Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Chapter Thirty Eight
Tracy looked over the reservation list as she had done every morning since the first day The Merryweather opened for business.
“We have two adjoining suites reserved for four woman who were classmates and friends twenty years ago. I'm sure they will have a wonderful time catching up. There is a note here saying they haven't seen each other since graduation. Monica Whitfield made the reservation, they will be checking in this afternoon. We'll have to make sure to have champagne waiting in their rooms when they arrive,” said Tracy.
“Can you imagine not seeing your friends for twenty years? I'm so happy they chose The Merryweather for their reunion,” Holly replied.
Elwood, Pennsylvania. “Why did I ever agree to this reunion, Butch? I can't find a thing to wear. It's been twenty years since I saw those girls and I'm forty pounds heavier. They will all look like models and I'll be a frump.”
“Beth, you look wonderful to me. They are your friends, they won't think less of you because of a pound or two. We better get going or you won't make it to the airport in time.”
“Are you sure you and the kids will be alright without me for a week? I will miss you terribly. I wish I'd told Monica I couldn't come. She has always been able to persuade me to do things against my better judgment. I shouldn't be spending the money. Dr. Clark says Brady will need braces. Cody's school tuition is due next week. I don't think I should be leaving Megan now, she is getting too serious with that boy.”
“Beth, we will be fine. Let me close your suitcase. We really do have to leave right now.”
Hampshire, Connecticut. “Sophie, make sure you pack my slippers, the ones with the mink fur around the edges, the girls will be oozing with envy when I slip those on in the morning. Just pack the designer originals and don't put any of the paste jewelry in there, Monica Whitfield was always able to spot a fake.”
“Yes, Mrs. Harris. I am sure all of your friends will be happy to see you no matter what you wear.”
“Sophie, you know better than that. I married well and I want them to know it. Has Mr. Harris called this morning?”
“No ma'am, I'm sure he is busy at his office, otherwise he would surely call to say goodbye.”
“I'm sure that's the reason, Sophie. Call Charles to come pick up my bags, it must be almost time to leave for the airport. I hope someone called ahead for a limo to drive me to this horrid sounding little town called Camden Corners. What in the world was Monica thinking, booking us at The Merryweather? What kind of a name is that for a resort?”
Sophie glanced on the floor at the brochure Brenda Harris dropped there. It certainly looks like a nice place to me, she thought as she bent down to pick it up along with an empty wine bottle under the bed.
Brinkley, New York. “Mother, you look beautiful, said Miranda Powers,” looking at her mother's reflection in the mirror.
“I feel like such a phony. I should have just been honest with Monica Whitfield when she called about this reunion. I can't afford it and I shouldn't be going.”
“Mother, you and Daddy have fallen on hard times, it's true, but your friends have all come through for you.”
“It still amazes me that the Brinkley little league team sponsored a car wash out on the highway and the church ladies had a bake sale every Sunday for a month to raise money for my trip. There are so many much more worthwhile causes.”
“After all you have given to those boys, if it weren't for you and Daddy, there wouldn't even be a team. You know the ladies auxiliary looks for any excuse to bake. Besides, they wanted to do something and Dad suggested they raise money so you could spend a week with your friends. Now, let me put your suitcase in the car while you say goodbye to Daddy.”
Darlene Powers walked into the makeshift exercise room in the den. Curtis Powers was recovering from a debilitating stroke. Because of his youth and determination, his doctors believed he would regain full use of his left side.
“Look, Darlene, I can lift a ten pound weight now. Just give me another month or so and I will be able to carry you over the threshold on our twentieth anniversary,” Curt laughed with a slightly lopsided grin.
“Keep it up Curt and don't work him too hard while I'm gone, Ed.”
“Your husband is one determined man, he won't let me go easy on him.”
Darlene kissed her husband goodbye. “I will miss you.”
“I'll miss you too but I know you will have a good time. You need to get away from here and just enjoy yourself for a whole week. Before we know it, you will be back home taking care of me again.”
Darlene hugged her daughter and son, Travis goodbye and got into Fred Turner's borrowed car. Fred had a BMW convertible and insisted Darlene drive it to Camden Corners.
“You can show off for those old biddies,” he told her.
“Those old biddies are my age, Fred.”
New York, New York. “Whatever possessed me to take a week off for some frivolous reunion with people I haven't seen in twenty years,” said Monica Whitfield
“Monica, you haven't taken a vacation in the fifteen years that I have been working for you, I would say it's about time. We will be fine here without you. I'm tempted to take your iPhone from you just before you get on the plane,” said Paula, her assistant.
“I'd only buy another when I get to Greensboro. Did you arrange for transportation from the airport to the resort for me?”
“You are all set. You'd better get going, the traffic to JFK is always horrendous this time of day. Have a good time, Monica and try to relax.”
Paula was the closest she had to a family. Monica often wondered what it would be like to have a husband and children who would wait for her to come home each evening. She had made her choice years ago and now she was stuck with that decision. She was sure she would hear all about family life from Darlene and Beth. Brenda didn't have children, just a rich husband and several homes to occupy her time. Now that she was on her way, she was looking forward to seeing her old chums. They were close friends during their college years. She hoped they would be able to rekindle that closeness.
Beresford College for Young Women was established in 1896. Only proper young ladies from proper families were accepted into the school. After the 1992 academic year, the school shut it doors, never to open them again.
The fearsome four, as they liked to call themselves, were part of the final graduating class. Monica, Brenda, Beth and Darlene met during orientation on the day they arrived at Beresford. They became fast friends and roommates in a big old brownstone just blocks from the school.
Monica had always been ambitious. She was involved in so many activities in high school that she was given extra space in the yearbook just to list them. She was head cheerleader as well as student body president. Monica was always in charge. She liked it that way and it continued when she opened her own public relations firm at the age of twenty three. She dated seldom and never considered marriage before the age of thirty five. The larger her firm became, the less time she spent socially with anyone. Men were attracted to her only to find that her ambition frightened them away. Now, at 42, she was beginning to realize her time for marriage and children was fading fast.
Brenda was the first to arrive at The Merryweather in her rented limousine attracting attention as it rolled through town. Brenda glanced out the window and thought the charm of Camden Corners was much like the town she grew up in. Her father was a country doctor who provided a good living for his family, but they would never be in the same league as most of the girls who attended Beresford College. She knew her mother loved her father, but was never satisfied with their position in the community. She joined all the right clubs, attended the most affluent church and insisted on private schools for their children.
“Norman, surely you could specialize. Marlene Campbell's husband is a dermatologist, he only works three days a week and they can afford a vacation home in Aspen, Colorado.”
“Louise, I am a country doctor and that is all I will ever be. I didn't get into medicine for the money. You have a nice house, the children are in the finest schools and you have a live in maid, I think you could have done much worse than marrying me.”
Louise gave up on changing her husband but ingrained in Brenda the importance of marrying a rich man.
After seventeen years of marriage to a man who often couldn't find his way home at night, she was unloved and childless, but had fulfilled her mother's wish for her, she had married a rich man.
Brenda checked into The Merryweather. She hated to admit it, but the resort was much nicer than she had anticipated. The bellboy loaded the cart with her seven pieces of expensive luggage. He couldn't help but wonder if she had a suitcase for each day of the week.
Monica, unable to slow her pace, tipped the cab driver and hurried through the doors of The Merryweather.
“Tracy, it's so nice to see you again. I was here for a conference last fall and I enjoyed your hotel so much I thought of having a reunion with some old friends I haven't seen in years.”
“I remember you very well Ms. Whitfield. We appreciate your repeat business. Your friend, Ms. Harris arrived just a few minutes ago. If there is anything you need, please let us know.”
The bell hop was relieved when saw Monica only came with two bags.
“Brenda,” she exclaimed when she opened the door to the suite. “How wonderful to see you. Are you ill? You are so thin.”
“Monica, only you could make a girl want to cover herself up while wearing haute couture.”
The women embraced.
“You are very fashionable dear, but you look absolutely gaunt. I think you need this week with us so we can fatten you up. Remember the cookie binges we used to go on?”
“Yes, I do and I cringe at the thought. Darling, I would never be able to fit into any of my frocks if I indulged in cookies.”
“Oh, look at the luggage, the others must have sent their bags ahead,” said Monica as she glanced at the suitcases lined up near the closet in the first bedroom.
“Those are mine, of course. You only brought two?” Brenda said in astonishment. “How will you ever make it through the week?”
“I think I'll manage. You must be planning a change of clothes four times a day,” Monica laughed until she saw the expression on her friend's face and guessed that was exactly what she had planned to do.
Brenda decided it was best to change the subject. “Monica you look so successful. We always knew you would be the career woman of the group. Your life must be full of excitement,” Brenda said with some regret for her own choices.
“It's a busy life, I wouldn't exactly call it a full life. What about you? Your goal was to marry a wealthy man and you did. Tell me all about Randall Harris. I've seen pictures of him and he is as handsome as he is rich. I read where you two have several houses including one in Tuscany. Talk about a full life, I'd say yours is plenty full.”
Brenda was saved from answering the question about her husband when there was a knock on the door.
Beth burst into the room. The moment she saw her friends, she was no longer embarrassed about the extra weight she had put on since she saw them last. They hugged and greeted Darlene who entered the room a few minutes later.
“Here we are together again, the fearsome foursome,” said Darlene. “I wonder how fearsome we really were back then?”
“We thought we were going to conquer the world,” added Beth. “Darlene and I wanted the picket fence and a houseful of babies. You two were the ones with lofty dreams and it looks like you have both succeeded in making those dreams come true. Brenda, I saw your picture in a magazine at the beauty parlor. You were on the arm of that gorgeous husband of yours. How do you ever stay so slim? I thought you looked slender in the photo, but you are much thinner in person.”
“It isn't easy, Randall insists that I look presentable when we are together. How about we open that bottle of champagne? I'm sure it's domestic, but what can we expect from a place called Camden Corners?” Brenda said as she reached for the bottle.
“A little too early for me, but the rest of you, help yourselves,” Monica said.
Beth and Darlene declined also. Brenda reluctantly put the unopened bottle back on the table.
“Shall we unpack and meet in the restaurant for a late lunch? I think you will find the food here is quite good, Brenda. That is if you are eating today.”
“I'd say that is enough talk about my weight. How come you aren't picking on Beth? Look at her, she has gained fifty pounds since graduation. Nobody is telling her she eats too much.”
“I've only gained forty pounds, Brenda. Not all of us are anorexic like you,” Beth regretted her words the minute they were out of her mouth.
“Okay, you two. That's enough of that. Brenda, we will not discuss your weight or Beth's again. Beth, you look just fine. Let's not get off on the wrong foot with each other, we have a whole week together.”
Darlene and Beth went into their suite. Beth closed the door, she was still smarting over Brenda's unkind remark.
“Brenda hasn't changed a bit. I almost didn't come because I know I have put on weight. I knew she would have some comment about it. I just didn't think we would be here less than an hour when she said it.”
“Beth, you always did let her get to you. None of us are the same as we were twenty years ago. I'd be willing to bet, Brenda isn't all that happy being Mrs. Randall Harris. I saw that magazine you were talking about. You obviously didn't read the article. Randall Harris was spotted leaving a young ladies' apartment the day after the photo of the happy couple was taken.”
Meanwhile, in the suite next door, Brenda was picking up the unopened bottle of champagne. “How did we ever let that porker into our circle? Beth never did fit in, for that matter, neither did Darlene. Did you notice that outfit she was wearing? It must be at least ten years old. I think she cuts her own hair too.”
“Brenda, are you truly happy? I'm asking because you and I both wanted to make our marks in this world. We both succeeded, I'm at the top of my field and you are wealthier than anyone deserves to be. Yet, those two women in the other room have a tranquility about them. I could see it the moment they walked in the door. Sure, Beth is a little chubby and Darlene isn't a fashion plate, but they are truly happy in their lives. I'm looking forward to spending the week with them and I hope some of their contentment wears off on me. Now, put that champagne bottle down and lets go have lunch with our friends.”