‘A Crumb, Mademoiselle’

Photo provided by Bernadette Lords
Photo provided by Bernadette Lords

Clink! They tapped their wine glasses together at the pristine bar of La Bonne Parisienne: a contemporary French bistro in Nolita. They could occasionally be found here. Friends of the owner, Line and Moss had designed a smashing birthday party for him at the Bowery Hotel a couple years back. They were a fierce talent in the world of design. Theirs were the most refined and wealthy clients in all of Manhattan. Maggie felt honored to be working with them. Originally from Paris, they had relocated to New York several years ago and took over by storm.

Marbet Rocel’s “Love Me” was playing in the background at La Bonne Parisienne. Maggie loved to have drinks with Line and Moss there. It was always an exquisite affair. Maggie was not her usual frisky self tonight. They had risen to the occasion of taking her out, on account that she was nursing a broken heart. Line’s chiseled and lanky good looks were worthy of a Fashion Week catwalk and commanded the attention of everyone in the room. He raised his glass to Maggie, who was lost in daydream.

“Congratulations darling. You can do so much better, and you will,” Line ordered.

“To leaving that bastard!” Moss chimed in. Moss was Line’s partner. Of equally Parisienne descent, her relentlessly sweet voice and beautiful accent was soothing to Maggie. It could melt the coldest of hearts. “Don’t you feel like you lost 10 pounds?”

“More like 50. To losing the fucking weight darling!” Line answered. He was the king of sassy, condescending remarks.

“He’s a crumb,” Moss resolved authoritatively. “A crumb,” she whispered once more. Maggie agreed with an awkward giggle. Her former lover Vann had broken her heart for the last time. Although she knew he was no good, it was still hard to hear. Moss and Line expected more from her, but at that moment she was falling victim to breakup aftershock and the plague of denial.

Truth be told, she wasn’t completely over it yet. She was reminiscing. Vann had aggressively swept her off her feet 3 years ago, playing the romantic hero role. Now haunted by sweet memories, she felt robbed. The things that kept her tolerant of his antics for so long were the same things to haunt her in the aftermath.

Maggie remembered falling in love with Vann. They had a strong physical attraction. They could not keep their hands off each other from the moment they met. They fell into each other very naturally. They would hold each other and kiss for hours. Their lovemaking was equally passionate.

“I didn’t plan it, but I love you,” he whispered in her ear one night. He wrote it on her front door the next day.

It wasn’t long before they moved in together and began to “play house”. They redecorated his apartment, spent the holidays with his family, made art, and raised a Siamese cat together. Vann treated Maggie with tenderness. He would rock her to sleep so that she wouldn’t have nightmares, and hold her like a baby while they watched movies. He would coo at her all day like she were a baby, and sing her lullabies when she was sad.

They were inseparable. Vann wouldn’t let Maggie out of his site. Whenever another guy was around, he would make her sit on his lap. He devoted himself to cooking for her nearly three meals a day. He would buy her cute outfits and dress her like she was his doll. To Vann, Maggie had accumulated many nicknames, but mostly she was “babydoll”. When she brushed her teeth in the morning, he would hold her by the waist, swaying back and forth with his face buried in her neck. Maggie equally devoted herself to him, supporting his ambitions and trying to make his life better.

“No one has ever had this much power over me physically before. I literally can’t resist you,” he confessed to her several times. She felt the same and it was bliss for a moment in time.

The uproar of Moss and Line’s cackling brought her back to reality. Sweet memories were replaced with far more unattractive ones. Maggie and Vann were from two very different worlds that didn’t seem to like each other. Within these worlds apart, Vann was an “insider” and Maggie was an “outsider”. Insiders were hostile towards outsiders and thus they alienated Maggie to the best of their ability from the beginning, and Vann didn’t stop them. In fact, sadly he was their ringleader. She resented him for it. Now she remembered Vann in all his superficial glory. He showered her with a smothering affection, but his obsessive ways became controlling as time passed.

Despite being a decade older than her, he had a long way to go. The old adage that “an idle mind is the devil’s playground” had taken its course with him. The problem was that he lacked any real responsibility or purpose. Sometimes relentlessly sweet and doting, and other times harsh and volatile, his moods were instable. His greatest mistake was that he wouldn’t let go of his past, and so it ruined his future with Maggie. He had jumped from relationship to relationship his whole life, leaving loose ties wherever he landed. He was a recovering addict, but the addictive person inside of him was still alive and well, terrorizing New York one woman at a time.

There were two sides to Vann. One side of him existed solely to impress his peers at all cost, while the other was eager to be alone with Maggie and please her. He was clearly conflicted and not strong enough to know where to stand. What had begun as a passionate love affair soon became countless nights of public humiliation, disrespect, and even abuse. This planted a painful seed in Maggie’s heart, which grew like a cancer. It wasn’t long before the end.

What had been mildly irritating to Maggie before was now disgusting. She remembered his crass associations and obnoxious Exes, desperately lurking behind the curtains. She remembered how sneaky and two-faced he was, gossiping with his friends worse than a teenage girl. The list went on and on. Worst of all, was the escalation of his physical abuse when she confronted his lies. Vann’s noisy lifestyle had conditioned him to live on a planet called “ME”.

Maggie remembered the distressing day she had uncovered his countless secret liaisons. She couldn’t believe her eyes. All of the times he had claimed to be working, had really been invested in various women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. His little collection had no boundaries. Not only did he keep up with every single girlfriend he ever had, but he also messed around with the wives and girlfriends of his closest friends. If they only knew.

He had a real problem. He had exhausted Maggie with his never ending needs and demands; yet there he was filling every empty minute away from her with more of the same. The man could not be alone for an instant. His insatiable addiction to female attention was incurable. He needed his ego stroked constantly and they, being a lonely ex, neglected wife, or bored girlfriend, surely loved the attention he gave them. It worked out for everybody! It was all so chummy and loose.

Wow, that takes serious effort. This must be really important to you, she thought to herself at the time, followed by “what a loser.”

Looking back, there had always been something desperate about him; like a wayward waif trying to win a popularity contest. Then there was his precious phone. He was rudely glued to it in every capacity, including at the dinner table. Fast fingers fondling his mobile, he would thumb through it like a sex-crazed adolescent who had just discovered his Father’s stash of porn. He never really let anyone go, former girlfriends and lovers alike. Whoever wasn’t throwing herself at him, he chased. Crawling with women, he kept them right there in his pocket at all times, allowing them to invade on the intimacy he shared with Maggie. He had no loyalty. His life was a never-ending game of cat and mouse, always on the prowl. He was a true addict.

Every time he broke Maggie’s heart or hurt her physically, he would do something extreme to redeem himself. Thus the trust that was broken would grow back like a starfish. Well not this time. His mistreatment and abuse had turned her into a poor version of herself that was a deflated, nervous wreck. He needed to be stopped, so she put an end to the cyclical cycle that drained her energy and confidence.

“No self respecting woman wants to deal with that, and no one possesses the energy to satisfy an addictive personality,” her wise friend Ginny once said. “When you’ve taken your life to that point; to the point of overstimulation, how can you ever really be satisfied? You can’t. It’s a curse you put on yourself.” Ginny’s words rang true now.

Vann would never change, and Maggie knew he would fall right back into dirty old habits as soon as she left him. He didn’t disappoint. That was enough to snap her out of it. They were right. He was a crumb: a crumb indeed. She motioned the bartender.

“Pool boy, wont you fetch us another drink” she teased in a British accent.

“Yes, there can never be enough wine” Moss added. They continued clinking glasses into the evening. The echoes of their laughter could be heard throughout the bistro. Soon Moss declared it was time to call it a night. She kissed Maggie on the cheek and uttered the unforgettable dispatch “Don’t feed on crumbs my darling. Have yourself a proper meal.” With that, she disappeared into the night. Maggie kissed Line goodnight and promptly hailed a taxi to the Lower East Side.

In the back of the cab the world felt cold. It was January and the snow melted as it hit the wet, dirty streets. She felt lost like a stray cat. In the dead of a New York winter she was once again (for the third time that night), feeling sorry for herself. Who was she lately, anyways? She didn’t recognize herself any more.

“I usually walk home but it’s just too cold tonight,” she told the sleepy cab driver, who seemed completely uninterested in her random explanation. She had always harbored a sense of guilt for taking cabs. Who was she to be taking cabs in the first place? She didn’t come from money.

“Hey look at that,” she exclaimed to the driver with the elation of a child. The bud of a white rose lay abandoned on the back seat. “Did you know there was a rose back here? Decapitated from its stem.” The driver continued to ignore her. “Maybe there was a fight and someone left it here out of spite.” She seemed to talk to herself now. She reenacted the scene of a lover’s quarrel with the rose in hand. “You lying, cheating son of a bitch! I don’t want your dollar-store rose! Off with your head!” She exclaimed theatrically, throwing the rose onto the seat again. She felt the cab driver’s eyes on her. Now she had his attention. “Well? How was my performance? Am I Broadway bound?” He nodded again as though he were entertained, but not sure what to say.

Photo provided by Bernadette Lords
Photo provided by Bernadette Lords

“You are on Broadway Miss?” He asked timidly.

“Not quite,” she laughed.

“I believe so, yes you are,” he smiled. She suddenly had him captivated. He watched her closely in the rear view mirror.

“No. No Broadway for me. What I am however is drunk. I’m drunk sir! And I need a friend, so what do you say?” She heckled.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied rather reflexively.

“Oh sorry, I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to this,” she teased, showing him the rose. He laughed again. She wasn’t entirely joking. She really did need a friend. She had so many friends, but at this particular moment, she required someone as delicate as she was, who understood how fragile she felt.

She became lost in thought again. Had she really just wasted her time with a selfish overgrown man-child? This one had a Peter Pan complex to end all others. She had never been more disappointed in her life. For a man of his age, she expected so much more.

Now she cupped the rose in her palms again, examining it closely. Its petals had already begun to wilt. “Oh everything dies,” she said cynically. “And you will too. Thank God for that,” she addressed Vann. “This was you and me,” she said as she tossed the rose out the window. “Sayonara slut” she murmured with contempt, “I don’t need your love, or your love bruises.” Then, remembering the cabdriver witnessing this, she became aware of herself. “I’m sorry. Maybe the rose was for you? Do you want to go back and get it?” She teased. “Maybe you had a secret admirer, I don’t know!” To that he let out an alarming eruption of laughter.

“No but honestly, the worst part about breakups is saying goodbye to everyone involved,” she said. “Look at what I had to leave behind,” she showed him a picture on her phone of a beautiful Siamese cat, lying elegantly along the edge of a white table.

“I like a woman who knows how to express herself” he suddenly gushed.

“Oh boy,” she blurted. And this is where I get out, she thought. He smelled of stale cigarettes and leather. “Here is fine,” she instructed him. He slowed down and turned to face her.

“You want here? This is it for you?” He interrogated with a look of concern.

“Yes please. This is perfect, thank you,” she assured him, cutting the conversation short. Perhaps her warmth and naivety was a contrast to his typical rider. The vulnerability and openness she possessed is what often attracted men to her, but it also got her into trouble.

She walked off into the frigid, January night in a neighborhood she didn’t recognize. “Oh really?” She announced to the nothingness that surrounded her. “I know what you did; hey it’s a drunk girl! How about I drive her all over town in circles! More money for me!” She mocked the cab driver with a poor imitation of his accent. “No, that’s not right,” she scolded herself for mocking him. “But I swear you can’t trust anyone any more,” she alleged as she began to weep. She wasn’t crying because she was lost. She could care less about that. Her tears came from a feeling of defeat. She was beating herself up. She regretted getting involved in the first place, and for trusting a guy who couldn’t be trusted. “You’re just a bad person,” she wept, though no one heard her, or so it seemed…

Just then she felt someone’s eyes on her. A dark shadow was creeping up over her shoulder. She watched from the corner of her eye before whirling around to confront it. There was no one there. A sleek, fancy, black car with tinted windows had pulled up to the curb beside her. The driver slowly rolled down the front window.

“Good evening, Miss. Would you be needing a ride somewhere tonight?” He spoke with an Italian accent. He was dressed from head to toe as though he had just attended a black tie affair. He was chic and exotic with devilishly good looks.

“Oh, ha ha!” Her nerves were suddenly put at ease. She was sure this was some kind of luxury car service. “Thank you for offering, but I didn’t call for a limo. This is a limo, right?” She asked with the curiosity of a kitten.

Scusi? No no, this is a Maserati GranCabrio,” he retorted haughtily with the flick of his wrist. “Please, get in. She says you must be her guest.”

She?? Oh… well just whom have you got back there? She wants me to be her guest?” Maggie was confused but also intrigued.

“Si. She saw you and thought you might need a friend and a friend. Please,” he coaxed her to get in by getting out to open the door for her. Maggie didn’t know what was going on here. However, her chronic naivety and faith in destiny did her in (as usual). She cautiously crawled inside.

The interior was lowly lit, lavish, and comfortable, like nothing she had ever seen before. Sleek and seemingly untouched, it smelled of roses and catnip. She could make out the shape of a few objects scattered about. She noticed what looked like a small feather duster lying on the floor. A plate of half-eaten cookies also rest on the seat. Feeling a bit hungry, she instinctively reached for one of the cookies. Upon realizing she was alone, she became alarmed and tossed it back onto the plate.

“Wait, there’s no one here but me!” She cried to the driver. Just then, the lights turned on to reveal a gorgeous, fluffy, white feline with sad, glass-blue eyes lounging gracefully on the seat. Maggie nearly shrieked with excitement. “Oh!” What she thought had been a feather duster was really a cat toy, and what she had thought were cookies, were really cat biscuits. “What in the world?” Her tone changed as she addressed the elusive feline before her. “Hello,” she greeted in a soft voice.

“Mademoiselle says you are hungry. She says not to feed on the crumbs, but to get you a proper meal. Would you like that, Miss?” The driver asked. His words were strangely familiar. What kind of service was this; roadside, cat nanny, pet-companion, dinner catering, luxury taxi ride? Had Moss put them up to it? She wouldn’t be surprised.

“You’re going to serve me dinner now? How much is this going to cost me?” She protested.

Photo provided by Bernadette Lords
Photo provided by Bernadette Lords

“Not a penny. Mademoiselle will have you as her guest tonight,” he said. There was honesty in his voice. “She likes you,” he laughed. Maggie gazed onto this beautiful cat, whose eyes spoke an ocean of words. They stared at each other for a moment in observation. Mademoiselle flicked her tail every so often as though to say, “I understand.” There was something quiet, peaceful, and still about her presence. After a short time, Mademoiselle got up and stretched her paws with an agile, forward motion. Then she skated over to Maggie and nudged her little head lightly against Maggie’s leg. Maggie extended her hand slowly as not to scare her away. Her fur was as soft as silk. It was understood that Maggie accepted her dinner invitation.

Thus began a friendship that would withstand the test of time. From that day forth, Mademoiselle called for Maggie regularly to visit her luxury Manhattan home. As it turned out, Mademoiselle was a celebrity in her own light. She had her own collection of cosmetics, beauty products, accessories, and even clothing. Her logo was a charming little sketch of her silhouette.

This four legged, glamor girl with poise and impeccable taste would teach Maggie a lot. They played together, dined together, and watched old Hollywood movies. Sometimes they would indulge in house-call spa services like manicures and “pet-icures”. Mademoiselle was a lady of few words, but her companionship was exactly what Maggie’s life was missing. Maggie loved to read her stories. Maggie even introduced her to Moss and Line, whom soon became her resident decorators! Being in Mademoiselle’s exquisite presence set a new standard for Maggie’s life. She learned to pamper herself with nothing but the finest. Maggie would never eat crumbs again, not if her friend Mademoiselle had anything to say about it.

…and if for any reason Mademoiselle were ever upset, Maggie was there to remind her how small things (that seem big) really are.

“A crumb Mademoiselle,” she would say. “A crumb.”

Purrrrrrrrr…

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 TC mark

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