Joanne met her friend Clarissa for lunch on her 62nd birthday. They had been friends for 33 years. They met while they lived next door as newlyweds. Life had taken them in different directions over the years, but their friendship had been a constant.
They caught up on the news of their children’s lives over their food. Joanne told Clarissa about what her husband had been up to since losing his job five years ago.
Joanne had watched as Clarissa’s husband moved out 5 years ago and had a new relationship. She had been a bit surprised since it appeared the marriage had been strong. They followed each other on social media where they saw the highlight reels of their lives. Clarissa had shared the more realistic stories about her life with Joanne.
Her husband had actually been emotionally abusive for years. He mostly ignored her as he seemed to live his own life despite the long marriage and the two children. She was not prepared for her husband’s exit.
Clarissa was an exceptional beauty with high cheekbones, a sculpted nose, good skin and naturally curly hair which she had stopped coloring a year ago. It was now a bright silver crown of wild curls in contrast to her amber colored eyes.
Joanne had watched her friend’s foray into the world of late middle age dating from the security of her own stable, long marriage. She was curious about how Clarissa navigated the scene.
She told her she’d been dating a man now for over two years. Their relationship was not exclusive as she continued to date new men when the opportunity arose. She apparently had a few boyfriends.
This didn’t seem like the Clarissa Joanne knew. Or maybe she didn’t know her as well as she thought.
She did know Clarissa was angry and bitter about her husband’s exit. She also knew she was living life with as much gusto as possible after her battle with cancer. Having survived that, she was trying to get as much fun out of life as she could.
Joanne was sometimes concerned that Clarissa took too many chances in her zest to live a life of fun and adventure. She once told her about a one night stand she’d had with a much younger man while traveling in Europe. It was then Joanne had started to wonder about Clarissa’s mental health. She had seen other scorned women do some crazy things over the years.
After singing happy birthday to her friend over dessert, Clarissa offered Joanne her phone so she could see her photos of her boyfriends.
The first picture showed Clarissa in an evening gown on the arm of a handsome man who was about the same age. They were at a formal function together. Joanne started swiping the photos in the direction of the past.
There were several of Clarissa with the same guy in less formal situations. The beach. Skiing. Hiking. She explained this was her steady boyfriend of two years.
The next photo showed her with a man about 20 years younger at a restaurant. Joanne was shocked by the next photo because it was a dick pic. She was not accustomed to seeing those. She asked Clarissa about it; if it was anyone important.
Not really. It came in at random from someone on a dating app.
The last photo was plain bizarre. She recognized what looked like Clarissa’s crown of silver curls on a woman who was kneeling. She had a ball gag in her mouth. She was wearing a black, studded leather harness attached to a leash. She looked like she was wearing handcuffs. She was wearing a mask with a blindfold so she couldn’t make out her face. Could it be Clarissa? She knew she had changed over the years, but never expected this.
Joanne asked her friend about the photo. “Is that you?”
“Don’t you recognize me?”