A Perfect Evening

Janet Mullany

“I really don’t want to go,” Liz grumbled. “Zip me up, honey.”

“Breathe in.”

“Oh shit. I could get into this before the baby. Wait. Ouch. Oof. Okay.”

Will watched her with affection as she swivelled in front of the mirror, peering over her shoulder. Probably best not to tell her her butt looked big in that dress, and she never believed him when he told her how sexy it was. Damn. “We could stay here and fool around,” he suggested, easing his tie loose.

“Hell, we’re going. With a babysitter and all. I’m not missing out on this. I bet the food will be great, though I won’t be able to eat in this dress. And we’ll meet those famous people.”


“You take this. You offer it to the guests. You get their dirty glasses and stuff. On a different tray, right? I don’t want to see no dirty glasses come back in on the hor d’oeuvres trays, gottit? You got questions, you ask Betsy, she knows the drill. What’s your name?”


“Okay. You call me Lou. C’mon, get moving, I don’t want no slackers here, college boy.”

Billy hoisted the tray onto his shoulder. The short blonde girl smiled at him, and lifted her tray of champagne glasses. “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.”

“Thanks. Is he always like this?”

“He’s okay. He’s my dad.”



“I look fat.” Her face crumpled like a disappointed child’s.

“Darling, you look just fine. It’s the different mirror.”

“Oh God. I look huge, I look like a size six. I should never have had that Hershey’s bar.” She dabbed at her eyes and looked with longing at the bathroom door. “You go on down. I’ll come down in a minute.”

“Beth, don’t do it.”

“I want to clean my teeth.”

He could smell chocolate and vomit on her breath. He looked at her miniscule purse; there was barely room in it for a lipstick, let alone a toothbrush. “Like hell you do. Here.” He offered her a breath mint. “Less than one calorie, it says.”

“You just don’t get it, Liam. All the calories add up. I keep telling you.”

He took her arm and began to pull her out of the bedroom, towards the stairs where their hostess waited below.


“You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through,” Elizabeth said. “This town… I’m exhausted.”

“Poor darling,” said Kimberly.

“I spent hours on the phone this week with the caterer and the florist. And it’s impossible to get good help here. I had a local girl in to do the cleaning, and you wouldn’t believe her attitude.”

“That’s just too awful.”

Elizabeth took a gulp of champagne and smiled bravely. “Well, I was determined that this evening should be absolutely perfect, even if I had to work my fingers to the bone. I’m so glad you could come up from the city. People here have no idea.”

“I think it’s darling that you invited your neighbors. I just hope they appreciate Beth and Liam.”

“Well. They don’t get out much.” Elizabeth curled her lip. “But Beth and Liam were in People magazine. Not that I ever read it, of course.”

“I heard somewhere that they were on Entertainment Tonight.” They both smirked.

“God. Well, I know their publicist is too tacky for words. Excuse me.” Elizabeth frowned at the young man handing hor d’oeuvres and looked pointedly at a cluster of dirty plates on a side table. He hesitated, and turned away. Really, she thought. This town. And where was William? He should be here with her to greet their guests.


I am twenty-three, typed William. I have long blonde hair and pert, luscious tits. I love to get guys horny.

OK!!!! The message flashed back. I’m hung real good.



“Yes, dear.” He clicked the mouse. “Just checking the portfolio, dear.”

“Our guests are arriving.” She waited as he logged off and shut down the computer. “Beth and Liam are freshening up. They should be down soon.”

As they left the study, Elizabeth rushed forward to greet the director and his famous wife as they descended the staircase. There was a smattering of applause. An attractive woman, wearing a bright blue dress that was rather too tight, dropped a crab puff onto the off-white carpet. “Oops,” she said and giggled. William watched her dress ride up over her thighs as she bent over. Lovely.


“You’re doing great,” Betsy said. She slid a panful of canapes onto a tray. “Is this your first catering job?”

“Yeah. It’s crazy, it’s like you’re invisible. Hey, did you see Liam and Beth Fairhaven?”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, they’re famous and all that, but he’s real short and she’s skinny.”

“I saw her in A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“You what?”

“A play. She was good. But I think—”

“Hey, get those trays moving, college boy. Betsy, you get over here. I got stuff for you to do.”

“—but I think you’re prettier,” Billy whispered to her, and hefted the tray onto his shoulder.


“You’ve never hunted? You didn’t go out with your daddy or nothing?”

“Afraid not.” Liam looked around the room, and began to edge away.

“You should come out with me and my buddies when the season starts. It’s a big thing in this town, getting your buck.”

“Fabulous, ah, Will. I’ll let you know, okay?”

“And a snowmobile, man. You gotta have one of those.”


“I don’t go to the theater much,” the woman in the awful blue dress said to her. “But I love your dress.”

“Thanks. Yours is nice too.”

“We’re real excited about having celebrities in our town. If you don’t mind me saying—” she hesitated, and leaned closer. “I know you just want to die when your beauty shop messes up. I mean, I once had a permanent go bad, and I cried for two days, but I did it myself, and that was a big mistake. I think you’re real brave to come out with, you know… I’ll take you to the beauty shop, introduce you around a bit. Arlynn’s a real good friend, and I’m sure she could fix you up. We could get our nails done and everything.”

“This haircut cost one hundred and twenty dollars in New York,” Beth said with the chilling edge to her voice that made audiences shiver in their seats. “My hairdresser is one of the best in the world.”

“One hundred and twenty dollars?” The woman looked horrified. “Heck, they ripped you off good, honey.”

Beth reached out and shovelled a handful of canapes into her mouth. She grabbed the tray from the waiter. “You smalltown bitch!” she screamed in a spray of phyllo pastry crumbs. She began to choke, and choke.

“Darling—” Liam stepped forward.

“Stand aside, sir.” The waiter pushed past, grasped Beth around her tiny waist and performed the Heimlich manoever. “Pre-med,” he explained to the suddenly silent room.


“There will be no tip,” Elizabeth said. “The evening was a disaster. Do you know how much it will cost me to clean the carpet?”

“Look, lady. If your guests puke up on your carpet, it ain’t my fault. My crew worked real well, the food was great, you got a good deal on this. Not to mention Billy saving that lady’s life.”

Lou turned to look at his crew. Good kids. They made a nice couple, and he was certainly better than that last boyfriend she’d had, that loser. Billy helped Betsy into her coat, and she turned to smile at the young man over her shoulder. “Okay kids,” he said. “We’re going home. You, college boy, keep your hands to yourself. You can come over for dinner on Sunday if Betsy wants you to.”

“Guess I do,” she said. “Thanks, Billy. Thanks, dad.”


Janet Mullany lives outside Washington DC with a cat, a rabbit and other family members. She works sporadically on two novels. Janet can be reached at janetmly[at]erols.com.

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