The Starter Wife

How would you react if your husband had an affair? It might depend on how you found out. In this excerpt from The Starter Wife, author Gigi Levangie Grazer depicts one woman's struggle to keep her cool as news of her studio exec husband's affair hits Hollywood.

Roses. The jerk sent one hundred roses to someone who wasn't his wife. Someone who wasn't his dead mother. Someone who wasn't his daughter. How did Gracie find out about the roses? Her florist.

Gracie, like all Wives Of in L.A., had a favorite florist — a messy, expensive relationship fraught with emotional potholes. In her world, the florist/client relationship was closer than the hairdresser/client relationship. The right florist could be called on night and day — and often needed to be on standby. Gracie had at least three occasions a week in which to send flowers: someone's grandmother died, someone had a baby, this person got promoted, that person got demoted, this producer has a movie opening, that producer's movie reached 100 million, this actress is having (more) (cosmetic) surgery, that actor is having a nervous breakdown, so-and-so's in rehab, it's the star's brother's wife's birthday.

The list was endless.

Gracie's florist, a human nerve ending with concert pianist's fingers and a head as smooth as an eggshell, called the next morning asking how she liked the flowers, letting her know how to take care of them — he prided himself on the lengths he would go for that extra "personal touch."

"Darling, they could last over a week with distilled water, and only distilled water, and one aspirin," he said, hyper as a whippet. "Did you have a dinner party last week? I heard you had a dinner party last week, you know you're supposed to call me for your dinner parties, naughty girl, are you cheating on Raymondo?"

"I'm the one who needs an aspirin," Gracie told him, unconsciously squeezing the phone like a lemon. Her forearm started throbbing. She knew it was because she wanted to wring Kenny's thick neck.

"I didn't get any flowers, Raymond."

"What's that, Precious?" he squeaked.

Raymond was gay. Gracie wondered if he were single. Gracie wondered if gay, single men would want to go out with her.

Gracie cleared her throat of an enormous, Kenny-hating lump. "I didn't receive any flowers."

There was silence at the other end of the phone.

"There must be some mistake," he finally said, with a droplet of cheer at having tripped upon an appropriate lie.

"Oh yes." Gracie heard the shuffling of papers.

"Oh yes," he repeated. Gracie had known Raymond for seven years and had never heard him, to her knowledge, lie. So Gracie waited, curious and patient. This was her new life: people stumbling on their words, and her, with the newfound ability to read their thoughts.

Gracie knew what Raymond was thinking. "Oh, shit" was probably first in his mind, followed in close succession by "Who the hell did Kenny send one hundred roses to?" then "I'm going to kill my assistant," and finally "Wait till I tell (everyone)." Gracie watched her girl as she stood, arms over her head, swinging her doll-sized hips, in front of the television set, watching the most famous homosexual revue in the world, The Wiggles. Gracie had tricked her daughter long ago to listen to the television with the sound turned down almost to mute. Thus, only one of her senses could be assaulted by The Wiggles at a time.

Gracie looked at the television set out of the corner of her eye; she could bear only the slimmest glimmer of Wiggle…

Gracie found herself wondering if any of them were single. Gracie wondered, if she married a Wiggle, about their first dance at their wedding. Would Gracie too be forced to wave her arms over her head, to wrestle her hips into some sort of rhythmic motion? "Would it be all right if I called Mr. Kenny's office?" Raymond asked. The man gave supplicant brown nosers a bad name.

"Raymond," Gracie said, "we did have a dinner party last week. And the flowers were sensational."

Gracie heard the gasp just as she hung up. She suddenly realized that if she were getting a divorce, one of the benefits was that she wouldn't have the need for a florist except for special occasions. Raymond was probably already asking Kenny's assistant how the recipient liked the roses and giving tips on distilled water and aspirin.

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