Midlife Magic - Victoria Danann


I woke as crashes of thunder shook the house, to track the strobe effect of rapid flashes of lightning against my bedroom wall. My husband slept as if it was a lullaby and not a storm of storms.

I’d been dreaming about such a night in a place I didn’t recognize. In my dream I’d awakened to thunderstrikes accompanied by the sounds of snarling. Not at me. At something outside my window.

Even in my dream I recognized that it was odd to have a pair of wolves in my bedroom, but my sense was that they were a comfort and not a danger. When I rose to open the shutters, the creatures parted to make room for me but didn’t back away. If anything, their protests became more aggressive when the subject of their alarm became visible.

A woman with long, dark hair was standing statue still in my front yard just inside the white fencing. She was being drenched by torrents of rain but seemed not to care. She was familiar. And threatening enough for me to feel a cold panic course through my blood, even in my sleep. The wolves’ intent to break through the window seemed to escalate in direct proportion to my rising fear. As if they knew what I was feeling.

As is so often the case, the dream vanished into smoke and was forgotten when I woke.

In time it would be recalled, but not until years had come and gone.


My name is Rita Hayworth. If that makes you laugh, it tells me that you have a few gray hairs underneath that fabulous color you’re sporting. My paternal grandmother was a super fan. She told me that she gave my granddad a chance solely because his last name was Hayworth. My father would’ve been the moniker victim, but he escaped on the grounds that Rita isn’t a boy name in any generation.

Never one to give up, my grandmother talked Mom into making me the lucky recipient of her devotion to “Put the Blame on Mame”. It’s hard for daughters-in-law to say, “Not in a hundred years,” when their mission is to maintain family peace and tranquility. Knowing how persuasive my grandmother can be, I’m choosing to give Mom a pass.

If you’re not an old movie aficionado, here’s the skinny. Rita Hayworth was a forties movie star in the days when a sex symbol could be sexy and mostly clothed. She was the consummate vamp. Not vamp as in vampire. Vamp as in a pretty woman with a sultry air, stripper hair, and bright red lipstick who uses charisma, charm, flirtation and a strangely pointy bra to manipulate men.

This is so not me. First, I wouldn’t be caught dead in red lipstick unless my daughter hands it to the funeral director between my passing and my disposal. She’s just mischievous enough to do it. She might put me in a leopard bikini while she’s at it. Thank the gods I will’ve vacated this body before it becomes the ample butt of a joke. And, second, I have no charisma, no charm, and even less interest in manipulating anyone. I might’ve known something about flirtation between pubescence and marriage, but those skills are so long forgotten they’ve rusted all the way through.

As I said, Rita wasn’t a popular boy name, but it wasn’t a popular girl name either. At least not for my generation. In fact, I’ve never met another. Maybe that’s not an upside. Maybe it just puts punctuation on the weirdness. But none of that has anything to do with this story.

What is relevant is the reason why I’ve just landed at Heathrow Airport, London. First time out of the U.S. A few weeks ago I couldn’t have imagined this. But life is strange. Way stranger than you think.

The day after my forty-third birthday, my husband announced he was trading me in. His words, not mine. What he said precisely was, “I’m trading you in on two twenty-two-year-olds,” and then laughed. When he realized we weren’t sharing the joke, he added, “Seriously. I need to free up because this isn’t working for me and I’ve found somebody who really gets me.”

I could only guess that really ‘gets’ him meant that she was into watching him look at his phone during dinner out, was good at pretending to like football, and could field snipes about her appearance without resentment. More likely, these details are discoveries yet to be revealed. And endured. Good luck, sweetie.

The news that I was