Charm! Chapters 5-13
PREVIOUSLY in Charm!: Finn died; Marcus was a cad; Parker was a spoiled bitch; Avery grew up poor and unhappy and thinks about it all the time; Avery is intrigued by Brad, a handsome stranger; Avery receives a strange voicemail from a woman claiming to be her mother; the awesomeness and badness went up to eleven.
I was at Barnes and Noble the other day and Charm! is prominently featured in one of their displays. A woman who was browsing picked it up and said to her friend, "This girl is pretty!" and it took every single fiber of my being not to squeal and accost her and say "Ohmigod, it's the worst and simultaneously most BRILLIANT book I have read in AGES". Because it is!
Avery is not perfect--she doesn't rise early to work out, eat a sensible breakfast and go to work in a jolly mood. And on this particular morning, she overslept and is incredibly out of sorts and is having a horrifically bad hair day. She's still a little freaked out about the fact that a woman called claiming to be her mother, but shrugs it off as an over invested crazy doing the sort of thing that over invested crazies do. I, on the other hand, would be totally bugging about some nutbar claiming to be my mother and probably wouldn't be able to go to sleep at all, let alone sleep and then oversleep.
As she makes coffee, she daydreams about the kiss that she and Brad had and tries to get over it because you don't succeed in life when you go all gooey and lovestruck over a guy you spent half an hour with. Which does not bode well for me, a lot of my day is spent going gooey and lovestruck over Chace Crawford, who I do not even know. (aside: OMG! New episodes of Gossip Girl may be ready in APRIL!) I am never going to succeed in life!
When she leaves for work, she finds Marcus and curses his handsomeness. He's charming and sincere and she's giving him the proverbial hand, because the face isn't listening, and she starts to walk away. He tries to apologize by saying that he's been busy at work and he needed to have some fun. She counters that there are other ways to have fun besides getting trashed and sleeping around. He's all "I did it! And by admitting it, you can't be mad at me anymore" and says that he knows it will hard, but he'll get her trust back. She asks if his escapades were due to the fact that he was mad at her and he says "I hadn't thought of that but, yeah, well, probably. You've been so damn busy. It's like, if she's so into me, what gives?"
That Neanderthal logic brings out the drama queen in Avery and she says, "What gives? My future gives, that's what gives. This is make-or-break time for Flair, you know that. Couldn't you just bear with me for a little while? You bastard!" (p. 27) Melodramatically saying "You bastard!" will never not make me positively gleeful. Like, when the fax machine gets jammed up? Kick it and say "You bastard!" and you'll feel much better.
He's still trying the whole, "If I agree with you thing and show that I think you're right, it will be easier for you to stop being angry with me" thing and when she starts to leave for her train, he tries the last desperate move in his arsenal, shouting after her that he loves her.
Avery hesitates before finally saying that more than words is all you have to do to make things real, then he wouldn't have to say that he loves her because she'd already know. Girl power!
Justin and Avery do official Flair work and rejoice over the fact that Parker is out at her home in the Hollywood Hills, partying with slebs and rich people.
A deliveryman comes in with exotic flowers for Avery...from Brad...his third bouquet in three days. Justin thinks it's a sign that he likes her, but I think it's vaguely stalkerish. Also, I am opposed to flowers and plants on principle, because I have a black thumb and kill every plant that I touch.
Justin tells Avery, "By the way, Brad is from an old New York family" (p. 30), as if people ever start out sentences that way and like Avery wouldn't have googled the person sending her multiple bouquets of flowers. Avery's kind of dim.
They talk shop about meeting with a perfumer in New Jersey (why do I feel like there is a New Jersey joke just begging to be made? Just kidding, NJ, I love you...except for Seaside Heights. Seaside knows what it did) before Avery's assistant, Genevieve, buzzes in on the intercom to say that Parker's on the line. Avery contemplates not taking the call, but Justin points out that Parker will just call nonstop until Avery does talk to her, so she reluctantly picks up.
Parker is completely manic and babbles about how she and Paris Hilton are, like, BFF and have this really great spiritual connection and they bond over the fact that being young, rich and arguably hot doesn't make you happy. She mentions something about crying when it's sunny in the morning that is either a complete non sequitir or a clue that she is suffering from bipolar disorder. Anyway, she and Ms. Hilton came up with the best name for a fragrance ever while they were hanging out in the VIP lounge at a club called Zoom (...of course the club was called Zoom) and they decided on Orgasm. Um, name's already taken by the best blush ever, Parker! Duh!
Avery placates her by telling her that she'll think about it and as soon as she hangs up, she and Justin are like "..." and calling it a train wreck. They worry that she'll do immense damage to the Flair brand if she keeps drinking and whoring around town, but move on to discussing Paris. As in, going to the city of Paris to visit fancy perfumers, especially Henri Bihary, who is the king of fragrance.
Avery hems and haws for a minute about whether or not she should spend time away from Flair. Justin tells her that she needs to do it, needs to see the world and take a break, because she's been through a lot. This, of course, sends Avery on a mental shame spiral about how sad her childhood was.
Genevieve, we learn is in her early 60s, comes in to announce that the actress Patricia Lucas is there to see Avery. Patricia Lucas is an early 80s movie star who once got an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress but is now doing a few guest spots on tv shows. I'm assuming that means, like, murderess of the week on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, joining an illustrious club including every actress in the western world.
Avery has no idea what a washed up actress would want with her, so she has Genevieve send her in. Patricia enters, looking tired and lovely. She becomes emotional when Avery says she's a big fan, and then starts crying because she's been waiting a very long time for this moment. Everyone dreams of a moment when you get to meet the founder of an up and coming cosmetics company...oh, wait, it turns out that PATRICIA IS AVERY'S MOTHER. Dun dun dun!
Who Says These Things? "She was blond and delicate, and Avery had always found her winsome vulnerability appealing" (p. 32)
Avery goes blank and pale and Patricia implores her not to have a heart attack. When she recovers, her first reaction is to ask if this is a joke, which...what kind of a joke would that be? Do Oscar nominated actresses often go around claiming to be random people's biological mothers? Wait...I just remembered that Sally Kirkland exists and it's entirely possible that she'd do something like that, so never mind.
Avery takes a good look at Patricia and remembers her adoptive mother, Jackie Wilkins. Avery's image is of a woman with a puffy face, cheap makeup, smelling sour and wearing a dingy bathrobe for days on end. Grim though that may be, Avery becomes very loyal to Jackie all of a sudden and gets annoyed that Patricia Lucas would just waltz in here and drop this bomb.
Avery stands and goes to the window before telling Patricia that she doesn't believe her. Patricia is all zen, like, "It's fine, I understand why you feel that way". Avery then notices that Patricia also has green eyes, just like her, but writes it off as a coincidence.
Avery asks why she's telling her this now, and Patricia says she wants to get to know Avery. Avery, for her part, never even knew that she was adopted. Patricia offers to take a DNA test to prove it. She thought about her all through the years, hoping that she was doing okay and says, "Look at you, my precious baby girl. I just hope that someday you'll be able to forgive me". She's in New York, renting an apartment, hoping to get some theater work. Then she runs over, bursts into tears, and grabs Avery in a bear hug, which would freak me out. Avery is a little overwhelmed and thinks it doesn't feel real. I think that might be an instance of FORESHADOWING.
Patricia says she'd like to continue this conversation, and invites Avery to go to the Cloisters with her for lunch on Saturday and she'll give her all the details.
In Romance Novels, Eyes Are Never Just One Color: "...green eyes, lightly flecked with amber" (p. 35)
Um, If You Didn't Know This Was A Mother/Daughter Conversation, You Could Be Really Creeped Out By It: "Oh, my baby, my baby girl...I've been wanting to do this since the second I walked into this room, to hold you, touch you...you feel so good..." (p. 36)
Avery can't sleep, what with the whole being adopted bombshell. She's going to have to rethink all of the things she's thought about herself, about the legacy of poor people she came from and that she was the first in her family to make something of herself. If her mother is an actress, it's like she's a different person entirely.
Then she feels loyal to Frank and Jackie Wilkins again, but doesn't know why, since Frank was abusive to his wife and daughter before he abandoned them and moved to Texas, where he now lives in a trailer, surviving on disability checks.
[I am just going to interject here briefly--seriously! Briefly!--and wonder why the ABC Daytime family has such a fucked up view of adoption? I just want to tell them that there are some people given up for adoption who wind up in happy families]
Jackie wasn't as vile as her husband, but she was damaged and not prepared to be a mother...to a child that she apparently adopted. 'Kay. She became self destructive after Frank left and became a drinker, a druggie and a prostitute. Just thinking about her past makes Avery sick, and Finn was the only person she could ever confide in about it.
Avery remembers her mother's outbursts and how she'd sit on the floor, waiting until her mother would stop crying long enough to ask her child to fetch her a beer.
One day, though, when Avery was 9, her mother broke her leg and was in the hospital for three days, the longest she'd been sober in a long time. Avery, aged 9, spent the three days cleaning, putting chicken pot pie in the freezer (!!! It's not clear if she made the chicken pot pie herself or bought it. If she made it at age 9, then that makes me feel really bad about myself and my own prowess in the kitchen). When her mother finally came home, her mother said, "Get out, sweet baby, get the hell out of this crummy town. You're too good for all this, get out and never look back". And then she got reacquainted with Jack Daniel.
Overwhelmed with sadness, Avery bites the bullet and calls her father. Her father is vile and sarcastic. He asks if Jackie died and, if not, what the hell Avery could possibly want with him. She point blank asks if she's adopted.
First, he says it's not true and then he hesitates and asks why she wants to know all of this now. He accuses the woman who told Avery about the adoption is "just some tramp who got knocked up", which...doesn't even make sense. He then tries to ask how Avery's doing and accuses her of always wanting something from him. I'm so sure. Then he just admits it and confirms that she was adopted and tells her to leave him alone.
Once he hangs up, she gives up on the idea of sleeping and her mind races. She thinks it makes sense that she was adopted because she never felt like she belonged with them. Does any child or teenager ever feel like they belong with their family? But I digress. She is trying to wrap her mind around the fact that her biological mother is classy and talented.
...but what is Patricia really like? Could this be more foreshadowing? I wonder!
A Downward Spiral Described in Under 50 Words That Could Also Be In A Country Song or The Basis for a Lifetime Moment of Truth Film: "All that booze, all those pills, all those men, so many men, a different man every night, the sounds of the creaking sofa, the low moans, the slaps, the filthy words, the twenty-dollar bills that would appear in the morning"
Avery and Brad dine at Chez Henri in the meat-packing district, which is ultra hip.
Brad asks Avery to tell him more about her childhood over the salad course. She gives her canned answer of boring, middle-class life with braces and boys. Brad says he thinks she was probably adorable in braces. He's an awful flirt.
She turns the tables on him and asks what his childhood was like as an aristocrat. She assumes that it involved other aristocrats and Nantucket, but he corrects her and says it was mostly about booze and snobbiness, though she was right about Nantucket.
They banter and he says he gets the feeling that she's holding something back, and worries that he wouldn't want anything to do with her if he knew the truth. She wonders if he's projecting and he admits that he has had two failed marriages. The first was a starter marriage and his first wife wanted to ski and ride horses, but he wanted the bright lights of a big city. The second marriage ended in an ugly way, and his face darkened when Avery asked for details about it.
They are connecting on every level and Avery feels comfortable enough to tell him that she's adopted. He thinks it's not that big a deal. She tells him about Patricia Lucas, and he asks how she feels about it. She admits that it's a bit of a rollercoaster.
An acquaintance of Brad's comes up to the table. When Brad notices him, he looks surprised, but recovers quickly. He introduces Avery to Josh Marshall, who asks when Brad came back from Seattle (6 months ago). John is happy that the unpleasantness is behind Brad and remarks that he's been under the radar since his return to New York. Brad says he's been busy, but there's an obvious edge to his voice.
Avery is surprised that Brad lived in Seattle and, when she mentions this to him, he avoids eye contact and says that he lived there for five years and it was the site of his ugly second divorce. His tone of voice tells Avery not to continue that line of conversation.
She asks about Josh, who attended Princeton with Brad. They played poker in the dorms and Josh has kept the tradition alive. Brad says he's never had a good poker face, but Avery isn't so sure about that.
This is What Happens When Soulmates Dine Together: "There was a pause and the restaurant seemed to recede around them. Their table became an intimate space. It was just the two of them, a man and a woman who realized that they clicked" (p. 43)
On a beautiful spring day, Avery takes the subway to the Cloisters to meet Patricia Lucas. She's unsure of how to feel; she wants to be open-minded, but feels like Patricia abandoned her. When Patricia was rich and famous, Avery had problems paying for school lunch. Did she really want to connect with Avery, or was there an ulterior motive?
Patricia is waiting on the front steps wearing cream colored slacks (I hate the word slacks) and a silk blouse. She looks nervous and like she can't relax.
They exchange pleasant good mornings and a kiss on the cheek. They're cordial, but wary of each other.
As they walk, Patricia tells Avery that she's always loved the Cloisters and that art puts us in touch with the best within us.
They go to a gallery to look at a tapestry depicting a unicorn hunt. Patricia is hushed and reverent when she describes it to Avery, but cynical Avery thinks it's a bit dramatic, like there should be a camera capturing every moment.
Avery asks to keep talking and they walk and talk. Patricia was from northern California and moved to LA the day after high school graduation; Avery, coincidentally, moved to New York the day after her graduation. Patricia is an only child from a conservative family. Her mother was a homemaker, her father was an insurance agent and they went to church on Sundays, had dinner together every night. When she relocated to Los Angeles, she went a little wild with the free love thing.
She remembers the day that she found out she was pregnant. It was hot, and she felt like she was being punished for her promiscuity. She has no idea who Avery's father is, which saddens Avery.
Two middle-aged women approach and tell Patricia what fans they are of her. She turns on the charm and Avery wonders if they would still love her if they knew she was a wild child who, sigh, "abandoned" her daughter. I don't think Avery's so up to the minute on what celebrities are really like...
While the women keep gushing over how pretty Patricia is, Avery gets a feeling of pride that her mother was a talented actress. They ask if she has any movies coming up, which irritates her, and she says that she's in talks with directors who want her to perform on stage. She then introduces them to Avery, saying that Avery is her daughter who will one day be more famous than dear old mom.
The women beam at Avery, who drinks in the attention, now knowing what it's like to get instant acceptance from people. They ask if she acts, too, and she tells them about Flair. The women compliment the Flair lipstick, and Avery is proud that Patricia is overhearing this.
The women depart, calling their friends on their cells immediately.
Patricia sighs after them about how intrusive they were and tells Avery that they're a great mother/daughter duo. Avery's not so sure she's ready to think of her as her mother and still has doubts about how trustworthy she is. She asks Patricia to continue telling the story of her birth.
Patricia was a waitress at the time and wanted to experience life and see the world, and not be tied to a child. She had no attachment to her baby and was completely unprepared to be a mother. Avery is hurt about being referred to as a burden. Patricia says she needs to be honest. She considered having an abortion like her friends told her to, but she was too scared of the operation to go through with it since she heard a lot of horror stories of botched abortions. She then tells Avery, and I quote, "I can't tell you how good it feels to finally be telling you this" (p.50). What kind of fuckery is that?
She continues that one of her friends was from Pennsylvania and that her aunt and uncle helped girls in similar predicaments. She'd go there, have the baby and they'd help put the baby up for adoption. She admits that she feels guilty, and Avery thinks that she should. After she started to show, she moved to Wilkes-Barre. The aunt and uncle were very religious and disapproved of Patricia's situation, and wanted her to suffer for her sins. She just wanted it to all be done and go back to her career. She gave birth in a Catholic hospital, she got to hold Avery once and then they took her away.
She tears up, and Avery still feels like she's watching her act and feels slighted that Patricia didn't ask about her childhood, her parents and anything else about her life.
Patricia went back to LA and went back to work. She lights a cigarette and tells Avery that she doesn't smoke. Avery is numb.
Then, Patricia tells her that she has a sister, from Patricia's second marriage. Her name is Lucy and she lives in Brooklyn. Avery is completely stoked. Patricia gives her Lucy's phone number and asks if Avery is feeling better about the situation. Avery still has more questions than Patricia had answers.
What The Hell Is With the Life = Food Metaphor? And Also, This Sentence is Eight Shades of Ew: "I wanted to bite into life, experience it. It was a wild time, the seventies. There was a sexual revolution going on. I signed up for duty." (p. 47)
I Really Hope It Turns Out that Patricia Lucas Is Shady, Because The Alternative Is That Kendall Has No Idea How Humans Speak In Casual Conversation: "In retrospect, I'd say we were pretending there were no consequences to our actions. At the time we told ourselves we were breaking boundaries, being free, having fun" (p. 47)
Avery is working hard and Justin walks in to tell her he arranged a meeting with Henri Bihary, the perfumer in Paris. She's thrilled. They discuss how exciting this is for a really long time.
Avery is looking forward to the trip to take her mind off of Patricia, who she seriously thinks is manipulative. She wonders why Patricia is telling her this now and what she wants from her. Um, lipstick?
Her phone rings and her sister Lucy is on the other line. Avery is thrilled to be hearing someone say "your sister". She had always wanted a sister to play with and to help stand up to her father and take care of her mother. She isn't going to hold Patricia's machinations against Lucy.
They laugh over how awkward this conversation is and agree that they really want to meet each other. Avery asks if Lucy can meet her at the Flair office at 8:00, which she can. When they hang up, Avery is excited about the dinner, wondering what her sister looked like. She can't wait to celebrate the holidays with a real family. She contemplates skipping around the office telling everyone she has a sister, but decides against it.
Avery and Justin are meeting with a photographer about their perfume campaign and wait for him to finish his shoot that involves golden lab puppies, puppies that are
"Rowdy, clumsy, utterly adorable. She knelt down and was engulfed in puppy love: soft, wet, warm, unconditional" (p. 56)
The photographer, Marc Tanner, is one of the most successful in the city. He apparently has "the ability to envision and articulate an overall look and style for a product" which is, I guess, an outstanding skill and not, like, the point of his job. He's working quickly and Avery notes that he's tall and gorgeous.
When he's finished with the puppies, he leads Avery and Justin upstairs, where they admire the photos of celebrities that he's shot. He asks about the perfume, and she tells him that they're going to Paris next week and still don't have a name...a look...or a copy. She says she wants it to be sensual and romantic, not sexual.
He says she wants something defining, that will stick with consumers. She confirms this and says the perfume is aimed at young women, will be reasonably priced and when he suggest rain, he is interrupted by a dissenting voice--Parker, who says that the perfume should be flashy and sexy.
Parker is dressed in a conservative navy suit, with minimal makeup and glasses. Avery is fuming at what is an obvious act and asks to speak to her in the hall.
Parker defends herself and says she'd like to have input in her own company and is upset that Avery didn't tell her about the meeting. Avery says she knew Parker wouldn't do anything but make tacky suggestions.
Avery inwardly fumes about Parker's power play. She says that Flair is her baby and she's in charge. Parker snots that she's not. Avery calls her a brat and Parker reminds her that she owns fifty one percent of the company. Avery suggests that Parker buy her out, and tells her that if she does, she'll ruin it. Parker's bravado is gone and she gently tells Avery that she wants to be a part of things, to be taken seriously and to be an adult. She's sober, going to meetings and turning her back on the hard partying lifestyle.
As Parker cries, Avery softens for a second when she sees the resemblance Parker has to Finn, and remembers how much Finn loved his daughter. Because she loved Finn, she decides to give Parker another shot.
Parker apologizes for her brattiness and tells Avery that she's by herself--she and her mom don't talk, her dad is dead and everybody thinks that her life is perfect just because she's rich. She tells Avery that she's jealous of her, for having drive and passion. Avery says that she and Parker can both go back to the meeting and start over.
The rest of the meeting with Marc went well, and they came up with a concept: scent is a pathway to the heart. Um, vom. Parker was well behaved and Avery reminds herself that she owes it to Finn to give Parker a second chance.
Avery goes to look out the window at the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The view from her office gives her a rush of adrenaline. She needs a ton of energy to deal with the perfume and running Flair, and really needs an assistant. She starts getting stressed out about the tasks she has on her plate and thinks of Marcus and what he was like in bed. O...kay.
A woman's voice interrupts her reminiscing, and she turns to see a young woman there. She's in her early twenties, very chubby (!!! 62 pages in and we meet a non stick-thin character), brown hair, plain face and green eyes.
They hug and laugh and Lucy tells Avery, embarrassed, how pretty she is. Avery tells her sister that she's adorable. She notes how self conscious Lucy seems about herself, what with her ill-fitting dress and general insecurity.
Avery notes that Lucy seems very well spoken and highly educated, which makes her proud. She feels like she's more than the girl from the wrong side of the tracks now.
Lucy is majorly impressed by Avery's stylish office. Avery tells her that she keeps her own salary very low for now, but when the company takes off, she'll be rich. She apparently founded the company in her kitchen. Where have I heard that before?
Lucy was the president of her college's French Club. They smile at each other. Avery gives her a tour of Flair, where the warehouse space is open and the employees personalize their work spaces. There are meeting rooms, labs, offices, a kitchen, a gym and a day car center. Avery says that this helps attract the top talent. Lucy mentions reading about Flair on line and what a great place it is supposed to be to work and tells Avery that she's proud of her. This makes Avery completely verklempt.
Lucy has a million questions about Flair and Avery enjoys how sweet and enthusiastic she seems, especially in comparison to their mother.
Will we learn Brad's deep dark secret? Is Lucy adorably clueless or does she have a dark side? Will Patricia Lucas not be a phony bitch for three minutes? Will adoption ever be treated as something positive and not the biggest crime against humanity since Tyra Banks's CD? Stay tuned!