Monday, July 28, 2014

The Curse of the Ladybug

Languid guests lounged, draped, and otherwise arranged themselves in poses that were meant to be relaxed, nonchalant. They were, nonetheless, posed. Everyone was too self-important to notice their own mirrored images in the other posers.

All the men wore penguin suits, most in black and white, a few in all  black, and a couple of men in all white. The men in white regretted their choice of white every time a drop of wine was spilled. These men were clearly too new to the social scene to have known better; there was a reason black jackets were worn to meals and cocktail hours. Tipsy ladies needed an arm to hold themselves up. The ladies were slightly more daring in their sequined cocktail dresses with plunging backs and sides slit up one thigh or the other almost to the top of their stockings. Some of the women stayed in one place throughout the evening, smiling at the eager men whenever she wanted another drink. The reason the ladies didn't lift a finger to summon a waiter was because they feared the movement would unbalance their carefully balanced body on high heels that were so uncomfortable that only a sadistic man could have invented them.

The evening's entertainment was not the pianist and his svelte lounge singer who was attempting to be sultry as she warbled  high notes while draped across the grand; no, the evening's entertainment was the undercurrent of gossip by the rest of the ladies in the room as they made mental notes of everyone 's jewelery and whether or not they could remember said jewelery being worn the previous season. There was tittering and tisking at the prominent display of Mildred Highcup's diamond tiara, not because it was more ostentatious than the hostess's tiara, but because Mrs Highcup was seen just the month before in a lower east side jeweler's abode, a jeweler who had a reputation for making exacting copies of whatever someone brought in, the original of which was then sold at a pawn shop next door to the jeweler's. What no one had caught onto, yet, was the fact that Mr Harvey, the jeweler, over-charged the price of the duplicate, and Mr McKinney, the pawn shop owner, under-bid on the original, and thus kept themselves quite comfortable in their shared duplex. About every six months, they raised a toast to dear Mrs Highcup.

Mrs Oh, (her first name is Jackie), kept herself in new and imaginative jewelery which was gifted to her by Mr Oh, a droopy-faced middle-aged man with watery eyes, every time she had to claim him from the police after he had gotten himself picked up at a park. He felt he had done nothing wrong at any of those twenty-five plus citations and arrests. It wasn't his fault that women walking their dogs made him shove his hands into his pant pockets or into the deep front pockets of  his London Fog and rub furiously. The bus stop, which happened to be next to a sidewalk cafe he frequented, was even less his fault, he stressed; that beautiful, doe-eyed Basset Hound kept licking his shoes. What was a man supposed to do in such situations? Thankfully, he managed to stay away from dogs who were playing with their child guardians. He wasn't THAT kind of man!

Mrs Carpenter, a white hat with netting hanging over half her face, was the talk of the evening. She came not in a cocktail dress, but in a white pantsuit. From the way Mr Carpenter kept plucking at his upper thighs, everyone was fairly sure who was wearing the stockings that evening. Every once in a while, Mrs Carpenter would take out a pen to make a note in a tiny notebook. Mr Carpenter would flinch and then resign himself. She would flick the pen, he would jump, his eyes gazing over, she would flick the pen closed, and he relaxed. A few people had asked to use her pen, which she gave with a gentle smile, and they, too, would flick the pen to make a note, usually of a phone number or some such thing. Mr Carpenter would squeak and jump, the pen borrower would frown at him, take a step away, flick the pen closed, and hand it back to Mrs Carpenter. Each person took their cell phones from their pockets, checking for messages; they were sure they had heard a faint humming sound.

When the doors opened to admit Ms Coccinelle, in a sparkling, sequined black evening gown, the ladies had to converge on her to see the new hair pin up close. It was a beautiful ladybug made of rubies and black onyx. It was quite lovely, they all exclaimed. Unfortunately for everyone, including, to the regret of Misters Harvey and McKinney, the pin was recognized by Mrs Highcup who immediately pronounced Ms Coccinelle a thief.

Ohhhh, this was better than anything the evening had offered so far! The surrounding women didn't move an inch.

Ms Coccinelle said, quite casually, that the pin had been in her family for generations. She had photos of her great-grandmother wearing the pin almost 100 years ago. Everyone looked at Mrs Highcup.

Mrs Highcup declared her a liar; she had photos of herself wearing the pin at last winter's Christmas party. People gasped. Who would wear such a thing during the winter season?! They looked at Ms Coccinelle.

Someone suggested that maybe more than one pin of that design existed. Both women stopped the person from uttering another sound by looking at the man, Mr Wishwell, a man old enough to know better. He apparently did, as evidenced by the snapping of his jaw as it closed.

Mrs Highcup declared she had proof of sale. She bought the pin at the Clamsted Estate Sale after the unfortunate incident of a fire which left the home in ruins. People exclaimed at her generosity.

A second unfortunate thing happened at this exact time. The monstrous teenagers of the hosts, Mr and Mrs Gadfly, ran into the parlor with several of their friends who were spending the night. The teenagers were all dressed in Halloween costumes. They ran through the crowd of people, confusing guests and wait staff alike, and plucked jewelery from wherever they could, and dropped it all into the tinkling fountain of pink champagne. The evil-doers immediately ran back up the stairs, locked themselves into the large playroom, and shucked off their costumes which they then dropped out the window to drape over the hedges that grew against the stone wall.

One of the boys complained of a pricked finger as he sucked the tiny blood drop on his way to the bathroom. When he didn't return to the taunts of babyhood, another boy poked his head into the bathroom. Shocked, he called the others over. The whiner lay passed out on the floor. They all laughed at his having fainted from a tiny drop of blood.

Downstairs, the annoyed guests retrieved their jewelery as it was all gently rinsed, patted dry, and handed back to the owners. One of the waiters jumped, shook his hand, and glared at the offending drop of blood that had been rudely forced from his body by an evil pin. A moment later, he fell to the floor. 

Mrs Highcup stepped over the downed man, mashing fingers of the people trying to help the man up, and snatched the ruby ladybug pin from the floor. She, too, immediately fell to the floor when she pricked her skin in her haste to secure the pin deep down between her generous bosom. Unfortunately for the wounded waiter, she fell on him. Ms Coccinelle clicked her teeth in disapproval as she leaned down to take her pin. She carefully reattached it to her hairdo which was now slightly askew.

Upstairs, the fallen boy was waking from his faint. There was more laughter from the other teens as the boy, clearly in a state of confusion, found a red sheet, tossed it around his shoulders, and made buzzing sounds as he ran around the room. He jumped to the ledge of the open window, and, much to the shock of the other teens, he jumped out. They ran to the window and looked down. The boy had landed safely on the pile of Halloween clothes, got up, spread his 'red wings' and 'flew' away across the lawn. The teens watched for a moment, looked at each other, and laughed.