It was on July 7. My close friend Sophia and I were walking down Fielding street where you could find all sorts of these small quirk shops with different household stuff, such as pots, shovels, seeds for your garden, tiny dwarfs to put them on your front lawn, so when the passers-by while walking near could see their cute faces in the splendid color of the green grass. The smell of the freshly baked bread in the local bakery was almost making your nose mad, and the big shopping glasses of the vintage boutiques were screaming with fancy jewelry and all those little things the young girls adored.
The time on my watch showed already half past seven, and that meant that our third friend Diane was late, as always. The evening was very warm and pleasant hot wind made the branches of the old willows dance, making them look like ballerinas with very long arms and legs. Soph, the blonde one with green and brown eyes, was wearing colorful striped silk dress with pair of shoes on platform and beautiful emerald earrings that perfectly suited her eyes. And my choice for the July’s evening was long silk sleeveless dress in white and black stripes with red leather stilettos which I bought only yesterday and was dying to show immediately.
“So, where the devil is she!?” – said Soph with the growing impatience. “We will be late to the party!”
My mind was telling me, one more minute and it’s going to be a massive explosion. I tried to calm her down:
” You know her, if you want Diane to come in time, tell her not the actual time of the meeting, but two hours before it, maybe in that case we all won’t wait for anybody.”
“Hey, girls!”, and finally she reached the destination. Well, why do I care, I am not her employer. As it wasn’t the first time, and I’m sure it wasn’t also the last one, we were pretty used to that. Diane was that type of girls who always care about their appearance and tend to be perfect in any life situation. And that was one of those things that I probably loved about her. She was a red long-haired devil with big blue eyes and with an absolutely normal nose that she always wanted to change, no matter what we said to her in its defense. Today she was wearing high heels, blue trousers with high waist and light creamy chiffon blouse with a red necklace.
“Blimey! Is that really you or my eyes are lying? What took you so long? We’ve been waiting for ages!”, I was a little bit frustrated, because when it concerns some arranged visits as birthday parties, I hate to be late.
“Well, I’m so sorry, what can I do for you to forgive me?”,
“Come at least once in time?”, said Soph with a bit of sarcasm.
“Ok, if you two want to talk more on this subject, then you can stay here, and I’ll go to the party on my own.”
“Wait Jess, we are ready, but 5 minutes won’t make any difference because we are already late”,
“I’ve told you I’m sorry!”
“Stop you both! Now pull your happy faces, it’s Joanna’s birthday!”
In a short while we were standing in front of the gorges mansion on the Church Lane 37, where our friend Joanna Adams lived. I’ve always dreamed of a house like this. A big front yard with perfectly made boxwood shrubs in shapes of different geometrical figures, a paved road that leads to the front steps, high lanterns that look magical in any season. And no matter where you stayed, you could feel the odor of the petunia flowers that was reaching the air. Oh, how I loved that smell! It always reminded me of my childhood days that were spent at my grandma Rose’s place. She adored them, her garden beds were full of them, all sorts of any color. I used to wake up early to make myself a perfect breakfast while everyone was asleep, and go to the garden with a tray of fresh pastry and tea just to enjoy the morning beauty of the green grass, cool shadow from our old chestnut tree and the lovely smell of those petunia flowers.
But now we were standing there at the front door with red faces, half ashamed for our delay and half from the running, and with a perfectly wrapped present (which I wrapped cautiously myself) that contained delicate pieces of jewelry, a golden necklace and earrings with turquoise (which we bought at Riggers & Thompson store, our local masters who were quietly gifted).
The door was opened and then we saw Mrs. Adams, a very attractive and, despite her age, very young-looking woman, elegant and sophisticated as always. “Ah, girls, you have finally come,” she said smiling . But even so I still felt a little guilty for being late. “Good evening Mrs. Adams, really nice to see you today.” She kissed us three in cheeks. “She is in the garden with the guests”, and we headed to their garden, all exited and a little bit nerves as the evening promised to be very intriguing.
Joanna has always been very popular among boys in our college, so I decided that there could be a few very attractive ones at her party. The atmosphere was perfect. White tables with champagne glasses and a vast amount of starters, exotic fruit and different pastry. The garlands all over the place were creating the illusion of thousands of fireflies, the lake nearby was reflecting the lights of the sunset. The gramophone was playing light jazz, Al Bowly was on, and the surrounding was filled with the buzz from chats of the arrived guests. People were dressed for such an occasion with great taste, ladies in evening dresses, handsome men in suits and ties, and of course the birthday girl, the most charming of them all with her face shining with pleasure. She was turning twenty-one today, her white hair was shaped into a sort of waves that reminded of the form of a seashell, her gown represented long black dress that was very sparkling and loose, the back opened, so everyone could see her pale skin, on her neck she had a pearl necklace.
“Jess, Soph, Diane, oh, I’m so glad that you all made it to come today!”.
” Happy Birthday, darling, we had no other choice, or you would kill us,” in my mind I fully agreed with Soph, if we didn’t show up there, we would be at Joan’s black list for at least a week.
“Pretty much like me, you don’t know how much these evening means to me and to have all you here is just wonderful!”
“Here’s your present Jo, it’s from us three and we hope that you gonna love it”,
” Oh, thanks girls, I’m sure it’s lovely. Come on, I want to introduce you to my guests.” And then we started getting to know the other members of the party. There were couple of her relatives including her father Mr. Adams, who was far the richest man in our small town near Darlington, his company specialized in farm goods that were bringing him a considerable income. There also were cousins, Alika and Lilli Adams, they appeared to be rather nice and smart girls, daughters of Mr. Adams’ brother Charley Adams and his wife Emily. You could definitely see the family resemblance with Jo in their looks. Some old friends of the family, Robert and Kristine Browns, they both have been working as journalists in our local newspaper “Sunday Report”. They often lacked some interesting material for their columns, as nothing ever happened in our town, and because of that, they wrote about some boring gardening tips, such as how to mow your lawn evenly or how to protect your potato from bugs. Sometimes they were so desperate for attention that they wrote about our town gossip, which always appeared to be false, they were that type of people who would give anything for fame and wealth. The last ones were Joanna’s college friends, Mark and Robert Walters (brothers and both very handsome), and Miriam Jenkins who she often went horse riding with.
I took a glass of champagne and to my great bewilderment it was amazing. The bubbles were playing river dance on my tongue, the pleasant warmness started to rise inside of my body.
“Having nice time?”, I turned around and saw one of the brothers, I guess it was Mark. Because of the spirit my brain was already feeling some tipsiness, but I managed to put myself together and not to yield that feeling.
“Mark, right? Well I’m really enjoying the view, I mean the scenery is theatrical”
“Yes, indeed, what can be more peaceful? This music, aperols, what else can man desire?”,
“Hah, there’s always going to be something that lacks, that is the human nature, people always want more instead of just enjoying what they already have, because no one knows what can happen next day or even moment.”
“Sounds like a toast, let’s cherish what we already have, cheers!”
“Cheers. So, Mark, any particular plans for the future? ”
“I decided that I want to connect my life with the career of an architect.”
“That sounds pretty exciting, I guess if I need to rearrange my house I know who I should turn to.”
While Mark was telling me about his art project he was working on, by the side of my eyes I saw Joanna who was now talking with Miriam, and by the expression on their faces you could tell that something wasn’t quite proper. They were almost muttering so nobody could hear them. But suddenly, they were interrupted by one of Joanna’s cousins.
“And what is your thing?”
” Sorry, what?”,
” I’m curious whether you are lucky to have passion in life”
“There are lots of things that I really love, and painting is one of them”
“Ah, another man of art, can I see your works some day?”
“Maybe, only in exchange for your project drawings”
“Deal! How long have you known Joanna?”,
“I guess since we were little, we used to celebrate Halloween at her place almost every year, at school she was the first one to talk to me and from that moment on we became good friends. Our teachers hated us, we were chattering like magpies during the lessons, so everyone could hear nothing but ‘shush’ in our direction. And you?”
“My brother and I met her at one of the college parties, and since then he has been worshiping her, and is ready to follow any whimper of hers.”
“She is a not an ordinary girl, that’s for sure.” Everyone now was dancing, Joanna was with Robert and by the look on his face you could see that he was madly in love with her. Then we decided to go to the lake to put our feet into the hot water of the “night bathtub”. Our endings soared from the Charleston and it was a real heaven to cool them up.
Now it was the moment of the birthday cake, the size of it was enormous. It looked like a true masterpiece, three tiers with candied fruit and whipped cream roses on the top. There also were twenty-one candles that our birthday girl was about to blow. As the evening was going straight to its end, I decided to find Joanna to say some words of gratitude for that marvelous celebration and to congratulate her again. On my way down, I slightly ran into Miriam so that our shoulders banged.
“Oh, pardon, it’s a little bit dark in here and my eyesight is poor,” her big round eyes were blinking behind those stylish glasses framed with an Italian rim, but it seemed to me that few moments before, she was crying and now she was masterly trying to hide that.
“Don’t worry, it’s me who never watches where is going. Do you know where Jo is now?”
“I believe she is in the hall, inside the house”
“Thanks”. As I stepped into the hall I found Joanna speaking on the phone with somebody, her voice was very soft and tender, but when she saw my figure, the expression on her face changed and tone became plain and ordinary. She put down the phone on the marble table where some lilac peonies stood and hugged me.
“I’m very glad that you came here today, everything was just perfect, as I’ve always wanted”
“Thank you for having us, you know it couldn’t be any different”.
At about one o’clock after midnight it was decided that Mr. Adams’ driver should carry us home. Joanna’s uncle family had their own car, so they were the first to leave. Then we saw off the couple of the Browns, Mark and Robert decided to walk home, as it was not far away from there, in about twenty minutes on Hampton Street. Miriam was taken away by her own personal driver, who her parents had fetched. And, it finally was our turn. We all said good-bye and took off. Don’t know for the girls but I was definitely tired.