(This is an installment in a serial story.
To read “Magic” from the beginning, click here.)
Sarah spent the afternoon doing her best to organize the apartment without smudging her new pedicure. She kept looking down at her bare feet on the hardwood floor, thinking that her feet looked both beautiful and foreign with their dark, shiny toenails.
There wasn’t much she could do to change the appearance of her mostly-empty living room, but she was both excited and nervous about the coming evening and fluffing pillows and pushing the couch around helped to calm her down.
She laid her new clothes on the bed, and as the light began to wane, she drew a hot bath and poured herself a glass of Chardonnay. “It’s my birthday, after all.”
Luxuriating in the deep porcelain tub, she realized it was the most comfortable she had ever been in. It was just the right length and depth, and reclined at a perfect angle. She reached one pedicured foot up and turned on a trickle of hot water. Alba sat in the bathroom doorway, watching her.
“Seriously, Alba,” she addressed the cat, whose faint image shimmered in the steam. “If I had known how perfect this tub would be, Michael could have asked me for more rent.”
The hot water and cold wine began to work their magic and Sarah drifted in and out of a blissfully sleepy state, buoyed by the water. Finally, when the bath begin to cool and her fingers began to prune, she climbed out and wrapped herself in a towel.
She was carrying the wineglass to the kitchen when she stopped in shock. Her living room glowed with warmth and color. The floor was covered in a thick rug with an exotic pattern that somehow enhanced her vintage sofa and new Ikea pillows. Her packing boxes had been neatly stacked in a corner and in their place was a rectangular coffee table of dark carved wood that matched the carved legs of her sofa. Enormous jewel-toned velvet floor cushions were piled around the room and a pair of standing lamps with stained glass shades lit the space with a soft rosy glow.
“How the heck…” she started in wonder, shaking her head at the sight. After all, she had bathed with the bathroom door open. How could she have not heard someone in the apartment? She stepped gingerly onto the dense, plush rug, feeling it yield under her feet, and ran her hand over the coffee table’s glass top. A soft meow drew her focus to the fireplace, where Owl and Alba sat on the hearth like a pair of andirons, an artfully laid fire behind them, just waiting for a match to set it ablaze.
“Did you kitties do this?” she asked the cats, who twitched their tails, but gave up no information. “Then who did?” she asked. They blinked slow inscrutable cat blinks – she could actually see it more on Owl’s face than on Alba’s – and then left through the front door.
Sarah finished drying and carefully smoothed on some vanilla-scented lotion before beginning to dress in her new clothes. She eyed the lingerie for a moment before gently pulling the stockings on and fastening the garter belt, which lay smoothly over her lower belly, and clipped easily to the lace stockings. Finally, she stepped into the wispy panties and fastened the bra. The delicate lingerie fit as perfectly as she knew it would. The velvet trousers were fluid and heavy, falling smoothly over her underthings, giving no hint of what lay beneath. The blouse fell straight from her shoulders, the weight of the silk crepe skimming over her body. Finally, she slipped into the black ankle boots and tied the laces.
She didn’t have a full-length mirror, but she didn’t need one to know she looked beautiful. Both the fabrics and her skin were luminous in the light of her bedside lamp. She stepped into the bathroom and tousled her hair. Sitting on the counter was a shiny black lipstick case. With a click, she opened it and found a deep berry lipstick, brand new and glistening. She rubbed a little into each cheek and then slicked it across her lips. It was both dark and sheer, complementing her hair and clothes.
She wrapped the beaded scarf around her neck, letting the ends trail down her back, and slipped her house key into her pocket (thinking to herself that she didn’t know why she bothered to do so, since everyone apparently came and went without unlocking her door). Then she walked into the night toward her party.