My post yesterday had a lot of internal dialogue and backstory so today’s moves at a bit of a faster pace and has more spoken dialogue.
Claudine was the epitome of elegance as she leaned against the powder room door. Emerald studs sparkled from her ears. Her dark hair was swept back into a chic chignon. Despite her age, her caramel skin was smooth and free of wrinkles. She wore a floor-length scarlet gown, the only woman at the party in red. Her brown eyes flashed with anger as she looked at Madeline’s pitiful state, futilely scrubbing at the dress.
“How much?” She asked simply, curling her upper lip as though she found the entire scene distasteful. “How much to get you to leave our son alone?”
Madeline guffawed so loudly she was certain they heard her in the dining room. “Really? Is this some cheesy made-for-tv movie from the 1980’s? You write me a check and send me on my way and I leave through the back entrance, crying all the way to my home on the wrong side of the tracks, never to be heard from again? I expected more from you, Claudine. I at least thought you were original.”
“I don’t follow.” Claudine crossed her arms over her bosom and narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, I’m sure you do. You aren’t too upper-crust to watch a little trashy TV now and then.” Madeline gave up on the dress, grabbing beauty products from her clutch and starting to retouch her makeup and hair. She smoothed her thick, jet black mane that she’d spent a fortune to have professionally blown out, then dusted her copper skin with powder and began to reapply her lipstick. “I know your whole story. You weren’t raised like…like this.” She waved her hand in the air in a sweeping motion, indicating the opulence of the room. “You come from a working-class family. Just like me. You put yourself through college, got a real job, and worked your butt off to make something of yourself. Just like me. And then you met and fell in love with a charming, handsome guy who just so happened to come from a wealthy family…”
“Just like you?” Claudine smirked as she finished Madeline’s sentence for her. “Do you really think we’re anything alike?” She stepped closer until they were standing side by side in the mirror. Madeline could smell her understated perfume, see the dots of green in her eyes. “You and I,” she pointed at Madeline, then at herself, “Are nothing alike. I spent every day of my life planning to meet a man like my husband. I studied. I took etiquette classes, I read every book and newspaper article I could about high society life – table settings, dinner parties, ballroom dancing, high fashion, fine dining – I went to the right schools, made connections with the right people, so when I met my husband, I was ready for this life. I earned it…”
“So, you were well-educated in the art of gold-digging. I get it.” Madeline smacked her lips, feeling the sticky, smooth texture of the newly applied lip color. “There some other women who might appreciate your…errr…wisdom, not me, though…”
Claudine laughed. “Do you really think David’s interest in you is sincere? Darling, you’re a…what do they call it…a rebound. A salve on a wound…”
“So, you’d rather he be with his unfaithful ex-wife than a woman who didn’t go to the ‘right schools?'”
“I’d try to explain it to you, dear, but you wouldn’t understand.”
Madeleine brushed past her, reaching for the door, but Claudine blocked her path. “Think about what I said, Madeline. I’m sure you have quite a bit of debt to pay off.” She turned to leave. “And now you won’t be able to return that gorgeous dress.”
Madeline was left alone in the powder room, in her sodden dress with the tags tucked into the sleeve that she had indeed been planning to take back to the store the following day. It would take her ages to pay off the credit card charge. She stared at herself in the mirror for a moment, lamenting her plight. Then she made a decision.
She burst through the door, heading back to the party with a new confidence. The servers had cleared the salad course, so presumably at least one person had eaten at some point, and were resetting the table for the next one, whatever the heck that would be. Fish? Cheese? Soup? Entree? Madeline had skimmed a Wikipedia article about formal 10-course meals but had a hard time committing the order of all the courses to memory. The timing was perfect.
Madeline leaned over to whisper in Elisa’s ear. “Would mind switching places with me? I know it’s not exactly kosher to change the seating arrangements, but I feel a little silly after what happened and could use a little support.” She smiled sweetly at Elisa, the well-bred specimen with the perfect pedigree who couldn’t manage to keep her wedding vows. She furrowed her brows and Madeline could see the conflict going on in her brain. If she refused, she’d appear cruel, if she agreed, she’d lose ground. Ultimately, her good breeding prevailed and she rose from her chair, lips pursed, banished to Madeline’s old seat between snoozing Aunt Dorinda and Tiffany the druggie.
Madeline sat and wrapped her arm around David’s triumphantly, bucking tradition. David kissed her cheek as she raised her glass to Claudine.