Linda sat serenely on the sand contemplating her lot in life, relatively oblivious to the chaos around her. The early Spring sun shone brilliantly on her body, warming the exposed skin on her perfectly tanned legs. She looked thoughtfully at her legs, as if they contained the answers to her melancholy. They were perfectly shaped, (partly through the diligence and persistence of barely eating, and partly through a little help from her aesthetic specialist. As it happened, he was also an expert in supplementation. She sighed as she observed the perfect shade of olive colouring. Of course, the effect was rather sensibly achieved at one of her weekly spa visits with Marta. Linda wasn’t silly enough to expose herself to sun without a slathering of suncream and risk wrinkles on her knees and ankles. While she was breaking out of her daily rut to play hooky from work and visit the beach, she wasn’t about to lose herself completely. Her perfect legs from the knees down were the only visible skin on her body against her neat grey suit, oversized wrinkle protecting sunglasses and large floppy beach hat. Around her, she was drawn in by a sea of bronzed flesh. Lifeguards, backpackers, and beautiful young bodies filled the sand with the jovial optimism of the first burst of Spring. Lower Snobsville was alive with the smell of jasmine and the sounds of laughter floating towards the dancing sea. She kicked off her Manolos, closed her eyes behind her giant sunglasses and lay back slightly onto her elbows, secretly hoping to soak in some of the joy de vivre.
She was suddenly aware of the conversations around her. A boyfriend speaking in hushed tones to his teenage girlfriend. A group of school boys giving macho ratings to each bikini body that walked past. Some Swedish tourists chattering away in girlish, excited tones. A lifeguard admonishing a young boy. Things had seemingly changed so little for the rest of the world since she was here last even though it had been decades since Linda had ventured onto the sand. It felt like a lifetime since Linda had felt so free, let alone as free as the twenty-somethings a metre from her. She suddenly became very aware of their conversation.
“So where on the east coast are you from?”
“California girl through and through.”
“Lucky me! And you’re staying in Snobsville?”
“Yes. I’m a nanny. Well, really an au pair. My boss likes to call me a nanny – it sounds better. But I actually live with them, so I guess I’m an au pair.”
“Wow. You must see some funny stuff.”
“Yeah. You from here?”
“On a lifeguard’s salary? Hell no. But this is the beach with the least action, so I asked for this post. Less rescues. Call me lazy, but it gives me time to talk to the pretty girls on the beach.”
“Nice line.” Linda pictured the girl rolling her eyes.
“Yeah, I guess it’s pretty lame. Do you come here often?”
“Wow. Even better line. No, I don’t. I don’t get too many days off. I’m saving to travel around the world and get out of this little enclave. The money’s – well, it’s not great actually. But the only way to earn a really great wage if you’re a traveller is stripping. And live in nannying – well, it’s better than stripping, anyway.”
“I’ll bet. So tell me some Snobsville stories. I’m dying to hear.”
“Hmmm, let’s see. A lot of the good stuff has a high security clearance, but I’ll tell you what I talk about with the other nannies.”
“Okay. Well first I’ll fill you in on the NSA scale.”
“National Security – what’s the A stand for?”
“No. Not that NSA. The Snobsville NSA scale. It measures how uptight someone is. My boss is around a 5. She’s not too bad. She’s got friends who sit at about 9.5, some that are bang on ten. Their nannies could tell you some great stories. Then there’s the new mum. She’s a solid three but heading north.”
“So why is your boss only a 5?”
“Well, the scale is called NSA because it’s short for ‘Needs Some Action.’ You know, when someone’s annoyingly uptight because-“
“They need some action?”
“Yeah. The crass South Snobsville Au Pairs tend to call it the Needs a Root Scale. But I’m classy like that.”
“I’ll bet. So your boss?”
“Well, that’s the thing. She can be pretty uptight unless she’s drinking. Which she does a lot. But she gets plenty of action. She and her annoying husband go at it like rabbits. Total opposite of most SNOBbies. Of course, stand next to her while she’s waiting for Madison to finish ballet class and you’ll know why she’s still a 5 on the NSA scale.”
“So you Au Pairs-“
“Nannies, darling. We’re not from South Snobsville you know! Au pairs are far too inexpensive for this part of town.” The girl was putting on an affected voice. Where had she heard that voice before, Linda wondered?
“I’m sensing quite a divide between geographic regions!”
“Oh hell yes. Truthfully, we’re actually on the border, but my boss doesn’t like anyone to know that.”
“Don’t they notice where her kids are zoned for school though?”
“They would if they went public.”
“She’s fond of saying that the border between South Snobsville and Snobsville proper – that’s what they call it – is where the sea of Bellini turns into a Thermomix Ocean.”
“Never mind. It’s a Kitchen appliance.”
“One’s worth a few hundred dollars and one’s worth a few thousand.”
“Anyway. I begged my boss for today off. She won’t be home with her annoying daughter from ballet for a few hours and the kid has touch rugby practice.”
“I’m not getting any younger you know. You want to come back to my place for a while?”
There was a shocked silence. Linda was so engrossed in the exchange she wanted to open her eyes and read his reaction. The familiar sounding girl was getting impatient.
“Dude, I’m not looking for an engagement ring.”
“Fair enough. I’m off duty. Don’t see why not. You have an NSA number too?” The girl giggled a familiar giggle. Linda was raging inside with jealousy. There was a time when she was hit on by young lifeguards too. Beauty in Snobsville had become much more untouchable as she had gotten older. Like the difference between a perfect portrait of a royal and a messy, colourful, impressionist’s masterpiece.
The pair stood up and dusted themselves off, spraying Linda’s immaculate legs with a fine coating of sand.
“Okay California girl. If we’re going back to your place I’d like to know your name.”
“It’s Kristen. Pleased to meet you.”