I’m hosting a cocktail party for Brock’s new retro ad campaign for 60’s fashion and I’ve already messed up by talking out of turn.
Brock is furious and I don’t blame him.
I know the rules. I’m to be seen but not heard, and never to intrude into clients’ conversations.
What does Brock say? Oh yes, Stay aloof and keep the mystery.
At the very least I should be able to accomplish that much.
“Now, go back and circulate—and you can begin by joining that group over there.” He points to a small circle of men formed around Ella and Sara.
I dutifully head toward the women, being careful to stay politely aloof, but two of the men spot me as I cross the room and invite me into their group.
The attention shifts to me, as the men are now oblivious of Elle and Sara.
A drink is offered, along with several compliments and the occasional sly snicker. Several men compete for my attention.
Elle brazenly stares at me with undisguised hatred. Sara feigns disinterest. I try to reach out and include them in the conversation, but Sara acts as if I’m not there and Elle is bristling with electricity.
I want the floor to swallow me up, or Brock to gently take me by the elbow and guide me to safety—but no such luck.
“So, you belong to Brock,” one of the men leers, “lucky guy.”
Sara looks at me askance.
“I suppose he wants you in that dress,” she whispers, “because he’s still carrying a torch for Vanessa.”
At the mention of the name, Elle’s eyes grow dark and malevolent.
“Don’t mention that bitch—Brock’s just stuck in a time warp trying to exorcise a ghost. Mind you, he’s got the money and means to indulge his angst.”
The atmosphere in the room is energized.
“Say,” one of the men says to his friend, “I think we have the makings here of a good cat fight—these two tigers are spitting mad and want to take back their turf.”
Elle is incensed. She turns upon the man, eyes flashing. He wilts under her withering gaze and slinks away into the shadows.
I watch the poetry of gestures closely, trying to discern the significance. Why is the man so afraid?
My ruminations are interrupted by a curious change in Sara’s demeanour. Her face unexpectedly brightens. It reminds me of a dull neon sign that suddenly flickers and springs to life.
My eyes follow her gaze to a tall figure emerging from the shadows
“Brock! I was wondering where you were.”
Elle’s voice has a strained nervous gaiety that contrasts with Brock’s stern features.
Sara seems oblivious of her friend's discomfort, her adoration directed entirely to the man.
I shiver as a frisson of fear passes through me. I’ve seen that look on Brock's face before. Trouble is brewing.
Somewhere down deep inside me there's a slight twinge of sympathy for Elle, but there's also a welcome relief that Brock's anger is directed toward her and away from me for a change.
The atmosphere is charged with energy. It's the moment in a storm before the lightning strikes.