The beautiful people milled about talking in small groups. Music played quietly in the background, while waiters walked around with trays of hor'deuvers. A bar sat in the corner, two bartenders were busy mixing drinks. The only difference between a teenage party and this was the veneer of sophistication. Underneath they were the same as the horney teens. Just a presentable facade to appear more civlized. Threaten their way of life and you'd see that same animailistic reactions as you would with a hardened criminal. Culture. Just another reason to put themselves on a pedastle, to look down on others with contempt. Plastic people. Did any of them really care? Mercy spoke when spoken to and wore the same fake smile as the others, hating the shallow talk. She hated parties, but knew how to play the game.
Her job wasn’t to interact with the guests as much as it was to appear to support the mayor…councilman…senator…whatever the guy was. Illinois wasn’t even her state. The home belonged to the Bell family in Chicago. His PR man had hired her agencey to come and add beauty to the event, and to pad the numbers. The grand hall, as they called it, was hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, crystal chaneliers, and two staircases on either side of the room that curved upwards and met at the landing on the second floor. It was there that Bell and his wife would speak to the people like a royalty speaking to their subjects.
An older gentleman in an Armani suit and black tie came towards her. Please don’t hit on me, she thought. It wouldn’t be the first time that evening.
He stopped to take a crostini and a mango shrimp off the hors d’ourves tray, carried by a waiter in black and white. Mercy took the moment to slip off toward the open French doors that led to the patio.
She sat on the edge of a brick garden wall, she wouldn’t be able to stay long. Strains of music reached out to her. She rubbed her arms to make the goose bumps disappear.
A young man, in his twenties, stepped out of the door. “Guess I’m not the only one that needed to escape.”
Sterling's voice was smooth and deeper than she remembered. She looked at him. His sandy mop of hair carefully gelled and sprayed into a perfect design. His summer tan almost all faded away, leaving a faint remenant. She breathed in the Armis cologne, his signature scent. “You caught me,” she smiled.
He leaned against the wall a few feet from her. Not even the Christian Dior suit could hide his muscled body. His striking blue eyes locked on her.
"I wondered if you'd be here," Mercy said.
He raised his eyebrows, "Wondered or hoped?"
It had been years since she had seen him, but she still felt a drawing to him.
"How is Edward?...Evan?..."
"Ethan." Mercy rubbed her wrist. "Didn't work out."
Mercy smiled. She had hoped to see him.
"Are you having a good time?" Sterling asked.
“They're cookie cutters,” she answered.
“Designer clothes, shoes and bags all to give the appearance of wealth. And they may be rich, but why flaunt it? To impress each other? It seems pointless. They come here to give the idea that they want to help those less fortunate, but in reality they want to be able to look down their noses at the rest of us,” Mercy said.
He moved closer to Mercy. “But isn’t that what you do? Make people want to buy this appearance?”
"I'm being paid to present this dress." She stood and did a small pirouette, showing off the black sleeveless Ralph Lauren gown. "Other wise I wouldn't be here."
Sterling removed his jacket and laid it across her shoulders.
"How have you been?" she asked.
"Good. I'm at Notre Dame. Do you still live in hicksville?"
"Yes, I still live in New Paradise."
"Maybe we can get together sometime. I'm sure you come to South Bend occasionally."
Angela Bell stepped out onto the patio. She wore a tight black and gold sequined dress with Jimmy Choo sling back shoes in a matching gold. Her hair was swept in an updo, with a string of pearls around her neck. Mercy saw her heisitate before saying, "Hello, Mercedes." Then she turned to Sterling. "Your father wants you to come meet some of his associates."
Mercy handed him back his jacket. He put it on while his mother waited. "Looks like we're both window dressing tonight."