Martha popped another bacon-wrapped scallop into her mouth. She was loving this cocktail party. The house of her husband’s boss was glamorous and the people attending even more so. The modern mansion with its clean lines and shiny surfaces appealed to her minimalized self. Standing by the floor to ceiling, wall to wall window, she dreamed of having the same sweeping view of Boston Harbor from her own living room. She could picture herself stretched out on a white leather chaise, drinking a cappuccino. As she walked across the room to get her third sapphire martini, she smiled at the click-clack sound her new stilettos made on the glossy mahogany floor.
This was Martha’s first time at Henry’s home. Ever since Bill was hired by the tech mogul, she had begged him to wrangle an invitation to this house. Henry was divorced so worming her way into a wife’s social circle was not an option. But here she was, in the company of some of the richest in the state. She had tread hard and heavy on the ladder of societal standing to reach this level. Bill had better play the part, she thought to herself. She hadn’t spent the last eight years with him to be ousted from the company of these people by him drinking himself silly.
She ordered her martini from the tuxedoed bartender and turned to face the room of partygoers. Conscious of her posture, Martha leaned an elbow on the bar and scrutinized every gown, every hairstyle, every set of earrings. She scanned the room, looking for a group worth joining. When she made eye contact with someone, Martha would smile half-heartedly and nod as though she had the power to give silent approval.
Cocktail in hand now, Martha strode along the perimeter of the room. Ah, there’s Libby Evans, she mused, the president of the Cambridge Art Association. Martha made her way toward the small group surrounding Libby. She was nearly close enough to gentle touch Libby’s arm when another woman approached from the opposite direction. Martha’s gaze shifted to this elegant woman, dressed in a floor-length gown that spelled high fashion. Her jewelry perfectly complemented the sweetheart neckline of her pale-yellow dress. Her hair was swept up in a top knot with tendrils of curls askew. When Martha looked at the woman’s face, a hint of recognition came to her, followed by a hint of alarm.
It was Jane, Bill’s ex-wife. Martha abruptly turned and walked back toward the bar. She hadn’t seen Jane since the day the divorce was final eight years ago. Jane had been devastated, not just over the failure of her marriage to Bill but also because she was left penniless by the legal bills. The final blow in the courtroom that day was when Jane saw Martha hanging on Bill’s arm, a smirk on her face. Jane had broken down sobbing because it was then she realized Martha had deceived her. Jane’s oldest and dearest friend, the officiate at her wedding, had stabbed her in the back.
Martha knew Jane was the epitome of her name, plain. And Bill was on course to landing an affluent position with his new job at Techpoint. He needed a wife who knew the value of connections and appearances. Martha felt she was doing both of them a favor when she betrayed her friend. She’d left the courthouse that day aglow with satisfaction.
Martha sidled to a spot behind a column near enough to the group of women to hear their conversation but not so close to be noticed. She leaned her head to the side of the column to listen in.
“How are you, darling?” Libby said to Jane. “I missed you. How was Monaco?”
“Delicious,” Jane replied. “Richard and I spent most of our time relaxing at the villa.”
“How wonderful,” sighed a woman with long, blond hair and too much make-up, in Martha’s opinion.
“Are you coming to the Art Association meeting on Thursday?” Libby asked.
“I would love to,” Jane said. “but we are flying to Denmark tomorrow as guests of the crown prince. Let’s get together as soon as I get back.”
Jane gave Libby a double kiss, one on each cheek, and walked into the crowd of guests.
Martha watched, her eyes wide in disbelief. She followed Jane from a distance, weaving between guests and waitresses. When Jane stopped and put her hand through the arm of a tall, dark-haired man, Martha paused. She recognized his face immediately. It was Richard Hill, the CEO of Computer Analytics, a Fortune 100 company. Martha slunk down in the Ripon lounge chair beside her.
Jane, who, if Martha was being honest, was not plain anymore. She looked beautiful, elegant.
“Hey, hon,” slurred Bill.
He had stumbled over to Martha while she was enviously staring at the couple across the room.
“Hon?” Bill repeated. Martha reluctantly turned toward the voice that had become such an irritant. Bill had a beer in his hand and was leaning against the wall.
“What?” Martha asked.
“I think it’s time to go. I’m falling asleep.”
“Pull yourself together,” Martha commanded, but at the same time, she stood.
She knew if they stayed any longer, Bill would probably end up in the pool of Henry’s beautifully landscaped yard, wallowing on a floatie. She grabbed Bill by the back of his arm and pulled him toward the front door. A valet opened the door for them. Bill fumbled in his pocket and, then, held out a set of keys to Martha.
“You’re the designated driver, sweetie.”