Authors: Susana Falcon
A Half Dozen Fools
As the autumn sun dipped into the Hudson River, it basked the gray sky in a mellow, orangey-red glow. Elyse Wazinski kept her eye on its melting color as she strutted down Eighty-Fourth Street, her high-heeled ankle boots snapping crisply along the sidewalk. Headed toward a row of buildings in silhouette against the wash of color, a chill grabbed hold of her. She folded her arms around the waistline of her black leather jacket and stepped up the pace.
Dylan Webber broke stride in his hurry to keep up.
"You know," he said with a laugh, "when you decide to truck--look out! You walk faster than any other New Yorker I know!"
"Hey," she retorted, "I like to walk, and it's cold. May as well walk fast. You burn up more calories that way."
On West End Avenue, she turned right. Even with his long legs, Dylan skipped around the outside corner to catch up.
"What's the address?" he asked.
"This building, here, on the right."
She marched up the portico flanked by white marble columns.
"Mm," Dylan said, "how quaintly affluent."
"Shush," Elyse said jokingly, "don't want folks to think we're impressed."
"We're not," he said in a playfully snobbish voice. Then he spoke honestly. "But, wait--I'm still wondering how I got talked into this tonight. I've got be up at five in the morning, you know. Where's Shar, by the way?"
Elyse stopped and looked up at him. Her gigantic blue eyes sparkled merrily under the porch light's soft reflection.
Using a silly little voice, she said, "Shar busy. You come because you awe my fwend." Speaking naturally, she added, "Besides, you never know who you might meet at these things."
She smiled when the doorman drew back a double door and held it. She thanked him and swept toward the lobby desk with Dylan in tow.
"Hi, good evening," she said to the doorman stationed there. "We're here for Joel Lebanthal's party."
The uniformed man answered wearily, having repeated the directions too many times, already.
"Fifth floor, turn left. All the way down to Number Eight."
She nodded and walked with Dylan to the elevator around the corner. Dylan pressed the call button on the wall.
"Gorgeous interior," he said looking up. "Look at that crown molding. That's quality work, when they really knew their stuff."
Elyse looked up at the star-shapes embedded in the squares of the ceiling, and at its perfect border trim.
"Mm...Italian. You think?"
Dylan nodded. "Probably." He then gazed at his reflection in the mirrored elevator doors and smoothed into place the honey-colored curls framing his face.
When the doors opened, Dylan stepped aside to let the elderly couple from within pass. Elyse smiled until she and Dylan took their place. Dylan pressed the fifth floor button and the contraption jerked to a start.
"Let's hope the mechanics are as solid as the ceiling," Elyse quipped.
"You think there'll be any gay guys there?"
Elyse shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not
gay, but you never know, if you read between the lines."
With a flourish, Dylan swept his cashmere scarf back over a shoulder. "Well, they won't have to read between the lines with me!"
Elyse chuckled as the elevator creaked upward. When it finally halted on the fifth floor, they stepped out into a carpeted hallway, which they followed quietly under golden-globe light fixtures.
Dylan sighed audibly. "I love you, petunia, but I still wonder how I let you talk me into these things. I have to be on set at six A.M., all perky and ready to go."
"Well, how did I let you talk me into working at the Make-Up Place?"
"Me? You were the one whining about standing on your feet nine hours a day. I just made the vacancy known."
"Yeah, but now I wonder if working for the Hoffenzimmers is really better, in the long run. Sometimes I think I ought to have my head examined."
Dylan tsked. "What can I say? I made it work for me."
"Sorry. Don't mean to sound ungrateful."
They reached the door marked "8," and Elyse pressed its gilded doorbell.
"Hey," Dylan said dryly, "at least you get to sit down between customers, now."
"Which, unfortunately, is most of the day."
"Oh come on, my little flowerlet. You know it's not forever. Look--you got to work on this movie from being there."
Elyse's face lit up.
"True! I'd never have gotten it if I hadn't met that actress who came in. What if I'd been standing at the Lady Borghella counter in Black's Fifth Avenue? Might never have happened."
"And now, here we are, at the wrap party. At the director's place, no less."
"Nothing like a good wrap party," Dylan said cheerfully.
"Even for a low-budget indie."
"Hey, we all gotta start someplace!"
Elyse giggled. Dylan nodded sagely.
Another minute passed. Elyse stood staring at the ceiling. Dylan stood twiddling his thumbs, then put an ear against the door.
"Loud in there. Maybe you'd better ring the bell, again."
But the instant Elyse reached out to do so, the door whipped open.
An attractive woman in her late thirties stood in the door frame, dressed in low-slung jeans with a paisley scarf around brown, shoulder-length hair. She took a drag off her cigarette before greeting the new arrivals.
"Here for the party?"
Elyse detected a slight accent.
"Yes. We're Joel's guests."
"Isn't everyone?" she asked drily. "Well, come on in. He's around here, somewhere."
She ushered them into the entryway and closed the door. From the archway by the adjacent living room, she gestured toward the crowd gathered within.
"Anybody know where Joel is?" she called.
People shrugged and looked around while the woman walked away, leaving Elyse and Dylan alone in the entry. They glanced at each other, then watched people partying hard, variously conversing, guzzling, laughing, smoking, or grooving to the loud Ramones tunes blasting from an unseen source. Elyse and Dylan looked at each other, again.
"I wonder who that woman was?" Elyse asked.
"Probably Joel's wife," Dylan answered.
"Joel's not married."
"You sure about that?"
"He doesn't wear a ring."
"Like that means anything."
"And he flirted mercilessly with me the whole shoot."
Elyse gave him a sassy look.
"Well," she said, "I guess we're on our own."
Boldly, she pushed through the crowd in search of a familiar face. After a minute, her interest shifted to gigantic, sturdily-framed canvases covering the walls. She motioned Dylan over by her side.
"God," she whispered in delight, "I just love Haitian art! To die for."
"What--those, over there?"
"The big ones on that wall. Look at the crimson and gold...that aqua sea. How vibrant the greens in the leaves..."
"I love that sofa, over there, is what I love."
Elyse followed his line of sight to a set of well-upholstered sofas with gilded-rope trim.
"Not bad," she answered. "I don't mind the rugs either."
"I guess your indie film director does all right for himself."
Elyse caught sight of Joel's blond head bobbing above the crowd.
She catapulted toward him calling out, "Joel!" Dylan followed her zigzag through cliques of people to greet a big, rugged man of moderate good looks wearing a denim shirt and khaki pants. He stood aside when the man pulled Elyse close and held her in a bear hug. They parted, twittering in mutual excitement while Dylan scanned the crowd. He was staring after a muscled guy in tight blue jeans when Elyse suddenly grabbed his arm and pulled him over.
"Dylan, darling, this is Joel Lebanthal, our fabulous director."
The two shook hands and exchanged greetings.
"Now, and listen, both of you, because this is very important," Joel announced. "What are you drinking tonight?"
After he took off to fetch a vodka soda and chardonnay, Dylan bent down to Elyse's ear so no one else would hear.
"Did you see? He's wearing a ring."
"A ring--the wedding band on his hand!"
Elyse's face dropped. "No--my God--I didn't. Are you sure?"
Dylan gave his friend a sympathetic, gimme-a-break look.
Joel returned and handed Elyse her vodka. She made it a point to check the ring finger on his left hand. Sure enough, there was a gold band as plain as the nose on his face. She glanced at his nose, just for good measure, and cursed him inwardly.
"Hey, Joel," she said sweetly, "who was that woman who answered the door?"
"I give up--who was it?"
"Ha, ha. I was just wondering who she was. She didn't introduce herself."
"I don't know. I wasn't there when you came in."
"She has brown hair to her shoulders," Elyse explained, "dressed in jeans, with a scarf around her head."
"Oh, that's Dominique," he said matter-of-factly. "My wife."
A sudden urge to gag almost overtook Elyse, and she fought to control a flare of anger from showing. Even as she got a grip on herself, the burn from Joel's betrayal--or his neglect to impart facts, as they were--slowly roasted her original good mood. She felt tricked! She also felt humiliated by the casual way Joel now mentioned his wife after shamelessly leading Elyse on.
During the entire three weeks she'd worked on the shoot, Joel had doted attention on Elyse whenever he wasn't actively directing. And he had never worn his wedding band. Of that, she had been certain. How her cheeks burned now, along with her nipples hardened from rage in place of desire. She needed to walk away immediately, before she said something rude. She glanced at Dylan who took his cue.
"Great place you've got here, Joel," he said. "Great party, too."
All at once, a group of guys stumbled over. Clearly, they'd been celebrating quite some time and were feeling no pain. One of them wrapped a drunken arm around the host's neck.
"All right, guy," he said to Joel, "we got a movie trivia question for ya..."
Relieved at the easy out, Elyse nudged Dylan to start moving. They didn't stop until they reached a dark corner between the living room and hallway. Out of earshot from the bulk of guests, Elyse stopped and turned to Dylan.
"He's married!" she hissed in outrage. "He's frigging married!"
"I got that."
"I feel like leaving, right now."
"You can't do that, Elyse. You just got here."
"I don't give a shit! I feel like an idiot! I want to go home and lick my wounds."
"It's not your fault. Probably takes it off just to pick up beautiful women on set. Probably does it all the time."
"Oh, thanks, that's comforting."
"Stay a while, girl. Network. Hold your head high. Have another drink. Grab a bite to eat. Show him you don't care."
"Well, try and pretend you don't! Take advantage of the situation--
Elyse bit the inside of her lip and made up her mind. "Fine. Let's hoof it to the buffet and see what they've got. But, wait, first... Which way's the bar?"
* * * *
After picking at some cheese and crackers off the buffet table, Elyse and Dylan made themselves at home by the bar. Elyse wasn't shy about pouring herself a big, fat Stoli-splash-soda with a squeeze of lemon. She was hoping the alcohol would numb her anger. In truth, however, it barely did a thing. She managed to keep up appearances only for the sake of future bookings. For a while, she schmoozed the actress who had brought her on board along with a couple of other actors and their friends. Then she excused herself to get another Stoli.