This is part of a week-long series celebrating the 45th birthdays of characters from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.
Heather never told the Cowboy about the abortion. As he slept, she sat up and listened to the hotel’s air conditioner turn off and on until morning. She knew immediately, but didn’t make an appointment for two months. There’s a dull pain of something like regret but mostly like sadness that resurfaces at night, just before bed, but it’s never enough to keep her awake. It’s just there. A decision. A memory. She should have told him. All she would have done differently is make a phone call, but she never contacted him again after that night. He was weird, though so was she. He didn’t speak much, though neither did she. These little hypocrisies that ended most of her relationships before they began were the same ones that eventually led to her biggest ideas.
Wanting to quit smoking without actually quitting smoking led her to invest in a Chinese company that perfected smokeless nicotine delivery devices called “electronic cigarettes.” In 2006 she decided to cease production of regular Lady Fair cigarettes and go all-electronic. “All the flavor and none of the fuss for the gal who says no.” It was a risky move, especially then, but when it came to business, Heather’s instincts were unmatched. Her customers quickly embraced the change and Lady Fair still remains the #1 e-cig brand in the world. (That includes, of course, their more masculine line: The Cowboy.)
In 2008 she was healthy, successful, single and happy – but not everyone always believed the last part. “You should try Match.com,” the wife of a coworker told her. “Plenty of my friends met their husbands on it.”
“But the stigma’s mostly gone!”
Conversations like that happened regularly, and Heather usually brushed them off. Or complained to Sandy about them on the phone. (She and Sandy Frink connected on LinkedIn in 2004 and became long distance friends. Completely platonic, of course.)
“Can you believe the nerve of people?”
“There’s nothing I hate more than someone telling me I don’t know myself. Assuming they know me better than I do. Or worse! Presuming I am denying myself something I want! It’s bullshit!”
“It is bullshit!”
“I know! That’s what I’m saying! It’s bullshit!”
Then they laugh and become silent while flipping through their emails, breathing heavily into the mic so the other knows they’re still on the line. They talk about the good stuff – it’s mostly good stuff, you know – and giggle at news from old friends. Something about Toby. Something about Christy. Something about how hot it is in Tucson. And then she hangs up and moves on to the next day.
Last week she saw a man sitting alone at the coffee shop. About her age. Handsome. Heather watched him as he sipped his latte and sent what looked like dozens of emails. At one point he reached in his breast pocket and pulled out a Cowboy e-cig. Her eyes brightened as he inhaled – seemed like he enjoyed it. She picked up her coffee and began walking to her car. As she approached the door, her phone buzzed. A text from Michelle. “Happy 45 you old hag! See you tonight!” She unlocked the door and looked up at the predictable perfection of a Los Angeles sky.
"God," she thought. "I still love it here."
Bobby Finger will just have two burgers, fries, and Diet Cokes because he's in a hurry.