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  • "I love having a client who says merci," she told Jonathan.

    "That's because you're a snob," he replied, with what he clearly hoped would be just the right mix of funny and cruel.

    It was never the right mix anymore because she knew him too well and he her. How many relationships, marriages, false starts and bitter ends could a person take. She'd read in the paper - a sign of her age - reading paper, churned from wood pulp, as if they'd just invented the telegraph - that the divorce rate in the AARP set was soaring. But could she soar at 70? Clara didn't know. Sure, she'd been playing with the idea for half a decade, a third of this third marriage, but it wasn't like she could make a new life now. Life was about ending, not beginning.

    Her second divorce was quickly followed by the wholly inappropriate sculptor boyfriend who liked to say he was from Indonesia by way of Holland but really, he'd grown up in the San Fernando Valley, breathing the smog and being mistaken for a Mexican. "They like Indonesians in Holland," he told her, as he was taking his leave on her fortieth birthday. "In America, I'm just an indigenous brown person." Then he was gone.

    Nothing followed that but sobriety, which didn't admit of new men in her life. Instead, she slept with her therapist and then moved in with her, batting away the question "when did you know you were gay?" with "I'm not," leaving most of her friends perplexed and concerned.

    Then Tom arrived, with adult children in his wake, a bonus for Clara who had never reproduced. "My gene pool doesn't suggest success," she'd told her friends. To family she demurred, saying she didn't have time, climbing the corporate ladder to Senior Vice President before being fired for financial "irregularities."

    Jonathan was 80 and she dreaded 90, recalling her mother's ten-year battle with her step-father's Alzheimers. Still, he made the coffee every morning, did the grocery shopping and still gave her a peck on the cheek in the morning and a meaningful kiss at bedtime.

    She reached over and touched his arm. "Snobbery," she said, "is the reason I married you, darling."

    He hummmpphhhed and drove on.

    376 words. 15 minutes
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