Pete weaves between the small round tables. There is a loose rhythm beneath his skin, waiting to release to the surface; when he is not thinking precisely, when the red wine (rocking and rolling in his glass) hits his palette, when he lets the blues pass through his body. And if the wine's viscosity provides good legs, the up-to-the-shoulders kind, like Ramona's, Pete will dance. Crisp black pants and shiny shoes compliment the night's pizazz. A black waistcoat, white shirt and black tie add a hint of gravitas, as his platypus feet step towards their table.
Guess Who Loves You More is piping through the speakers. The singer's falsetto tracks a love lost then found; self-delusion at its worst.
"Good evening, ladies," his greeting is met with still air, the dead calm before the descent of dark funnel clouds of a tornado. All five feet and nine inches of Ramona is stretched taut, beyond irritation. Moments ago, she and Amani had succumbed to giggles over three horny lawyers and their shenanigans: women, lovers, inebriated, at last year's party.
"Hello, Pete," Amani's compassionate response.
"No wifey?" Ramona's shrill pitch surprises Amani; it pierces the air. Seconds seize minutes in momentous embarassment. Amani's ears burn with this unfolding drama of stretched boundaries; its might grips their space like bad news.
"She's tired," Pete's nonchalance is unacceptable. "A side-effect of the toxemia," his elaboration falls within the parameters of callousness.
Across the ballroom coworkers intermingle, pausing for refills at any of the three bars flung across the room. A smattering of laughter floats. The evening passes swiftly into the impending night.
"I'll get us some wine, Ram!" Amani makes a temporary escape.
"She's just too heavy, now," Pete explains. He moves closer to Ramona. She nods her head.
"It's my birthday today, she insisted I have fun without her," he adds. The bare-faced gall of it all, the wiggling out of his responsibility, typical man! Ramona steps back a few spaces.
"Want to dance?"
Installments 1, 2, 3, here.