A couple of summers ago, my ex-husband’s ex-wife gave me the key to her Malibu beach house and asked if I’d like to live there for a while. She no longer wanted to tackle the hideous weekend traffic from Beverly Hills to the beach, and she hated to see the house sit empty. I was floored. A cottage on the sand, with views of flaming sunsets? A chance for me, a freelance writer with a lifetime membership in the 99 percent, to live like the 1 percent? Count me in. For the first four months I’d race down there on weekends from my home in an L.A. suburb. Then I just locked up my apartment and moved to the beach full time.
My benefactress (with whom my ex had a daughter) was long gone from his life by the time I met him. He was an older man, a narcissistic actor with enough sophisticated charm to persuade me, a naive 19, that his mood swings were sexy.
At the time, I lived with my widowed mother, my grandmother and my aunt, a little band of women making life tough for the only male in the house, my young cousin. We didn’t put much stock in traditional weddings. Too many exes. Grand-father had sailed off to Australia, and Uncle Reggie had scarpered to Spain, which put a damper on everyone’s romanticism. There was also Uncle Walter and his French mistress.
My wedding was to happen in our living room, decorated with cherubs and streamers by Mom’s gay friends. The marriage had been the actor’s idea, but he arrived with a face like thunder.
“Call it off,” my mother said. “We’ll just have a lovely party.” I was hiding upstairs, dabbing at mascara streaks.
No, no, we had the ring, bought, significantly, from a line known as Fabulous Fakes. And we had the Marrying Judge, known for his whirlwind off-hours ceremonies, hovering impatiently downstairs.
The marriage ended swiftly, but my relationship with my stepdaughter didn’t. She sent postcards from her school in Paris, and I attended her graduation party at her mother and stepfather’s Malibu beach house. That day, the ex glowered in a corner, affronted that his first wife had remarried so well. I shared a roll of the eyes with this smart and beautiful woman, cementing not a friendship, exactly, but a strong enjoyment of each other whenever we met.
Then, suddenly, that house was mine. Every morning I flung open the bedroom curtains, stepped onto the balcony, gazed at the waves and wondered how long it could last. “Lovely day,” I said to Pierce Brosnan, romping with his hound on the sand.
Confession: I’m a journalist, not a novelist. I thrive in civilization. So after 10 glorious months, I decided to bid Pierce adieu and move back to town. “So happy you had a chance to live there,” my benefactress says whenever we talk. Me too. I’ve seen our mutual ex only rarely over the years. But hardly a day goes by without my thanking him mentally for marrying so well the first time around.
LOUISE FARR has written for W, Family Circle, Los Angeles, the Robb Report and other publications.
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