They sat alone in the back of the sweltering Chevy, their plump pink thighs stuck to the seat. Suzie glared at her brother's hand crossing the sacred middle line, slithering forward like a snake ... [+]
You know how people say “you can’t choose your relatives, but you can choose your friends?”
Well that may be true, but let me add that you can’t always choose your husband’s business buddies and their wives, and, believe me, that’s a problem!
I had woken early that cloudy Saturday morning with two things on my mind: shopping and Dolores.
The first thought was easier and more pleasurable. My favorite consignment shop was having their annual fall clearance “SALE!” There was a beautiful coffee table there which I had been lusting after but hadn’t bought because it was way too expensive for resale and I didn’t really need it. But I wanted it! During my last visit to the shop, while the owner had been trying to push the sale, I had tried to find some imperfections in the table so I could get a better price. I finally found a flaw: a small mark on the inside of one of the legs.
“Just a ding, not at all noticeable,” he had assured me with a chuckle. “Who is ever going to get on their hands and knees to check out one table leg to find a ding?”
Ha! He obviously didn’t know me.
Well, maybe today would be lucky. Maybe it would be on sale and I would be able to talk myself into what a deal it was and how nice it would look in our home and how I really loved its finish and contemporary look and how wasn’t our living room looking a little outdated? And really, actually, how much I wanted it.
My second thought – Dolores – was heavier on my mind and kept interfering with the pleasurable dream of My Beautiful Table.
Let me tell you about Dolores, the wife of my husband’s business associate, Paul. We were to go to their home tonight for a dinner party with other colleagues. I dreaded the thought because, let’s face it, that woman had always really rubbed me the wrong way. She was... She was... Well, she was just a bitch.
Fancy Nancy, I called her in the darker parts of my mind. Always out to prove herself right and better than anyone else. Well, I would show her. Tonight, I would show up in my best outfit with my hair and nails done perfectly. Avoiding politics and religion, I would converse with knowledge and humor. I would be polite and compliment Dolores on the food, but not go overboard on the praise of her table setting or creativity or flowers, which – I have to admit – were usually really outstanding.
When the alarm went off that morning, although I was already awake, I realized I had an early salon appointment. Wait! I thought, if I go to get beautiful, I would miss my sale. The sale was only until noon and there was no way I could make it after my appointment.
My sale! Where My Beautiful Table might be waiting for me! Damn!
What a decision to make.
My pride won out and I realized I would be miserable if I didn’t look my best at dinner. My Table could wait until another day – if it were still there after the giant sale, which I knew was the chance of a lifetime.
After my appointment, with the sale over, the day dragged on with my doing very little and hardly moving because I was afraid to touch anything in case it ruined my nails. So, I sat around mostly thinking about My Table and Dolores.
That night on the way to dinner, I thought I looked lovely in my new outfit. My husband smiled approvingly as we drove up the long, landscaped driveway leading to their beautiful home. But, I realized, he wasn’t smiling at me but at the luscious scene in front of us. Of course, the garden was in full bloom. Did she only entertain when the flowers were perfect? Did she ever run out of flowers? Did her plants never die? She had told me she does all her garden work by herself and only hires lawn cutter and trimmers. Of course, I didn’t believe her.
We entered the polished marble foyer and were greeted graciously by our host and hostess. She was wearing a gorgeous outfit designed by a great new talent who was someone I had never heard of and, of course, it was fabulous. After a flurry of air kisses with Dolores and Paul, my husband and I stepped into the living room to meet the other guests and that’s when I saw it.
MY table! MY BEAUTIFUL TABLE, of course! How could she?
I tried not to act flustered and took my seat among the other guests and accepted the offer of a drink. Make it a double, I silently prayed. Maybe the other guests were charming, but I was so overwhelmed by the presence of My Table in her living room I didn’t even try to be polite.
OK, I thought, how to find out if it’s really Mine?
I picked up my drink and napkin and sauntered over to some miniature oil paintings on the wall.
“These are lovely,” I commented a bit too loudly (maybe my drink had been too large) while dropping my napkin on the floor. “Where did you find them?”
“Oh, let me” replied on of the male guests as he reached down and retrieved the linen cloth – of course linen. No paper napkins here!
“Oh, those paintings?” Dolores replied knowingly. “We bought them while we were in Florence. They were done by a famous local artist who only produces a few paintings a year. We were very lucky to get them. That was the European tour where we met the couple we told you about with the giant house on Cape Cod. Remember them? They’re the folks who we visited recently on Long Island, at one of their other five homes. They are such interesting people...”
On and on she went. I tuned her out. Who gives a damn about these anonymous friends? Cripes, Dolores, why can’t you just say you got the paintings on a trip?
All I wanted to do was to stoop down to see if I could find what I was looking for.
Once again, I dropped my napkin, but this time I was quicker!
“Oh, let me,” I smiled. “I’m such an oaf and you helped me last time!”
I knelt down to pick up my napkin and then I saw it – THE DING!
Gotcha! I thought excitedly.
“And this lovely table?” I eventually had the chance to ask.
“Oh, it’s a long story. I’ll tell you later” she smiled with a wink.
Great, I thought, she’s going to make up a giant convoluted explanation about some hand craftsman in New Hope who designed it just for her and only does a limited number of pieces, and... But this time I knew the truth!
I spent most of the evening trying to figure out how to expose her without belittling myself.
The dinner party proceeded with delicious food, the proper wine pairings – not that I needed more wine – good conversation, all the correct serving pieces, the beautifully set table, and all the other extras that make me so jealous and so competitive.
Dolores called me into the hallway after coffee with a subtle gesture and told me she had a secret to tell me.
“I know how you love secondhand things, dear, so when I saw this giant SALE sign this morning near the farmers’ market while I was gathering all the goodies for this evening, I thought of you and took a look. And there it was: that beautiful table, just waiting for me. So, I thought, okay, once, even if I have to lower my standards and buy resale, I’ll get it.”
“Let’s keep this our secret. Okay?”
Secondhand stuff? Thought of me? Lowered her standards? Our secret?
I smiled at her weakly and left the hallway.
That Delores, she’s just a Bitch.