By Michael Bracken
Diane Chalmers kept the temperature in her two-bedroom brick ranch only slightly warmer than a meat locker. Despite that, a sheen of perspiration covered her flushed face and she dabbed at it with a fluffy white hand towel. “It certainly isn’t helping my career any.”
I watched her at 6:00 and 10:00 most weekday evenings, but she had hired me over the phone and, until arriving at her home a few minutes earlier, I had never seen her off-camera. The thin brunette sat across from me, without make-up and wearing only a T-shirt and jeans. Television certainly made her appear heavier, and her on-camera make-up masked most of the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and mouth.
“Waco is a stop on your way up or your way down,” my client explained. She took a deep drag from her cigarette and held the smoke for a moment before releasing it. “It’s not anyone’s destination of choice, and it might be my last stop.”
“Why’s that?” I shifted position on the couch, moving the manila envelope from my lap to the cushion beside me.
“The hot flashes,” Diane said. She dried her upper lip. “You see the ten o’clock news last night?”
I shook my head. I’d actually been paying more attention to her husband and his little blonde mattress mate.
“Halfway through a story about a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, I broke out in a sweat. They cut to tape and I dried my face before the next segment, smearing my make-up. Afterward, the producer told me the station was looking to make a change.” She dabbed at her face again. “I’m sure it’s because of this.”
I didn’t know then, but later learned that perimenopause had been dismantling my client’s personal and professional life. In addition to her employer’s concerns about on-camera hot flashes, night sweats had driven her husband into a separate bedroom long before he began sniffing around younger women.
Diane finished her cigarette and reached for the glass of red wine on the end table. After a small sip, she indicated the manila envelope beside me. “My husband?”
“He’s sleeping with his office manager, a little blonde named Kristy,” I said. I tossed the envelope on the glass coffee table between us. “He brings her to the house every Friday when you’re on-air. They do it with the television on. Maybe he likes to think you’re watching. I don’t know what she gets out of it.”
Diane picked up the envelope and drummed her fingers on it. “What should I do, Mr. Boyette?” she asked. “I’m only 45. My marriage is a sham and my career is sliding into the dumper.”
I had no answer, and we sat in silence until I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“I’ll let myself out,” I said. I stood and crossed the living room to the foyer. At the door, I turned back to tell her I would send an invoice for my time. By then, Diane had removed the photos of her husband and his blonde from the envelope. The wet streaks on her cheeks could have been the sweat sliding down the sides of her face from another hot flash, but they sure looked like tears to me.