First Edition – February 2012 ISBN 978-1-77097-155-4 (Hardcover) 978-1-77097-156-1 (Paperback) 978-1-77097-157-8 (eBook) All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information browsing, storage, or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Published by:
Suite 300 – 852 Fort Street Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 1H8 www.friesenpress.com Distributed to the trade by The Ingram Book Company
A b o ut t h e A ut h o r
Randi Sherman, a native Californian, lives in San Francisco. With her tremendous grasp of the obvious, Randi has always had the ability to find humor in the mundane and dares people to stop taking themselves too seriously. Developing characters and writing have been a part of Randi’s life since she was a teenager, umm-mmum-mumm years ago. She spent time performing stand-up comedy at Los Angeles club amateur nights and studied improvisation in the bay area. Realizing that she preferred having an income, living indoors and eating regularly, Randi reluctantly put her dreams on hold and entered the corporate world, yet never left behind her sense of humor and creative storytelling ability, skills which were not always appreciated during budget and strategy meetings. Now, after living indoors for a while and eating, albeit too much, her book, Paula Takes a Risk is here. Randi’s unique wit, writing style and candor will surely make the reader sit up, stand up, roll over, or assume an interested leaning position and take notice. Randi would never claim to have a genius IQ, the body of a super model or always have the right thing to wear. However, she can spell the words, “smart” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Randi maintains a trim, well toned body that is cleverly concealed beneath twenty pounds of soft protective layering and she has the appetite of a bird. (By “bird” I mean vulture.) Her entire wardrobe consists of black, black and varying degrees of black, except for those items that are covered with lint because she put them through the wash with a tissue.
Things that Randi cannot live without: people to laugh with, her car horn, a gym membership where there are chubby women who break into a sweat while putting on a jog bra, wine, waist capes, and her partner, Carol. Randi does not like mean-spirited people, liver, waiting, communal dressing rooms, tight underwear, and people who point. Randi is five-foot-seven.
C h apter 1
Larry settled comfortably into 3B, his first-class seat on the 777 Wide-body. This is the way I was meant to travel. He smirked as he silently congratulated himself. Unlike the losers packed into the coach section. Peasants, paying for a snack box. Pretty cocky for a guy who used a credit card with a punishing twenty-nine percent interest rate to upgrade his seat from the back of the plane. It was the only credit that he could get after the financial tsunami he created with his creditors. It forced him to claim bankruptcy a few years earlier. But none of that mattered now. Things were changing. As far as he was concerned, his time with money problems was ancient history, an apparition. He, Larry English, would be back in business in no time. As the engines of the airplane hummed, Larry closed his eyes and let his mind wander. He was returning home to the Los Angeles area from New York after the reading of his mother’s will. The truth was, as far as he was concerned, her passing could not have come at a better time for him. Two things were true about Larry. One: the relationship with his family was strained and they avoided him when they could...Two: he was a greedy and a selfish man. Up until now, he thought that they were two completely separate issues. Now, the line was blurred. For a split second, even Larry wondered if he could be so callous to actually celebrate his mother’s death? He shook off the thought, because whatever the case, he didn’t have the desire or inclination for self-examination. Just forty-eight hours earlier, he was out of money, broke. He somehow always managed to scrape by—until recently. He was on the verge of being
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evicted from his crappy apartment. His rent was two months late, he had an empty checking account, and his credit was dismal. Over the years, Larry had worked at various jobs in sales and customer service. None of them lasted very long. He didn’t have the patience for it. He had convinced himself that he deserved bigger, better things than to work a day-to-day job like an average person. Without any reservation or humility, he would tell anyone who listened that he was far more intelligent than the people he worked for, and that he should be running things. He made it known that he was, in fact, a misplaced leader who should be feared and admired by those who were attempting to give him direction. His was clearly not an advantageous stance to take as an employee. So he was fired. A lot. Larry was forty years old. Finally, after eight years of struggling financially, he had some money again and things were finally going to turn around. He had just inherited two hundred thousand dollars from his mother’s estate. Sure, he knew he was not in the same league as Warren Buffett, but for now it seemed like a fortune. He believed he deserved it and had fantasized about the ways he would spend it from the moment he heard that his mother was ill. Maybe he would buy a car or move to a new house. There were so many options now. He had lived in the same dilapidated, crumbling building with dark musty hallways and dirty shag carpeting, for over three years. The place smelled like old take-out food and dirty laundry. He had few friends, and even fewer prospects for business. He spent much of his time alone trying to think of new schemes for making money. He didn’t date. He avoided getting involved in relationships that would challenge his self-esteem, require any effort at all or drain him emotionally. Larry had been divorced for ten years, but couldn’t justify signing up for more disappointment and heartbreak. Occasionally, he watched television or rented movies with his neighbor Paula from across the hall. There was no threat of getting involved with her. She wasn’t his type. She seemed needy and talked too much. He preferred the pretty, perky girls who would sit quietly, listen to his big ideas and “ooh” and “ahh” at his genius. He didn’t want to answer too many questions and didn’t really care about what they had to say. Besides, Paula said that she was dating someone else anyhow.
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When he was twenty-four years old, Larry married the girl he had loved his entire life—Jenny Huffington. They grew up together. She was the tomboy from the neighborhood and although Larry was odd, painfully underweight and un-athletic, she didn’t seem to mind. In a way, it endeared him to her. When their classmates would torment Larry, Jenny was there defending him and throwing punches if necessary. She made him feel, if not better about himself, at least less awkward. He always loved her for that. He admired her sense of adventure. She had an inner strength and sense of independence. No one could tell her what to do, or who to do it with. As far as Larry was concerned, Jenny invented “cool.” But most importantly, she was kind and she was special. She was a true friend. Jenny trusted Larry. He was non-judgmental and supportive. He loved her and she knew it. She regularly confided in him about her terrible home life and shared her plans to escape her parent’s household as soon as possible. Larry listened, nodded and told her she was right and that she deserved better. Through high school, Larry and Jenny’s friendship continued. They hung out, ditched classes and smoked pot. Occasionally they attended parties and family functions together. Larry loved pretending they were actually dating. Jenny simply enjoyed his company. As far as she was concerned, they were pals—nothing more. In fact, the only time they kissed was in public during a New Year’s Eve party. The ceremonial dry-lipped peck seemed like a requirement. Larry’s teenage hormones raged, and after a lot of pleading, he was able to convince Jenny that they should try an actual boyfriend-girlfriend dating-type relationship. “C’mon, it’ll be fun,” he bargained. “I’ll pay for all of our dates and you won’t have to tell anyone.” He paused. “Unless you want to.” “Sure. Okay. Whatever,” was her answer, and it was good enough for Larry. Together, they learned how to kiss—really kiss—with tongues and heavy breathing. They watched movies and attempted to copy the make-out techniques they saw. Initially the kisses were wet and clumsy with a lot of saliva and tooth bumping. When Jenny first allowed Larry to touch her, he touched her over her clothes. The very thought of it aroused him. He would regularly make up new reasons to sneak off to the bathroom and relieve his erections.
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Finally, when Jenny reluctantly let him touch the soft skin of her breasts and move his hands down to touch her cotton panties, Larry nearly erupted. He was awkward and insecure, and Jenny was uncomfortable and tense. They were perfectly matched. Their first sexual encounter was an abbreviated version of sex. It included: quickly undressing in a dark room, diving under the sheets, followed by Larry climbing on top of Jenny. The actual intercourse portion of the event lasted for about ten seconds. It really would have been a terribly humiliating experience for him, except Jenny pretended that she was completely satisfied. She drew upon the love-making scenes written into the cheesy romance novels she read. It seemed that all of the femme fatales in those books would make love “with abandon.” They would moan and heave and move their hips around and whisper or scream, “oh Baby,” or “oh Baron,” or, “Buck,” “Duke,” or in this case, “oh Larry.” As a crescendo, she arched her back, rolled her eyes back into her head and exhaled heavily with a groan. That was a lot to do in ten seconds. Larry loved her for it. As Jenny neared the end of her college career, she was desperate to move out of her parents’ house and away from their rules and constant interrogations. Her father had always been demanding and militant, while her mother was chronically unhappy and impossible to please. Jenny held down a parttime job as a receptionist at a real estate office, yet couldn’t afford to move into an apartment of her own. Larry knew she was unhappy at home and wanted to rescue her. So when she asked him to be her roommate and share an apartment, Larry responded by suggesting they get married. He was doubtful he would ever find anyone else he would ever love more. His sudden proposal caught Jenny by surprise, but she agreed to give it some thought. If nothing else, she was a pragmatic young woman. Jenny considered her financial situation and her desperation to leave home. She didn’t know anyone else who could afford to share an apartment, and she had never really dated anyone other than Larry. Her options were limited. Besides, they were best friends and she did care about him. She agreed. The day after her graduation, they drove to Las Vegas and got married.
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During the first years of their marriage, they lived in a small studio apartment in North Hollywood. The rent was only four hundred and ninety-five dollars per month, plus utilities. They shared an oxidized silver 1995 Cadillac that had over 170,000 miles on the odometer. Larry bought it from his father for five hundred dollars, to be paid in monthly fifty-dollar increments. For fun, Larry and Jenny would drive around the beach communities and Beverly Hills where they would pretend to live, pulling into driveways and parking until “the staff ” came out of the houses and shooed them away. They would make up stories about their swanky lifestyle, exotic travels and influential friends. They ended each drive back to the valley at their favorite Mexican restaurant, and splurged on bottomless margaritas, free chips and salsa. Although they were struggling financially, their relationship was a good one. They enjoyed being together. They laughed a lot. They never seriously discussed having children. Jenny made it clear from the beginning that she was not interested in being a mother and did not possess a “speck of maternal instinct.” She joked, “I would probably eat my young like hamsters and goby fish do.” Larry never pushed her on the subject. From the beginning of their six-year marriage, Jenny helped Larry to discover his entrepreneurial spirit, encouraging him to use his imagination and think big. He fabricated a resumé and would regularly set up interviews for jobs that he was barely qualified for. Until his dream job came around, Jenny continued at her job as a receptionist and Larry did part-time customer service work at an electronics store nearby. They opened a small brokerage account at Charles Schwab and invested the few extra dollars they had with big dreams. For amusement, they researched little companies and practiced developing proposals that would help the businesses expand or recover, depending on the situation. Eventually, Jenny talked Larry into presenting one of their investment ideas to Joe Montgomery, a wealthy friend of her father, who had a special place in his heart for Jenny. Not only did Joe know how harsh Jenny’s father was, he also had a long-lasting affair with her mother. Joe could never figure out why Jenny never told anyone. For her discretion, Joe was extremely
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appreciative—and a little scared—of her. He regularly told Jenny that if she ever needed anything, not to hesitate to call him. So she did. Much to the surprise of all three, Joe liked the proposal and gave Larry and Jenny a personal check for ten thousand dollars to invest. Larry and Joe agreed to split the profits, eighty-twenty. If the deal failed, the money would be paid back over a three-year period without interest. It might have been dumb luck, but the investment grew quickly and was a success. Larry’s confidence soared. With a small success under their belts, Jenny worked with Larry to research other companies and opportunities. She read websites and books about business plans and negotiations. She guided him through business decisions and worked with him to sell more of their ideas for investments. In actuality, Jenny was the true brains behind the business, but Larry was a good closer. He could be quite effective, when he was focused. Larry was not a critical thinker or a business genius, by any means. He was cocky and careless. When he worked on his own, he was uninformed and ill-prepared, which resulted in the loss of investors and potential clients— not to mention large amounts of money. But he was lucky. He had Jenny, who possessed a knack for turning things around and smoothing things over with the investors. After a few years of working hard, Larry and Jenny had saved enough and made a two percent down payment on a one million dollar, two bedroom, one bath, nine-hundred square foot condominium in Malibu. It was located just across the Pacific Coast highway from the beach, with a patio and a view of ocean. With the minimum down payment, their mortgage payments were just over six thousand dollars each month. They were only able to afford the most basic necessities and a “restricted-hours-gymnasium-only” membership at the very posh community health club. But none of that mattered. Life was good. They lived on credit. “We have arrived,” Larry would say. They leased shiny foreign cars, dined at the trendiest restaurants and took regular vacations, all of which they wrote off on their taxes as business expenses. Jenny took care of all of the paperwork, took care of the bills and signed her name to everything: the mortgage, credit cards, memberships and rental agreements. Larry kept his old 1995 Cadillac—not
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because he was sentimental, but as faux-symbol to appear humble to any business prospect who might think that he was a show off or a snob. Money, or the illusion of it, gave Larry confidence. It made him appear smart. The sexual part of Larry and Jenny’s relationship was practically non-existent. They would jokingly refer to their very occasional lovemaking as, “the event” that occurred only on birthdays, anniversaries and occasional inebriated evenings. Initially it bothered Larry. After a while, he gave up trying to figure it out. He accepted that things had simply changed. Perhaps the lack of interest was because of their busy schedule. The reason didn’t matter. Eventually, Larry started having short affairs and one-night stands with business associates, secretaries, friends’ wives or any female who showed him attention. Larry was happy. He was certain that Jenny knew about his indiscretions, but she never complained. Jenny kept herself busy and had her own group of friends. Larry never minded the monthly camping trips and the regular girls’ nights out. He knew that Jenny was working hard and enjoyed spending time unwinding with her friends. It was important to her. He never considered asking her to change. Besides, it gave him more free time for his own interests. Everything was going well for Larry and Jenny until one weekend in July when Barbara, Jenny’s old college friend, came to town for one of her frequent visits. The three of them had all spent a great day on the beach. Everyone was getting along well. Barbara was an animated gal. Her wicked sense of humor was only outdone by her fabulously toned body. She was a very outgoing and provocative woman. She had never been married and didn’t seem to have any interest in getting tied down to a single man. She and Larry often flirted and spoke to each other using sexual innuendo. Jenny usually smiled and rolled her eyes. Occasionally she would say something like, “Get a room!” or “Would you two like to be alone?” But she knew it was all in good fun. Although Larry was really very attracted to Barbara and her flirting excited him, he knew that sleeping with his wife’s best friend would be a monumental mistake and would surely break Jenny’s heart. After several hours on the beach, they went back to the condo to have margaritas and a leisurely dinner on the deck overlooking the ocean. Taking
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charge, Larry proudly suggested that he fire up the barbecue and grill some chicken, one of the few domestic things he knew how to do. While he was on the deck fussing with the barbecue and moving the chicken around on the grill, he called out for Jenny to bring him the barbecue sauce that he left on the kitchen counter. He called several times, but she didn’t answer. He lowered the flame, took off his William Sonoma apron with matching barbecue mitts and walked into the kitchen. When he was just about to retrieve the jar of sauce from the counter, he glanced through the doorway leading into the living room. The couch was positioned facing the fireplace, with its back to the kitchen area. At first, Larry didn’t notice anything. But as he turned to go, he saw Barbara’s head resting on the armrest of the sofa, her forearm draped across her forehead. “Barb,” Larry softly called out. “Are you alright?” She didn’t respond. Her eyes were closed. He was a little concerned. Over the years, Jenny had mentioned that Barbara was prone to migraines. He thought he heard her groan. “Barb, do you have a headache? Would you like some aspirin?” he whispered as he walked gingerly toward her. He tried to be careful not to disturb her in case she was sleeping. He approached the couch. From the angle where he was standing, he could see that her bikini top was askew and her pink delicious nipples peaked out from above the edge of the fabric. He found himself staring. She slowly opened her eyes. When she saw him standing there, the corners of her mouth turned upward and she gave him a naughty grin. To Larry it seemed like an invitation and he could feel himself getting aroused. He swallowed hard. He knew that he should walk away, but instead, he mouthed the words, “Where’s Jenny?” Barbara motioned with her eyes. When he stepped forward and followed her gaze, he found Jenny naked with her face buried between Barbara’s thighs. It took him a minute to figure it out. Then suddenly, everything came together: the ladies-only camping weekends, girls’ nights out, Barbara’s frequent visits, the lack of marital sex. How could he have not known? Realizing that Jenny was bisexual or a lesbian wasn’t nearly as devastating to him as the fact that he, Larry English, had not figured it out until it was sprawled out in front of him.
Paula’s life is a disaster. She loses her job and boyfriend on the same day, and has no future prospects or plans. Life just isn’t working...