I parked the car as far as I could in the parking lot of Ford Davis’s mansion. My future brother-in-law was so rich, he owned a mini-palace in the suburbs near the sea, and had his very own parking lot for whenever he threw a big party, like the engagement party tonight. As I got out of my car, dressed in my maxi black dress and usual black high heels, clutching a matching black purse, I understood why Emma left her apartment mostly vacant and stayed almost all the time at Ford’s place. I guess it wasn’t just love in the air.
The night was warm and people milled in the parking lot and in the grand yard of the mansion. It was June, after all, and this was a Summer engagement part, so why dirty the indoors if you could dirty the outdoors, y’know?
The yard was full of people. I knew most of them were some serious celebs and VIP in the entertainment and modeling industries, for Ford and Emma were both famous and wealthy. I didn’t recognize any of them, however. I wasn’t really into the whole “glamour” world – obviously – and so they were just other human beings to me (imagine their shock as I stepped over one’s foot by accident and apologized without asking for autograph).
I spotted Emma and Ford with scooting together for a shot. Emma looked gorgeous in a pastel-pink Greek-style dress, her hair half up and half down, the upper half braided and intertwined with pink flowers. Ford looked just as gorgeous, with his short brown hair, his own set of personalized blue eyes, and tall, athletic, tanned built. They looked like they were taken right out of a magazine, and they actually were. I should be feeling so lucky to be part of their family. I did not feel lucky.
After the cameraman took a few photos of them, I came over to greet them. Emma smiled such a bright smile, you’d think I came bearing gifts or something. She hugged me and said, “I thought you wouldn’t come.”
I was only fifteen minutes late. “But I did, didn’t I?” I said dryly as she let me go. Then I turned to Ford and offered my hand for a shake. “Congratulations, by the way. You snagged yourself a hot one.” My tone was monotonous. I was simply stating the fact, not offering a compliment, but Emma beamed as though I just showered some light on her fair head.
Ford grinned and clasped my hand. “Thank you,” he said, smiling fondly at his would-be wife, “I’m feeling pretty lucky.” He winked surreptitiously at me.
Not reacting, I retracted my hand and nodded, giving the happy couple a tight smile, and turned around in search for Champagne. Ford might not be a true part of my family just yet, and while he was better than most of them, he’d been there two years ago as well.
And like everyone else, he’d done nothing, too.
I found a waitress with a trey full of Champagne glasses and snatch two. I downed one like it was nectar and the next one came down my throat not long after. Once I had the two glasses, I felt as ready as I could ever be to face my father, my step-mother, and the step-siblings from hell.
Fortunately, the step-siblings from hell weren’t present when I found my father, dressed in his ever-there suit, and Scarlet standing next to a fountain, talking to another couple I recognized; Ford’s actor parents. Scarlet was the one who stood out among the four, being the most beautiful. Rosalyn looked like a younger duplicate of her mother, but Scarlet’s hair was different than Rosalyn’s soft light brown. Instead, Scarlet had a namesake hair of fiery crimson that stood out no matter where she was. Her eyes, like both Rosalyn and Roman, were greenish-blue, and she still rocked a body of a pin-up girl, all curves and perfectly pearly skin to make her look almost ethereal. No wonder my father fell true and hard. I bet it was more hard than true, if you asked me.
Coming over, I plastered a fake smile on my face as I said, “Hello.”
All four of them turned to look at me, and my father gave me a nod back, while Scarlet, just like her daughter, gave me a hug of I-don’t-want-to-touch-you-but-I-have-to-people-are-looking which I really didn’t want to last as much as it did. Then I greeted Ford’s parents politely, exchanged a few words with the lot, and excused myself to the bathroom.
The bathroom was packed of women, all of them gushing about how beautiful Emma and Ford were. I wanted to dunk myself in the toilet, but that wasn’t polite, so I refrained. Once a stall emptied, I snatched it, closed the door behind me, and gave a huge sigh of relief.
Finally, some quiet. Not a lot of quiet, since the voices and music and sound was only dimmed in here, but quiet enough. I sat fully dressed on the stool and put my head in my hands.
I had a problem with big crowds. It wasn’t agoraphobia or something like that, but it was similar enough to be worrisome. In the past, I didn’t have this problem, but after what happened two years ago, I couldn’t handle it for too long. I didn’t feel suffocated or anything, I just felt deeply uncomfortable. And that was annoying.
Once I felt more like myself, I got up and out of the stall and jumped right back into business. Hunting another waiter, I downed two more Champagne glasses and then, feeling a little heady, I wondered what time it was for me to play the piano. Emma hadn’t said, and I was almost hopeful she forgot about it entirely.
However my sister caught me a few minutes before eleven and grabbed my upper arm. “The piano is over there,” she said, pointing at the end of the yard, near the bushes, where a white grand piano stood on a stage fit just for its size, “in ten minutes, it’ll be time for you to get up there and play. Okay?”
Not okay, but I already made a commitment. “Fine,” I said, my voice slurred, but Emma didn’t pay attention as she whirled around and went to find her fiance. As long as she didn’t care, I didn’t care I was going to play drunk. It was her engagement party, not mine.
I was leaning against some table, waiting for the time to come that Emma and Ford would announce my guest-starring, when I spotted Rosalyn to my right. She was twirling her hair around her finger, biting her lower lip, as she looked up at someone the crowd hid. She wore a skimpy dress that covered basically nothing, and seemed to almost plaster herself to her partner’s body. But that partner didn’t seem very responsive, which was surprising. With how she looked, heck, even I would’ve totally done her just for the sake of fucking. Even though she was a terrible person.
Not far from the flirtatious bitch, I saw Roman, dressed in a formal tux, talking to some men in similar clothing. Roman was an arrogant bastard, and you could see that just by watching him speak from a distance; the overconfident smile, the self-assured glint in his greenish-blue eyes, the way his floppy hair was designed to match that of Justin Bieber or something, and the way he held himself with his head high and chest puffed. I mean, sure, he had a tall, lean body, which was fine and everything, but dude was not that hot. Or maybe I just couldn’t look at him that way because ew.
“May we have your attention please!” Ford’s voice in the speakers made my jump then freeze. I turned my head slowly to see Emma and him standing together near the piano, a spotlight shining right on the poor instrument.
Once everyone’s attention was on them, Ford handed the mic to Emma, who then said, “I would like to thank you all for coming tonight to celebrate with us the engagement. I am a very lucky woman to have Ford,” she smiled tearily at her fiance, “and of course, he’s very luck to have me as well.”
Everyone laughed. I started regretting ever coming here.
“And now, I would like to invite my sister, Blair, to come and play for us,” she said, looking right at me with eyes still shining, and everyone clapped politely. Rigid, I walked forward, my legs a little unsteady.
It was official. I was really, honest-to-God tipsy.
Emma and Ford cleared the stage, granting it to me for four minutes. And I just realized I had no idea what to play. I hadn’t even thought about it, because I usually didn’t think about stuff like that.
Sliding next to the piano, I told myself not to panic. I could totally do it. Easy. I’d done thousands upon thousands of times before. I just needed to pick one of my slow, melodious compositions, and I’d be settled for this.
But as I raised my hands and placed my fingers on the keyboard, I realized that wouldn’t happen. Because when I got drunk, I also got numb. And when I was numb, I tended to get angry about that numbness, even if I wanted it to begin with. And so to end the numbness, I needed energy, and so poured all of my anger out until no energy was left and I was too tired to think.
My anger went from one to ten in a matter of two seconds, and suddenly, I was playing Rachmaninoff. I’d never played Rachmaninoff before. But I thought it kind of resembled his second concerto.
I had no idea what I was doing as I glided my fingers up and down the piano, creating sounds and dissonant and resonant and featuring one great mess of notes. I felt like a child who was slapping the keyboard for the first time and it was fun. I would’ve laughed maniacally if I wasn’t so focused on whatever I was improvising at the moment.
Having no idea how much time passed – it had probably been more than four minutes – I reverberated the final chord and then whipped my hair up in the air. Only then did I realize the absolute silence of the crowd, my own breathlessness, the sweat trickling down my face, and the blood on the keyboard.
I’d play so hard, I somehow cut myself and didn’t even notice.
No sound. There was no sound for long moment after I finished my piece. And then... then someone clapped. Lowering my hands slowly to my sides, I turned my head to the side, and saw that only one man clapped in the entire crowd of five hundred guests. Only one guest.
And when my eyes met his, I was gobsmacked by the universe.
“Sonovabitch,” I whispered, and in the silence my voice seemed to echo. But I didn’t care. And the man kept on clapping slowly and assuredly.
Not just a man, though.