Charlene couldn't believe the words on the screen.
She'd been a member at St. Loquacious Ignacious Intermediate Lutheran Church for nearly three years. She had baked countless chicken pies, knitted forty-seven (and two-thirds) prayer shawls, taught Sunday school to the four and five year olds (including the Martin twins, those little bastards, God forgive her), and served on the Stewardship committee for the past 18 months. Despite her relentless dedication to the St. Lo community, and a equally fervent (if not entirely honest) commitment to her faith, one thing remained just beyond her grasp.
Until today. She read the words again - Hey Charlene, hon! Missy's cat had to have an emergency hysterectomy this morning and she had to cancel on us! Would you be interested in subbing for Bunco tonight? She thought this day would never come; the invitation into the sanctum sanctorum of female church life at St. Lo's. The Holy Grail of Intermediate Lutheran society! The email was sent by none other than the president of the St. Lo's Ladies Social Society, Kathy Mahoney. Charlene was so excited she almost missed the postscript: PS - Missy was in charge of dessert, so if you could make something yummy, that would be super! Thanks, hon!
Charlene knew that this was her chance to shine. She'd need the perfect outfit, a killer dessert, a brow wax and her most powerful pair of Spanx. But first, she had to tell someone. Darrell, her husband of 32 years (and soon to be Second Vice-President of Mortgage Loans at the auxiliary branch of First Citizens Bank), was up in a tree somewhere, trying to shoot a deer. Nothing less than a medical emergency was getting him off the stand. "Judy!" Charlene scrambled for the phone and dialed her very best friend in the whole world.
"Judy, it's happened!"
On the other end of the line, her friend gasped. "Bunco?"
"Yes, Bunco. Oh, Judy, I don't know what I'm going to wear and I was thinking about making my coconut cream pies but then I thought, well everyone's had that a million times, and then I remembered seeing Martha Stewart make this cream puff tree and I thought, now that would make a statement! And I need a brow wax because frankly it looks like a couple of caterpillars crawled up on my forehead and died and I don't have time to get to the salon and I was hoping you could come over with a hot pot of wax and take care of them and..."
"Damn, Charlene!" Judy broke in, "Draw breath! I'll be right there. Pick out a couple of outfits, pull out the recipe for the cream puffs, and try not to have a heart attack before I get there!"
Charlene dug through her closet, flipping past the yoga pants, mom jeans, and t-shirts, past the conservative twin sets and slacks she wore to church, and settled in the meager 'social wear' section. A pair of well worn denim capris, a couple of floral gauze tunics, a leopard print blouse. Shit, shit, shit. She knew she didn't have time to go shopping. Then she spied it - the red dress she'd worn to her brother's wedding three years ago. No one at church had ever seen it, it was still in fashion, and only one (maybe two) sizes too small. Nothing her full body Spanx couldn't handle.
She was reading the cream puff recipe when Judy rang the doorbell, wax pot in hand. "Dang, Charlene," she said, looking over her shoulder, "that recipe looks kind of complicated."
"Oh, it will be fine. All I have to do is make the cream puffs, then construct a tree out of them using royal icing, the envelop the whole thing in a halo of spun sugar!"
Judy widened her eyes, but said no more. "Alright, Charlene. Sit down there at the table and let's get those brows taken care of." She plugged the wax pot in and pulled out a wooden stick and two small strips of cloth. "This is that new wax they have down at the salon," Judy told her. "Guaranteed to go on and come off like silk." Charlene closed her eyes and leaned her head back as Judy applied the wax with the wooden stick, then smoothed on a strip of cloth.
"Oh, Judy, I just can't believe it! Finally, after all my hard work and chicken pies and YOU BITCH!" Judy had pulled the strip, and a good bit of skin, from Charlene's face. "OH SWEET LORD AM I BLEEDING?" Charlene jumped up and knocked over the chair, tripped over the cord and sent the wax pot flying. She wiped her brow and stared at the blood on her hand. "Oh my God Judy, you ripped open MY FACE!"
"Shit, Charlene, I am really sorry. That wasn't supposed to happen-"
"Well I GUESS NOT, Judy. I cannot go to Bunco with my face ripped off!" Charlene imagine her future at St. Lo's going from membership in the inner circle to perpetual nursery duty and started to cry.
"Charlene! Pull yourself together! Here, have a Xanax." Judy pulled a small white pill out of a Ziplock baggie in her purse.
"I do not need your pills, Judy! I need the skin to be back on my face!" Charlene's brow was pinpricked with blood, and her face was nearly as red.
"Okay, sweetie. I'll just out the Xanax here on the kitchen windowsill if you change your mind." Judy placed the pill on the sill, and let herself out. Charlene waited until she heard the click of the door, then counted to ten before she moved. She assessed the damage to her face in the bathroom mirror and decided that maybe, just maybe, she'd be presentable by that night. She covered the patch with a bandaid, straightened up from the sink, and steeled her nerves.
She had cream puffs to make.
(To be continued)