Christmas With CassandraBy: Cynthia Dane
A Billionaire Holiday Tale
Word of Cassandra’s arrival was assured the moment travel arrangements were made. What nobody – least of all the media, who can’t always be counted on finding things out the moment they happen – anticipated was the originator of the rumor mill coming from a woman in the midst of a Thai massage.
Caroline Grant-Mathers hated her monthly Thai massage, but she continued to go for two reasons: it actually made her aging body feel better in the days following the excruciating pain she was put under (worse than the dentist, really,) and she thought herself a woman who was always starting the latest trends. What Caroline would always refuse to admit, however, was that she only started attending the Thai massage parlor in town because she overheard Francesca Blake at Bridge Club going on about it.
Now some lithe Thai woman gave Caroline a complimentary bone reset, and the cricking, cracking, and popping was liable to send her to hell and back.
“Mother cheesin’ fucker!” she yelled into her pillow. “Just rip another baby from my body because at least I got some fuckin’ drugs for that shit!”
This was the same masseuse she had been seeing for the past five months, and by now the woman was used to Caroline’s vulgar outbursts. If she were truly bothered, she never let on, and for that Caroline always left her a hefty 50% tip at the end of her sessions. But that tip always remained up in the proverbial air when Caroline was in the middle of her session and convinced her insides were being melted into soup.
“Kick my ass and call me a nanny!” The bun holding together her tangled hair came undone. Hair dyed a deep brown blinded her from the candlelight in the private massage room. “This is it! I’m dying! Call my son and tell him I…”
“Ms. Grant.” The receptionist from up front interrupted the massage, much to the masseuse’s chagrin. “You have a phone call. They say it’s urgent.”
“Who is it?” The pain had yet to subside even though the masseuse no longer touched her. Caroline attempted to roll over. It was not happening.
“A woman, Ms. Grant.”
“So helpful, thank you.” Caroline reached out and took the cordless phone the receptionist offered her. “Hello? Who is this? Caroline Grant-Mathers, here. State your business because I’m a busy…” Her neck popped. “…woman.”
“Caroline!” The shrill voice of Adelaide Aimer, live from Seattle, screamed into Caroline’s ear. “There you are! Do you know how long it took me to get a hold of you? When did you change your cell number?”
She had changed it when some dipshit hacked it and uncovered the nudes the gracefully-aging middle-aged woman liked to send her young boytoys, but Adelaide didn’t know that. Nor did Caroline need to know that changing her number wasn’t the same as clearing out her cloud once in a while, but what would be the fun in any entity – such as her oh so tech savvy son – telling her something helpful like that? (Really, the world was better off with Caroline continuing to make unfortunate decisions about her personal life.)
“How did you even find me?” Caroline looked up into the masseuse’s scowl. “Just give me a regular massage for now, please.”
The woman bent down and hissed in Caroline’s ear, “You didn’t pay for a regular massage. You get what you pay for.”
“Please, not right now…”
Heavy hands clamped down on Caroline’s shoulders and rubbed the shit out of them. “No pain, no gain!”
“But what am I gaining?”
“Hello? Caroline?” Adelaide was the last person to give a fuck about what Caroline was up to when there was gossip to curate. “I found you because I called Sally, who called Rhonda, who called Mya and she said that you go to some Taiwanese massage parlor on this day.”
“Thai. It’s a Thai massage.”
“Oh, ew, why would you do that?”
“Never mind that. Why are you going out of your way to call me?”
“Because I know something that you’re never going to believe!”
Caroline highly doubted that. “Try me.”
“Do you remember Cassandra Welsh?”
“Do I remember… of course I remember her!” Who would ever forget a serial heartbreaker like Cassandra Welsh? Before she moved to the west coast, she was a notorious vixen who seduced the darling sons of the local gentry, taking on one after another, sometimes making them fall in love with her, and other times dumping them the moment she rolled out of their beds in the morning. Some particularly gossipy wench had figured that every eligible rich bachelor in the area were sexually connected to one another thanks to Cassandra’s seductions. No wonder they all went to bed with her, too! She was the only child of the Welsh Estate, an old, vast fortune that spanned the Atlantic enough times to extend around the world. Nobody could remember how the Welshes accrued their riches now. Some speculated that it was through means that society no longer looked kindly upon. After all, they had been in the country since the Revolutionary days.
But why the hell was Adelaide calling Caroline about someone like the sole heiress to a ridiculous sum and enough estates to house a small country? Cassandra had moved to Seattle over two years ago, citing a need to get away from the anxiety-inducing east coast that was about to cause her a nervous breakdown. Such a fragile little waif she was! Caroline often wondered how she managed to take on so many virile men in the area. Were they sucking her dry of her youth and vitality? Goodness knew Caroline had been trying that herself for years…
“You know my daughter interns for Cassandra’s assistant, right?”
“No, but do go on.”
“Well! She just came home and let slip – but don’t say that, because she had to sign that NDA, you know – that Cassandra is heading back out your way for the big Christmas Gala!”
Now wasn’t that a gleaming nugget that Caroline could pluck from the rocky beaches and make a fortune off of? Not that she needed to. The alimony she still received from her billionaire ex-husband made sure she got to do whatever the hell she wanted for the rest of her life.
But Caroline didn’t care about the money. She cared about the gossip, the social prestige knowing something as scandalous as Cassandra reappearing in that neck of the woods would bring her. As it was, Adelaide had not told another soul, choosing to oh-so-graciously share it with only Caroline, her darling friend from days past.
Once she kicked Adelaide off the phone, Caroline began to ponder what to do with this information. Her thoughts were sorely interrupted, however, when the masseuse took this as her opportunity to attack Caroline’s lower back with what felt like a Muay Thai move. As it so happened, her masseuse once lived a former life competing in underground fights, and now took out her simmering rage on rich twits like Caroline.
The rage very likely passed into the older woman’s muscles and later prompted her to start a series of phone calls that were akin to shouting in the wind.
Because Cassandra the Slut was back for Christmas, and that was the delicious present even the most prudish matrons couldn’t turn down.
Kathryn had barely stepped out of her bathrobe when her phone rang in its pocket.
She took one look at the name and then glanced at the tub full of hot, relaxing water. Bubbles glistened in the candlelight set out to create a mood. Half a glass of red wine awaited her on the small tray on the nearby windowsill. All was tranquil in the bathroom, aside from the ringing phone that accompanied the name CAROLINE.
The bath water rippled from the slight movements within. For Kathryn was far from the only one intending to take a relaxing bath that night. Her naughty boyfriend Ian was already naked and wet in the tub, one hairy leg poking through the surface as he sank back against the slant. He always made such a big deal about how Kathryn was his excuse for taking a bath instead of shower. (The man was, as usual, a liar. He simply didn’t want to admit that once a month he soaked sore muscles in his tub while his cat made valiant attempts to drink his dirty bathwater, as if she were never given water in her feline life.)
Kathryn was torn. Should she send her boyfriend’s mother straight to voicemail, or should she answer Caroline’s call and probably regret it?
If you know Caroline, which you probably do, then you know the answer is very obvious: clearly, the call must be answered.
“Hello?” Kathryn attempted to maintain a sweet voice when addressing the woman who would more than likely be her mother-in-law one day. Always awkward when one was naked and the boyfriend was equally naked in the tub. Thankfully, nobody in the Alison-Mathers network was shy about sex and nudity. Something everyone had to think about when Caroline Grant-Mathers was once again in the scandal rags making out with a guy half her age.
“You are never going to believe this!” Caroline’s shrill voice was always a wake-up call. “Wait, what are you doing? I don’t want to tell you until I know what you’re doing.”
As it so happened, Kathryn was leaning against the bathroom counter, naked. Her boyfriend only had languid eyes for her.
“Just about to get into the bath,” Kathryn said. She rarely lied to Caroline unless it was in her best interest to do so. It was not, at the moment. “Is that sufficient for what you need to tell me?”