People asked her what she was planning for Valentine’s Day, as though she didn’t indulge herself every single day like some sort of bourgeois pig (it always seemed counterintuitive to her that the pigs in Animal Farm were meant to represent socialists, not socialites). And every year, she pretended as though it was a complete surprise that she had found herself, once again, with a new boyfriend to rely upon for her romantic fix. For Rosalind, who figured herself to be a bitch likely because of this Shakespearean name signifying being the “one that got away,” this was nothing more than a yearly tradition, starting around the time of October so as to solidify the type of relationship that would optimize her dining experience and gift-getting potential. Rosalind thrived on such blatantly material significations of love, drew lifeblood from it.
This year, she would have to draw that blood from Noel, a 38-year-old mixed media artist who was actually that rare thing in the art world: successful. They had, in fact, met at his last gallery show, where Rosalind had specifically manufactured an encounter so that she could begin her work, conduct her usual business of curating the perfect Valentine’s Day date. Noel was the ideal mark, recently divorced, begging for the attention and “love goddess” ways of a younger woman. Rosalind was going to be that woman, though she wasn’t younger by much–just at the cutoff of so-called youth at the not so much tender as well-seasoned age of twenty-nine. Still, it was a well-seasonedness that had served her well as she fine-tuned her romance scams over the years. She didn’t want to call them cons, that sounded almost too generous in terms. Too sonorous in potential implications. Smiling to herself as she observed her mark in a darkened corner of the gallery–almost like a rat waiting to pounce at the slightest movement of a trash tumbleweed possibly filled with scraps–she thought back to the first time she attempted to implement her game on another man. She was just nineteen at the time, fresh from fleeing her hometown and dropping out of the college she claimed to still be going to in order to continue extracting money from her parents until she could finagle some cashflow from another unwitting source. That turned out to be Samson, a rising talent agent at Endeavor, who, yes, probably could have fucked any aspiring actress in L.A., but instead chose Rosalind. Maybe it was her unmaskable naïveté that attracted him. Something in her corruptibility potential. For though she thought of herself as endlessly shrewd at the time, with hindsight she could see how susceptible she was to being prey as opposed to predator.
While most romance scams of late were lazy, involving no tactility therefore speaking even more to just how much people are willing to believe in their loveability despite all physical evidence to the contrary, Rosalind still preferred to remain in the trenches, never bothering with such amateur endeavors as fake profiles or claims of needing money for a passport and plane ticket to travel to her “love.” No, she would forever keep it local. L.A. was a massive, sprawling enough town to keep her racket going for decades, so long as she constantly switched hair colors and neighborhoods–these two made all the difference in being unrecognizable. And after Samson, she learned quickly that exit strategy was even more important than the one used to enter. Yes, things got pretty ugly toward the end–she let it go on for a year and nine months, getting two Valentine’s Days out of the affair, one spent in Paris and the other in Vienna (she still deemed these two cities to be the most romantic, even after all these years, much as she hated to admit it about the former. Then again, she couldn’t discount Verona either, Shakespeare being that perpetual talisman in her life. Oh, why, why did she have so many romantic cities under her belt? Nothing was without its conflated memories). She learned too late that she could only milk a man for one without fucking too much with his head, mastering the timing of it with her October insertion on the third mark, Juan, a “businessman” from Argentina. But with Samson, she was not practiced enough to know better. She did, even now, in all her lack of empathy in order to get the glow that only misguided male adoration can cause, still so regret ruining Samson. The image of his face at the very moment she delivered the death blow of heartbreak could be conjured at will, and, often, even not. She couldn’t think of that now though, she had Noel to pursue. So she swigged the rest of her champagne and emerged from out of that dark corner. From acquaintances in October to friends in November, the two escalated to “constant companions” in time for Christmas and New Year’s. Getting him to do whatever she wanted for Valentine’s Day was going to be duck soup. And, speaking of, she wanted something equally as decadent for her dinner. She told him they simply had to go to Lycabettus Restaurant in Santorini. And though some of the other “most romantic restaurants in the world” were primarily in Italy, she was already overdosed on Puglia and the Amalfi, needed a breath of fresh (Greek) air. With money being no object in his current state of not being able to keep any of his paintings on the wall, Samson happily booked the overpriced tickets and made the reservation at the restaurant after pulling many strings just two weeks in advance. And though it wasn’t the most expensive hotel he could have gotten, Villa Anemi was the only luxury accommodation left with an adequate room, one that he would have the staff set up with candelabra, long-stem red roses and a bottle of champagne for their post-dining activities that would segue into pre-sex ones.
Rosalind was almost melancholic over how this would be her last night with Samson (she decided long ago that she had no use for them as soon as midnight on Valentine’s Day struck). She figured she ought to go for someone even older next time, so she couldn’t find any source of attachment to their aesthetic, least of all their shriveled dick. The saddest thing of all about romance scams is how effortlessly the elderly population falls for them–even with that AARP warning in place. One would think that with all those decades of experience to leave them adequately jaded, this sect of humanity would be the least likely to succumb to it, but alas, nothing is more overpowering than loneliness.
She pushed this thought aside as she felt Noel drape the pearls around her neck. They had come back to the room about ten minutes prior, she barely feeling as though she ate at all as a result of the expectedly small portions in exchange for grand vistas and million dollar alcohol. After using the bathroom to vomit, she sat down in the chair Noel had pulled out for her, the candles having been lit in her brief absence. Her back now turned to him, she could feel him place said pearl necklace around her unadorned neck, tightening, suddenly at an alarming rate. Trying to catch her breath, she looked up to see that the person now behind her was Samson, beaming with delight over, at last, exacting his revenge. The ultimate romance scammer, thusly, was taken down by someone evidently more skilled than she–not Noel, but–de facto use of him to get to her–Samson.