Mark Bell’s wife, Kat, seemed like an afternoon breeze, floating in
unannounced, interrupting the staff with her easy smile and gentle
ways. She would bring Mark lunch every day and was often seen
counting out his vitamins and placing them precisely next to her
picture in a sterling silver frame. That was just how she was. She took
good care of him. Then, one day, Mark removed the photo. Kat never
came by after that.
There was much speculation about what had happened, but
nobody dared ask Mark. The one person who seemed to know
anything was Sesami Lee, his law clerk. But she was the type who
kept a secret well, never gossiping about her boss.
The cleaning lady discovered Kat’s photo face down in the bottom
of Mark’s waste bin. She had never met the lady but she must be
somebody to have her picture in such a fine silver frame, she thought,
as she cleaned the glass and set it on the counter in the ladies’ room.
It is fair to say that nobody knew Kat Connor enough to gauge the
truth, but there was one certainty. The trouble had all started on their
tenth wedding anniversary. Kat did not buy Mark a gift, even though
they were celebrating that very evening. The fact that she put up with
him was gift enough as far as she was concerned.
Mark Bell was a sharp-eyed crow who had no major complaints
about Kat, but was quick to find fault. He was handsome enough,
capable of charm, yet ultimately unpleasant, with arrogant eyes that
shone like shiny coins. The glint matched the sheen of his even,
naturally large white teeth. But when he smiled, that smile bore no
warmth. He was the type of man who was demanding, shrewd, and
believed his money could solve all his problems. If you took his
money, you had better be able to deliver.
That evening Mark stood outside Mastro’s restaurant with his hands
in the pockets of his midnight blue suit. He reached into his breast
pocket for an orange Tic-Tac, the toe of his polished black shoe
tapping. He was annoyed. Kat was late. She has no idea how hard it is
to get a good table and now they are about three minutes away from
losing it, his expression showed. Mark didn’t like waiting for anyone,
including his wife.
At last, Kat pulled up to the curb and she was there – impeccably
turned out except for one thing. Mark felt a flash of irritation as he
looked at her shoes – classic pumps, with heels a mile high.
“I was the same height the night you proposed,” Kat murmured
as she gave him a peck on the cheek.
Kat was almost two inches taller than her husband. Barefoot, she
was five feet ten inches. Mark loved her long legs, her posture, the
way she walked, and particularly the way her ass tilted up in high
heels – but he didn’t like to stand next to her when she was wearing
them. It made him feel, well, short.
“You do want me to look my best, don’t you, sweetheart?” Kat
murmured in a voice which softened even his blackest moods.
“By the way darling, I saw the blinking service light on your car—
where have you been that the car needs servicing?” Mark complained.
“And why is the mileage so high?”
“I don’t know anything about cars,” Kat answered, totally
“Why is the mileage so high?” Mark repeated.
Kat did not answer and walked ahead, shoulders back, chin
parallel to the floor, eyes straight ahead. She gave a sweet smile to the
Maitre d’, turning heads as she cat-walked to the best table in the
Kat was a classic and natural golden blonde with wide almond
shaped eyes, an unusual pale blue-green color, and beautiful high
carved cheekbones. There were only two slight flaws to her face. Her
nose was a tiny bit too wide at the tip and she had faintly puffed
But she had long legs, a long torso, and the most perfectly
proportioned natural breasts. Even her neck and fingers were long
and slender and graceful like a dancer. Her skin was a pale porcelain
and her body thin. The restaurant was full of admirers tonight.
“Why didn’t you pick up my call, dear?” Mark kept his eyes glued
on the menu as he spoke in the same patronizing tone he used with
his clients. He was annoyed because he had called twice and Kat
hadn’t picked up.
“I went into Starbucks for a chai tea latte after dropping Quinn at
your mom’s. You know how loud it gets in there,” Kat murmured,
also looking down. Mark drank some of his sparkling water then
placed the menu to the side. He looked around the crowded dining
room and was satisfied as he noticed the other patrons looking at his
wife, who was often mistaken for a model or celebrity. Mark sat a little
taller and smiled.
After a wonderful ten years, the only two complaints he had about
Kat were the high heels in public, and her refusal to change her last
name. Hence, while she remained Kat Connor to most of the world,
she answered to “Mrs. Bell” at their five-year old son Quinn’s school
and at Mark’s many social events.
On pure looks Kat was way out of Mark’s league, but fortunately
for him, he had enough money and sophistication to catch her
attention. Kat had once posed for Playboy, Miss November, a fact that
had turned him on at the time he dated her. Once they were married,
however, it had become something Mark hated because he didn’t like
the idea of other men looking at his naked wife.
However it still pumped up Mark’s ego immeasurably to have Kat
on his arm. Socially, Mark Bell became a larger than life figure
whenever they entered a room. Scoring Kat was a grand slam and he
knew it. It was an added bonus that her natural charm, sincerity and
common touch helped Mark socially whereas his instinctual
abrasiveness created problems. Kat was the type of woman who could
say “no” with a smile, without in fact saying the word, yet leave the
supplicant feeling like they’d been given the moon and the stars.
Mark Bell smiled to himself, as he looked round the opulent
restaurant. He had come a long way since the Stuyvesant Town days
of New York. ‘Stuy Town,’ as it was called, with its 89 sprawling red
brick buildings, all identical in height from 14th street to 20th street
running North, and from First Avenue going East to Ave C with its
eight thousand apartments, parks and thousands of people living
their lives. He wondered if the town could fit inside his Beverly Hills
estate, with its cabanas, statuaries, pools and fountains. Who says you
can’t have it all? Mark was in a self-congratulating mood as he sat
ruminating about his life, and the past ten wonderful years.
Mark admired the magnificent trees, all uniform, lined up like
soldiers. He thought of his stays at The Beverly Hills Hotel – the
images of the green banana leaves in the pink halls. How the years
had passed. Clients changed. Stories to tell and stories to forget. Then,
Kat had appeared and the most wonderful time of all began.
Mark looked down at the menu and gestured at the waiter.
“Any specials?” It always sounded like Mark was shouting, even
when he wasn’t.
“The chef’s special today is veal piccatta, finished with a three
citrus chutney, baby carrots and petite courgette, each stuffed with
their own tiny flower blossoms,” the waiter said with a flourish. He
was old school, wearing a white starched jacket.
“We’ll both have that, with the avocado salad to start and a bottle
of the Avelsbacher Reisling, the 2011.”
Mark snapped the wine list shut, pleased with having nailed the
guttural sound in the second syllable of ‘Avelsbacher.’ He looked at
Kat to see if she noticed, but she was busy looking elsewhere. Kat
knew Mark tended to order wine based on the difficulty of the name.
Kat had wanted to select her own meal for a change, but Mark
was too busy muscling the waiter, so she set the menu aside accepting
his decision. Mark handed back the menu and wine list with a
dismissive wave and turned to Kat and gave her his full attention.
“You look amazing, my darling,” Mark declared, facing her with
his eyes glimmering, assessing his greatest work product to date. Kat
was, in fact, the walking culmination of his finest efforts. Mark Bell
had exceptional taste in fashion and lots of his time and money had
gone into dressing Kat. Kat wore a grey Loro Piana cashmere turtleneck with a matching cardigan. She was strung with white pearls and a darker gray
Cucinelli cashmere pencil skirt, textured Wolford stockings and
classic heels. Her clothes draped like a waterfall, yet she looked as if
she had just got out of bed no matter what time of the day it was. She
had cleverly tied a Hermés scarf to her handbag. Her outfit
complimented her thick and soft blonde hair which fell in loose waves
over her shoulders. Kat smiled. She never tired of being admired,
even if the compliment came from Mark.
An awkward silence followed. Kat looked around, amusing
herself as she often did by checking out the other diners. She
wondered which couples were happy and which were not. Who was
married and who was having an affair?
Finally relaxed, Mark pulled a small, heavy red box with gold
trim from his pocket and slid it across the table.
“Happy anniversary, darling.” When Mark smiled, his big white
teeth always reminded Kat of oversized pieces of Chiclets gum, but
now her eyes danced with excitement at the idea of a gift. Kat reached
for the box and tipped open the lid.
Inside the box was a spectacular ring in the image of a panther.
The eyes were aquamarines, the color of Kat’s eyes, with black onyx
encrusted with a pavé of white diamonds. It looked like a creature
hidden in a snowy backdrop, beautiful, elegant and ready to pounce.
The panther just stared back, jarring her. Kat thought there must
be some mistake but the look on Mark’s face said it all. He was
pleased and so busy congratulating himself that he didn’t notice Kat’s
“It’s very pretty, but have you ever seen me wear animal jewelry?”
Kat sulked, wrinkling her nose. She slid the ring on her finger, not
hiding her disappointment. It was not her style at all and something
she would never have picked.
Later that night, Kat lay back on their bed and pulled up her skirt so
that Mark could see the expensive lingerie she wore and her pale,
well-toned thighs above the grey stockings. As she lay there, she
thought of their son, Quinn, wondering what he had eaten for dinner
Kat could still feel the wine pulsing through her veins, and she
concentrated on that while Mark touched her. Sex with Mark was
predictable and not at all exciting, but soon enough he would be
asleep. At this point in her marriage everything about her husband
annoyed her. Especially sex.
In the early morning, Mark reached over for Kat but she stiffened and
pulled away. It was clear that the honeymoon was long over and all
that remained were Mark’s deficiencies.