Party of the First Part

Always read the fine print... especially on wishes!

Party of the First Part

by Erin Halfelven

Chapter 1 - Champagne at Midnight

"Big New Years Eve Party," my boss had said, "everybody must come. No excuses. Milla and I will be expecting everyone to be there and everyone will have fun, that's an order." My boss, Wallace Winston Worth the Fourth wouldn't know fun if it came to him with a doctorate in Funology from a major Funiversity. Still, Three-by-Four, as he's known in the back halls of what passes for justice at Jessup, Peoples, Worth and Carmody, Attorneys-at-Law, had enough money to hire people to have fun for him.

In other words, he threw one hell of a party.

First, we started with dinner at eight: saddle-of-pork with all the trimmings, roast turkey likewise, three kinds of fish, vegetable stir-fry over noodles for the non-carnivorous. More side dishes than could be counted. Desserts and salads, live music, and of course booze of every description. A live seven-piece jazz band, with a xylophone, yet. Every lawyer from the firm was in attendance with spouse or significant other, plus a nearly equal number of high ranking administrative types and notable clients. All this in his mansion on the hilltop overlooking the South Bay, presided over by him in his best lord of the manor manner with his nineteen-year-old trophy wife, Milla, on his arm.

Milla Worth, she of the honey hair, and honeyed voice, her lips so red, her eyes so blue, with a bust out to there and a runcible backside you just wanted to touch.

Kingston "Bertie" Rowland, junior associate like myself, sailed through the party crowd smiling benignly down from his varsity-hoops-forward height. Bertie has the same coloring as the new president and a similar ancestry except his mother was British and his father was Jamaican. He'd grown up in Baltimore and Washington before coming to L.A. and had no discernible accent unless he cared to put one on. "Having fun yet, Link?" he asked me, almost shouting to be heard over the music and the crowd.

"I dunno," I said. "I sure am drunk though." I waved a glass of excellent bourbon at him. Midnight approached, the band and the crowd were both loose and enjoying themselves.

He laughed. "Where's your date?"

"Dunno," I said. "If she has drunk as much as I have, she's probably passed out somewhere." There were siderooms with couches for just such necessities. "Where's yours?"

"Around," he said vaguely. "Probably standing in line to get rid of some of this excellent booze."

"What does runcible mean?" I asked him, taking a sip from my amber cup.

"Like in the poem by Lear?" He had his own drink, red wine punch perhaps, but held it in his hand and looked over the heads of the crowd, a big smile on his long, dark face.

"Uh huh," I agreed. Milla and Wallace lingered near the punch bowl. He had his left arm around her, his fingers linked with her right hand under one of her momentous breasts, her left arm trapped also against her delectable body. Talk about possessive.

"Well, no one knows what Lear meant by it for sure but if one allows for spelling vagaries, it might mean large, heroically proportioned -- and possibly, round."

I looked up at him. "No shit?" I said.

"None at all. It's from Ronceval, a town in Spain where there are the ruins of a large and ancient round tower, among other wonders, I've been told."

"I'll be damned, it's the right word after all."

"No charge," said Bertie, grinning. He lifted his glass in a mock toast and I took another sip of my expensive corn likker. Noticing my preoccupation, he bent down to sight along my gaze and see what held my attention. "Just so," he commented. "Quite runcible."

"Mmm." I tried to drink out of the wrong side of the glass and nearly spilled my booze down the front of my suit. "How do you always know such stuff, Bertie?" I asked after I'd found the right edge of the glass.

"My last name lead me there as sure as buzzards find a corpse by smell. It's where Roland died."

"No shit?"

"Still none," he agreed. "We're lawyers. If I were shitting you, it would be billable hours."

I swallowed with difficulty, managing not to spray bourbon on some passing dowager camel corps. Some of the partners were old enough to have voted for Roosevelt and were still on their first wife. Wallace Worth was on his fifth. Rumor had it that the luscious Milla Vanhoos had been a Euro-trash pornstar before marriage. "What's a Wally Worth?" I murmured.

"About 4oo million. He's a pauper really if you compare him to a captain of industry like Bill Gates or a mogul like Warren Buffet."

"That's still a lot of Wally."

"Henry Lincoln, I do believe you're drunk. And infatuated with our dear president's young wife."

"Could be," I admitted, drooling into my now empty bourbon glass.

Bertie took the glass away from me and put it with other empties on the tray held by a passing waiter. "You ought to go meet her. It'll help relieve the pressure and keep you from soiling the sheets tonight."

I made a grab at another drink from a different waiter carrying full glasses but I missed. "You see how Three-by-Four has her wrapped up? I can go over there but how could I talk with her? He's got a better monopoly than Bill Gates ever dreamed of."

He shrugged. "Doing nothing is an epic fail, dude."

I hate it when he tries to use "with it" jargon. I expressed my opinion with a rude noise. If I could just get one more bourbon, I'd be drunk enough to ignore him.

Moments later, I found myself sidling up to the tower of unassailable pulchritude hanging on Wally's left arm. Tower was right, she stood a couple inches taller than either her husband or me. I glanced down, platform heels added six or eight inches to her height. Why would Wally want her to look taller than him, I wondered, because I felt sure that my boss had approved of every detail of her appearance.

I didn't stop to figure out how I'd gotten up the nerve to approach her, Bertie has that effect on lots of people.

I maneuvered through the crowd surrounding the host and hostess of the party until I could see her face. She wore a smile like a toreador wears a cape but her eyes looked just as cold. From this angle I could see that she had both hands entwined with Wally's hand and wrist. She had just as much of a grip on him as he had on her.

Her cool blue gaze wandered across mine. I crossed my eyes and stuck out the tip of my tongue. It used to work in grade school and it still proved effective. She giggled.

I grinned and winked. She turned her head and spoke right into Three-by-Four's convenient ear. They both released their death grips and disentangled their arms. After a quick, proprietary kiss, she headed toward the long line outside the designated jill. Halfway there she turned her face in my direction and did a slow, open-mouth, two-eyed blink. I nodded toward one of the outside doors and she changed direction.

Her short, golden gown barely covered her runcibility. The top part somehow cupped and shaped her breasts without straps or back. Her long legs made the bows on her platform sandals move like butterflies on a mission. Her wrist, neck and earlobes dribbled shattered light from jewels that might have been measured in ounces instead of carats. Not even counting the cantaloupe she wore on her left ring finger.

We met outside under the moon on a flagstone patio lit by fake Japanese paper lanterns. The temperature had dropped into the low fifties during the day and it must have been at least fifteen degrees colder out there despite the catalytic heaters on tall poles Wally had left scattered around. Cold for a California beach town but warm for anywhere else on December thirty-first. She had to be freezing in that skimpy gown but she still looked hot enough to roast weenies.

"My name is Milla," she said in her soft Hollander accent while she stepped close to me. "Give me your wallet."

I blinked.

"Your wallet," she repeated.

I had my thin card case in an inside pocket in my jacket. I took it out and showed it to her. She snatched it out of my hand.

"Gimme," she said. She unfolded it, looking at my picture I.D. "Your name is Henry Lincoln. Like the car?"

I shook my head. "Like the president."

She grinned but her expression did not touch her eyes. "Like the five dollars bill," she said. She opened the wallet's next fold and took out a green note, one of the old style fifties. "I prefer him, the Mr. Grant." She folded the bill small and tucked it behind her left ear then tossed the billfold back to me.

Mystified, I caught it. Before I could put it back inside my jacket, she had linked arms with me, her lips near my ear. "My room is much warmer and a bed there is," she whispered. Her nearness smelled of flowers and musk and sex, lots of sex.

I couldn't believe what was happening but at least one part of me had no trouble with her suggestion. She stroked my thigh, perilously close to Little Henry. I may have moaned.

"Why you standing here, giving me the chill?" she demanded. She indicated an outside stairway with a wave of her free hand. "Let us go and warm each other inside."

I had no doubt what she intended. The old schoolyard slow blink had never meant quite this much before. Would I, could I, take the wife of my boss to bed in his own house while he was downstairs entertaining my co-workers? Only one way to find out.

I helped her negotiate the outside stairs, fearing that she might trip in her ridiculous shoes and soon we were in a large room with a bed three sizes bigger than any I'd ever seen before. She touched a wall and soft indirect lighting came on, hardly brighter than moonlight. She began undressing me while I stumbled out of my shoes and we both fell across the embroidered satin bed cover. Our heads reached the middle of the bed but only just. We kissed.

"There are condooms in the bed head," she whispered. It's spelled that way in Dutch, though it's pronounced 'condome'. She squirmed away to retrieve a foil-wrapped prophylactic from the bowl on the mahogany bookcase headboard, leaving the fifty she'd taken out of my wallet in its place. I struggled out of my pants without getting off the bed. She squirmed back down to me and used her tongue to lubricate Little Henry for his new suit.

"Jesus," I whispered. "Why are we doing this?"

"I tell you later," she promised. "Now, I am to sewn in this dress, you to have it off me rip."

I did and we did and it was over quickly, enjoyable but a little transactional.

I lay there astonished by what we had done. She lay on top of me, she still had her shoes on but she'd had nothing on under the dress, not even hosiery. I glanced at the headboard of the bed where I could see the fifty nestled in the little teakwood bowl amid the foil packets.

The room, large enough for some apartments had very little furniture. The enormous bed, a ten-foot long dressing table with a straight chair, and two upholstered chairs in front of a large screen TV with a small table between them. Two walls were windows, floor to ceiling, we'd come in through one of them, a set of French doors set into the glass. Another wall had three pair of double doors and the last wall had a mural painted on it, a street scene in some European city. With some alarm and no understanding at all, I noticed that many of the windows and doors in the painted scene were occupied with naked and half-naked women.

The implications of that scene and the transaction with the fifty dollar bill began to creep me out. "I am even drunker than I thought," I said.

She giggled against my chest. "Poor Hans," she said. "It is because of the pre-nocturnal I must sign."

"The what?"

"The contract with my husband before the wedding?"

"Oh. Pre-nuptial. What?"

She sighed. "My husband, he is very old and he has very much the problem with his Little Wally."

I made a choking sound.

"Just so. In order to get him up, he takes the medicine and the herbs but also," she sighed. "I must play the part for him. You understand?"

"You mean he knows what we're doing up here?"

"It is always his idea. You came up and got my attention. He signal to me what I should do and here we are. It is play-acting."

"Play-acting?" I repeated, feeling numb.

"Yes," she said in a small voice. "I to pretend the sex I am selling."

"What a sick fuck!"

"Oh, no. I am very helpful and must the condoom to use."

"Not you, him." I said.

She snuggled against me. "He is old and very rich." She played with my scanty chest hair with her slender fingers.

"And if you don't do what he says? What happens?"

"He can divorce me and I get nothings. But if I stay with him five years, he give me trust."

"A trust fund?"

I felt her nod. I started to sit up but she pulled me back down. "We stay together until he comes looking."


"Is Act Two. He come in, is very upset, call me bad names and yell at you. You go out the window and down the balkon to the next room. Then he is manly and makes love to me and all is happy. In the morning, your clothes so you can leave, the maid brings back. Acting the play." She patted my chest.

"Well, I'm not going to be happy about it. He could fire me." I started to get up again but she held me back.

"Don't go. He will not be really mad if you are here. But pretending the anger, he can be young again."

I lay back. "Christ, I don't believe this. He can only get it up if he pretends his wife is a -- a prostitute?"

She nodded against my side again. "It is something he discover about himself, after wife the number four." I felt her shrug. "So he comes to Amsterdam and finds me, before I am marry him, I am prostitute not for play-acting."

I didn't know what to say to that.

"Sleep," she suggested. "He will wake us when it is time for Act Two."

I laughed. "I don't think I can sleep. In fact, I'm sure of it. I'm drunk but not that drunk."

She got out of bed quickly and stumbled a bit on her silly heels. "I get us something." I watched as she made her way to one of the sets of double doors. Her bare ass gleamed in the moonlight from the walls of windows, runcible as ever. She opened the doors, revealing a built-in bar. From a rack above the bar, she took down two champagne flutes and from under the bar the brought out a dusty bottle the size and shape of a magnum of bubbly.

She brought a corkscrew, too, and I managed to open the bottle without getting out of bed or hurting someone with a flying cork. I didn't think I'd ever seen a bottle of champagne with an actual cork and not a plastic substitute before. I poured the flutes full and set the bottle on the floor beside the headboard. The liquid had gone almost still and the color seemed dark but the deep fruity bouquet spilled out of the flutes and rose to my head. Rich people drink the good stuff, I thought.

"Do not drink yet," she said. "It is almost midnight. Hear the noise downstairs?"

"The crowd is pretty drunk." We sat in the middle of the bed, looking at each other. She had on jewelry and her shoes and all I wore was my shirt. She looked beautiful and I felt ridiculous.

She smiled but still, the expression did not touch her eyes. "When it is midnight, you will hear the chanting, the band will play, my husband will set off the fireworks on the lawn." She gestured toward the windows.

"Okay," I said. "Shall we make a toast?"

"You have the custom of New Years wishes? A wish made on the New Year may come true."

"What would you wish for?" I asked.

"If you tell, it will not happen," she said. She cocked her head. "Listen."

I heard the chanting begin and the band playing. We lifted our glasses to each other. "Make a wish," she said.

I tried to think of a wish. The only thing that occurred to me in my drunken frustration was to wish for a way to get Milla out of her situation with my pervert boss.

The shouting and the music reached a crescendo, arcs of fire exploded across the lawn outside the window. "Drink," said Milla.

I drank, the wine sweet and light in my mouth and that was the last thing I remembered until I woke up the next morning.

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