Margery and I arrived at the party late Saturday evening. It didn't begin until 10:00PM, and we arrived 10:28PM. She was dressed in a black dress, I in a black tuxedo; our usual task in blending in was established. All our friends and business associates were there, yucking it up in style. Fancy-dressed servants ran this way and that. The rooms were candle-lit, dimly, and romanic and moody. Live muscians played classical favorites. We were welcomed by a greater, and two young men took our coats. Inside we were met by the usual welcomes and yadda-yaddas. A group had gathered around Tom Nieson, a distinguished guest, being the billionaire founder of Jackal Industries which sold ties, sports jsckets and such more expensive clothing-related products all around the world. Margery and I didn't come from money, and everyone knew it. Not that we cared, it wasn't really our scene and these were not our people, even though we associated with them. But our good friends Stan and Shelley had insisted on our going.
At last we found them. Or they found us, rather. "Hi!" we all exchanged, along with such usual pleasantries. Stan was my legal business partner, and Shelley my first cousan and long time good friend. They didn't come from money either, but they both had such character and charm that it more than made up for it. "Well, you too made it," grinned Shelley, her eyes shining in a humour only us more blue collar backgrounders, so to speak, could appreciate.
"Yes we did. It's a lovely party," smiled Margery, and we all laughed silently; we all knew what LOVELY meant: stylish, snottish, yadda-yadda.
"We've got some... so-so side dishes," remarked Stan. "And some lovely red wine from 1942, France." It was their attempts to make the evening more enjoyable for us. It was an impressive party, but just not our taste. "There are some important men here, Ron, besides just important cliants. I've been working the room already," he bragged.
"Good," I said. "That's more your thing than mine. I may be a good lawyer and businessman, but I'm not much for politics."
"Nonsense!" said Stan. "For instance, we were introduced to a couple from Dallas. They own a casino chain in Las Vegas, and several companies besides. His nephew was involved in a serious accident just a few DAYS ago. He was hit side-on by a car backing up in a public parking lot. Clearly not his fault, then. But the adjuster decided otherwise. He considered it case closed. I explained to him that that decision could easily be over-turned in court. By the sound of things, his nephew is the real victim. He suffered a concussion and lost his JOB because of that. I explained the situation to him and he agreed to have his people contact our people. A small case you might think, but we always have to start somewhere. After all, we got Phil Deiner after his neighbour ran over his daughter's cat. I suggest either you or I take this one, or maybe Clarke or one of our best. If we can wen him over, that's all the more favor. He's got a lot of pull."
The Texan man was laughing it up in the corner after Stan pointed him out to me. "And a big mouth," I added. "Risky business."
"That's why we have to do good by him."
"Relax, you too," smiled Shelley. "We're here to have fun, remember? You had your meeting with Mr.Deiner, Stan, now let it be. They're our guests, and our best friends."
"Of course," said Stan, apologetic in his own way.
"It's all right," smiled Margery, taking a glass of sparkling champagne from a silver tray held by a servant. She gave him a quiet "Thank you," so that others could not hear her. It was considered too blue collar to thank the help, except for at the very end of the party, if it was very good and if everyone was drunk enough. But Margery couldn't help herself.
"Thank you," Shelley whispered as well, taking a glass. I casually nodded as I took one. Stan remained still. "The music doesn't get much better than this, I'm affraid," smiled Shelley. We all knew that Shelley liked old fashioned rock and country, only at social events pretending to enjoy classical.
"Speaking of which," came Stan, turning to my wife Margery, "You owe me a dance."
"Yes indeed I do," smiled Margery, leaving my shoulder as they went to the dance hall.
Shelley and I remained together, smiling to ourselves. It had been a long time sense we were little children, listening to Elton John and Led Zeppelin. Shelley was my first cousin. She was somewhat stalky with a large nose, rounded chin, dark brown and curly hair, oak nut eyes and a voice from heaven. The sound of her laughter was the single greatest sound in life, I had always thought so. In secret, I had always had a crush on Shelley, as well as a secret, inner animal lust for her that I had never felt for a lady before. But then, Shelley was no lady. She was no more refined in composure than in appearance. She had an animal magnitism about her, and a strong personality I loved more my own imediate family, even more than Margery, although I'd never let on. I always felt ashamed for my feelings for Shelley, in part due to being her first cousan, in part due to her unattractive body--relatively speaking--and also given my marriage to Margery.
We watched our spouses dancing, and then looked upon eachother reflectfully. Her eyes were open and pure with character and emotional innocence, piercing right through me as always. My eyes always reacted to her's in fear. Perhaps I was intimidated by her open, animal nature. But I respected her greatly as a person. She was a pediatrician, and got along incredibly well with children. She would have made an excellent parent. For those fooled by her open charm, Shelley was strong and highly intelligant, being one of the most intelligent people I had ever known. Her open, reveiling nature could just as easily become sharp, cold and aggressive. I loved her for all her angles and charms.
"How times goes," I said at last.
"yes," she agreed. "Ron, you remember when we were children, looking up at the sky and seeing Santas in the clouds?" I laughed, partly because of the manner in which she had said it. "We never would have DREAMED we'd make it here."
"No," I agreed, looking around. The groups were formed, the chit-chatting stuck in bunches. We could say anything now and no one would notice. "It's lonely," I commented. Shelley looked deep into my eyes as I looked about the room, her eyes frightening me. I tried to hide them from her as I spoke. "It's an empty life. So empty." It had really hit me. Standing there I fell into an emotional depression which had been growing in me for years. Nothing in life seemed to matter. "A cut-out man in a cut-out world. It seems to me that I was human once... Life is just a process of working and going to bed and resting so that you can get up the next day and go back to work. What is the pupose of SUCCESS if you can't enjoy LIVING?"
She came up to me, face to face, eye to eye. My fear became all the more obvious so she then subsided a bit. I was sure of it then. She knew how I felt. She always knew. But she felt wasn't attractive enough for me. How did she really feel about me? Maybe she was affraid too, affraid to push the issue, although I always secretly wanted her to. Were we both affraid of rejection? I was embarrassed of the idea, being considered such a handsome man, a successful man. What would they say of being with a woman like Shelley? Oh, she was fantastic, but unattractive physically. Was I affraid of a woman with strong feelings? Was I affraid of loving a strong woman?
I continued this thought as I looked in her eyes, that water-eyed innocence of feelings looking back at me, along with that dark, mysterious viel she used to cover her exposed feelings. But she always desired to unleash them. To be who she really is, who a cold man like Stan could never let her be. She looked at me more emotionally then, looked down and then said, "I think Stan's having an affair."
"Stan?" I said. I had suspected it as well, but the last thing in the world I wanted to do was to hurt Shelley's feelings. "Surely NOT," I lied. "No. Not Stan."