Becoming Bonita

Jojay By Jojay, 1st Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

Lizbeth thought she was having a good time at the resort until she met the woman she would become in twenty years.

She wondered what colors she could die in. She suspected she was wearing that season already.

Bonita is due sometime this week," Warren said as he took a drink of his scotch (neat) and patted Neal's shoulder. The touch was intimate as if he had known him all his life, and not met him for the first time at the workshop outside of Phoenix where they were involved in the Serial Investigation Team (SIT) for studying the habits of serial killers.

Lisbeth giggled and nudged her friend, Sandy. "Due," she whispered, her hand discreetly covering her mouth. "Was she expecting? or expected?"

Lisbeth set down her third empty Margarita glass on the table in front of her. They were seated in the cabana lounge next to the pool at the Terra Cotta. (A vacation resort in Central Arizona.)

Sandy adjusted the strap of her French cut "hot pink" swim suit. "If Warren didn't marry a Jennifer (a generic term that refers to a woman at least half the man's age) her biological clock would have run down."

"At least we know it would've taken' a lickin' before it stopped tickin'", Lisbeth chortled as she mashed her cigarette in the cactus shaped ashtray.

Lisbeth looked around at the group queued up and waiting to be served for the four o'clock complimentary cocktail hour. She and Sandy were the only cop wives there: the rest were either female detectives or the girlfriends of the men who left "the little woman at home" while they dallied with their companions in string bikinis and year-round cinnamon bark tans.

Although comfortably middle class, Lisbeth suspected that most wives (like herself) would have little opportunity to spend much time in a posh vacation resort such as the Terra Cotta. The resort was done in the Spanish Morocco style, pink stucco, stained glass windows, and curved passageways. In the center of each lodge (there were four) was a turquoise swimming pool with water so brilliant blue-green it hurt her eyes just to look at it. In the main lobby was a gilded cage where a toucan sat perched on a tree limb. It sat so still that Lisbeth had to go up to see if it were real.

The lobster claw beak fascinated her; she guessed that his beak could bite off your finger. The desk clerk assured her that the beak was as "light as sponge rubber": honeycombed with air chambers.

"What is the beak for?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Beats me. Might figure in courtship display or something."

Their room, or "suite" as it was called, was large enough to hold a small conference. A leaded glass door opened into a desert garden. Lisbeth was able to identify the flowering yellow and white saguaro cactus, rose-purple hedgehog and the flame red ocotillo. It was only the giant organ pipe, the late bloomer, whose flowers were real. "As a general rule," the ground keeper explained, "the larger the plant, the later the bloom." (It wasn't until they were ready to leave that Lisbeth learned that her cactus garden was silk.)

Too hot to sit in the garden, Lisbeth found herself watching "The Beverly Hillbillies" in her room, or she went to the main lodge and watched the bird. She wasn't sure why the toucan held such a fascination for her: As a rule, she hated to see things in cages. Neal had to drag her to the zoo, and then she would only look at the animals who were allowed to roam in their natural habitat. She left the caged animals to Neal who was better able to appreciate them.

The First Week
"You mean to tell you haven't swum up the bar and ordered a drink, yet?” Sandy teased as she polished off her third Daiquiri.

From where they sat, they could see a few people in gem-bright swim suits hanging on the pool side of the bar with drinks in their hands. They reminded Lisbeth of tadpoles: moving the bottom half of their bodies back and forth in the water. The bartender on the dry side, occasionally got splashed as he served Sloe Gins' and Mint Juleps for the "Mermaids", but by some quick ducking and dodging managed to keep his white waiter uniform from getting wet.

"If I hear one more joke about "drinking like a fish" or "this place gives new meaning to the word wet bar," I think I'll scream. Or yawn. Whatever comes first. Once the novelty wears off, it gets a little tedious, doesn't it? (She wasn't sure whether she was referring to the swim up bar or her stay at the resort. She supposed she was referring to them both.)

They were on their seventh day at the resort and seated around the cabana. The men were talking about the serial murder investigation in Atlanta. Yesterday it was the Hillside Strangler, tomorrow; they might move the discussion to the "Killer Clown", John Wayne Gacy, of Chicago. But now, the talk had wound down on homicide and turned to where they would "adjourn for dinner."

Lisbeth had to smile at the discussion that preceded a restaurant choice. One of the wives waggishly suggested that if they put as much effort planning a task force as they did discussing the merits of Chinese over Mexican, they would solve a lot more murderer cases.

Warren laughed and said if he had solved his case, Bonita would not be able to get her fun in the sun. All year she looked forward to this, and he wasn't going to spoil it by solving a little serial murder case.

Everyone laughed again, and Warren held up his drink card to be punched. A gesture that set everyone off again. A week of free drinks made his card as holy as Swiss cheese.

A detective from San Francisco asked, "What are you going to have them punch after your card fills up?”

Warren turned his backside toward the detective from San Francisco. When the room quieted down, Warren leaned toward Lisbeth and said that Bonita was really looking forward to meeting them. She was due to arrive around seven o'clock the following night. "She's a little older than you girls, but I think you’ll like her. Everyone like Bonita."
Lisbeth smiled woodenly. She was certainly looking forward to meeting her, she lied.

Warren stood up, stretched: he'd have time to get in a quick swim before he had to get ready for dinner. They had agreed upon a Creole restaurant. Warren patted Lisbeth's shoulder, and she stiffened. Warren removed his hand. He gave Neal a conspiratorial wink and then went out the door.

Lisbeth turned her attention to Sandy. "I hate her already," she said as she took out a cigarette and lit it.

Sandy laughed, as she turned her chair slightly to the left to avoid her cigarette smoke. "Isn't it awful? We don't even know her."

"Or but we do," Lisbeth said, trying to keep her voice light: detached from the fear that was rising inside her. “I can tell you her hair is dyed blond and will have seen at least one Elvis Presley concert."

"A beehive!" Sandy said joining in the game. "She'll call us "girls" like her hubby, and wear a huge phony diamond, probably a CZ. Her nails will be the kind you glue on, vampire length, and blood red."

Sandy patted her champagne-tinted hair and continued. "Bonita will wear a one-size fits all, and her swim suit will have a ruffled skirt."

"And be slenderizing solid colors,” Lisbeth chimed in, “don’t forget the slimming neutrals. She'll wear white sling type sandals around the pool, and carry a beach bag with pink sequins and shellacked oyster shells."

Sandy laughed so loud that her husband, Bob looked her way. "Keep it down Sandy, will you?" He turned toward Neal. "Can't turn your back on them for a minute!" he said as he pulled Sandy’s drink toward him. He picked it up and killed it.

The Warm Stye
When Lisbeth got up, she saw that Neal had already gone to class.

“A hot one in downtown Phoenix, folks'. Expect it to get up to 110 degrees,” the cheery voice of the radio announcer came from the radio on the night table.

Lisbeth went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. She sighed as she regulated the water to a temperate degree. Thank God for air conditioning! She wondered how people survived without air conditioning in their homes. Well, houses,she amended. She had seen some of the clapboard dwellings outside of Phoenix. From their air-conditioned rental car, she had observed them from the safe distance of the Interstate.

The young women with their dark eyes and hair reminded her of Jennifer Jones in "Duel in the Sun." The men swaggered when they walked around the yards that were usually full of old cars. She recognized one lime-green and tangerine colored 58 Chevy as the same car parked in the employee's lot at the Terra Cotta.

These men (and others like them) waited on them when they met for Tex-Mex food in one of the resort restaurants. They flirted with the women, leaning toward them in an attitude that bordered on insolence. "Buenos Dias, Senora, they say as their hands lightly brushed white shoulders in low-cut summer dresses.”Can I bring you another Margarita?"

Their white teeth flash in dark faces as they smile at the husbands. Taking a perverse pleasure in the possessive looks on the detective's faces as they look toward their attractive wives.

Lisbeth picked up the scented soap and tore the wrapper off. They saw to it that you had everything at the Terra Cotta. Tiny old-rose vials of soap, shampoo, conditioners and lotion was left on the blue tile vanity each morning. Centered in pink and gray folded washcloths like the buds of roses, she thought the soaps were too pretty to use. However, she reached for the soap, they were free. She would not pay the inflated prices for toiletries in the gift shop.

The soap slipped from her wet hands and she reached down to retrieve it. When she straightened, she felt a sharp pain in her head. Another of her headaches. Damn! Tonight she was to meet Bonita. Neal would be furious if she didn't show up.

Lisbeth shivered as if the water had suddenly gone cold on her. She turned the hot indicator a little to the right. She put her face in the steaming water and let it fall over her face and down into her eyes. Even at forty she was attractive enough to turn men's head. She had dark auburn hair and eyes the color of flecked amethyst. Make-Make-up artists called her skin tone peach, and color consultants classified her complexion as a winter. They told her that she could live in vivid colors.

She turned off the water and reached for a towel. She wondered what colors she could die in. She suspected she was wearing that season already.

As she patted herself dry, she thought of her life with Neal. She never dreamed she would marry a cop. Her choice for a life companion would be someone with the personality of Marlon Brando or James Dean. Men with white-hot egos. Men who would be fiercely consumed by who they were, and what they wanted to be. In the words of Eugene O'Neill, they would be "either sad or joyful” But never content. Contentment, "is a warm sty for eaters and sleepers."
Lisbeth wiped the steam that had collected on the vanity mirror and sat down. "Eaters and sleepers? Mr. Eugene, Drama l0l, O'Neill--- had she done anything else for the last twenty years?

Lisbeth glanced at the clock. She told Sandy she would meet her at the main gate and they would visit The American Heritage Wax Museum in Scottsdale. After that, they would break for lunch. She better get a move on. She wouldn't want to miss the waxworks.

Lisbeth smelled her coming. Expensive cologne applied to the pulse points of 40 years of wedding anniversaries.

"Tonight's the night," Sandy said as she speared a tomato from her tuna salad and popped it in her mouth.

The old fashioned ice cream parlor had only a few local patrons in it. The SIT team broke for lunch in one of the resorts fancier watering holes, and so Lisbeth and Sandy could have the place to themselves. That is to say, themselves and other civilians. It was reassuring to over hear generic remarks about their families and the mundane events that defined their lives.

She got more than a little tired of the shoptalk of the detectives when they used expressions like "our boy used ligature" as a method of killing, or the long diatribes about the difference between a psychopath and sociopath. It was interesting in a bizarre way, but it had nothing to do with her.

Lisbeth pushed her grilled cheese aside, (since the conference she had stopped eating meat) she was beginning to feel nauseous. Try as she might, she couldn't get used to the heat. Even the air conditioning didn't seem to help. Her room was beginning to feel like the inside of a morgue. And in the outside air, she had the absurd feeling that she was beginning to rot.

"I forgot to mention the hairpins. As sure as there are dust storms in Arizona, that woman will wear hairpins!"

Lisbeth directed her attention to Sandy. Yes, of course, Bonita! Bonita would wear hairpins.

"Now, we got her down physically, it's time to make up her biography." Sandy picked up her ice tea glass and took a large swallow.

"Biography?" Lisbeth felt her stomach tighten. If they gave her a biography, she might begin to exist. And like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, she'd ultimately destroy her creator.

She scolded herself. What was wrong with her? She was beginning to found like an old woman. It was the resort. The heat. The constant talk of killers and killing.

"You're college educated. Successful in your job. How did you happen to marry a cop?" Lisbeth asked Sandy.

I ah...met Bob while in college. He was getting his Masters in Public Administration. I guess I just liked the way he looked at a computer terminal."

"Uniformitus," huh? Lisbeth kidded. "The new age cop, in his display screen dress blues."

"You?" Sandy queried as she looked at her closely.

"Well, mine is a really funny story; I was studying drama, and Neal was a Political Science major. He had just gotten out of the Marine Corp. and---" Lizbeth's sentence ran off with no place to go.

"Oh God, a Marine! Bob, too. Why is it so many cops are former Marines?"

Lisbeth began to breathe easier. They had gotten off the subject. She wasn't ready to tell Sandy the real reason she got married. She hadn't told that to anyone: Not even herself.

Lisbeth smelled her coming. Expensive cologne applied to the pulse points of 40 years of wedding anniversaries.

"Lisbeth honey, I want you to meet my wife, Bonita! Warren touched Lisbeth lightly on the back. It felt as if he put all of his weight on her. Dead weight.

Lisbeth looked across the table at Sandy. Sandy rolled her eyes heavenward and grinned broadly.

A jeweled hand reached toward them. "I'm so glad to meet you! Warren told me all about you girls."

The hair was the only thing they got wrong. She wore it in a French twist, not a beehive. In front, it was teased, high, with pins holding it securely in back. Bonita wore an electric-blue polyester tent dress, and her talon-length nails, supported a large CZ ring from the Jolie Gabor collection. Bonita was a big woman: pushing 180 dripping wet.

"Bonita! we finally meet." Lisbeth took her hand. She noted that it was dry as parchment: powdery, as if it had been embalmed.

Bonita smiled coquettishly at Warren. "Now, why didn't you tell me Lisbeth was so pretty, and young."

"Not young," Lisbeth said as she picked up her glass. She hadn’t been young since her drama classes at the university.

Tonight they had chosen an Italian restaurant in downtown Phoenix. The peach margarita went down like sweet nectar.

They were in their second week at the resort now. Lisbeth wondered if two weeks was sufficient time to develop a serious drinking problem.

Warren introduced Sandy to his lady, Bonita.

Lisbeth scooted over and Bonita slid beside her and Neal. Warren said Bonita would have been there earlier but her daughter just had twins (Preemies) and she wanted to make sure they were doing alright before she came.

"Twins!" Lisbeth responded. "Preemies? are they all right?" (Warren just said that they were. Try to listen, she scolded herself.)

Bonita whipped out a collection of Polaroid’s that could have composed a small card deck. "I hope I don't gross you girls out right before we eat," Bonita said as she shoved the pictures their way. "But I wanted to show you these."

The men directed their attention to commenting on what the guest panelist had to say about homicide that day. As their talk turned to F.B.I. profiles, Lisbeth picked up the pictures and studied them.

"Not gross," she told Bonita. "It's a miracle that the babies could live at all. Barely over three pounds. They're so tiny." she said redundantly. "How can they survive?"

Bonita glowed. "Isn't it wonderful what they can do nowadays? Twenty years ago, they wouldn't have."

"Wouldn't have, what? Dear." Warren leaned toward Bonita as if dropping her crumb of interest.

Bonita giggled and patted her stiffened hair. "Live, Dear. I was telling Sandy and Lisbeth about the twins."

She had said survive, Lisbeth had the urge to say. Live is a different breed of animal. She began to feel her stomach churn and her head pound. It must be the Arizona heat. Who in their right mind would come in the middle of summer anyway? The Phoenicians had more sense. In the height of summer they escaped to the high country of the Mogollon Rim for relief.

Lisbeth longed for the cool mountains and moisture of the Pacific Northwest. She forced her attention back to the subject at hand. "What are the twin’s names?"

Bonita told her, and the names flew out of the top of her head the minute she heard them. When they couldn't think of anything else to say about the pictures, Bonita put them back in her bag. As if one cue, Sandy took out pictures of her two boys, John and Kevin.

They talked about the advantages of having boys over girls for a few moments and then Bonita turned her attention on Lisbeth. "Do you have any children, Dear?"

Lisbeth had her repeat the question as she thought of her answer.” children. She just didn't have the time, she added. With her acting and all."

Sandy shot her a strange look. Lisbeth winked at her. Sandy cheeks reddened and she looked down at her plate.

Lisbeth signaled the waiter for another drink. Neal frowned at her assertiveness, but she pretended not to notice. She was getting slightly high, but she didn't care. Booze would get her through dinner with the least amount of pain.

They were clearing away the dinner dishes, and the Mexican waiter hovered over Lisbeth. She could see that he had positioned himself so he could look down her halter sun dress.

"Senora didn't like her dinner?" He asked disingenuously.

It was delicious, she said. "I don't feel well, "Me siento mal." she added. It was important that he understand her in his language.

"I'm sorry." He sounded like he met it.

Bonita picked up her full plate and handed it to the waiter. The waiter smiled stiffly at Bonita. He handed Lisbeth’s plate to the bus boy to take back to the kitchen.

Warren was looking at Lisbeth as if she had just ruined his dinner party. He had recommended the restaurant and she had barely touched her spaghetti. It was delicious, Warren she said. It's just the heat. The blasted heat, she cursed silently. And why in the hell do they have Mexican servers in an Italian restaurant, anyway? What was wrong with everybody? Didn't they understand how things are supposed to be?

The Conversion
Neal sat on the couch staring at the television. A game show was on. (He loathed game shows). Something was bothering him. Lisbeth walked over to the TV and turned it off. When he looked at her, his face was filled with so much sadness it made her want to cry.

"All my life I've worked to get to where I am today. And you act as if you're serving out a life sentence being married to me."

Lisbeth sat down beside him. She reached over and smoothed his dark hair. (He was letting it get as long as the police department permitted. He knew she liked him in long hair).

"It's not you," she said in an effort to make him understand something she scarcely understood herself. It's me. That is, it's me trying not to become her."

Neal jumped up and went over to the bar where he took out a bottle of whiskey and poured some in a glass. "What in the hell are you talking about!"

Bonita," she said. The word was finally out. It had been gnawing at her from the very first time that Warren had brought her up. Brought her down. Brought her here. Into the valley of the sun. A place named after a mythical bird that rose from its own ashes. She had hoped that her marriage would be able to rise out of the "warm sty for eaters and sleepers" and begin anew. Here among the desert flowers and clean air, Lisbeth thought she might have a chance to save a twenty year marriage. But she had not taken into account one simple thing. The meeting of her doppelganger. Bonita.

Lisbeth came around behind the bar. She had to turn her face away from what she saw reflected in the mirror. It was a face she didn't recognize. One that would soon wear satin smooth make-up, (with moisturizers) and be crowned with dyed hair held in place by bobby pins.

A face that would look up into her husband's on cue. waiting for him to finish his thought, his joke, his sentence, her life. She saw a face more...she struggled with her high school Spanish muerto (dead) than vivo (alive).

Warren's wife! I can hardly remember what she looks like. And what in the devil does she have to do with you?"

Lisbeth took down a can of tomato juice and opened it. How could she explain something to him she barely understood herself. "She is me,” she began. "What I mean is, Bonita is something I swore I would never become."

Neal poured himself more whiskey. "And what is that?" A cop's wife? Is that what's sticking in your craw? You don't want to married to a cop. Well my dear, it's a little late for that."

Lisbeth put down the tomato juice. It didn't mix well with all the Margaritas she had for dinner. She would be sick: she was sure of that. She could already feel the poison coursing through her veins on the way to her heart. Maybe she would vomit. And then maybe again maybe she wouldn't. She supposed it had to do with the plans they had for her that day.

They might want her around for a few years. It might be amusing, watching herself become something else. Watching them watching her. Watching herself become Bonita. It wouldn't take too long. She could eat and sleep through the entire metamorphosis. If she were lucky the entire transformation could take place in a very short time. In the second trimester.


Depressive Disorders, Marriage Problems, Marriage Relationship Problems, Suicide

Meet the author

author avatar Jojay
I am a published and produced playwright. I enjoy writing about anything that strikes my fancy as well as engages my passion for a lifetime of learning.
Also find my
writings at

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