My evening at the Willow Manor Ball...
You know it's going to be quite an evening when the right song plays at just the right moment.
As Humphrey and I walk in the crowded entryway, smiles all around, "Swingin' on the Moon" by Mel Torme was right on cue. Excitement swirled as my eyes take in the star-studded who's who.
I was worried I'd not dressed perfectly for the evening. I guess every girl wonders. But as I look around, I'm thrilled that I decided to wear the black sheath. There are so many flares and flounces. I like to stand out just a bit. The sleek look is all mine tonight.
When I opened the door and saw Bogie in his white dinner jacket, I could tell enchantment was in the air. He is a wonderful man. We've been dating for about six months and I should feel like the luckiest lady alive. But something in me is holding back, I'm not sure what. He is a gentleman, and treats me like fragile gold leaf. What's missing, I can't quite put my finger on. It can't be his age, because I've always enjoyed older men. Conversation is always spot-on. Never a dull moment with Bogie, that's for sure. But I know when we kiss, something is not there that should be.
Snap out of it, I tell myself. Allow yourself to be whisked off to the event of the year, silly girl!
There is Willow, looking radiant. I'd look a terrible mess after pulling together such an amazing presentation. She's such a social butterfly with men dripping from her wings like morning dew. It's hard to tell who's her offical escort. What a zingy glare she just threw at Marilyn! That's my girl, defend the home field. When will Marilyn learn not to cross women like Willow?
The food smells delictable, the candle light enchanting, the manor has an eerie elegance. The festive atmosphere has chased most of the eerie away. Every now and then, it floats through like a faint white whisp. But, that's probably just me. I imagine things sometimes.
An underdressed lady with long wavy tresses just took our picture. It is a good thing to be on the arm of Mr. Bogart. Who knows where that picture will pop up!
There's Bette Davis, prattling on about the social drama that always seems to gather near her. I don't mean to say she's a gossip, bless her beautiful heart, because gossip usually has some element of truth. For goodness sakes, who would ever believe that rubbish about George Sanders in drag! Preposterous fabrication, that's all.
Bogie has gone about greeting his comrades. Just as a vintage glass of bubbly lands in my hand and Sammy Davis begins to croon, "I Want to be With You" I catch a glimpse of a dark profile in the corner. An old familiar staccato beat echos through my chest. I don't recognize the person, but I recognize the feeling. It's what's missing with Bogey. Oh Sammy, not now!
The handsome figure steps to avoid a rushing h'ors douvre tray and the shadows give him up. I feel as if I'm standing there completely naked as the steely eyes of Pierce Brosnan bore through me. I feel my head tilt, my face turn ever so slightly, and my lashes take a dramatic round trip to my lower lids and back. What am I doing? My best flirting, that's what! And it's working.
Pierce defies the bar and spins around until he faces the dance floor and only his elbow graces the mahogany edge. I hold out. I will not speak first. It would probably be best if Bogie showed up about now.
"You look like you're missing something, hon."
I'd be indignant if anyone else called me "hon" on a first meeting. But the way he says it crumbles my dignities. I attempt an air of distance in the risky conversational dance, yet I find myself moving toward the terrace door at his suggestion that the gazebo is a must-see.
Pierce has gone before me and I stop to chat with Mr. Berowne on my way. I had intended to catch Berowne's eye this evening. I've heard he's a film and video producer, perhaps just the kind who would take notice of a young aspiring screenwriter like me. But thoughts of the gazebo prompt me to cut short the shop talk with Mr. Berowne. I'll catch up with him maybe tomorrow at Brunch.
I can't believe I am playing the game. We both know I arrived with Mr. Bogart. We knew not to exit the room at the same time. Bette would have a hay day with that!
The night air is electric with anticipation and forbiddenness. The staccato beat trips again as I see his chiseled profile in amber light emanating from the floating porch. Lilac perfume dances around us as our eyes finally admit we've arrived at the same place at the same time on purpose. My head does its turn, my chin does its tilt... I am shameless.
Why am I not swooning at the sounds of Leonard Cohen? Why am I not swirling with my favorite group of girls? Why am I not savoring the heat of Willow's tango or the sweet sensuality of Patrick's mambo? Why am I not captivated with all this evening has to offer? Why am I not whispering in Bogie's ear in some dark corner?
For the first time, I genuinely question who I will leave with tonight.
"Jacqueline!" Pierce's veneer cracks for the first time. A woman has appeared on the other side of the wisteria vine where I've tucked myself for dramatic effect. His eyebrows rise and then his wiles take over. "I just came out for a breath, doll. That Glenn fellow's cuban cigars were stifling. Come dear, I hear there is a card game in the parlor." He whisks her off before I realize that by the slight shadow of purple and vines, I've gone unnoticed. Jacqueline had arrived on the arm of Pierce Brosnan, I now realize.
Of course, as fate would have it, Bogie was looking for me as well, and rescued me from a yarn I'd gotten into with Zsa Zsa and Lesley. Under usual circumstances, I'd have been caught up in that type of chat. But tonight I'm distracted. I snap back to reality when Bogie mentions "cards".
I spend the next two hours in a smokey room with howling card-playing guests, ties hanging around opened collars, mascara beginning to slide south, releasing themselves from the refinement of evening unto the droopy early morning hours. There are cards and there is liquor, lots of liquor. I wonder if Willow has perhaps even gone to bed? There's always that crowd that stays too late at every party, and now I'm in it.
I hold a fan of cards, but you could hardly call it playing. Pierce, so aptly named, continues to toss silent darts from across the felt-topped table toward the bridge of my nose. His gazes are obvious, and getting more and more so. Jacqueline and Bogie are both three sheets to the wind. No one will notice.
I slip out to the unmanned bar to pour myself the customary glass of ice water that must follow any more than two glasses of champagne if I'm to function tomorrow, which is seriously in question at this point.
Pierce's voice comes from over my left shoulder, "You know you've been at a party too long when you hear the same song twice."
Yes, there it is. The theme of the evening, one more time. "I Want to be With You." I toss six months with a Hollywood legend behind me like a scented scarf in the wind, and leave this year's Willow Manor Ball with Pierce Brosnan.