Mrs. Smith gladly floated around the room, handing out hors d’œuvre to her guest that normally they could never afford. She saved out of her own allowance for months for the treats. People knew they were not well to do, and the Smiths didn’t hide it, but they tried to host a party as best as their means would allow them. Of course, Mrs. Smith’s recent break on the stage meant they could afford a few more luxuries now, like the automatic washer and dryer she had her eyes on.
Mr. Smith was in the upper middle social circle. He was a reporter, and knew everyone because of it, and Mr. Smith’s favorite hobby was knowing people.
“Betty, put that tray on the sideboard and come tell Mr. Rickets about the play you’re in,” waved over Mr. Smith. It only took a few seconds for her to place the tray and glide across the apartment, but as soon as she made it to him, the door buzzed. She excused herself to answer it and Mrs. Smith weaved herself over to the door, then opened it. Framed by the doorway, Ms. Caroline Applebee stood in a striking pose with her cigarette smoking.
“Hello, honey. Sorry I’m late, I hope I am not appearing rude. I mean, I did have trouble finding your apartment, honey. I mean, I never expected it to be in this neighborhood. Good to see you, baby,” she said. Her smile was pencil thin and rouge. The smile was pleasant, lips with which Betty was familiar.
“Wha- Why, hello Caroline,” Mrs. Smith said. She sucked her gut in, straightened her shoulders and tried to push her chest out to look bigger. A wide smile, organic, unplanned and uncontrolled, spread across her thin head. “What a surprise. I didn’t expect you.” It was the truth. Her room mate from some very special years. Happier years, perhaps. They were inseparable.
“I show up at all the parties that I find worthwhile, Darling, and now that you are a young rising star on the broadway stage, how could I miss the celebration in honor of my old roommate?”
“Why I-” began Mrs. Smith. Caroline brushed aside Betty, who strolled over to a group of entranced men watching. Caroline looked like a movie star, not an old lover. Her memories of Caroline will always prevail in the category of bliss, despite her abhorrent behavior. They were best friends, or so thought Mrs. Smith, until Caroline stopped correspondence. Mrs. Smith has read in the society section a few times her friend was in the city. Mrs. Smith burned, rubbing her arms, then wiped sweat from her head when she thought about only how now Caroline visits after she landed her role on stage.
Mrs. Smith scurried over to the group of men and tried to address Caroline. “Caroline, may I–”
“Oh, of course darling, here’s my coat. I was waiting for the help, but I dare say I must have assumed too much of you. Please forgive me, darling.”
Having the coat pressed upon her, she mumbled “of course,” from under the waves of mink and took it to the bedroom. When she returned, she saw the most of the other women at in one corner awe struck at Caroline with the group of men. Mrs. Smith joined the women.
“Look at her. She has my Charlie drooling all over her,” one lady.
“Ladies, she has all of our husbands under her charm,” said another.
“‘Darling,’ how do you know her? Who is she?”
“Why, it’s Caroline Applebee, the millionairess from London, the socialite of New York.”
“Is she married? I can’t see how she isn’t.”
“I can. Betty, were you actually friends at college?”
“She’s a bitch.” Betty’s fist clinched because if she kept her palm open, she just knew it would end up as a slap on Caroline’s strong cheekbone. The group of women busted out giggling at no notice of the men. “Come on, let’s rescue our husbands.” Mrs. Smith led the pack over to the men, and one by one, they broke the circle of men by dragging their man away.
“Come help me in the kitchen,” Mrs. Smith said. Mr. Smith followed her into the kitchen, confused, as he knew all the food was already prepared. “Honey, can you please stay away from Caroline?”
“Oh Baby, I was just being an excellent host. I was just being nice to the young lady,”
“I want you to stay with me. Is that too hard?”
“No, of course not, Babe, after all, this is your night.”
“Thank you. Now let’s go out there and conquer the social world together.” Mrs. Smith led him back into the living room to hear Caroline telling everyone a story.
“I knew back then my sheepish little roommate might make something of her life. When I heard of who she married, I thought surely that would be a step back for her, but both darlings just surprised me…”
“Caroline, telling stories of us? Please don’t bore them with my uneventful life,” said Mrs. Smith in a tone mimicking Caroline.
The room was quiet. Mr. Rickets made a cat fight meow. His wife elbowed him, then said, “Ladies, be friends again.”
Caroline smiled at Betty. She remembered all the right buttons to push. “Uneventful life? Baby, give yourself credit, your life has been a heart touching rags to riches story, not completely dull.” She took a sip of champagne and a puff of her cigarette. Caroline pointed to Mr. Smith, who was standing just behind Mrs. Smith, and began walking over to him. “Why, with both of you, I never thought you would rise in the ranks, you beautiful people.” As Caroline was gliding past Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Smith stuck out her foot and tripped Caroline. Caroline fell on Mr. Smith, spilling her champagne on his gray suit and her white gown.
“I’m sorry Caroline. Did I do that?” Caroline looked at her dress, and then to Mrs. Smith, with glaring eyes full of hate and shock.
Mr. Smith reached quickly towards Betty’s face as if to strike, but he closed his hand into a ball and hesitated under the eyes watching. Stoplight red, he mustered some quiet words to Betty. “I invited her. Go help her clean up.”
Betty, ready to escape the scene, grabbed Caroline and lead her to the bedroom.
To Be Continued.
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