The elegant sound of a string quartet reverberated through the imposing ballroom. Priceless paintings were hanging from its walls, and a dazzling crystal chandelier glistened above. The ornate molding reminded her of the family visit last summer when she had toured Independence Hall. Dozens of tables had been set with meticulous attention to detail. The wine glasses and silverware were polished to sparkling perfection, only outdone by the breathtaking evening-gowns and custom-tailored tuxedos of those seated. Sommeliers suggested, waiters waited, and everyone buzzed between tables like busy bees. On one of these insular tables amidst all the glitz and glamour sat she, in the company of hedge fund managers, famous actors, and board directors of companies she had never heard of before.
“Tanya, was it, correct?” the pear-shaped gentlemen asked her from across the table. She couldn’t remember his name or occupation, despite having been introduced by her date only minutes earlier. His round, hairless head was covered by mud-colored spray tan and reminded her of the heavy leather medicine balls in physical therapy. She nodded with a smile.
“I hope this is not too forward, but I am always interested in Bryce’s companions,” he tried to give her a winning smile, showing his whitened, stubby teeth “but what exactly is your occupation?”
She was getting hot in this rented dress. It was the prettiest but most uncomfortable thing she had ever worn. Bryce had insisted. Wear something nice for a change, he had said. Bryce jumped in before she could respond to Mr. Medicine Ball. “Robert, if you are looking for someone to sell your bad investments to, I think you’ll be sorely disappointed,” he said, putting an arm around her shoulder. “Tanya is not that gullible.” The table joined in polite laughter, including the pear-shaped Robert. Tanya forced another smile, her cheeks beginning to tire.
She took a swig from her glass of wine, a Screaming Eagle Cabernet. It was the only name she remembered after the sommelier had rattled off an impressive and expensive-sounding list of options, so she had picked it as her only option. It tasted awful. Strangled even.
Once the laughter receded, she leaned forward to speak over the general noise. “I keep bees,” she said.
“Excuse me, you do what?” Bobby had raised a cocked eyebrow. She knew he had heard her. “I’m a beekeeper. I keep bees,” she repeated, louder this time. The table fell silent, including Bryce. The attention now solely focused on her, the motorcycle-driving beekeeper, wearing an uncomfortable dress that wasn’t hers, drinking expensive wine she couldn’t appreciate, much less afford, twenty years younger than everyone else around the table. She leaned back in her chair and shamelessly emptied her glass at once.
Copyright 2021 Sven Camrath
Wedding photo created by freepic.diller – www.freepik.com
About the story: It was inspired by an interesting writing exercise from the book What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. I was required to make use of the following words my friend Rob sent my way: beekeeper, sommelier, Independence Hall, motorcycle, medicine ball, insular, shamelessness