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48

"OH, I HOPE it Still fits." Brian, gazing down at the Reverend Twisted costume now spread-eagled on the bed like a steamrollered Arthur Dimmesdale, was already leering a bit. How he loved to get into that part!

"Oh, it always fits you and you know it," Fiona said, trying to sound loving rather than irritated, and the phone rang, yet again. "Not again!" she cried.

Brian's leer strengthened. "She's your boss," he said.

This was the last thing Fiona had expected to result from having invited Mrs. W to March Madness. Was this the sixth or seventh call, with hours still ahead before the actual party? Mrs. W had regressed to some antediluvian teenage past, working out her anxieties on the telephone.

Mostly the calls were about costumes, or, that is, the personae inside the costumes. So far, Fiona had gently but firmly shot down Eleanor Roosevelt, the Gibson Girl, Annie Oakley, and Ella Fitzgerald. (Ella Fitzgerald?)

But the calls hadn't been entirely about the conundrum of Mrs. W's personal disguise for the evening. Should one dine ahead, or would it be a catered affair? Oh, dine ahead, definitely. Then Mrs. W would dine at home and pick up Fiona and Brian later.

Another issue. Would she be the only person of a certain age present at the party? Actually, no. Among the advertisers and other corporate types who might drop in were people of all ages, though the older ones tended to be more often male than female, and mostly interested in a new young companion to chat with.

Well, would there be anyone present whom one (Mrs. W, that is) might know? Not a chance.

Fiona answered the phone in the big room, wondering what the problem would be this time around. "Hello?"

"Do forgive the intrusion, dear—"

"Not at all, Mrs. W. Whatever I can do to help. Do you have another idea for a costume?"

"Well, yes, I do, in fact," Mrs. W said, "but this time I don't need advice. From what you have said of tonight's festivities, I have now decided on the absolutely perfect masquerade."

"Really?" Tense, worried, wondering if she could talk Mrs. W out of whatever lunge into the past she'd made this time, Fiona said, "Who, Mrs. W?"

"No, my dear, that would be telling. You will be quite impressed when you see me. Now, my car shall pick you up at ten-twenty, is that right?"

"You don't want to tell me." Dread clutched at Fiona's bosom.

"Let it be a surprise, dear."

"I'm sure it will be."

"What I was ringing up about, in fact," Mrs. W went on, "was your friend Brian."

Fiona could see Brian, in fact, in the bedroom, just pulling on the Reverend Twisted trousers, shiny black wool with so much extra material and pleating that he now looked, from the waist down, like a half-blown-up Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon. "Yes, Brian," she said. "What about him?"

"I should have asked this before," Mrs. W said, and she did sound a bit uneasy when she said it. "Will your Brian object to, in effect, escorting two ladies to the event?"

Out of sequence, Brian had put on the flat-brimmed Reverend Twisted hat and was viewing himself in the closet mirror, leering so hard he looked like a Cadillac grille. "He won't mind a bit," Fiona promised Mrs. W "Trust me."


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