~The Dinner party~
Maxwell was in his black tuxedo, putting the finishing touches to his tie and as he stared at his reflection he muttered that Lucy was not there to help him. This dinner was not only for the benefit of the gallery, but also a good excuse to shake down a few of the panthers of the Seattle A list for a few more donations to help secure more prize exhibitions from overseas artists. Maxwell was a shrewd business man, playboy…all that, but knew bugger all about art. That is where Lucy came in. And…she was not there. Why? Oh she decided to go and check on the young Roisin’s collection that Elias was all too happy to brag about. Least that collection was not going to cost an arm and a leg to display and promote.
His tie neatly in place, he winked at his reflection before heading out into the main living area of his condo. Staying at the Four Seasons was a temporary measure, as his previous apartment was a tad small for the sorts of parties and gatherings he was planning to host. That and Mrs Hancock kept saying he should move into her sprawling country estate. Only problem there was it was too far from the city, and…he was afraid she would bore him to death with her endless and dreary tales of her first four husbands. There was no way Max wanted to be number five, as each of her husbands met an untimely death. But, to have her as a date and possibly have her die before him, was the odds he was betting on. She knew all the right people and spoke their language. She was in effect a social ladder…and one he planned to continue to climb..till something better came along.
The hired caterers were busy in the kitchen and the small string quartet were practicing over in the far corner of the room. Everything…looked perfect. Maxwell clapped his hands together as he was so far impressed.
“This…is going to be bloody brilliant.”
The door bell rang, and that familiar nasily whine was heard.
“Max…open the door, Lover…It’s me, Muriel.”
It was Mrs Hancock – Muriel Hancock. Mazwell didn’t mess about, he quickly picked a flower out of one of the prized arrangements and headed to the door as he threaded his button hole. Opening the door, before the hired help he gasped as he saw his date for the night.
“Darling…what can I say? You look…breathtaking.” He was right about that.
Muriel gushed as she stood in the door way and tore off her glasses. Leaning forward, she air kissed him twice, before pushing past and admiring the sight of his new condo. Everything was pristine and perfect, just the way Muriel liked it.
“Fabulous. Now, how’s about getting your kitten a glass of bubbly?”
A Seattle City cab pulled up to the curb outside the the Four Seasons Condos and the driver turned to look at the woman in the backseat. She was busily staring out the opposite windows and snapping pictures with what looked to him like a very expensive piece of camera equipment.
“That’s $22.75, ma’am.” the driver grunted, wanting to get home in time for Jeopardy!. The woman, not even bothering to look at him, shoved a handful of bills into his hands and climbed out of the cab, still snapping pictures.
“Fascinating.” the woman whispered, her voice tinged with a cultured British accent, as she stared at the church across the street.
She turned around, staring up at the place where her brother called home with a critical eye and shook her head. He always did like to live extravagantly.
She headed inside and checked the numbers on the mailboxes in the lobby, spotting her brother’s name immediately. A smirk on her face, she started up the stares instead of taking the elevator.
When she reached Number 35, she could hear the light sounds of music and voices from inside and wondered if he was having a party? She looked down at what she was wearing, shift pants and a loose fitting top, her ever-present camera slung around her neck and decided she didn’t care one fig what she looked like. She had just spent over 14 hours on a plane and an hour in a cab coming here. He can deal with it.
She knocked on the door as hard as she could and waited.
Already a few of the more notable guests had arrived. Why there was the Senator William Chase and his gorgeous wife and former Playboy Bunny Tamara.
Iron chef USA Roberto Fleming and his partner Rodger Dupree.
Chocolate health bar Heiress Stacy Pulser and her miniature poodle Minty.
And who could forget radio talk show host Roy Stevens and his pregnant girlfriend Janice Wyman.
Coming along a bit late was Muriel’s spiritual guru the Mahatma Sheika, who decided to wear what looked like an orange and watermelon colored caftan.
Honestly, if you could see this colourful collection of characters you would have thought it was an episode of “I’m a B list celebrity – get me out of here.”
The music played was a lovely piece by Beetohavn and Maxwell had even ordered a champagne fountain with which to impress his guests. The gay sounding laughter mixed with the nasally cackle by Muriel only made it more macabre and you could see that Maxwell had already hit the bottle…a little too hard trying to cover up the fact he was shy around such people.
As Felicity was standing out in the hallway waiting for someone to answer the door, sure enough another late and unexpected guest happened to rock up. It was Lucy, who was running late after meeting with Elias and Roisin over at his studio which was on the other side of town. She was still wearing her smart grey business suit and carrying her briefcase whilst looking worried about what lay behind that door. But it was what was in front of the door, that had Lucy raise an eyebrow.
“Maxwell didn’t bribe you too, I hope.” Lucy said with a curious expression at the casually dressed lady. Course, she had no idea that this was Maxwell’s sister, for if she had, she would have used a bit more decorum. When she saw the camera lashed around her neck, she then thought maybe she was a hired celebrity photographer, ordered by Muriel to take society snaps for the high end gossip rags.
But as Lucy was about to ask, the door swung open and a pink cheeked Maxwell lurched forward. At first he was stunned, then…shocked.
“FELICITY?! My gods…what are you ….Lucy?! Wow…this is unexpected. Good thing we have extra seats. *Hic*…Won’t…won’t you come in?” He made something of a sweeping gesture for them to enter, whilst the other guests were heading for the dining room under the careful watch of one hawkeye Muriel Hancock.
‘DARLING…hurry up and bring your friends. We are about to start with the soup!”
This was to be one hell of a dinner party.
Felicity had been standing outside Max’s apartment waiting for a few minutes. Apparently whatever was going inside the place, if the loud chatter was any indication, was more important then who was at the door. She knocked again, louder this time just as the elevator dinged behind her and a woman stepped out. She, too, paused outside Max’s door, looking harried and annoyed at the same time. She noticed Felicity standing there.
“Maxwell didn’t bribe you, too I hope.” the woman stated. Before Felicity could reply, the door was finally yanked open and a loud exuberant voice was heard.
“FELICITY?! My gods…what are you ….Lucy?! Wow…this is unexpected. Good thing we have extra seats. *Hic*…Won’t…won’t you come in?” And there stood her brother in all his drunken glory. Felicity shook her head and pushed passed him into the apartment, snatching his drink from his hand as she did so. She looked around and saw a virtual Who’s Who of semi-celebrities and was itching to start taking pictures. These were the sort of people her brother rubbed elbows with?
“Really, Maxwell. It’s not even 9 o’clock and you’re already three sheets to the wind.” Felicity sighed, turning to look at him. “What would Mother say?”
“DARLING…hurry up and bring your friends. We are about to start with the soup!” came the stringent tones of the last voice Felicity expected to hear. She turned on the spot and saw Muriel waving people into the dining room.
“Muriel! Is that you, love?” Felicity grinned. She had worked with the Public Relations specialist on numerous projects over the years, the last one being a photo shoot for a young starlet who had a bad string of publicity for her acts of public drunkeness, theft, movie flops, several stints in rehab and jail time.
Muriel actually stopped what she was doing, and took a double take when she saw who had just breezed in the door, having snatched a glass from Maxwell and boldly sung out.“”Muriel! Is that you, love?”
“Felicity? Oh..my..God, Woman. How long has it been?’
If it was one thing about Muriel, she never stopped working. Every event was for a reason, a purpose. Just like this dinner. A chance to get some half baked celebrities together in the one place and do new deals in their public relations marketing. Just as Maxwell was keen to get sponsorship deals for his Art gallery, Muriel was trying to be the new Mrs 10 Percent.
Lucy stood in behind Maxwell as the two older women were about to get reacquainted. The young assistant sidled up to Maxwell and whispered in his ear. “You’re drunk.” Maxwell, who was trying to look like everything was fine at seeing his sister showed up unannounced whispered back “And I plan to get completely smashed, now that Fel is here.” Lucy wondered what on earth that meant, but by the looks of things…she was about to find out.
Muriel air kissed Felicity and then drew back giving her the once over. Though Felicity was casually dressed, she had to admit that the Bohemian look did suit her. “I had no idea that you were related to my darling Maxwell. How convenient. She purred. Would you mind taking some snaps of our wonderful guests, I am sure that they would end up on every society page in this town.” Again, Muriel was working it, as always.
Maxwell was now starting to get worried, and took Lucy by the arm and brought her over to meet Felicity properly.
“Kitten, Sis, may I present my assistant, Lucy Bardwell. She is my right hand at the Gallery, a real find all the way from New York.” Lucy tugged her arm away, then gave both women a half smile. “I am familiar with Mrs Hancock, Max. But thank you for the re introduction.” Muriel rolled her eyes, and then tried to thread her arm through Felicity’s to walk her to a place at the dinner table. Lucy noted it right away and sighed, as Maxwell grabbed another glass of champagne from one of the roving waiters. “See what I mean?’
At the table, the guests were already deep in conversations, with the Senator’s wife guffawing like some southern country girl. No table manners what so ever. The Senator kept trying to shush her, but every time she looked at the gay couple that were more interested in snogging, than partaking in the conversation, she kept erupting into giggles and laughter. “Never been this close to gay men before. Is it contagious?” The chocolate heiress was feeding her puppy: Minty some treats off the table when she heard the queer question from the Senator’s wife. “Is what contagious?” The blonde bunny bombshell blinked with those fake false eyelashes and replied. “Gayness.”
The two lovers broke a kiss, and the Iron chef who overheard the Senator’s wife said with a chuckle. “Why don’t you pucker up with Stacy and find out.” This brought a lot of laughter, especially from Tamara, who thought that was such a silly idea. “Oh you guys.”