The Charmers

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Authors: Elizabeth Adler
voice, but not the impatience. “This is my house, usually called a villa here in the South of France. I inherited it and now it’s my home. My new home,” I added, with a pang of longing for my small just-sold London flat where I had been happy enough, if lonely, for a few years.
    â€œWho gave it to you?” she demanded, suspicion written all over her tear-mottled, though pretty face.
    â€œWho the hell cares, it’s where you’ll spend the night, if you’re lucky and behave yourself better. If not, I promise I’ll pack you off back to that husband who stole all your money and dumped you.”
    â€œI didn’t have much to be dumped for.” She looked wistfully at me. “I’m ashamed to be dumped for only a couple of thousand, I mean he could have done better than that, couldn’t he?”
    Filled with sudden pity, I flung an arm around her shoulders and hugged her closer. “Listen, girl, men can behave like bastards sometimes, but that doesn’t mean all of them are. Nor does it have anything in the least bit to do with you, or who you are. He was just a scoundrel, a shameless cheat and men like him usually get what they deserve in the end. I’m only sorry you won’t be there to give him a good punch in the nose.”
    â€œI won’t?”
    Sounding as firm as I could and as though I believed what I said, I answered, “Of course not. He’ll try it again with some other woman and she’ll punch him where it hurts and probably see that he ends up in jail.”
    â€œOhh,” she began to wail again, tears streaming.
    â€œWhat now?” I was exasperated. What the fuck was I doing in this situation anyway?
    â€œI’ll be married to a jailbird,” she sobbed. “Me. A jailbird’s wife.”
    â€œNo, you won’t. You’ll divorce him. Trust me, I’ll see to that, in fact I’ll get onto it right away. Shouldn’t be surprised if we got it annulled, under the circumstances.”
    To my surprise, she cheered up immediately and began to look around and take in her whereabouts.
    â€œBut how lovely this is.” She wiped off her sunglasses, which had become misted with tears, and stuck them back up on top of her head. Apparently this was where she usually wore them, unlike the rest of us who use them to protect our eyes from the sun. Youth, I decided from my forties’ vantage point, was not too smart.
    The cat made a sudden appearance, leaping into the car and onto my lap with a howl of delight. It’s so nice, if sometimes noisy, to be loved by a Siamese. She gave me her usual head-butt and I kissed her ears and Verity leaned over to touch her.
    â€œSo soft,” she said admiringly. “So beautiful.”
    And then the canary flew up onto the cat’s head and perched there, tilting back its own tiny head and singing with pure joy. And the dog, not to be outdone in the greetings department, scrabbled its claws on the car door, no doubt scratching the paint, but who the hell cares when love is involved. These were mine, my loves, they shared my life, they gave me a life.
    â€œHow I envy you,” young Verity said. All tears were gone and she was shaking her long golden hair loose and smiling and petting the dog. Then she really looked at the villa and said, “This is Jerusha’s place.”

 
    14
    Of course Chad Prescott did not own the villa. It was Aunt Jolly’s and, as her heir, obviously now mine, though it was named for all the romantic qualities I do not possess. How otherwise have I managed to marry three men then have them leave me? Had I left them, it would be one thing; but for three to leave me, is quite another. The implication is, and as I know everybody believes, that there must be something wrong with me—either I’m tight with my money, or it’s the sex. They say it’s always one or the other.
    In fact it was neither; the husbands simply

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