Balconet bra, garters, six pairs of silk stockings. Sneakers sinking into zebra plush, Elise strode toward the Photoshopped breasts dominating Cachet’s rear wall.
She needed to know. The transaction had surfaced online, the day before their anniversary, Elise unable to recall when her husband last splurged on anything so romantic.
Of course Miles would know she knew. They had no secrets; they swapped toothbrushes and passwords. Still, she would act surprised; she practiced a pleased murmur for the moment.
The next evening, Miles set down his champagne and reached under the table. Moistening her lips, Elise leaned forward, only to sag at his offering: not Cachet’s signature chartreuse sack but a book, unmistakable in crisp Waverly wrapping.
Slitting the embossed seal with a nail, Elise examined the emerald volume. “Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book,” she read.
Miles caressed its marbled cover, his eyes shining like a puppy’s. “A bit of shelf wear, but otherwise, mint condition. I remembered.”
How dare he? That night, Elise scrubbed her teeth so vigorously her gums bled. Nineteen years, and this was how Miles viewed her? She rolled away, sickened by his deception, recoiling at the notion of a mystery woman rolling silk stockings—her stockings—over shapely calves.
The next day, the fraud specialist said a breach was possible: people were careless with PIN codes. Theirs was their anniversary.
Inside Cachet, votives illuminated nests of bras. Silky camisoles dangled from half-open drawers, like someone undressed in haste.
Rushing, Elise knocked over a cloud of v-strings. A black-clad clerk materialized, patting the panties back in place with gloved hands.
“May I help you?” Ruby lips offset her severe bun.
“Someone used my credit card here the other day.”
She would have been working, the clerk offered. What was purchased?
Elise recited her laundry list of lingerie.
“Ah, our Allure collection. It’s very popular.” She tapped her fire engine pout. “Six pairs of stockings, you say? I remember that sale.”
Sweat pooled inside Elise’s sports bra.
“Large woman, with a very fussy baby. In a big rush, as I recall.” Her voice dropped conspiratorially. “I thought, six pairs? Didn’t seem the type. But then, we never know, do we?”
“No. We really don’t.” Giddy, Elise clutched a column. There was no other woman. They’d been hacked! There’d been some moment when they’d dropped their guard. They would take more care in the future.
Elise was halfway to the exit when the clerk called after her, dangling a sheer bra. “Our Allure collection is on sale today. The balconet’s our best-seller.”
Balconet. Romeo and Juliet. Unrequited passion. Overhead, Photoshopped bosoms poured from a balconet.
Elise accepted the bra to try on. On a fitting room shelf, a chorus line of stockinged legs kicked skyward. Elise grabbed one by its satin-banded thigh and waved it. “Excuse me. What shade is this?”
The associate squinted. “Smokey midnight?”
Positioning the limb alongside her sweatpanted leg, she imagined Miles clasping its filmy calf, cupping the knee. “I’ll take six pair.”
About the author:
Patricia Donovan is a journalist who writes about healthcare. She recently completed her first novel, Deliver Her. Her fiction has been published at Page & Spine and will soon appear at The Bookends Review and Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.