Mattie disconnected and went into the bathroom to apply some make-up. Bodine was taking her out to dinner, a bit of one-on-one time he said before they were separated.
She still hated being seen in public with him though it wasn’t as bad as it had been a few years ago. She agreed because they’d been going through a rough patch in their relationship and this was her concession.
All spring he and Ellwyn had been working on material they'd co-written for her new album. With the studio just steps from the front door, Ell had been a constant visitor, often staying in the guest bedroom when sessions went late into the night.
The tabloids had been having a field day, suggesting everything from a breakup between Mattie and Bo, to a threesome including Ellwyn. At first, it had infuriated Mattie, even after Bodine assured her nothing was going on, but there was an unexpected consequence. The paparazzi, with their notoriously short attention span, became obsessed with Ellwyn, and forgot about Mattie. And why not since their new flavour of the month was supremely photogenic and a more than willing subject?
“I’m free!” Mattie declared to the mirror, no longer worried she was going to get her second-day hair, un-plucked eyebrows or blemished chin displayed on magazine stands at supermarket checkouts across North America. Besides being liberating, encouraging Bodine to be seen with Ellwyn gave Mattie more time for university and the sanctuary.
But with that epiphany came another. If she wanted to be free of this life, of this man, she didn’t need the help of another woman, she could do it herself. Did she want to walk away? With each day she drew closer to the answer.
She always dressed down when she went out with Bo and tonight was no exception; white cotton shirt, faded black jeans, more faded black jean jacket, shimmery scarf. Ever since Liz had cut her hair, she’d kept it micro short. It had a mind of its own and today it was flat.
She walked down the hall and knocked on the office door.
Bodine was on his cell phone. “No, she won’t mind, see you in a half hour.” He disconnected and smiled.
“Let’s go Italian,” Mattie said.
Bodine picked up his cell phone. “Bobby, can you make a reservation for three at Mario’s for eight-thirty?” He hung up. “Bobby will pick us up in a half hour.”
“We’re having dinner with your body guard?”
Bodine laughed. “Bobby will wait in the car, Ell’s joining us.”
“She just called, said she wanted to say goodbye to you and thank you for all you’ve done, and I invited her to come along.”
“You invited her to come along?”
“Yes. She was sitting alone in her hotel room, and I thought it–”
“Call her back and tell her you she can’t come.”
“Why? I mean, what will I say–”
“I don’t care what you tell her, just make the call or I’ll tell her to her face when she arrives and you won’t want that, not if Ell’s as fragile as you keep saying she is.”
“She has anxiety. She’s nervous about the tour and a long way from her family and friends. She’d like to be friends with you, if you gave her half a chance.”
“I don’t need another wounded bird, I got plenty of real ones in the sanctuary.”
Bodine threw up his hands. “What’s Ell ever done to you, Mattie? She’s been friendly, gracious–”
“I’m sick to death of seeing her every day in my home.”
“She’s not here every day.”
“Every morning, there she is, knocking on the back door, like she’s been waiting there all night, watching until she sees we’re awake.”
“That’s not true. Most days you’re on your way to class by seven in the morning, long before Ell arrives and we start rehearsing.”
He was right, but facts didn’t diminish Mattie’s impression that Ellwyn was responsible for the riff, now a chasm, that had developed between her and Bodine. What else could it be? Mattie knew she should shut up before she said something she’d regret, which she likely already had, but what chance was there of that? This had been festering for a long time.
“So now you’re taking her side?” Mattie had the urge to break something, maybe Bodine’s nose.
“I’m not taking sides. You’re being unreasonable.”
“Can’t you see she’s using you, Bo? She was playing in cocktail bars when you picked her up.”
“Small venues, and I didn’t pick her up. Jax took me for a drink at Bacchus–”
“Jax.” Mattie spit the name out like a bad taste. Another ever-present industry sycophant, purportedly Ellwyn’s agent. Why couldn’t Bodine see those two were manipulating him?
“You know I’m always on the lookout to develop new talent, Mattie. It’s what I do.”
“Look, why don’t you meet your gracious Ellwyn at the door, take her out for dinner, and tell her what an irrational bitch your partner is? I’m sure she’ll by more than happy to console you.”
“Ell and I have a professional relationship, nothing more, like I’ve told you I don’t know how many times.”
“Well, millions of enquiring minds happen to think otherwise, and she doesn’t seem to discourage the rumours, or haven’t you read the tabloids or watched Entertainment Tonight lately.” Mattie pushed passed him and out the back door.
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