Have You Heard

“Have you heard about what happened to Vi?” Ilse’s said in a stage whisper that carried over the chatter of china and din of the usual afternoon crowd at the Inn at Blue Rock.
Renate stiffened. She had her back to Ilse’s table. Without turning Renate could picture Ilse’s table precisely. Snowy cap of sleek hair and a face like a wizened hawk, Ilse’s was at the head of the table regardless of its shape. On the right hand of Ilse, like the good sheep that she was sat the ever patient Dorothea who Renata was sure was worrying her napkins and looking about anxiously. To Ilse’s left, Margit and Harmke, who Renate always called the Mayhem sisters. A crackle lit up Renate’s spine. That could only be Hildegard, Ilse’s oldest friend slash rival, sitting directly across from Ilse. It was the monthly meeting of the George Gardens committee. Renate leaned back to capture every word.
“Don’t tell me she’s married that child! Vi is old enough to be his grandmother,” Harmke said joining in Hildegard’s laughter.
“My girl heard it from Viola’s housekeeper. You stole my dirt, you bitch,” Hildegard said with another head shattering laugh.
“I was there, Hildy meine liebste. The little jump up had arranged the whole thing after one of their dreadful salons. Albrecht made the announcement. They had the license and Pinky performed the ceremony. Good thing I had a tray of Manhattans to brace me or I would have fainted onto the Steinway,” Ilse said with a mouthful of something.
“Well pardon my French but that boy is a light in the loafers,” Margit said. “He makes a lovely soufflé but honestly if you ask me that’s a step too far for crème patisserie.”
“Light, he’s helium,” Hildegard said drily and downed a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Ilse added, “Well there is no fool like an old fool. When it goes badly—and it will go badly—it will just be what she deserves.” There was knowing laughter and agreeing sounds. Quietly Dorothea mumbled into her salad something about Vi being so lonely after Frank and the high price of feeling wanted but no one paid attention.
Renate leaned forward. She thought of Vi, so brilliant, creative, and strong, a formidable academic and hostess. Viola was a proud woman. Then she pictured Albrecht, the handsome, young intern. At the Junior League Gala, Renate had run across him. Witty and erudite, the bow tied young man sparkled under the crystal chandeliers. Albrecht was dazzling her with his tales of his war stories in Iraqi and his knowledge of Persian history. Renate carelessly has corrected his confusion on the Parthian and Sassanid dynasties. His pretty face cracked into rage. Renate remembered backing away in fear. Renate could see through the lies of his facade. She could taste his danger. Renate remembered how the pleasant face shuttered down and Albrecht walked away from her hitting her shoulder hard as he passed.
“Earth to Gran, earth to Gran, come in Grandmother.” Steffi’s lovely face smiled up at her. “You were a million miles away.”
“Sorry, I was thinking of an old friend.”
Renate hugged herself. Laughter clanged around her shoulders as she watched her granddaughter eat lunch.

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