‘I have nothing to apologize for,’ said Vic, looking at Sophie straight into her eyes. Sophie’s prettily decorated face contorted in fury. The two wine glasses in her hands shook with the rage she was trying to control. But she couldn’t. She flung the contents of the glasses, one at Vic and one at Darryl. Both the victims of this assault flinched involuntarily, just in time to save the whites of their eyes from turning red like the wine.
Darryl slowly opened one eye, just in case Sophie was still standing before them, armed with another pair of wine glasses. He only opened his other eye as he saw Sophie on the far end of the room, storming right onto the lawn and through the exit. Stunned, Darryl turned to Vic. By now, Vic had wiped her face with her palms and grinned at Darryl. Vic’s hair was drenched by Sophie’s assault. A sticky clump of hair was stuck to Vic’s forehead from which a red bead of wine dripped onto her nose. Vic contorted both her eyes to focus on the bead of wine on her nose. She lifted a finger, wiped it off and tentatively licked it off her finger. She grinned back at Darryl and said very matter-of-factly, ‘Cheap red wine. Why can’t it be expensive, well-fermented white wine? At least white wine doesn’t stain clothes. Does it?’ Darryl just blinked at Vic.
‘What just happened Vickie?’ he asked. Vic looked at him in astonishment. ‘Why, your fiancé just thought that you were flirting with me while ignoring her completely. If I were you, I would take after her immediately and apologize. And you have the complete freedom to tell her that I am a bitch and a witch. See you later Darryl.’ Vic hopped out of her seat and strolled leisurely towards the elevators, which would take her to her hotel room. Darryl could hear Vic whistling Macarena.
He fell back into his chair. What had just happened? He was pulled out of his stupor at the sound of the car engine revving. He bolted right out of his chair and pushed his way through the partying crowds. He ran onto the lawn after Sophie, but she was already reversing the Saab. He took a few steps towards the car, towards Sophie, but she charged straight out of the gate, leaving a flustered Darryl behind her. Swearing in the choicest words of the layman’s dialect, Darryl shouted out to a cab, leaping in and asking the cab driver to pursue the car his raging fiancé was in. Shit!
* * *
Vic was sitting at a revolving stool at the bar, she loved revolving stools. Turning round and round in circles made the world seem swirling and made her head giddy without the consumption of alcohol. She was inappropriately dressed, she knew it. This was an elite party, a masked ball. Men and women alike, in their finest splendour pretended to be ladies and gentlemen of the olden times, their true identity safe beneath the masks, Vic wouldn’t have been allowed inside dressed as she was without the excellent acquaintance that she had established with doorman. After a few whispered words with him, she had waltzed right in, in her shorts, jersey and sneakers.
She had made her way straight to the bar and asked for cranberry juice. No alcohol for her tonight, she would just engage in her favourite past-time – people-watching. She saw the violin player of the band entranced in his music with his eyes closed. She saw a young couple passionately kissing against a wall, their masks askew and lopsided. She saw a gray-haired couple slowly waltzing in their own little bubble of ancient love that had survived the test of time.
Then she saw soft brown curls bobbing towards her in the crowd. As the crowd thinned and the head came closer, she saw that he was accompanied by a lovely woman. They made a handsome couple, thought Vic, as they settled down next to her. The man was dressed in a well-cut black and white suit, complete with a white bowtie. His face was hidden away with an indigo mask, the same shade as the woman’s gown. Her dress winked at Vic as she settled down at the bar. Her blonde hair was artfully arranged in a messy bun, and her white mask highlighted her blue dove eyes. A merry girl, Vic thought. But it was not the girl Vic was interested in. She thought she recognized that mess of brown soft curls.
Impulsive as she was, Vic leaned over to the man and tapped on his shoulder. As he turned around to face her, she reached out and yanked the mask off his face. Two sets of wide stunned eyes stared at Vic, the man’s in front of her and the woman’s behind him. Indifferent, Vic pouted at the man and declared, ‘I know you.’ A clear look of confusion passed over the man’s face. Vic leaned back and bit her thumb nail. ‘I do know you,’ she asserted. ‘I just don’t recall your name’. A triumphant smile spread across her face as a shocked look of recognition replaced his initial confusion. His eyes grew wider and he stammered, ‘Vic? Vickie? You’re Victoria Shaw, aren’t you? Oh my god!’
Vic nodded impatiently and waved him off. ‘I know that already. It’s your name I can’t recall. But I’m guessing we were in high school together.’ The man granted Vic a half-smile. ‘Indeed,’ he said. ‘I was in your high school. And you should remember me, Vic. But then again, I guess it’s easier to remember people like you than it is to remember people like me, yes?’ Vic just cocked her head to the side. This, too, was something she knew; everyone told her this. It was hard to forget Vic. She hardly paid attention to his words. She was trying to remember his name.
Some of her attention went to the woman behind the man, who was burning with curiosity at the exchange Vic and the man were engaging in. However pretty, Vic did not appreciate petty and jealous women. She pushed the woman out of her head and tried to remember the man’s name once more. ‘You had a crush on me, didn’t you? We shared a class together, and some people used to tease you with my name.’ The man grinned sheepishly at Vic. ‘Well, you can’t blame me. I was one of your many admirers.’ ‘True that,’ replied Vic, ‘but I still can’t get your name’. The man shrugged and said, ‘I want you to remember it. I will not disclose my identity.’ Vic tried remembering again. But this time, the woman’s face appeared right next to the man’s. ‘You have a companion?’ inquired Vic. The man waved her off. ‘She’s Sophie, my fiancée. Did you remember my name yet?’ Before Vic turned away to try and remember his name, she noticed that the lady threw him a disbelieving glance and fixed a venomous one at Vic. Vic shrugged it off. Petty woman.
Suddenly flooded with a memory, she turned to the man who was looking at her expectantly. Snapping her fingers, she exclaimed, ‘We used to walk together to the bus stand! You’re the George guy. Darryl George.’ Relief flooded Darryl’s face, and he grinned at her, a full flash of 32. ‘You remember,’ was all he said as he pulled Vic into an embrace. Over his shoulder, Vic saw Sophie stand with her hands on her hips and a facial expression that could put any gargoyle to shame. The typical ‘oh-you’re-in-so-much-trouble’ posture. Vic pulled away from Darryl, smirking. Sophie stamped around Darryl and firmly lodged herself between them. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ she asked him in a low menacing tone. Bewildered, he answered, ‘Just talking to an old friend, darling!’
‘Excuse me,’ said Vic, ‘is this because I mentioned that your fiancé had a crush on me? Or is it because he admitted it? Just so you know, this was in high-school, and it has been years since. I am sure Darryl is a mature man who can handle his feelings. He does love you, or he wouldn’t have been your fiancé! There is no need to be so petty and jealous. I despise it.’ Darryl had disbelief stamped over his face and Sophie, fury. She spluttered in her anger and said, ‘You have no right to say I’m jealous! Besides, I am talking to my fiancé. Who are you to interrupt? Just because you are old friends, or Darryl fancied you once upon a time doesn’t mean you can butt in and say what comes to your mind. Apologize now!’
Vic just cocked her head to the side and in the same calm indifferent tone said, ‘I have nothing to apologize for.’