The Wager

By: Calista Kyle


We arrived at the gala unfashionably early. Mel held onto my arm as we headed towards the red carpet. I could feel my heart thumping in my chest at the prospect of walking down that daunting 500 foot gauntlet of press and photographers. This was something I was dreading. I had even held on to the brief hope that we could skip it all together. Mel was adamant that we walk it though.

She was one of the nicest and most down to earth people I knew, but she did have her diva moments. It was during those times that I wanted to throttle her. Mel had it in her head since she was a teen that when she ever got the opportunity to attend the Eichendorf Gala, she'd walk the red carpet. Luckily, no one knew who we were, so we made it through unmolested.

Once inside the gala, I breathed a momentary sigh of relief. I thought the hardest part of my evening was over, but it was only just beginning.

"Oh look, there's my mother. We should go say hello," Mel said, grabbing me by the arm and leading the way towards the other end of the ballroom.

I braced myself for the cold looks and disdain I'd receive and wasn't disappointed. After air kissing her daughter's cheeks, she stood back and looked Mel over. Her lips pinched and her eyes narrowed as she silently appraised her daughter's appearance. I could see the anxiety on Mel's face as she turned a slightly pinker shade. I, on the other hand, was completely ignored, as if I were a part of the decorations. I was actually relived that she wasn't turning her critical glare in my direction, but I did feel bad for Mel nonetheless.

When she was finally done with her perusal, she gave Mel a curt nod and then turned her full attention to me. It was like I could hear her thoughts as she looked me up from my borrowed dress and glasses, to my hair and makeup, which I was sure didn't meet her approval. I was glad she didn't give voice to them, even though her expression told me everything I needed to know. I liked to think of myself as tough, but there were still some people that intimidated me and Cora Abelgard was one of them. I dared even the toughest linebacker to face her laser stare and not tremble beneath it.

"I'm surprised to see you here," she finally said to me. "But I guess Melanie invited you."

"Uh...yeah, I guess, I mean she did invite me, yeah."

I hated myself for sounding like an idiot and giving this woman the satisfaction of unnerving me, but I couldn't help it. She was terrifying and she knew it. Thankfully she left soon after to go mingle with guests she deemed more important than me or her daughter. I didn't even bat an eye at the rude way she left us without so much as a backward glance or a goodbye.

"I think the hardest part of the evening is over," Mel said to me. She perked up once her mother was out of sight and began to look around the ballroom in awe.

I had to admit it was an impressive sight. As bad as she was at being a mother, Cora Abelgard really knew how to throw a party. The space was wide and airy, but the lanterns strewn throughout the high ceilings gave the place a more intimate atmosphere. A large space was cleared out in the middle of the room for the dance floor. The tables were decked out in bright blue and red chinoiserie style prints with exotic and lush floral centerpieces. There was even a makeshift koi pond underneath the lighted glass floors giving the impression we were walking on water.

"Come on let's go get a drink," I said, heading towards the nearly empty bar on the opposite side of the room.

When I got to the bar, Mel wasn't behind me. She had remained right where we had been standing and was talking a tall gentleman. I didn't recognize him, and truthfully, I was glad to have a minute alone. Everything was so overwhelming and the last thing I wanted to hear was Mel rhapsodizing about what a great party this was and how wonderful it was to be here.

Once my drink arrived, I took a large gulp. It felt good and warm going down and I immediately ordered another one.

"Hey there, beautiful," I heard a voice purr near my ear. I turned around abruptly and bumped into some guy standing right behind me. The drink he had in his hand spilled all over the front of my dress.

"Oh I'm so sorry," he said. He reached out his arm like he was trying to dry me off with his little cocktail napkin, but his aim was much too close to my breasts for my comfort. If I weren't so annoyed already, I might have found the situation amusing.

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