Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Denver Cereal : Chapter Two - At the Seawell Ballroom

CHAPTER TWO

Jill arrives at Trevor’s engagement party. She’s an immediate center of attention.

Letting out a breath, Jill waited for security to notice her. When the man turned, she smiled. It was her brother Steve’s best friend David.

“God damn, you look good,” David said. “You should see the prunes inside.”

She smiled then looked at the crowded room. She had never been in a room where she knew no one. As she watched, her sister’s best friend floated by with a tray of hors d’ oeuvres. Well, almost no one.

“Go find Candy,” David said. “She’s waiting for you behind the main bar.”

Crossing the room, Jill felt every eye ball evaluate her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw men stare while women shifted away. She smiled. I sure brought them to attention. A hand brushed her arm and another friend walked by with a tray of hors d’ oeuvres.

Catching a glimpse of Candy, Jill stepped to the bar. With the bar pressed against her ribs, she recited in her head her purpose for tonight:

“Show him what he’s missing; Just show him what he’s missing; That’s all, just show him what he’s missing”.

Jill was seconds into her mantra trance when she felt the warmth of a man standing next to her. His eyes were focused on her face.

“Hi,” he said.

Jill looked over at him then back to the bar. She had practiced this for weeks. Sophisticated women are unfriendly. Don’t smile. Don’t be nice. Don’t be your effervescent self.

“I thought I knew everyone on the guest list,” he said. “But I do not remember an invitation to the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Jill couldn’t help herself. She started laughing.

Wrinkling her nose, she asked, “Is that a pick up line?”

“Pretty pathetic, eh? I’m Jacob,” he said.

“Jill.” She held her hand out and he shook it.

“Jill as in baby mommy Jill?” Jacob asked.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Jill said.

“My sister is marrying this guy, Trevor? He has a baby with a woman named Jill. Some one night stand thing. He says she’s a total bitch…..”

Candy flew across the back of the bar to Jill. “Sir, can I get you something to drink?”

“I’ll have whatever she’s drinking,” Jacob said pointing to Jill.

“She’s not drinking. Bitch whores tend not to drink at social functions.” Candy’s voice was saccharin sweet but her smile shot daggers.

“I didn’t say that I said it,” Jacob said.

“I heard what you said…”

“Candy!” Jill said through her teeth. “I’m sorry. I’m the baby of the family and my sister is very protective of me.”

“What are you drinking?” Candy asked.

“Uh, whiskey neat. Just whatever you have,” Jacob said.

Jill turned away from Jacob and stared at the back of the bar. She felt her face flush with heat. Trevor, who begged her to have a baby, now told people that Katy was a one night stand. An accident. And she was the bitch? Oh I just don’t belong.

“Listen.” Jacob touched her arm. “I meant what I said.”

“About me being a total bitch? Or the one night stand thing?” Jill imitated Candy’s sweet tone. She hadn’t thought Trevor could hurt her more.  Between the stiletto heels and the sick feeling in her stomach, Jill had to clutch the bar to remain standing.

“That you are absolutely the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my entire life,” Jacob said.

Jill’s head jerked to look at him. “What?”

“Here’s your drink. Now buzz off.” Candy slapped the whiskey down in front of Jacob.

“Listen…” Jacob started but Candy raised her hand in the air. Within moments, a friend wedged between Jill and Jacob. Candy put her hand on Jill’s arm to lead Jill toward the end of the bar. Jill glanced back to see Jacob stuck in place by a tray of hors d’ oeuvres and a hostile server.

“You look great,” Candy whispered. “The boots are genius.”

“Meg’s idea.” Jill passed the rose to Candy. “I don’t belong here, sis. I should go home. Did you hear what he said about Katy?”

“Jill, that man begged you for a child. You guys argued about it for years. He’s just….” Candy said. She squinted her brown eyes then released them wide. “I knew the moment you entered.”

“How?”

“Every male eye turned to watch you walk across the room,” Candy said. “This outfit is sheer brilliance.”

“The invitation said, ‘black tie’.” Jill beamed at her sister.

“Watch out, here comes the bride.” Candy raised her arm again.

“I’m sorry,” the tiny blonde rich girl said. Her straight gleaming white teeth matched her perfectly sculpted nose and eyebrows. Her blue eyes, enhanced with blue contacts, shot daggers of hate. “This is a private party.”

“I… I was invited,” Jill said. “I….”

“I don’t remember you on the guest list. And I should know. This is MY engagement party.”

Just then a server bumped into the bride-to-be, spilling a full tray of red wine down the rich girl’s ivory silk dress.

“I’m so sorry,” Megan’s husband Tim said. “I didn’t see you there. Oh my God….”

Jill watched Tim scamper to get a towel. To keep from laughing, Jill coughed into her hand. The rich girl screamed at Tim then at Candy. When her father came over, she screamed at him only to collapse sobbing into her mother’s arms. Her mother led the tiny woman away to change.

“This is the most fun I’ve had at a family gathering in at least a decade,” Jacob said.

“I assume that was a friend of yours.”

“Brother-in-law,” Jill said.

“She had it coming,” Jacob said. “She knows exactly who you are.”

Jill shrugged. When she turned to look at the party, she saw a variety of male eyes looking in her direction.

“Would you like to dance?” Jacob asked. He nodded toward the dance floor where couples danced a perfect waltz.

“I don’t know how,” she replied.

“Just follow me,” Jacob said. He set his glass down on the bar. “I’m this close to you. I’m not going to let you go.”

He put his hand on her arm and was confronted with another server holding a tray of drinks.

“It’s all right, Christy,” Jill said. “He just wants to dance.”

Christy scowled at Jacob then looked him up and down. “Be nice.”

“Yes ma’am,” Jacob laughed.

Holding her hand, he led her to the dance floor. He situated her hands then whispered instructions into her ear. After a few missteps, she fell into the simple rhythm of the dance and the closeness of this man. For the first time in a long time, she felt, well not exactly happy, but a tiny bit of delight.

“You are a wonderful dancer,” Jacob said.

“Not really,” Jill replied. “I just know how to follow what you’re doing.”

Jacob laughed. “That’s most of the work.”

“It’s not hard to follow,” Jill said.

“Do you dance?” Jacob asked.

“I like to dance… oh you mean for a living? You think I’m a stripper?!?”

Jacob laughed.

“Why is that funny?” Jill asked. Dropping her arms, she stopped moving. “I’d like to sit down now.”

“Please don’t. I laughed because I suck at this small talk crap, particularly with a beautiful woman. I rehearse what I’m going to say, you know, in my head? But it sounds awful when it comes out.”

“Oh. I do that sometimes if I’m nervous. Are you nervous?”

“Yes, I’m nervous.”

“Why?”

“Well, if I blow this, someone might just kill me,” Jacob laughed.

They danced in silence for a while. Listening to the music, Jill enjoyed the liquid pleasure of movement in the arms of this man. She’d only been this close to Trevor. She sighed a little as her body warmed in response to him. God, he even smells good.

“Is your wife here?” Jill asked.

“I don’t have a wife,” Jacob said.

“How come?” Jill asked.

“It’s a shocking. I know. I am smooth with the ladies,” Jacob laughed.

She pulled back to see if he was serious. He winked at her and she returned to looking over his shoulder.

“Actually, I fell in love with a woman then found out she was married.”

“Oh, did that stop you?”

“Yes, it stopped me,” he said.

“Why? I thought that’s how you people did things.”

“You people?”

“Rich people,” Jill replied.

Jacob laughed. He’s funny too. Jill sighed, melting a little closer to his warmth, his strength. She nodded at the guitar player in the band when he winked at her.

“Is she here?” Jill asked.

“Who?”

“The girl you feel in love with.”

“Yes, she’s here,” Jacob said.

“Where?”

Jacob pulled back a bit to look at Jill. His eye’s puzzled for a moment. Seeing her sincerity, he made a vague movement in the direction of a crowded corner of the room.

Jill waited until they were in full view of that side of the room then gave him a soft, lingering kiss.

Pulling back, she whispered, “So she knows what she’s missing.”

Jacob blinked, his eyebrows moving as if he was trying to work it out, then he laughed.

“What would it take for you to kiss me again?”

“You mean kiss you for real?” Jill’s voice held her surprise. “You don’t even know me.”

“Actually,” Jacob said. “You wait tables at Pete’s. I play midnight hockey and our team goes to Pete’s after the game. I’ve been there every Sunday morning… gosh, for years.”

Jill wasn’t sure how to respond. She had no memory of this man. Sunday mornings were always crazy. The bars close at two and Pete’s Kitchen filled to the brim with drunken happy people. She slung coffee, pancakes and eggs until four in the morning every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. She made great money and right now money took precedence over everything, especially handsome men.

Looking over his shoulder, she saw Trevor’s dark eyes, so like Katy’s, follow them on the floor. As she watched, the tiny blonde rich girl, dressed in another ivory silk gown, took his elbow and guided him toward a group of elderly couples.

“I work in an office during the week. Secretary. But Pete’s is an oasis for me,” she said finally. “I’ve worked there as long as I’ve worked. I’ve got friends there. That probably doesn’t mean much to you since they’re low class friends.”

“Friends in low places?” Jacob asked.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s a country song.”

“I don’t listen to country,” she replied.

As they twirled around the room, Jill watched the people. That woman is wearing shoes that cost more than a month of Katy’s day care. She nodded slightly. Trevor was right to choose this life over scraping by every month.

“May I cut in?” Trevor said to Jacob. Jill bristled at the sound of his voice.

“It’s up to the lady.” Jacob pulled back from Jill. His eyes searched Jill’s terrified face. “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

Jacob took Jill’s hand and walked her off the dance floor. Picking up two glasses of champagne from another server, he led her to an empty table. He helped her into her seat then sat down beside her. She took a sip of champagne.

“Will you kiss me again?” Jacob asked

Jill blushed.

“I thought you’d be so overwhelmed with gratitude that you couldn’t help but kiss me again,” he laughed then took a sip of champagne.

“Why are you uncomfortable around women?” Jill asked.

“I’m not around them much,” Jacob said. “My sister lives in California and our mother died when I was in high school. I work in construction so I’m around men all day long.”

“You mean you own a construction company?”

“I’m a carpenter by trade, like my father was,” Jacob said. “But yes, I help my father manage his construction company.”

“What about these sisters?” Jill gestured to the group of beautiful girls sitting with the rich girl’s mother.

Jacob shrugged. “A couple of them were a package deal with my father’s new wife. The others are barely out of diapers. We’re not close. I assume that’s your brother.” He nodded toward the security guard that was making his way toward the table.

“Steve,” Jill said.

“How would you like to get out of here?” Jacob asked. “I don’t mean to be forward but you seem uncomfortable and I am uncomfortable. I’d like to get to know you better.”

“Um…”

“You have something planned?” Jacob asked.

She nodded.

“I don’t want to miss that.”

~~~~~~~~

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