She gave herself one last look in the mirror before grabbing her purse and her jacket. Jackie caressed her cat Milo before heading out into the night, where she would have to get into a cab and then wait inside before arriving and the Thanksgiving dinner she had been invited to only some days earlier. Paul had been kind enough to invite her and she knew they didn’t knew each other that well yet, so his gesture was all the more difficult to understand but welcomed. After all, she was very far from her own family.
Jackie’s new job as an assistant editor had forced her to move out of her small city to a bigger one, where she would have many more opportunities to grow. At first, she had been very reluctant to leave her home but it was her own parents that almost forced her to take that big new step in her life. They had never had the opportunity to do something like that and they wanted her to have everything they hadn’t been able to have in their respective youths. They were going to miss her deeply but it was necessary for her to leave.
Starting somewhere else she had never being to was difficult the first few months but the amount of work had numbed her response to anything happening around her. Thanksgiving was the first time she was leaving her small rented apartment in order to actually have fun. She would leave everyday really early for work and then head back at night to sleep there. She would cook something as soon as she arrived and pack it for the next day. That was her routine and she was grateful for it because it didn’t require thinking.
That party, however, did require a lot of it. She had to buy a proper dress, something she didn’t have in her wardrobe, and accessorize it with nice things and, of course, a great hairdo. She bought some fashion magazines to give her a good idea of what girls from the city liked to wear but she felt none of those styles actually fitted her. She was more the kind of staying at home and enjoy a new TV show, rather than going out to a club dancing or something like that. She had to go to several stores before finding a dress she liked.
The woman that helped her was the one who advised her on which earrings and shoes she should wear with it. Thankfully, some of her own stuff was perfect for it, saving her a big amount of money she wouldn’t have being able to spend, unless she went in debt or something and that was something her parents had warned her against. She also borrowed a neighbor’s jacket, a girl named Olivia who had become her best friend in the city. That was something to say because they didn’t really know each other that well but Olivia had seen Jackie with her dress bag and sad expression and just knew she needed help.
When she arrived at the venue, a very impressive restaurant on the twentieth floor of a very old and majestic building, Jackie felt she was entering some sort of book. The people tending to the guests were dressed like those butlers that you see on period dramas or something like that. She even smiled when one of them offered her a glass of champagne, which she accepted trying to fit in. She suddenly felt a little bit out of her element and tried to look for her friend all around. But the place was fairly big.
The venue was like a palace inserted into a building. There were long and luxurious stairs that separated two floors, both of which had different rooms were people could stand up or sit down, have a drink or dance around if they wanted. No loud music thought. There was a live band playing some modern songs but in such a way it seemed the whole place had been transported magically back to the 1950’s. It was a very nice atmosphere but also a bit uncomfortable for Jackie, who wasn’t used to something like that.
Her friend Leslie appeared from behind. He was a tall, very white and lanky man, who worked in the technical area of the magazine. He was the one who made it possible for the editor to make a digital edition to be on display for all of those women, and some men, who paid for the magazine online. He was one of the first people that invited Jackie to have lunch with him when she arrived, stating that he had always been the lonely kid in school and would have never wanted to have someone feel like that if he could do something about it.
They laughed for a while before talking about the food and drinks and how fantastic the place was. Leslie explained that the place was owned by a very old club, which had been created by his grandmother many years ago. He didn’t say a word, but it was obvious his family was very wealthy. He tried to make it all seem like if it was something everyone could experience but Jackie soon realized that wasn’t the case at all. Elitist was maybe a very strong word but it would be appropriate for the situation.
Leslie took her by the arm and carried hair up the stairs, to a room all decorated in gold and some red elements. There, she was presented to his family. Leslie’s mother Corinne was a very nice lady that was obviously not used to such luxury either. The young woman soon deduced it was her husband who had been born into wealth and not her. It was not only the way she spoke and moved but also the things that she didn’t do. Jackie liked her from the first moment and so did Corinne, who had never really liked any of her son’s friends because of their way of behaving in public.
Helen, Leslie’s grandmother, was someone very different. She sat on a big chair and didn’t move too much. It wasn’t like she couldn’t walk or something like that. It was obvious that she wanted everyone to be around her and to be, to an extent, the center of everyone’s attention during her time in the event, which was actually short for being such a matriarch. The moment dinner was served in a very large table, she disappeared. Jackie asked about her whereabouts but no one answered. It was her thing.
It wasn’t until much later in the evening when Jackie met Leslie’s father. He had just arrived from a very long flight, claiming he had taken a limousine straight from the airport to be able to share some time with his family. His wife was happy to see him but Leslie had a very different response. Jackie could tell he just stopped himself from joking around as he usually did and he became this stiff man that couldn’t almost speak a word. It was a very unsettling thing to see.
And George, his father, was not at all an intimidating man. He was actually very charming; enchanting everyone present with some stories about his trip to Asia and the people he met there. He also told some jokes but many of them did not find an audience with Jackie. Maybe she was too oblivious or the content just went over her head. But the most likely reason was she was trying to make Leslie speak, with little to no success. He really seemed to have become a human icicle.
Then, out of nowhere, a member of the staff came in rushing into the dining room, straight for Leslie’s father. He spoke in a very low register and fast enough no one could really understand what he was saying, not even Jackie who was fairly close. Whatever he was talking about, it was very serious because George’s expression went from utter joy to a very grim expression that drained all color from his face. The staff member left and George’s father stood up, trying to make people calm down.
He announced, in a very deep voice, that his mother had just passed away in her apartment “upstairs”. He apologized for ending the evening, but the circumstances were very unique. Everyone stood up and headed to the lobby, to pick up their belongings.
Leslie was still like a stone but he seemed to move his eyes, which was an improvement. Jackie wanted to stay with him but Corrine personally put Jackie’s neighbor’s jacket on her back and joined her outside where a cab was already waiting. She didn’t even have a moment to talk or think.