The crowd quickly pairs off, and in a second, a handsome Robin grabs Betty and leads her to the dance floor. She shrugs and gestures to the guy standing next to me, a lone crow. He stares into his punch. I watch as the crowd transforms into an elegant, choreographed dance, seemingly from another time.
As the figures glide past me, I marvel at all these people who seem to know where they’re going. As gloved hand meets gloved hand, I start to feel like I’ve spent my whole life (or at least my almost-thirties) looking on.
I start to feel a bit dizzy, as all the brightly-feathered birds twirl by, and the lights of the ballroom darken. My empty punch glass suddenly feels heavy in my hand. How long have I been standing here?
I am like an owl of the desert.
Brad and Eva circle past me, and without thinking, I lower my mask. Brad sees me and freezes. Eva looks to see what he’s looking at, and I duck around the corner.
What was I thinking, coming here? This isn’t my scene. The only reason Brad’s had anything to do with me is cause Khost asked him to.
A couple of parakeets dart past me, and I catch one say, “You know, he could have his pick. And did you see the picture? She must have a winning personality. Poor Eva.”
“I should go,” I say, aloud, and as I start to head for the exit, Brad blocks me.
“Nice egret,” he says.
“Shouldn’t you be out there,” I say, gesturing to the dance floor, “the First Dance isn’t over yet.”
“It's okay, Eva and I will have many more dances.”
“Oh, right, I forgot. You’re engaged. Congratulations. Mojitos all around.”
“What is with you?”
“What’s with me? You’re supposed to be helping me look for the Second Point, and instead, you’re strutting around Battersea with Eva.”
“I’m a falcon,” says Brad, “falcons don’t strut. And I’ve been looking for you the past few days. Where have you been?”
“I was kidnapped, thank you. At the Queen’s book signing, didn’t you see--”
“--all I know is, I turned around, and you were gone.”
“Khost is a D.S.M. Surely he could have tracked down where I was.”
“Well maybe he thought what I did -- that you went off to search for the Second Point on your own.”
“That’s crazy, why would I--” We both look at Eva, who’s searching the room for Brad. He lowers his voice.
“I’m sorry about the Dirt, they’re always trying to pin something on me, trying to make me into Miami's bad boy.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sorry to have ruined your reputation,” I say.
“That is not what I meant!”
“But you know what people are saying. How long are you gonna slum it with a third assistant just to save your client’s Bottlebrushes?”
Brad nods, silently, and starts to turn away. I call after him.
“I quit my job, okay? I’m Khost’s full-time. So as far as anyone knows, I’m downsized. The tabs aren’t gonna let this go, they’ll follow us, and your mother, the Mayor...”
“What about the Mayor?” a deep, stern voice bellows from behind Brad.
The Mayor lowers her peacock mask. “I told you to stay away from her,” she says, as if I’m not there.
“Exactly what I was saying,” I say, trying to duck away. Brad grabs my wings and yanks me closer, as I try to extract myself.
“This isn’t your show, Mom,” says Brad.
“Oh really?” says the Mayor.
“It’s not a bad play,” I say. “If you add the jealous girlfriend.” Eva appears next to the Mayor, her face pink.
“Brad,” she says, softly, “I’m missing a partner.”
“So is Francie,” says Brad, and as his mother and Eva look on, wide-eyed, he pushes me towards the dance floor.