On a night that most attendees would hope simply pass by without any fanfare, there proved to be more than just the usual rubbing shoulders and an opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the other movers and shakers in Marin County.
Yes, this year, there was a new theme, one that harled back to the mid-nineteenth century when the Gentry held balls, and there was dancing.
There was also a slight break in tradition when not all attendees were from the same social set, and finally, after many years of lobbying, certain residents of Cedar Falls were invited, one of who was our own, and rather well-known, William Benjamin Oldacre.
The Oldacres have been living in and around Cedar Falls for as long as anyone can remember, in fact, since 1807, nearly 19 years before the first vestiges of a town appeared. They were here long before the Reinharts, they have a school named after one, a street, the public library, and several buildings.
And, yet, no one received an invitation to the ball, or any of the fundraisers, until now.
Be this as it may, I mention this for only one reason, it brought about a change to proceedings, and the dancing and this reporter will bear witness to what was an excellent rendition of the Viennese Waltz in the first instance, led out by none other than William Oldacre, and the second daughter of James Edward Rothstein, Emily Rothstein.
Such was their flair and artistry one could almost assume they were an item. Watch this space if there are further developments.
The article went on the tell everyone how much was raised and where it was going, though tongue in cheek I got the impression it was not where most wanted it to be directed.
It wasn’t quite the hatchet job I was expecting, but it was an interesting touch to highlight the longevity and renown of the Oldacres in the area versus the new kid with all the money.
Our family just wasn’t good at taking over or making buckets of money.
I know Dad left the paper on the bench open at the page, and I could see his expression, when he read it, one of mock indignation. He preferred that no one remembered the Oldacres’ part in the town development. It wasn’t quite what everyone imagined it to be.
Darcy appeared, still in pyjamas and; looking sleepy. Her life had changed since the ball, a girl now in ‘demand’ as she put it. It was a notoriety she didn’t need.
“You’ve seen the assassination?”
“How do you know what’s in it?”
“Taylor rang and told me. You got a mention, liked infamously to the one and only Emily. That cat is well and truly out of the bag now.”
“We danced, that’s all it said.”
“Maybe but what it really says, between the lines, is that you two are an item.”
“It said ‘one could almost assume’.”
She shook her head. “Semantics, again, Will. We know differently, don’t we?”
I was off to the library to do some research on the Oldacre family, fired up again after reading Angela’s piece, just in case a rebuttal was needed.
I made it to the street when a very familiar limousine stopped, and Genevieve got out.
“Please, that’s my father, I think we knew each other well enough to use first names.”
“Genevieve. What do I owe this honour?”
“Miss Emily would like to see you?”
“Would she now. Well, as it happens I’m off to the library. I might not be, if she had called and told me, but she didn’t, and I’m not going to drop everyone when she summons me. This is me telling you to tell her there is a way to do things properly.”
I thought she would get annoyed, certainly, her expression changed from bright and sunny to somewhat clouded.
“My thought exactly, and I did tell her, equally as politely.”
“I’m sure you did. Now, I’m going to start walking in the direction of the bus stop. If you choose to tell her my sentiments, that’s fine, otherwise I’m sorry you were sent out on a fool’s errand.”
She smiled. “I’d rather be here than there.”
I could understand that sentiment. She got back in the car, but it did not drive off. She was calling Miss Emily.
I made it to the bus stop before my cell phone rang.
“Genevieve says you’re being petulant.”
“No, Genevieve did not say I was being petulant. If you are going to paraphrase what people say to you incorrectly, Emily, I will hang up.”
Silence for a few seconds, then, “You’re going to be a pain in the ass, aren’t you?”
“No. I’m being me, and if you want to talk to me, call, we’ll arrange to meet, and then we’ll talk. You do not summon me by sending a car and an assistant. It’s a waste of resources and manpower.”
“I want to see you now.”
“Then you have to call and then we meet. If you’d called last night, we would be meeting now, if you get out of bed before seven.”
“I didn’t know last night. I just read the paper. She’s not very nice.”
“I thought we dodged a bullet.”
“We’ve become an item?”
“Assumed to be an item. There’s a big difference. People ask, you simply say it’s a work in progress.”
“What does that mean?”
“Exactly. Now if you want to meet this morning, then call me in an hour and I’ll tell you where and when.”
“This is not going to work.”
“That’s your call, Emily, not mine. I know you can be the girl I know and love, you just have to realize who that girl is. My bus is here. We’ll speak later.”
An hour and a half later we were sitting in a booth at the café near the library. It was one of my favourite haunts, it had a jukebox and all the old 50s and 60s hits. I had offered to buy it when the current owners decided to retire or sell.
It was playing ‘Irresistible You’ by Bobby Darin when Emily came in.
She smiled as she sat down. “Did you play that for me?”
“No, someone else put it on, but it is appropriate.”
“God, you are going to drive me nuts.”
“Isn’t that your job, to drive me nuts?”
She shook her head. “You made me think before nine William. Not happy.”
“Then you’d better get used to it. I don’t like wasting the day.”
I could see a retort forming in her eyes, and then she parked it at the back of her mind. I suspect I had an inkling as to what it was, she was going to say, and certainly what she was thinking. The same thought passed through mine, and it surprised me.
“Now,” I said, “What do you want to talk about?”
“The article in the paper. It was a bit nasty.”
“Semantics, Emily. Down among the common people, it is viewed as an elitist affair. I don’t agree about the stuff on the Oldacres. We may have been here since God created the earth, but we did nothing of note. If we had, the place would be called Oldacre Falls, not Cedar Falls. It’s just Amanda venting.”
“I thought journalists were supposed to report “the news, not comment on it.”
“You live in a different world.
“Daddy owns the company that owns the paper. He says the news is what he says it is.”
That was just a little scary. “You have heard the expression, don’t shoot the messenger, haven’t you?”
“She doesn’t like me.”
“And why is that, Emily?”
Dorothy, my usual waitress, came over with the coffee pot to give me a refill. Most mornings I usually stayed for three. This morning, I was considering adding some bourbon.
She looked at Emily with something akin to surprise. This café was hardly a place the Rothstein’s frequented. “Coffee, Emily?” She was not going to call her Miss Rothstein.
“Yes, thank you.”
Emily, on her best behaviour. Or perhaps because she was not with her friends. They had something of a reputation when visiting local stores.
Dorothy collected a cup and saucer and brought it over, then filled it.
Dorothy looked at me. “I read the paper.”
“Don’t believe everything you read.”
Emily frowned at me.
“I’m still waiting for my invitation,” Dorothy said, a smile forming.
We always said that the world would stop spinning on its axis if one or other of us got invited. Exactly the opposite had happened to me that night, the earth moved. I was not going to tell Dorothy that.
“Perhaps,” Emily said, “we should make the next more town centric.”
Dorothy looked puzzled so I translated, “Ask more of the town’s folk along. It’s a good idea.”
“Good idea.” Dorothy had to go; another customer was after more coffee.
I looked at Emily. “I have a great idea. It’ll kill two birds with one stone. If you are thinking of joining your father’s company, perhaps you should ask him if you could work in the charity functions area, as an organiser. Even better, since the company doesn’t specifically have a department to handle that, tell him to create a foundation, and ask him if you can be in charge. That would be a real job, and I know you can organise.”
“You mean work in an actual role?”
“It might actually work in your favour, showing Amanda you’re not the person she thinks you are, and if you impress her… What were you planning to do after Uni?”
“Go away with friends, like a graduation thing. Surely, you’re going away, like, to celebrate freedom after all that school stuff.”
“Some of us have to earn a living, we don’t all have rich fathers.”
“You could come with me.”
“With your current friends, Emily? You are so much better than they are. You just need purpose, and with them, it’s about being entitled and delinquent because they can. I know you’re better than that, and I think you do too.”
“I think my head hurts talking to you,” Emily said, standing. “I’ve known them all for a long time, William, and we have plans.”
“And I don’t expect you to change them on my account. Just think about it. If you want to be seen differently, and with respect, then you’re the one who has to make it happen.”
There was the Emily of old.
I watched her leave, as did Dorothy, who came back after she left.
“The course of true love…”
“Never quite works out when there’s a huge chasm between the social strata. I believe she can change; I just think at the moment she doesn’t believe in herself.”
Perhaps she saw my wistful look as I watched her cross the road.
“At least it was one tick in a box, the Viennese Waltz. The lessons paid off?”
“They did. It was like dancing on air, she is that good.”
“Perhaps it’s more than that, Will, she had the right partner. Don’t give up on her.”
I shrugged. She was the most vexing girl I’d ever known.
© Charles Heath 2023
One thought on “The A to Z Challenge – 2023 — V is for Vexatious”
Vexation is a great word choice! Visitor from the A-Z.
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