The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters
~ Saturday February 27
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh you can’t help that,” said the Cat:
“We’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
1:45 p.m. Less than twenty-four hours after threatening Nigel, Ron and I left for London at Nigel's expense.
“You did it,” Ron said to me over the roar of the jumbo jet’s engines. It was all too weird. I watched Miami drop away as we tore through a cloud bank. Leslie and Sunglasses were both out of the loop on this adventure; they had no idea I was winging it back to Europe. I hoped.
“Anything to drink?” our flight attendant plumped the pillow under Ron’s head. “Bloody Mary?” he asked me.
“Mind reader,” I said.
The attendant took our order and made her way through first class chatting and plumping.
“This is hysterical, you having tea with Nigel’s wife. He must be dying.” Ron stretched and smiled fondly at me.
“He can go on dying until I get to the bottom of this mystery,” I said. The theme music from Mission Impossible played in my mind.
An hour out from Gatwick, the pilot gave the passengers a heads-up. Along with half the ladies in the plane I took this to be my warning to work my way to the potty. Climbing over Ron, who looked every bit as crisp and polished as when we left Miami, I carried my makeup case to the first class loo and joined the line.
I wore a black suit with short pencil skirt and a light blue knit top. My red hair had been recently bobbed and the style was easily tossed back into shape. However, my eyes were a challenge. I opted for double-squirts of drops in each, relined the upper lids, brushed on orchid shadow to bring out the green, smeared concealer under the orbs and finished with a puff of blush. I smoothed on lip gloss and cleaned the ooze off my fingers. Relinquishing the restroom to the next lady, I headed back down the aisle. Ron shot me a wink. I returned it momentarily blinding myself and stumbling into the stewardess.
2:10 p.m. We were on the ground and taxing to the gate. Ron and I exited quickly and made our way through customs. “Come, Watson,” I laughed. We kept throwing each other conspiratorial grins as we headed to the international arrival area, where I spotted Nigel.
“Darling.” Nigel caught me in a bear hug. I was not in a hugging mood. He looked over my shoulder at Ron. “Where’s your … friend? Didn’t she come?”
I stepped aside, enjoying the confusion registering on Nigel’s face. Ron was perfection even after almost nine hours in flight. His thick black hair, his shiny baby face and his action-figure posture seemed to set Nigel on edge. Good.
Introductions were hastily made. “This time I know exactly where the car is. Let’s hurry.” Nigel swept up my suitcase and we were running once again. We rushed through a mile of parking deck to what remained of Nigel’s car.
“What happened to your car?” I squeaked out the words, fighting for breath. The lovely sedan of my last visit now looked much like a crumpled old beer can. Part of the left front door rested on the left front seat. The hood of the car looked like a rhino had walked through it.
“Skip Lorrie backed into me while my car was parked at the office overnight,” Nigel answered while hefting our luggage into the trunk.
“My god, was he drunk?” I asked.
“Who?” Nigel asked.
“Skip Lorrie. Does he work for you?”
Nigel laughed an irresistible laugh. “A skip lorrie is what you would call a garbage truck.”
“Oh.” I tried to get a visual on what happened.
“Darling, if you would be so kind?” Nigel held open the driver’s door and beckoned me in.
“You want me to drive?”
“No, love, just climb over the console and the gear shift, there. See it? Careful. I can’t get the passenger door open. Just be a dear. There you go.”
I scrambled over the gear shift in my terrifically short skirt. The end of my jacket caught under my knee and I was frozen in mid-console facing the rear.
Ron sat quietly in the back seat. Our eyes locked. I shot him my most menacing look. He glanced away as I tumbled into the front passenger seat, fighting with my skirt.
Once at our hotel in Swiss Cottage, a suburb of London, the doormen were gracious enough to look the other way while Nigel stepped out, making way for me to exit his wounded car. “This could be dangerous,” I carped.
My gallant Brit got back in his car and scrunched down so that all but the top of his head was visible over the steering wheel. He was clearly afraid of being seen, but by whom?
4:30 p.m. Elizabeth was to meet me at my hotel at five for tea. I unpacked my small suitcase and studied the contents. What does one wear when meeting the cooperative wife of the single man who has been romancing you? I decided to look wholesome and perky in a gray skirt, black boots and a black turtleneck. I threw some powder on my face, dribbled red-out eye drops in my eyes, and slickered on pink lip gloss.
The combination tea room and lounge was just off the bank of elevators in the hotel lobby. I scanned the battle field. The tables were either empty or occupied with small groups of chatters. A gray haired woman sat across the room, near the exit. She looked like a tired fox. Now I felt really bad.
My boot heels clicked across the marble floor.
I sat, my knees knocking against themselves. I felt like I had stolen something from this woman.
Elizabeth measured me with her eyes. “I can see why Nigel is besotted with you. You have given him back his youth.”
She caught me off guard with her compliment.
Not waiting for me to answer, she continued. “Do you know I hid his passport before his trip to Miami? He was frantic. So I finally gave in.”
“In your fax you wrote to me that you and Nigel haven’t lived together for years. Why would you hide his passport? Why would you care?”
“I knew something was up with him,” she answered smugly. “I saw the photographs from your trip together. I asked about you. He said you were a business client.”
“If you didn’t care about him –”
“Even when the caring stops, the curiosity continues.” She reached down and pulled a hat, a fedora, from under her chair and popped it on her head. “Did you enjoy the Eiffel Tower? And the Sacre’Coure? You looked a tad bit distressed.”
“You followed us around Paris?”
“I was on assignment, following you both for someone.”
“Who?” I could think of at least two characters. I wanted to ask her if she had thrown the caviar at us, but if she hadn’t, why give her any extra information.
A waiter delivered a small silver teapot. “Shall I be mother?” Elizabeth asked as she lifted the pot to pour. She was a wacky vision pouring tea while wearing her fedora.
She continued, “You see there’s this frightful thing about Nigel. Even when you stop caring, you still care about beating him at his dodgy game. You become addicted to being right. It’s very attractive – being right. Isn’t it?”
I nodded weakly. “That’s why I’m here.”
“I know,” she said almost sympathetically and passed the plate of cookies.
I tried to collect my thoughts. “You have me very confused. First you fax me your marriage license, and then you tell me your marriage wasn’t annulled, and then you tell me it was. Nigel says it was a marriage of convenience. I don’t know what to think. But I will not be involved with a married man – so tell me, are you divorced, annulled or what?”
Elizabeth ignored my question. I wanted to strangle her.
“I found your clothes in his Coral Springs villa; he said they were his mother’s things.” I was curious how she would handle this information.
“His mother’s clothes in our bedroom?” She raised her nose an inch. “His mother’s never even been to the villa.”
Tit for tat. “The clothes were in the guest room.”
She gritted her teeth. “That sneaky devil. I was at the villa a few weeks ago. He must have moved my clothes after I left.”
I felt my throat tighten. “You were there? When?”
“I was there with Nigel for a week. I left on Monday, the 15th.”
“But that’s not possible. That’s the day I picked Nigel up from the airport and went to the villa with him. He had just arrived from London on February 15th. He got in around seven.”
“He didn’t fly into Miami that day, he was flying out. My flight left at supper time. He was leaving shortly after me on a flight to Prague,” she said.
“So that’s why he was out of breath. He didn’t want me to meet him at the gate...”
Elizabeth was quiet for a few seconds. “I know exactly what that bugger did and when he did it. I went over to the neighbors to say goodbye. I wanted to go back inside the house and grab my sweater. Nigel wouldn’t let me. He rushed me into the car. He must have moved all my clothes while I was at the neighbors.”
I did a quick visual in my mind of Nigel in his pinstripe suit racing back and forth, dumping his wife’s clothes in the second closet. It was a scene right out of a British comedy. A laugh began to rumble in the deepest parts of me. It was like a volcano, I couldn’t keep a lid on it.
Elizabeth turned the color of a micro-waved chicken. “He’s a Walter Mitty, that's what he is. I advise you to stay away from him,” she warned. “I can be a formidable enemy.”
I couldn’t stop laughing. Each time I thought I had it under control; I would burst out laughing again. The thought of Nigel in his pinstriped wool suit, sweat dropping from his thinning hair, racing back and forth with arm loads of tacky summer dresses just broke my funny bone.
Elizabeth smiled cunningly. “We were married in the U.S. The marriage was annulled in the U.S.” The wife who wasn’t a wife watched me, “Nigel is divorcing me.”
“Wait. Wait. I thought you said the marriage was annulled?”
“It was annulled in the U.S. but it was never annulled in England. So, as I said, Nigel is divorcing me in England, but he will take care of me. At my age one has to be practical. But I will have my revenge.” She fiddled with her butter knife.
“So your relationship with Nigel is over?” I asked.
She nodded. “Nigel and I were through a long time ago. I’m out of his life as long as he continues to provide for me. It’s you who should worry.”
She sipped her tea. I thought about this information. Perhaps she was just after his money?
Elizabeth got a sly look on her fox-like face. “How was the sex with Nigel? Was he good in bed?”
“How rude.” I pushed away from the table. I would have killed for a Xanax at that moment. “I cannot tell which one of you is the liar and so this tea party is over.”
Elizabeth rose quickly. I looked at her rigid frame. She was at least five feet ten inches and built like a quarterback. “What will you do?” She asked.
I gave her a blank look and plunked some notes onto the table to cover the check. I hoped my shaking legs could get me to the elevator and up to my room.
7:30 p.m. I lay on my hotel room bed licking my wounds. Ron lounged in the armchair looking like an ad for scotch. He’d spent the day wandering the antique shops on Portobello Road. One of us had had a good day.
“Watson, what am I to do with this mess?” I asked. Ron sipped his drink before he spoke. “Nigel lied to you. He appears to adore you; maybe he’s afraid that if he told you the truth he would lose you.”
“But he’s going to lose me anyway.”
“Maybe you want to drop the whole adventure right now. Go back and face Leslie and Marc Hare. Then again, maybe you want to give Nigel one last chance. Enjoy the game. I know you well enough to know that it will always bug you if you don’t follow this to its conclusion, whatever it is.”
“Elizabeth is somewhat frightening. She wore a fedora and insinuated she had followed us around Paris. She’s like the Mad Hatter.”
“Stop with the Alice in Wonderland resemblances. You’re making yourself crazy.”
It was as plain as the nose on his face, but he didn’t get it. I stopped talking to him.
Ron went back to his room and I curled up in a ball.
11:30 p.m. I slept lousy that night. I dreamed Nigel came through the airport gates dressed in drag. He would not tell me why he was in disguise but he made an ugly woman.
In my dream, we hailed a cab and arrived at Nigel’s house. There was a large gray horse inside. It clopped from room to room looking for me. I kept hiding from the animal, knowing it meant to harm me. I awoke during the night in a cold sweat. It had nothing to do with hormones.
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