Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chapter 64

What a weekend. Here’s the first part of what happened!

“Oh, he’s here!” I called out excitedly when the doorbell rang. “Are you ready? How do I look?”
“Well, let me see, girlfriend,” Sharon said coming in from the adjoining upstairs room, motioning me to twirl around. I complied, my emerald gown swishing around my ankles in elegant swirls of satin. “Gorgeous!” grinned Sharon as I beamed. 
   “It is gorgeous, isn’t it,” I said, none too modestly, admiring the way my engagement ring sparkled next to the satin.
   “Yes, IT is, but I meant you, Maggie. You’re gorgeous, especially with your hair piled up like that,” Sharon said.
   “You just say that because you love me, but I’m still plain little old Margaret Riley, emphasis on the old ... but I do like what you did with my hair. Hope Colin does. Normally he likes it down.”
   “Up or down, the poor man won’t know what hit him. Maybe you should wear that dress for the wedding? It’s fantastic!”
  “No, no,” I laughed, swirling around one more time just because it was fun to feel so girly. I had to admit the elegant gown was about the most beautiful one I’d ever owned, and certainly the most expensive. Not to mention the most daring, with tight-fitted high-neck bodice, billowing skirt, full length sleeves, and the added surprise of absolutely no back. 
“The wedding is simple, and this, well, this is a party dress!” I turned to Sharon. “But let me look at you! Twirl, yourself, Phelps!” I let out a low whistle as Sharon obliged in a floor-length jeweled tight-fitting red gown with low neckline and elbow-length sleeves that completely covered the burn on her upper arm. “You look wonderful! Has Doug seen you in it yet?”
  “Absolutely not! When we got back from Dallas, I hid it. Neiman’s dresses are always so worth the wait, don’t you think? Thank goodness Winston made this party for the museum addition a formal affair. It’s so fun to shop for glamour!”
  “Definitely, my friend,” I agreed, admiring us both as we posed together in front of the mirror. We turned our heads towards the door as male voices drifted up the stairs. Reaching for my matching wrap and evening bag, I said, “I love that you brought me over here to dress ... we can regally descend the staircase. I’ve always wanted to do that, by the way. Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Wow, you in scandalous scarlet and me in elegant emerald. Why, those guys don’t have a chance!”
  “Amen. Let me get my things and we can go down. Doug’s probably already given Colin a beer, and most likely had two himself, so we’d better go now if we want them to be conscious enough to appreciate us.” Returning from the next room with her evening bag and coat, she put her arm through mine and said, “Let’s knock ‘em dead!” 

   At the top of the curved staircase, Sharon cleared her throat loudly enough for Doug and Colin to turn around and look up. Staring open-jawed at the women coming toward them, they then grinned broadly. Doug said, “Colin, I don’t know where Sharon and Maggie are, but let’s take these beautiful creatures and go party. I’m taking the one in red sparkles.”
   “Fine with me. I’ll take the brunette in green. Matches my eyes,” teased Colin. 
    As we descended, my heart started doing the now-frequent flip-flops as I looked at my new love. Resplendent in black tuxedo, he was truly drop-dead gorgeous as Amanda had said. What’s that line from the movie Funny Girl? “The groom was prettier than the bride.” I think I’m one lucky old woman. Thanks, again, Lord.
    Just over two hours later, I would again be saying prayers, but much more fervent ones.

   The Wind Museum had been transformed into a winter wonderland for the late January gala, celebrating the completion of the first phase of the massive expansion made possible by the Arbuckle’s generous donation. Although the museum was not quite as resplendent as Mother Nature had done three weeks earlier, it was hard to believe you weren’t in a snowy fairyland. Miniature white lights crisscrossed the ceiling behind hundreds of yards of filmy, gently draped white material. Sparkling silver and white floral arrangements topped the dozens of dinner tables, and thousands of small glass mirrors attached to white satin ribbons hung floor to ceiling in front of the fabric extending down the walls, reflecting the candlelight and sparkle back on to the partygoers. 
   We were amazed as they walked inside, looking up and around, dazzled by the splendor. 
   “Wow. They sure know how to throw a party,” Doug said, still gaping.
   “Or at least how to decorate one,” Sharon said, winking at me. “Mags, let’s find the ladies room first, the wind wasn’t kind to your hair. I need to fix it. Doug, sweetie, we’ll meet you at our table. I’d love a white wine.”
   “Me too?,” I asked Colin, “then I need to briefly check on the media.” At least two local television stations were covering the gala for their 10 o’clock newscasts, as well as my reporter friend Jake from the A-J along with his staff photographer. Charlie, the university’s official photographer was there, and would handle any requests from the others, but I had told him I would check in with him when I arrived to see if he needed assistance. 
First, though, I’d better see about my hair. I led Sharon down the hallway to the left. I knew the larger new restrooms were in the other direction, but here, close to the main offices, I remembered an older, smaller one that might be less crowded. Entering the short corridor, we encountered Winston, dressed in a dark blue tuxedo, velvet bow tie and an enormous blue brocade cummerbund that surprisingly looked appropriate for him. He was coming out of the office area, closing and locking the door behind him.
“Oh, my dears!” he said as he planted light kisses on our cheeks. “How wonderful you look!”
   “Thank you, Winston,” Sharon said. “The museum looks amazing. You’ve done a marvelous job with the decor, especially for an engineer!”
   “Why thank you, Dr. Phelps, but much of the credit goes to our lovely Margaret Grant here, you know what I mean?”
   “Uh, no, I don’t know what you mean,” Sharon said as she studied my now blushing face.
   “Why, it was she who suggested the theme for tonight and even did some sketches for the decorators.”
It was a small favor for Winston, and I hadn’t thought to mention it. I don’t believe favors of kindness needed to be discussed. I much preferred to keep it between the recipient and myself... and God, of course. 
   “This is so much more, though, Windy,” I said. “You’ve brought the fabric all the way to the floor. It’s really spectacular. Um, we were heading down to the ladies room?”
   “Yes, yes, of course. Keeping it for the hired staff, tonight, but you ladies go right ahead. I need to attend to my other guests. Can’t make Miss Katherine do all the work!” and he stepped quickly away.
   Before dinner, hors d’oeuvres and wine were served to the guests as they chatted happily at their assigned tables, listened to the Tech Student Chamber Orchestra, or wandered the museum floor, examining the new exhibits. Purposefully, a large area at the front of the renovated museum, about one-quarter of the floor space, had been left empty for just such an occasion as this. It would also make a perfect classroom, Sharon had said, even though plans for the next phase included an extensive educational wing. 
   With most of the displays toward the back of the building and the west, but close enough to make guests at any table feel a part of it, I thought it also would be a perfect site for business meetings, or receptions, or even weddings. Windy had told me that was exactly what he had in mind. A little added revenue, he had said, although it probably meant putting on additional staff to handle it. But the publicity would be great. And everyone knew he loved publicity.
   Across the entire front of the museum, the old small windows had been replaced with a half-dozen sets of elegant French doors that opened to a huge flagstone patio, extending the party outside and doubling the capacity for events. But not tonight, as the late-January evening was much too cold. 
   As in the previous exhibit, windmills of all shapes and sizes were displayed throughout the area, some of them spinning ten- to fifteen-foot blades on motors that purred contentedly. Winston had successfully exhibited the full-size modern wind turbine blades and a motor similar to the working turbine outside — two of the blades were buried about one-third into the floor with the third massive blade reaching high up into the three-story addition. Winston’s pride and joy, it was the hit of the evening, as patrons marveled at its size. Somehow, out on the plains, and even out front, the white metal blades didn’t look quite as big!
   Windy had outdone himself, I thought to myself as I read an exhibit plaque about the Aermotor windmills, manufactured since 1888. Sharon had begged off a few minutes before, saying she’d read and seen all she needed to read and see about windmills for the evening, and where could she find more of those delightful shrimp thingys? Doug and Colin had eagerly offered to help her in her quest. Traitors, I thought. Me? I was fascinated by the exhibit, and wanted to look a few minutes longer, promising to join them at their table shortly. How could there possibly be this many styles and sizes of windmills? 
   I was interrupted by a familiar voice, and turned to see a shyly smiling Jamie Chavez, handsome in short-waisted red waiter’s coat with crisp black pants and bolo tie, offering one of the glasses of wine he expertly balanced on a silver tray.
   “Jamie!” I exclaimed as she took one of the proffered glasses. “How nice to see you. Thank you. I didn’t know you were working here tonight. How are classes going?”
“Going well, Mrs. Grant. Thanks. I, um, I haven’t had a chance to say, I mean, congratulations and all. I think it’s great, you and Murphy. Really great.”
  “Thank you, Jamie,” I said, thinking how his words didn’t match the sadness in his expressive eyes. Maybe I needed to talk with him again about his mother? “I think it’s pretty great, too, Jamie. Thank you. Murphy’s back over that way someplace,” I said, looking out over the crowd. 
I didn’t see Colin, but instead noticed Winston in the near corner, behind the enormous Southern Cross windmill wheel set close to the floor, talking animatedly with Bennett Boyle. Both their backs were to me and the crowd, but it was obvious they weren’t exactly exchanging pleasantries. I wondered what the problem was, thinking this definitely was not the time or place for an argument.
   “Jamie,” I said, “See Dr. Whitaker over there? Why don’t you go offer him a glass?” I thought an interruption might calm them down before others, especially one of the news photographers, noticed the heated exchange. I watched as Jamie obligingly headed in their direction.
  As he approached the men, Jamie heard Dr. Whitaker say, “I won’t do it that way, B.J.”
Rubbing his forehead, Bennett replied angrily, “You have to. I told you last week he was asking questions. Do it, or else.”
“Or else what? It’s your ...” He stopped in surprise as Jamie approached clearing his throat.    
  “Wine, gentlemen?” Jamie asked.
  “What? No, thank you, son,” Winston said. 
   Jamie held his ground and looked at Boyle. “And you, Mr. Boyle?” he said forcefully.
“No. Now get lost,” Boyle said dismissing him with a wave of his hand.
   “Sure thing, Prick,” Jamie said under his breath as he turned to leave.
   “What did you just say?” Boyle demanded as he caught Jamie’s free arm and pulled him back around, nearly upsetting the wine glasses. 
   Jamie looked up at him with disgust and pulled away. “Nothing.”
   “Nothing, sir,” Bennett said staring hard at him. 
   “Nothing, sir,” Jamie replied with contempt, turning again, putting his silver tray down on a nearby table, and moving quickly to the kitchen door, angrily pushing his way through and almost knocking down a fellow caterer. 
   “What was that all about?” Winston said.
   “I have no idea,” Bennett said. “Stupid kids. Listen, I’ve been seen by the fucking president and talked to that idiot board chairman, so I’m leaving.”
   “Leaving? The party’s just getting started, Bennett. Stay a while longer. Have some more wine.”
  “Just do as I said,” Bennett scowled as he pushed him aside, weaving his way hurriedly through the crowd toward the front door.

  Winston shook his head, smiled slightly and then noticed me several yards away. I gave him a questioning look. Winston shrugged, and picking up two fresh wine glasses from the discarded tray, made his way in the opposite direction. He beelined it to Mrs. Fauntly, a smartly dressed and extremely wealthy widow who hadn’t donated any of her millions to the museum in at least six months. “Mrs. Fauntly,” he gushed as he handed her a glass, “Don’t you look fabulous this evening!”
More on the evening next week. 

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