Elvis and the Ajax Lady
Bernice always seemed to be surprised. Her thin eyebrows seemed to be involved in an ongoing competition with one another to see which of them could climb the highest up her forehead. Whether she was exchanging gossip with the neighbors or discussing child rearing with another PTA mother, she nearly always found an excuse to murmur, "You don't say!" Then she would touch a thin, manicured hand to her short, tightly curled blonde hair, and one eyebrow would shoot up into her hairline.
Her claim to fame was a brief appearance in a thirty second commercial for Ajax dish soap. She had pranced onto the set, pursed her red-lipsticked lips and waited patiently for her co-star to spout off her praises of the soap. Then she had arched an eyebrow as though it was a dancer's leg and said "That's amazing!" in the most surprised voice she could muster. It had taken thirty-seven times to film it because she hadn't been able to stop herself from touching her hair in her usual manner, despite the director's explicit directions to the contrary. It had been ten years since that commercial, but Bernice made sure that no one in her little town of Deer Park, Texas, would forget that she had been a real TV star.
Tonight, Bernice was in Las Vegas on an annual girls' weekend with her best friend Veronica. Bernice normally preferred something more refined, such as last year's trip to New York City for a weekend of Broadway musicals. The year before that it has been Washington and tours of the White House and the Smithsonian. This year, however, Veronica had been insistent: she was picking the place and Bernice had no choice in the matter. Bernice did not approve of Veronica's choice, but felt it was her obligation to keep Veronica from getting into too much trouble.
The moment they landed in Vegas, Veronica headed straight for an Elvis impersonation show with a protesting Bernice in tow. They sat near the stage, two rows back and a little to the left. When the moment for the show to begin came, the chattering crowd instantly quieted.
Blue lights swept across the darkened stage and settled on a microphone in the middle of the stage. The rest of the lights came up and revealed a lone figure in a silver suit jacket. Aviator sunglasses and six-inch black sideburns adorned his face. He sidled up to the microphone and gave the audience a smoldering look. Except that he wasn't looking at the audience. He was looking directly at Bernice Cunningham. She did not approve one little bit, and chose to ignore the curious thrill that went up her back when he looked at her. His hip thrusted in time to the music as he belted out his rendition of "Heartbreak Hotel."
He was gorgeous.
It didn't hurt that he was the spitting image of Elvis at the age of twenty-five, before he got fat. Not that she'd ever been an Elvis fan. He was before her time, and she'd never approved of those hip gyrations anyway. Except that now they were magical. She took another chug of the tequila sitting in front of her on the bar.
"I think he has a thing for you," Veronica said into Bernice's ear. "Maybe you'll get laid tonight." She gave Bernice a sly little wink, causing Bernice to blush madly.
"Don't be ridiculous." Bernice lifted a self-conscious hand to pat the ends of her short blond hair. "I was on TV for God's sake. I could never sleep with an Elvis impersonator." She spat the words out, as though the thought alone gagged her.
"Shut it with that celebrity crap," Veronica said, the irritation in her voice obvious. "Besides you know what they say. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
Bernice swilled down the rest of her drink in response. The man on the stage gyrated to the rhythm of the music. His lips brushed against the microphone. The stand dangled idly between his legs as he leaned forward. He was kissing the microphone. He was making love to it. But he was watching Bernice while he was doing it. Despite her protestations, she was aroused.
By the time the show ended, Bernice had more than a few drinks in her. She stared wistfully at the dark place on the stage where Elvis used to be. Daydreams about the stranger consumed her so much that she didn't notice when a lanky man with sideburns sat next to her.
"Did you enjoy the show?" It was Elvis. He didn't look quite as handsome up close as he did on stage. His forehead was taller. His nose was pointier. His ears stuck out a little. But Bernice didn't care about any of this. She blushed and gave a shy nod of agreement, not quite sure what to say. He stuck out his hand to introduce himself. "I'm Martin," he said. "I'd offer to buy you a drink, but you seem to be doing okay in that department."
Bernice gave a nervous little giggle, then found her composure again. "I'm Bernice." She gripped his hand in a light, feminine way and gave it a weak handshake. "I must say that, performer to performer, the show was excellent indeed."
Martin feigned interest in this and left an opening for Bernice to launch into her laundry-detergent commercial story. He listened with rapt attention for a few moments, then guided her toward the elevators by placing a light hand on the small of her back. Bernice was so caught up in her story that she didn't notice this until they were standing outside her hotel room.
"How did you know where my room was?" Bernice was surprised, but not alarmed.
"You charged your drinks to your room." He winked at her. "It pays to be friends with the bartender."
"I bet so." Bernice slid a plastic card into the card reader attached to the door knob. Martin followed her inside.
When Bernice woke up the next morning, Martin was gone. The only trace of him was the dent in the pillow and the haphazard way the comforter was tossed aside. She stretched and threw her legs over the side of the bed. Her head was pounding. Bernice winced from the pain. She got out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. To her dismay, Martin was not there either.
She stood under the shower until the water massaged her headache to a dull ache. She wrapped a towel around her body and shuffled to the bed. The adjoining door was hanging open. Veronica was stretched out on the bed, examining the pedicure she got yesterday.
"So," she said when she saw Bernice's toweled form. "Tell me."
"There's nothing to tell." Bernice snatched up a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and retreated to the bathroom.
"That sure didn't sound like nothing last night." Veronica grinned so big her face almost split in two. "You did it with Elvis, didn't you?"
"His name is Martin, and don't be ridiculous. I could never have sex with an Elvis impersonator. Didn't we have this conversation last night?"
Veronica pointed to a crumbled condom on the bedside table. "That says you could."
Bernice emerged from the bathroom again and threw a wet towel at Veronica. Bernice's nose crinkled at the sight of the condom. "Quit poking through my room. Let's go to lunch."
They wandered downstairs and sat themselves at the restaurant in the lobby. It was almost empty. The breakfast rush was cleared out, and the lunch crowd wouldn't start trickling in for another thirty minutes. Bernice ordered a chef salad, hold the bacon, the cheese, the eggs and the dressing. Veronica ordered a cheeseburger, extra cheese, extra bacon and extra mayo.
"So what's the big deal about this Martin guy?" Veronica said with a mouthful of burger. "It's been three years since the divorce. You deserve to have a little fun."
"I just can't believe I did that," Bernice moaned halfway through her salad. "An Elvis impersonator. That's just so beneath me. Celebrities like me don't have sex with freaks like him. Oh my God, there he is!"
Sure enough, Martin was on the other side of the lobby, leaning against the reception desk. A thin blonde in a slinky silver dress was draped on his arm, giggling with a laugh that was too high-pitched. Bernice looked down at her own slightly plump figure. The blonde woman's waist was slimmer than Bernice's, and her breasts were firmer. Bernice winced in pain as the woman laughed, and gingerly put a hand to her temple.
"It's too damn early to be laughing like that," Bernice said in an irritated voice. "Who the hell dresses like that this early in the day, anyways? What a slut."
"Bernice Cunningham, did you just cuss?" Veronica began giggling too, sounding too much like the blond woman.
"Goddamnit, just leave me the fuck alone." Bernice threw down her fork and stormed away from the table, leaving Veronica to finish her burger alone. Her fit also attracted Martin's attention. He followed her with his eyes into the elevator and up to her floor and back to her room. The blonde never noticed anything.
A few hours later, Veronica showed up at Bernice's hotel room again. She knocked on the adjoining door tentatively.
"Can I come in?" she said into the door. "I'm sorry about earlier. Please let me in."
"I'm staying here until we leave." Bernice pulled the covers over her head to muffle the sound of Veronica's knocking.
"Come on, B, let me in. Let me in and I'll tell you how we can get back at that asshole."
This was enough to bring Bernice out of hiding. She hurried to the adjoining door and unbolted it. She held the door at arm's length to block Veronica from coming into the room, but Veronica pushed past her and flopped onto the bed.
"We're going back to the Elvis show tonight," Veronica said with a triumphant little smile.
"That's your grand plan? To humiliate me again? Celebrities have no need for revenge. That blond strumpet is of no consequence. She can have him. He was beneath a star like me, anyway." Bernice made of show of holding her chin up and sticking it out. "He meant nothing to me."
"But wouldn't you like for him to realize that he screwed up?" When Bernice nodded a little, Veronica sprang into action. She dove into Bernice's suitcase, spilling the contents all over the bed. "We've got to find the perfect dress for you. Frumpy. Frumpy." She was tossing dresses over her shoulder as she spoke. 'Something my mother would wear. Something the cast of Hee-Haw would wear. Seriously, don't you own anything sexy?"
"This one is sexy." Bernice held up one of the rejected dresses, a solid black dress with a neckline that hugged the collarbone and a hemline that hugged the knees.
"Seriously? No." Veronica ripped it out of her hands and threw it on the ground. "We're going shopping. Come on, we have to hustle. The show starts in a few hours."
Ten minutes later, they were in a dress shop in the hotel's lobby. Veronica flipped through the racks while Bernice looked on without enthusiasm. When she had an armful of dresses, Veronica guided Bernice toward the dressing room. "Try these on," she instructed. "Anything you like can stay on the floor. Anything you don't like, walk out here and model it for me." She transferred the pile of dresses to Bernice, and pushed her inside the dressing room.
Thirty minutes later, Bernice purchased a teal-sequined dress with a neckline that threatened to expose her nipples and a hemline that threatened to expose her ass cheeks. Veronica dragged her back to the room, threw her into the dress and started in on her makeup. When she was finished, she made Bernice model for her while Veronica clucked her approval.
When they got to the ballroom where Elvis was performing, Bernice did not feel pretty anymore. She felt like her ass and her boobs were about to fall out of her dress. She could feel people at her, laughing at her for having the nerve to wear a dress meant for twenty-year-olds.
"Now for the final stage of our plan," Veronica whispered into Bernice's ear. "Find another man."
"Are you insane? Forget this, I'm going back to my room." Bernice turned to walk out, but found herself being pulled into a chair by Veronica.
"That one over there." Veronica pointed to a kid in his twenties. "Go say hi to him." She gave Bernice a little push. Bernice tried to pull her dress down a bit as she walked but gave up when she realized that pulling the dress in one direction exposed body parts in another direction. She sat down next to the kid. He was dressed in a tuxedo, and he smelled of money.
"Hi," she said with a confidence she did not feel. "I'm Bernice. What's your name?"
"Jesus Christ. Let me guess. You have a daughter just my age that you want me to meet. What is with you old women? Tell your daughter to find men on her own." The kid got up from his seat and found another one on the opposite side of the room.
Bernice looked over at Veronica. She wasn't paying attention anymore. The blue lights were sweeping across the stage, and a knot formed in Bernice's stomach. There he was, on the stage again. Gyrating and kissing and making love to his microphone. This time, he was watching another woman. Bernice flagged down the waiter and ordered two tequilas.
The longer Elvis sang, the more shots of tequila Bernice had. Veronica seemed to have disappeared. Bernice searched the crowd for her, but she was nowhere to be found. Elvis was still singing to that new strumpet. It was obvious that he had moved on.
When the show was over, Elvis approached the new woman. Bernice watched with amusement as the woman walked away from him, leaving him to look flabbergasted. He didn't move for several minutes, looking at the empty space next to him with confusion. The victory was too great. Bernice could not resist. She took her last shot of tequila and staggered over to the empty seat next to Elvis.
"Serves you right," she said. "We're not disposable, you know. You can't go around changing women the way that you change underwear."
"You're right." Martin looked dejected. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have treated you that way."
"Damn right you shouldn't have. I'm a TV star for crying out loud. That is not the way you treat a celebrity. You should be ashamed of yourself."
"I am. I really am. How can I ever make it up to you?" Martin's hand was on the small of her back again. "You really are a beautiful woman. Do you have any idea how incredible you look tonight?"
Bernice blushed. "I don't usually wear this kind of thing. It was all Veronica's idea. She thinks all of my clothes are frumpy. She threatened to burn half my wardrobe!"
"Maybe Veronica is on to something." Martin was guiding her to the elevator. "Don't get me wrong, you were beautiful last night. But this, it's just amazing." He grabbed Bernice's hand and twirled her around inside the elevator. "Your friend Veronica has good taste."
They stepped out of the elevator and onto Bernice's floor. Within moments they were standing in front of Bernice's room.
"Wait, what are we doing here?" Bernice looked around in confusion, realizing for the first time that they were standing outside her hotel room again.
Martin leaned in and kissed her neck, long soft kisses that made Bernice tingle. "I wanted to show you how sorry I was, remember? You were so angry with me for leaving you last night. It's only fitting that I make it up to you by staying with you all night long." His arms were wrapped around Bernice, his hands slipping down to caress her ass and his lips caressing everything else. Bernice fumbled for her room key and slid it through the card reader.
When Bernice woke up the next morning, Martin was gone. Two more used condoms sat on the nightstand next to the first condom. There was a dent in the pillow again, and the comforter had been tossed aside. A telltale sideburn lay guiltily on the floor. Bernice groaned and slid back under the covers, covering her head and falling back asleep.
An hour later, Veronica came bounding into the room.
"So how did last night go? You certainly sounded like you were having fun."
"Go away," Bernice's muffled voice said from underneath the covers. "You abandoned me."
"Looks to me like you did all right." Veronica pulled back the covers and pointed gleefully at the used condoms. "You've got a whole collection going over there. I bet you haven't gotten laid this much in years. Who was it? That kid I picked out for you?"
"Yeah it was." Bernice couldn't bear to admit the truth. Getting ditched in the middle of the night once was bad enough, but a repeat performance was too much humiliation to bear. "Nothing heals like a younger man, right?"
"You lying bitch!" Veronica squealed, spotting the sideburn. She picked it up, holding it by her fingers as though it were infected with something. "Did that kid have glue-on sideburns?" She waved the sideburn under Bernice's nose. "You did Elvis again, didn't you?"
Bernice was too miserable to answer. She did not talk much for the rest of the trip. Mercifully, their plane flew back home today. Veronica tried to make idle chit-chat during the flight but Bernice was not in the mood. After a few minutes, Veronica gave up and took a nap. Bernice watched Veronica sleep, watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. When she was sure Veronica was asleep, Bernice reached into her purse which was stashed between her feet. She rummaged through it blindly until she found what she was looking for. She held the sideburn in her hand, turning it over and running her fingers through the fake hair. She held it to her nose and breathed in deeply, taking in Martin's scent.
About the author:
Jennifer is a graduate of Texas State University, and currently lives in Houston,TX. Jennifer's fiction has previously appeared in New Myths, Silverthought, and Word Riot. She is also an associate editor for Allegory.