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So, what do we think? Kathleen held the necklace up for general inspection.

Lucy immediately dropped her knitting and jumped up to look. She slid her palm under the chain and pulled it closer to her eyes. Silver? she said. Or white gold?

Silver, Kathleen said. Which I happen to like.

I didn't say anything negative.

You were about to.

I think it's pretty, Lucy said with a shrug, letting the necklace slip away from her fingers.

Kathleen brought it over to Sari. What do you think?

It's beautiful, Sari said. So Kevin just up and took you to Tiffany's, huh?

Kathleen put the necklace back in its velvet box and closed it with an audible pop. Yep. He said, You need a necklace, and right to Tiffany's, just like that.

Next time, point out you could use a new car, Lucy said, sitting down and picking up her knitting. See what happens.

Right to BMW, Sari said. Just like that.

Oh, please, Lucy said. No one drives BMWs anymore. It's all about the Audis. Or, if you're really cool, a hybrid.

Id take a Lexus convertible, Kathleen said. That's what Kevin drives.

That's so open-minded of you, Sari said as she carefully slipped a bunch of stitches from one needle to the other. Being willing to settle for a Lexus.

What can I say? Kathleen threw herself into a dining room chair and pulled the bowl of bagels toward her. Im a saint. She started flipping through the bagels.

Can you please just touch whichever bagel you're planning to eat? Lucy said.

Maybe Im planning on eating them all. She extracted a poppy seed one. I can't believe you're almost done with that blanket, Sar.

Sari said, I have no life. That's why I get so much knitting done. Every night, while the two of you are out being social and having fun-and probably having sex-

Definitely having sex, Kathleen said.

Im sitting in front of the TV, knitting. It's pathetic.

At least you're making something useful, Kathleen said.

Yeah, Sari said. I could probably knit this baby five blankets before it's even born. I could knit one for a king-size bed with the time I have.

You want me to ask Kevin if he has any great friends? Kathleen said.

Why? You think they need blankets?

No, I mean to date.

Sari thought about it. Her needles clicked and their metal ends flashed. Yeah, I guess, she said after a moment. Why not?

Make sure they're rich, Lucy said to Kathleen. If yours is rich, I think it's only fair that Sari's be rich, too.

Amen to that, Sari said. Hey, guys, either of you have any good ideas for a Halloween costume?

You going to a party? Kathleen asked.

No. I have to get dressed up for this thing we do at the clinic. Most of the kids are scared to trick-or-treat for real, so they come in costume and we hand out candy. Usually I just wear scrubs or something easy like that, but Ellen yelled at me for being lazy about it last year.

You could be a sexy cat, Kathleen said.

Or a very wicked witch, Lucy said. In one of those tight black dresses that lace over your boobs.

Or a sexy little French maid, Kathleen said. She batted her eyes, her hand to her chest. Oh, but, monsieur, madame-she weell find out!

Uh, guys? Sari said. Im going to be handing candy out to a bunch of four-year-olds with autism. Call me crazy, but I really don't think I have to be all that sexy.

You're crazy, Kathleen said. It never hurts to be sexy.

Ive got a good idea, Lucy said. Let's go to a costume store right now and we'll help you pick something out. You really don't have to, Sari said.

It'll be fun. You free, Kathleen?

Kevin and I were supposed to go to the beach with some friends of his this afternoon, but Id rather do this.

She's already losing interest, Lucy said to Sari. What's it been? Two weeks? Three?

That's our girl, Sari said.

Im not losing interest, Kathleen said. I just don't feel like I have to spend every minute of the day with him.

Kathleen, you always lose interest after a few weeks, Lucy said. You've got relationship ADD.

That's because it's always just been about having fun before, Kathleen said. No one can sustain fun forever. But this is about more than that. This is about stability and friendship and-

She's bored out of her mind, Lucy said to Sari.

How come you don't get bored with us? Sari asked.

It's the sex, Lucy said. She gets bored having sex with the same guy over and over again. Since she doesn't have sex with us-

Shouldn't that make you even more boring? Kathleen asked.

No, because you actually bother talking to us, Lucy said. If you ever found a guy you liked talking to instead of just having sex all the time, you might last more than a few weeks with him.

Don't blame me, Kathleen said. There isn't a guy out there who's willing to sit around and talk when he thinks he could be having sex.

It was Kathleen's idea to take Sari out for a drink before going to the costume store, but Lucy immediately seconded the motion.

You'll be more open to our suggestions if you're tipsy, Kathleen said.

You mean you're going to force an outfit on me when Im too drunk to argue, Sari said.

We're your friends, Lucy said. If you can't trust us-

You're my friends, Sari said. And I don't trust you at all. But she let them drag her into a bar half a block from their destination.

When the bartender brought them their drinks, Kathleen said to Lucy, I can't believe you drink straight scotch. It's not straight, Lucy said. It's on the rocks.

You know what I mean.

I like it. It's a manly drink. And it's lower in calories than those girly cocktails everyone else drinks, but gets the job done faster.

Im drinking a beer, Kathleen said. That's just as manly as scotch.

No, it's not. It's a frat boys drink. A whole different thing.

Sari frowned at her glass of white wine. Clearly, I lose this particular contest. But why exactly do we have to be manly in our choice of alcoholic beverages?

It's just cooler, Lucy said.

Scotch tastes like medicine, Sari said.

I like it, Lucy said and drank it slowly, but with real pleasure. She stopped after one-she was driving, and scotch was strong stuff-but the other two had another round, so when they finally got to the costume store, they were all pretty looped and giggly.

Sari was relaxed enough now to try on a sexy cat costume. When she walked out of the fitting room, Kathleen let out a loud wolf whistle, and everyone in the store turned to look.

For God's sake, Kathleen! Sari grabbed the fitting room curtain and pulled it across her body. Do you have to completely embarrass me?

What are you talking about? Kathleen said. You look fantastic. Every other woman in this store would kill to look that good in a leotard.

Lucy said, She looks good, but the black cat thing's a total clich'e-everyone does it. Try this one. She handed Sari another outfit.

When Sari reemerged, Lucy said, Now that's perfect. It totally fits with the theme.

A nurse's uniform? Kathleen said.

Yeah. I mean, she's working with sick kids-

They're not sick, they have autism, Sari said. And it's made out of vinyl, Lucy. I can't wear white vinyl to work. That's just wrong.

Why not? Kathleen said. It wipes off easily. For some reason, this struck all three of them as hysterically funny, and they laughed so hard that Kathleen had to crouch down to keep from falling over.

A saleswoman came over and eyed them suspiciously. May I help you? she said.

No, thank you, Sari said, just as Lucy said, Yes, you can. We need a costume for our friend here that shows off her assets, but doesn't go over the top. You know what I mean?

Yeah, Kathleen said, clambering to her feet. It should say, I could get any man I want but I don't need a man to be happy and just because Im letting you look doesn't mean you should even dream about touching. Oh, and kids should think it's totally super-cool.

The saleswoman was in her mid- to late fifties. She had short gray hair and wore half-moon reading glasses on a chain around her neck. She looked back and forth between them for a moment, her eyes narrowed, her lips pressed together in a hard line.All right, she said. Ill see what I can do. Wait here. She disappeared down an aisle.

Vinyl, Sari said, looking down at herself. I can't believe you guys.

What do you think she'll come back with? Kathleen asked Lucy.

I don't know. It just better not be another damn cat. They all dissolved into giggles again.

The saleswoman returned with a costume.

What is it? Lucy asked.

A warrior princess. Guys go crazy for this one. But it's not too revealing. Try it on. She pushed it at Sari, who obediently disappeared inside the fitting room. She soon came back out in a tight fake leather and metal miniskirt and an even tighter bustier top made out of the same materials.

Plus there are wrist cuffs, the saleswoman said, holding them up.

You know who you are, Sari? Kathleen circled around her. You're Xena-the coolest woman ever! It's perfect

You're totally hot, Lucy agreed, but not indecent. The kids will just think you look like a superhero, but the dads will think they've died and gone to heaven.

What do you think? Sari said, appealing to the saleswoman. Would you wear this to a Halloween party for kids?

Honey, the saleswoman said, if I looked as good in that as you do, I would wear it to Sunday dinner at my in-laws. She handed them the hanger and wrist cuffs and went off after another customer.

Kathleen stared after her. I think Im in love, she said.

There's an age difference, Sari said.

Love knows no boundaries.

We need tall black boots to complete the outfit, Lucy said.Do you have anything like that, Sari? With high heels? Really high heels?

Sari rolled her eyes. What do you think?

I have some that would be perfect, Kathleen said.

And twelve sizes too big, Lucy said. There's a Shoe Pavilion down the street-we'll find something there.

Sari was studying herself in the mirror. Are you sure this isn't too much? she said. I mean, look at my breasts.

I can't take my eyes off of them, Kathleen said. How'd you manage to hide them all these years?

Lucy was still eyeing Sari critically. I wish your hair were longer, she said. Why'd you have to cut it so short?

Because I worked with a kid who kept pulling on it, Sari said. He was yanking it right out of my head.

Doesn't that piss you off? Lucy said.

Nah. It wasn't his fault. He didn't know how else to get my attention. But he's doing really well now-he can say a lot of words and isn't nearly so frustrated.

I still don't think I can forgive him, Lucy said. I mean, your hair.

I think the short hair actually works with this, Kathleen said. Just make sure you chop it up with gel or mousse or something, Sari. Xena shouldn't be fluffy.

Xena had long straight hair, Lucy said.

Yeah, but the little blond chick on the show cut hers short and after that looked even hotter than Xena.

Sari bought the costume and they threw the bag into Lucy's car, then left it there while they walked the thirteen blocks down Wilshire Boulevard to the shoe store. It was a beautiful afternoon, and they were all still drunk enough to feel giddy and laugh a lot for no reason. People turned to look at them-men, especially-because they were pretty girls who were laughing and chatting and who weren't trying to catch anyone's eye-were, in fact, completely uninterested in any company except one another's.

At the store, Kathleen sashayed toward the others on a pair of shoes with high, spiky heels. What do you guys think?

Jesus, Sari said. You're like this Amazonian thing.

You could whip Xena's ass, Lucy said, looking up from a stack of shoe boxes she was scanning for Sari's size.

Yeah? Kathleen loomed over Sari. Well, then, I challenge you, warrior princess. Kathleen the Amazon will smash you into dust.

Do it in the mud, and we can charge admission, Lucy said. Guys'll pay a fortune to see two girls fight in spikes and leather. I can't find a seven in these, Sari. Will seven and a half work?

Probably not.

That's the spirit. Sit down. You're trying them on.

Lucy extracted the box she wanted as Kathleen went lurching back in her high heels to the aisle where she had found them. I wonder why she likes to wear such high heels when she's already so tall, Lucy said. I mean, I know why I do it-it's the only way to make my legs look halfway decent. But the last thing she needs is more height.

Sari sat down on the floor and pushed off her Crocs. People notice her, she said. I think she likes that. First time I met her, she walked into this party-at Laurie Wong's house, actually-remember her?-and everyone immediately turned to look at her because well, you basically couldn't miss her. I thought she was a model or actress or something and I figured she'd be all stuck-up and full of herself. Lucy handed her a boot and she pulled it on and held out her hand for the other one. But she was Kathleen. She threw herself down next to me and said she was bored, so I said something about how I wished it wasn't rude to knit at a party, and she told me how some baby-sitter had taught her when she was in sixth grade but she hadn't done it in ages. So then I started telling her about how there were all these amazing new knitting stores in Santa Monica and at some point we said we'd go to one the next morning together and we did and had a blast. And then you took that knitting class and got all excited about starting a club- She stood up. Wobbled. A little high, don't you think?

They're platforms, Lucy said. They don't count.

Im like four inches taller.

Which brings you into normal range, Kathleen said. Almost. She was back, now wearing her flip-flops and carrying a box.

You getting them? Lucy gestured to the shoe box.

Uh-huh. Ill wear them out with Kevin tonight. So he'll forget to be mad that I stood him up this afternoon. Not that he ever gets mad, come to think of it. Those are total fuck-me boots, Sari. I love them.

I can't wear fuck-me boots to a kids Halloween party, Sari moaned.

Shut up, Lucy said to Kathleen. Now you've got her all worried. They're not fuck-me boots, Sari. They're- She groped.

Trick-or-treat boots? Kathleen suggested.

Exactly! Trick-or-treat boots. They're made for Halloween.

More treat than trick for the older boys, Kathleen said.

Shut up, Lucy said. You're going to ruin everything.

What are you guys trying to do to me? Sari said. Between these and the warrior costume-

You'll be the hottest therapist in town. As you should be. Lucy bent down and pushed at the toe of one of the boots. Do they fit okay?

I guess. They're slightly big. Wearable. But, guys-

We're getting them. Im paying.

Kathleen, don't you think-?

They're adorable. You'll get a ton of wear out of them. Do you have any short skirts? I mean, other than the Xena thing? Because that's what they're made for.

I don't wear stuff like that. You guys know that.

Kathleen looked at Lucy. Next stop, Anthropologie.

By the time they were done with her, Sari had several new outfits in addition to the costume. Lucy paid for the boots, and, at the clothing store, Kathleen picked out two extremely short skirts, a pair of super-tight, super-low jeans, and a bunch of skimpy tank tops-all for Sari.

This is fun, Kathleen said, as she poked through the extra-small sizes. Like dressing a doll. She pulled out her own credit card at the cashier, and Sari protested, but Kathleen said, If I pay for them, I know you'll feel guilty if you don't actually wear them. Sari, you can't sit around complaining about the lack of great guys in your life when you're not even making the slightest effort to get noticed. It's time to show them what you've got.

But I can't wear this stuff to work.

Why not?

I run around with kids all day long. I mean, I literally run around with them.

So learn to run in a miniskirt, Kathleen said. You'll never regret it.

They walked back up Wilshire to the car, where Lucy crossed her arms and refused to unlock the doors until Sari promised-swore on her grandmother's grave-that she would wear the warrior princess costume to the Halloween party at the clinic. There is no backing out now, Lucy said once that was settled.Or wearing long underwear underneath, Kathleen said.

Or a sweatshirt over it.

All right, all right, I promise, Sari said. And if I get laughed out of the clinic, Ill know who to blame.

Blame Lucy, Kathleen said. She's the bossy one.

| Knitting Under the Influence | c