READ EXCERPT: 'The Debutante Divorcee,' by Plum Sykes


It's generally agreed in Careyes that without a sunken drawing room one would die, socially. Not a soul will visit if you don't have one. If you do, it must simultaneously offer shade from a partial, immaculately thatched roof while being open to the breezes of the ocean, even if that means the Moorish antiques are eaten away at an alarming rate by sea salt. Casa Papa, as Lauren nicknamed her father's house, is a whitewashed, sun-bleached Mexican castle with a bright blue pool washing around it like a moat. When we arrived, Lauren led me through the house and out into the sunken drawing room. That second, a maid dressed crisply in a blue and-white-striped uniform -- she would have looked more at home on the Upper East Side -- appeared with a turquoise chiffon robe in her hand that Lauren threw straight over her bikini. Moments later another maid arrived bearing a tray filled with just-made quesadillas and guacamole, glass plates, and candy-pink linen napkins.

"Mmmmm! Thank you, Maria," said Lauren. "Puede hacer nos el favor de traer dos limonadas heladas?"

"Si, seƱorita," nodded Maria.

Maria bustled about setting a low lacquered table, then disappeared inside to track down the lemonade.

"God, this is nice," I said, throwing my beach bag on the floor and flopping onto a deep sofa while Lauren curled up in a wicker chair. In the center of the room the huge red trunk of an ancient, twisted candelabro cactus grew up to the ceiling. From where we were sitting we could just make out a tiny figure sunbathing on the terrace of the house opposite.

"That's my cousin, Tinsley Bellangere," said Lauren, squinting. "I can't believe she's lying out like that -- so dangerous in this heat. And after her whole family died of skin cancer! She's had all her freckles lasered off. Tinsley's on her divorce honeymoon too, which is nice for me. I call her Miss Mini-Marriage. She was married to Jamie less than three days, which is something of an achievement, no? Anyway, do you still want to hear about the divorce day?"

"Absolutely," I replied. Who could resist? There's nothing like hearing about another girl's love life to make three hours pass in three seconds.

"I got my divorce papers signed. I guess that was three weeks ago now. The biggest thing in the divorce was the dog, Boo Boo. That took months. I got him. Anyway, that night I decided to celebrate with Milton Holmes -- he's the family decorator, and my best friend, sort of. Milton was obsessed with going to the private room at Harry's Downtown, even though it was like, August twelfth and I knew there wouldn't be a soul there. I was dressed head to toe in black frayed Lanvin with my great grandmother's ivory barrette in my hair. I thought I was absolutely it -- but when I look back it's like I was dressing for a funeral -- oh, thank you so much," said Lauren as Maria returned with a jug of iced lemonade and two tall glasses. "Sorry. God, I'm going to have to have a cigarette."

Lauren delved into her tote and pulled out a little green crocodile case the size of a lipstick holder. The silver-lined box contained two "platinums," as she calls them -- two Marlboro Ultra Lights. She lit one, then left it untouched on the side of the ashtray.

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