Charm! Chapters 14-24
I am the worst person ever, dear readers, because I have gotten HUGELY behind in my Charm! recapping duties. Depriving you of the saga of Avery & Co. for so long is just cruel. Things just got so insane, what with the whole "Diego is the TMK on GH" thing and the "Stripper Pole at Fusion on AMC That I am SO Writing About Soon" thing and the "Javier Bardem is totally sexy" thing. Please forgive me.
When we last left our fair heroine, she was having dinner with newly discovered sister Lucy and dealing with the fallout of her discovery that her birth mother is Patricia Lucas, a once famous actress who only gave birth to A. because she was afraid of having a botched abortion and mulling over the idea of dating the mysterious Brad Henry who seems to have a shady past.
Lucy and Avery dine at a fashionable restaurant near Lincoln Center, specifically chosen because Avery thought Lucy would like the "seen and be seen" factor there. They dine on salad, pasta and white wine. They make a toast to sisterhood and Avery asks Lucy to spill the details of her life.
Lucy's life, thus far, has been boring: her parents divorced and both remarried before she was in high school, then her mother married again before she went to college and, finally, she wound up in New York. Her father was a movie producer who turned his back on Hollywood and moved to Costa Rica with his second wife to run an eco-resort.
She grew up in Beverly Hills and, coincidentally, went to the same school as Parker, though Parker was a few years older. They have a good laugh about Parker's wild child ways. Avery asks about Patricia, and Lucy wonders if she's ever going to call her "Mom". Avery points out that she's only known her for a few days and really wants to know what Patricia is like as a mother. Lucy says that actresses don't work so well as mothers; Patricia was, obviously, self-absorbed and didn't pay her daughter much attention and Lucy would up being very lonely. Avery pities her sister for being "overweight and a little clumsy".
Patricia would fall in love and run away, returning with a new husband. Her second husband was creepy, but he was rich enough to balance out the fact that Patricia's career was on a downward spiral, and her third husband was a very sweet cinematographer who eventually left, and Patricia never really got over it.
Avery wonders if Patricia ever mentioned her and is disappointed to hear that she did not. Lucy tries to make her feel better by telling her that when Patricia finally did tell her about the older daughter she gave up for adoption, she said that she felt guilty and empty without Avery, and Avery is happy to hear that Patricia feels guilty.
Lucy asks how Avery feels about their mother, and Avery non-answers that she's glad she knows the truth and still needs some time to sort out her feelings. She tells Lucy the sanitized version of her life story (middle class, only child, nothing fun), but feels badly about not being able to tell her sister the whole truth. She feels ashamed about her past again some more, because I don't think that point was driven home yet, despite being mentioned in every chapter.
Lucy says that Avery is making up for her boring childhood with such a glam job. Avery says that her job requires a lot of hard work.
They make a toast to Avery's amazingness and Lucy says she wishes Avery wasn't so pretty. Avery, who is kind of an asshole sometimes, says that Lucy is "very attractive" and thinks to herself that "when the time was right, Avery would make some suggestions on Lucy's wardrobe, treat her to a gym membership and teach her a few makeup tips". (p. 68)
But for now, Lucy is just an ugly, poorly dressed behemoth living in Williamsburg with two friends she went to Middlebury with. She hints that she's looking for a job, and Avery offers her an assistant position, but warns her that she's going to have to earn the right to keep it.
After Lucy boards the subway to head back home, Avery wanders around, being jealous of all the couples walking around being all pretty and happy and in love. She feels hugely lonely and wonders, "What good was it all--success, work, even a brand-new sister--if she didn't have someone to share it with?" (p. 70). Oh, Avery, how 1950s of you. What would the Spice Girls say about that attitude?!
Because she is an idiot, Avery calls Marcus (!!!) and makes sure to sound quiet and vulnerable, "hoping he would hear her need". He hesitates and asks where she is, what she's doing and finally, pathetically, she's like, "Dude, I am lonely, can you please invite me over?" and he's so enthused that he responds, "Yeah, okay, sure".
Fifteen minutes later, she's in the elevator up to his townhouse. He greets her, wearing low rise jeans and a wrinkled Oxford shirt, looking tired. They make out, but she wants to be held and loved and coddled first.
In his definitive bachelor pad (leather couches, ginormous TV, messy), Avery spies an empty champagne bottle with two glasses next to it. He apologizes for the mess and says he's been busy working on a piece about a serial killer on Staten Island. I, personally, think that one should avoid talking about serial killers (and Staten Island) on dates/booty calls, but Marcus obviously knows what he's doing, because he gets a lot of play in spite of his morbid conversation topics.
She declines his offer of wine and goes into the bedroom, wondering if the pillows smell like perfume, or if it's just his soap. Paranoia!
Marcus says, in what I am assuming is an attempt at being seductive, "You do need some loving, don't you?" She does.
Instantly, they are both naked and having sex. She feels like he's distracted and that his heart's not really in it, but she keeps going any way.
While she has sex with Marcus, she remembers that when she was younger, she had to learn how to turn pain into strength and that selfishness is sometimes necessary. Which...okay.
What's the Opposite of Sexy?
"Marcus kissed her neck, her breasts, worked his way slowly down her body with his lips and tongue. Avery felt her skin flush with desire"
"Yes, his lips were warm, his tongue exciting..."
"Avery felt a tremor of want ripple through her body...she opened herself up to Marcus, reached down and guided his lips to the heart of her want, arched her back and gave herself over to pure obliterating sensation"
SUDDENLY, Avery and Justin are in Paris and she is overwhelmed with how gorgeous it is and they decide to go frolic amongst cafes and geraniums. So they skip around and marvel at children in shorts who are sailing boats on a pond and see the Pere Lachaise Cemetery and Oscar Wilde's grave and walk by shops and cafes and spy the Eiffel Tower. The person who wrote this book has obviously never been to Paris and just cobbled this all together from watching movies. The only thing missing was someone in a chic red and white striped shirt holding a bag that has a baguette sticking out of the top.
They go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and Avery is overcome and Justin remarks that he has never seen her so happy and gives her props for getting through her struggles without pitying herself at all. He then tells her about his boyfriend, Neal, who went to Paris with him a month before he died. They had been together for ten years and Neal's wish was to see Paris again before he died, and when they returned to the US, Neal went into a coma and soon died.
Avery is touched that Justin confided in her and his remembrance of Neal makes her remember Finn, which she hadn't done in like, two whole chapters.
Paris, much like Disney world, is the happiest place on earth. Avery and Justin have breakfast "surrounded by birdsong and the intoxicating smells of fresh baked bread, strong coffee and flowering mimosa and jasmine" (p. 77).
They eat croissants and sniff marmalade. Before they meet with master perfumer Henri Bihary, they are going to go to a perfume shop. It's very quaint and old fashioned and pretty. Avery sniffs a perfume called Les Fleurs Secrete, with is their most popular, and contains rose, jasmine, lavender and bergamot.
The shop is lined with letters from customers from Countesses and maharajahs and actresses, thanking the shop for the most beautiful perfumes ever. Avery wonders if these perfumes are too old fashioned for the Flair customer, but, coincidentally, a very young,very pretty, very famous movie star waltzes in at that exact moment to buy a bottle of Les Fleurs Secrete. Take that, Avery!
They then go to meet Henri Bihary to make perfume. Justin leaves Avery alone, and she and Bihary have tea and have an impromptu history lesson about Egyptian priests and Moses and Jews and deer, and he has Avery sniff a bunch of different scents and I'm sorry, I just can't bring myself to recap these pages because they are soul crushingly boring. How is it possible that the topic of pretty perfume could bore me so? I don't know, but it does.
Avery is happy to work and not focus on Patricia and Marcus, but she does have a pang of missing Finn.
Avery leaves Bihary's tired and happy, but almost immediately becomes lonely. She realizes that she should be happy to be a strong, independent woman, but really wants somebody to share her success with her. At the Seine, she stares for a while before she is approached by a man, who calls her by her name.
It turns out that BRAD is in PARIS at the same time as her, wearing courdoroy pants and a blazer! She asks what he's doing and he offers to fill her in if she comes on a walk with him. Now, see...maybe I am just a guarded, reserved person, but...that's weird. Anyway, they walk and look at mansions and he asks how Paris is treating her and she turns the tables and ask what he's doing in Paris and he says:
"Actually, I followed a woman here. She's a very special woman, and even though we don't know each other all that well, I couldn't help thinking about her, wanting to be with her. And so I hopped on a plane, went to her hotel, was informed by her colleague of her likely route home...and here I am" (p. 88)
I...find that to be creepy. Very creepy. I just don't know what I would do if someone FLEW TO ANOTHER CONTINENT just to see me. Besides scream, use a nearby potted plant as a weapon and get a restraining order.
But Avery is not creeped out and, in fact, "[feels] her heart opening like a morning rose". Then they kiss.
They hold hands and walk some more and find themselves at Brad's favorite French restaurant. It's cozy and nice, and they have white whine and salmon tartare and Avery feels safe and happy and protected. It's almost how she felt when she was with Finn. This makes her so content that she takes her shoes off. Whatever floats her boat, I guess.
She fills Brad in on her afternoon with Henri Bihary and he's interested enough to ask her what notes she picked and she rambles for a long, long while about vanilla and white cedar and amber blossom and then apologizes for being a boring conversation monopolizer. Apology accepted, Avery. Brad compliments her on her manners and notes that she was raised right. This, naturally, leads to one of Avery's mental shame spirals about how she learned all she knows from watching movies and television, and she is saying this like 95% of the population doesn't learn about social interaction from the movies. I learned about what boys like from Cher's helpful lessons in Clueless (example: show a little skin. This reminds boys of being naked, and then they think of sex. Foolproof! Thank you, Cher Horowitz).
Avery asks Brad about what cologne he wears and their scintillating conversation is interrupted by Avery's phone, with Lucy on the other end, saying that Allure wants to know about the new fragrance. Avery says to keep everything hush hush and Lucy is disappointed for 2.2 seconds before telling Avery that she met "a fella". You know how I was down on Avery for looking down at Lucy for being loserish? I take it all back, because the unironic use of "fella" hints at some sort of severe emotional defect. His name is Karl and Lucy thinks he really likes her. Avery, ever supportive, thinks that her sister is obviously inexperienced with men. She pretends to be interested and then Lucy hangs up, after saying, "Miss you, sis".
Brad asks some more about Avery's perfume and then they realize that they didn't order. Whilst looking at their menus, they flirt about smelling Avery's perfume back in Brad's hotel room. I'm assuming those are euphemisms, but with these two you can't be sure.
Avery finally decides what she wants to order--a taxi. Saucy!
O...kay: "Oh, Brad, it was such an amazing experience. Making a perfume is like making a symphony, only you use scents instead of notes" (p. 89)
Brad and Avery make their way back to Paris's most gorgeous hotel, Hotel de Crillon, once a private palace. It's gorgeous and regal and majestic and Avery tries her best to act as though she, too, is upper crust and fits in with the other guests. Brad's room is on the top floor and they make their way upstairs through the opulent hotel and, again, Avery feels like a fraud because she's not actually rich, she's a poor girl from Wilkes-Barre and she gets scared and it's the EXACT SAME THOUGHT she's had on every other page in the book thus far.
In Brad's room, Avery starts to feel insecure and nervous. Marcus was the only person she slept with after Finn and now she's nervous about the sexy, dashing Brad...sexily dashing her.
Brad pours them each a glass of champagne, which Avery nearly chokes on. He tries to make her feel comfortable by asking her about the perfume and she's happy to fill him in, in great detail and he asks if he can smell it on her. When she puts it on, she feels instantly sexy and he tells her he enjoys it.
He offers to order room service, and they are soon interrupted by a maid bringing towels. She drops one and freaks out in shame and Brad picks it up and folds it for her, a gesture which makes Avery feel safe.
Brad and Avery then sit on the couch, and she thanks him for the perfection of the evening. They kiss and she feels comfortable enough to forget about the rest of the world.
Really, If A Man Followed Me To Europe and Then Described Perfume Like This, I'd Run Away, Fast, Before I Became A Body In His Perfume Scented Freezer: "It's soft and subtle, full of secrets and dark longing. It's seductive in its shy, sweet way" (p.95)
Post-sexing, Avery feels happy and fulfilled, and also tired. It's similar to how she felt with Finn, and she wonders if she found love again. They talk about how her seductive perfume works and then they laughed happily. Brad then runs a glitzy bubble bath for Avery. Before she gets in, she calls Justin to check in. He is happy that she had a good night, but he seems to be hiding something. When pressed, he admits that there is a big problem. Dun dun dun!
Avery is bugging, even before learning what the problem was. Parker tried to kill herself, taking pills and slitting her wrists. She's in critical condition. Avery is concerned, thinking of how Finn would feel about it, were he not fish food in the Caribbean. Justin says that he's worried about Parker, except not really, because it could ruin Flair and nobody wants that.
Avery is apparently Parker's person, as Parker's doctor called her as the emergency contact, and then called Justin once they couldn't get in touch with Avery. Parker had been out "drinking and drugging with some hip hop star" and can I just say that "drinking and drugging" is so something that my father would say? Anyway, the hip hopper didn't take Parker home and, in fact, left with someone else, which made Parker try to commit suicide.
Avery is still concerned, but Justin is in business mode and says it could ruin Flair, and that the company is so young that it may not withstand such a scandal. Avery says she won't let Parker ruin their company, but that she owes to to Finn to help her, and Justin is like "I know what kind of a 'chance' Finn gave you". Avery thanks him for not blabbing, but says that keeping Parker happy is the best thing for Flair. They are going to head back to New York immediately and Justin has already booked a flight for the morning. He tells her that all she can do right now is relax. She hangs up the phone and thinks of Finn and his love for his daughter.
Avery fills Brad in on the details of Parker's suicide attempt. He offers to hire a private jet, but she declines. He gets her room service instead and orders her an omelet and salad. He says he's sorry that this happened, and she feels happy that they are in this together. Which...they aren't but whatever, I guess if a man stalks you halfway across the world, you need to convince yourself that you're close, lest you die of creeped outedness.
Brad gives Avery a foot rub and apologizes for his trip to Moscow, since that means he won't be able to go to New York with her. This depresses her. Moscow ruins everything! He asks her if she wants to talk about Parker, and she says she doesn't want to burden him. He says he's happy to listen to whatever she has to say, which he proved by listening to her yammer on endlessly about her perfume, and she launches into the story, telling him that she was close to Parker's father. VERY close. He financed Flair, yadda yadda, died, yadda yadda, she needs to watch out for Parker because Parker is a moron, yadda yadda, and she owns 51% of the company and can be self destructive, which is bad. Avery tells Brad how manipulative Parker is, pointing out that she, not a friend or family member, was Parker's emergency contact. Brad doesn't get why she's so angry about this. Avery turns her phone back on and gets two voicemails, one from the hospital and one from Parker. Brad asks if he can hear it, and Avery puts it on speaker.
Parker's message is slurred and rambly:
"I've been a bad girl, Avery, I had some drinks and some pills and stuff and now the sun is coming up and I'm so lonely. I'm a totally worthless fuckup, Avery, and I hate myself, I hate myself so much...but don't worry Avery, I won't bother you anymore. I won't bother anyone anymore...I want you to know something...I love you, I mean it, I love you, so please please please don't hate me, I can prove how much I love you, Avery...I changed my will, I'm leaving you my share of Flair, it's all yours now, Avery, everything is yours...I know this is what Daddy would have wanted".
Then the phone DIES. Dramatic!
Back in New York, Ms. Wilkins is feeling conflicting emotions as she rides the elevator at New York Hospital. Part of her is touched that Parker changed her will, part of her wants to please Finn and take care of his daughter, part of her wants a sober and healthy Parker to make Flair great and part of her is hella pissed because Parker called 911 herself, and Avery thinks that the entire suicide attempt was a ploy to get attention. All of this on top of jet lag! Woe is Avery.
When the elevator door opens, Marcus is standing there. They are surprised to see each other. She feels like she needs to tell Marcus about Brad. Just because he whored around behind her back doesn't mean she should do the same to him and maybe it was time to break things off with Marcus for real.
She asks after Parker, who Marcus said is doing poorly, and she reminisces about how Marcus showed her all around New York and took her to galleries, Carnegie Hall and baseball parks, and he was always kind about it. This makes her sad.
Marcus asks to talk to her, and they went to a waiting area and Marcus admits that he's sorry that his actions caused their relationship to fall apart, and he'd like to work and get back together. How would she feel about that?
He seems vulnerable when he asks her and she says she's not sure, at the moment, what she wants. He assumes that this means she doesn't want to work things out and he gets very defensive, thinking it was just because he was an asshole once. Um, you cheated on her and then tried to make her feel guilty about it. That's being an asshole at least twice. Her silence indicates that there's someone else, and she confirms this to him. He is sad and bitter. He wants to know who it is, and she won't tell him. She says that it just started and he counters that it can just end, then. He thinks that the new man might actually be a werewolf. I would not be surprised, Marcus. There is something creepy and shady about Brad, and lycanthropy could just be the answer. They banter for a minute and he tells her he wants to go back to how things used to be. He says he's sorry that he's a jerk but that he's an emotional basket case and work is stressful, and that leads him to act out immaturely. He forgets to point out that he's also a frat boy which, as we learn in chick lit, means he's evil, but perhaps that's just implied.
He asks that, no matter what, she not close the book on him. She's impressed that he's trying to grow up and almost starts to cry. She nods wordlessly. He kisses her hand and leaves. As he makes his exit, he says, "I hate the bastard".
Avery is pensive and then feels empowered that a man is all moony over her.
Then, remembering that she came to the hospital in the first place not for a romantic reunion, but to see the business partner who tried to off herself, she walks to Parker's room.
Parker is in terrible shape; pale and splotchy, dark circles under her eyes and bandaged wrists. Avery takes her hand sympathetically.
Parker apologizes and says she acted like a child, which is unacceptable. Avery silently agrees. There's a big floral arrangement that Parker's mother sent in lieu of visiting, which is ice cold. Parker cries at the fact that her mother didn't even call to see how she was, which irritates Avery, who sees it as a pity party thrown by a massively entitled heiress with homes all over the country and a hot body. Avery, remember, is kind of a bitch. But, again, she agrees to give Parker another chance, because she's Finn's child.
Speaking of, Parker admits that she misses her father. Avery does, too, which we know from the constant mentions of him. If Finn hadn't become fish food, they would be married and owners of Flair together, and Parker would just be an obnoxious stepdaughter, rather than an obnoxious business partner.
Parker tells her again that she's serious about the will changing and says that her father always said that Avery was special. Avery is grateful to Parker for telling her that, and says she thinks Parker will be around for a long time.
Ever the drama queen, Parker says "I don't want to live!", which is quite nearly as good as James Van Der Beek's legendary "I don't want your lahf!" from Varsity Blues. Avery tells her that she does want to live, she's just angry now for "drinking and drugging", but she should go back to meetings. Parker says she doesn't know what she's talking about, but Avery vaguely tells her that she's struggled with demons of her own.
Parker doesn't care and mentions that Marcus had visited and is totally in love with Avery. Avery says they shouldn't be discussing this, and Parker tells her that she's in love with Marcus. The guys she sleeps with are just substitutes and a weak attempt at proving to Marcus that she's over him. But she's not! This makes her weep, and makes me sick to my stomach, a little bit.
Avery has a phone call and excuses herself to take it, irritated that Parker is trying to mess with her emotions. Lucy is on the other line, extending her condolences on the Parker situation. She offers to do whatever Avery needs to deal with this, and Avery admits to being fried. She still does not want Lucy to release any information about the perfume, even though someone from Tyra Banks's show told Lucy that the people at Flair are being divas. This is a sign that Flair is doing all the right things, because anything Tyra disagrees with is almost certainly good. Like subtle makeup, for example.
Lucy presses Avery to let her give out a few tiny tidbits, and her persistence tells you something is up, because she's too nice (and chubby, don't forget) to not screw this up. Avery tells her just to tell the press that she's acting on direct orders from Avery. She's relieved to be talking business instead of dealing with the Parker drama.
Lucy tells Avery that Patricia invited her over to dinner on Thursday. Avery says she's busy and doesn't know how much she likes the idea of dining with their mother. Lucy says that Patricia has some sort of news, which is enough to get Avery to go, for some reason. With no sort of segue, Lucy then says she had an amazing night with Karl and asks if she can tell Avery something sad. The sad secret is that Lucy had her first orgasm "and it was orally induced".
Avery is amused at how pathetic her sister sounds, but points out that she's at the hospital right now and it's not the time or place to hear about her sister's first experience with oral sex. Lucy is embarrassed, but says that she had been dying to tell someone and that Karl is awesome, which means you know he's a sketch, and Avery asks to be transferred to Justin. She is concerned about how giddy Lucy seems to be and hopes that Lucy doesn't get her heart stamped on, on account of how insecure she is. I love how this woman can think nice thoughts that are, like, eighty percent bitchy.
Avery and Justin talk shop and Justin tells her he's setting up a perfume focus group. Avery is happy that he's excited about the perfume. He suggests sending Parker out to LA to do perfumey stuff out there and to get her out of their hair. Avery thinks this is brill. She goes back into Parker's room, and Parker is watching The View, which is a nice taste of ABC synergy and Parker says she really wants to be a guest on the show. Avery passes on Justin's sympathy and Parker is barely listening, so wrapped up in whatever is going on on the show, and doesn't care at all. Avery says that Justin thinks Parker should be in charge of the West Coast launch of the perfume, which thrills Parker.
Parker's first assumption is that this is a pity gig, but then grows excited about her new responsibility and starts happily planning where to have the party and who should come to the party and she starts to put on makeup. Avery says she should get going back to the office and Parker is all, "I know, right? I have so much work to do".
As she leaves, Avery thinks to herself about how much she loathes Parker.
Next time: I won't make you wait six years to learn what happens next!