The house had liquid colored chandeliers. They sparkled when the lights in the parlor were flipped on. The carpet was a rather luminous shade of aqua. It was scrubbed every week. It had a healthy shimmer and a rather antiseptic smell. It had a new carpet sort of smell. The carpet was installed everywhere. Everywhere except the kitchen and the upstairs den. It was laid perfectly on each step of the staircase. The staircase had shiny, newly polished banisters.

Valerie and Michele were holding court at the bottom of the staircase. Valerie, (Concertina's pal,) was the red head with small breasts. She had small perky breasts and full lips and her lips were made up, (rather horishly Concertina thought,) with a cranberry shade of lip gloss. The brunette was named Michelle. She was yet another friend of Concertina's. All told, there were four women at the party. Michelle, Valerie, Concertina and Sophie, (she hadn't arrived as of yet.) I mean, Concertina didn't invite just anyone to her party. Yes, Concertina had acquaintances. She wasn't exactly a recluse. These four women were special. They were Concertina's pals. She had known them forever. Well, Michele wasn't Concertina's pal. Concertina was pissed at her. You'll hear about that later dear reader.

Michelle read an awful lot of Dickens and she read an awful lot of Woolf. Tonight, she hardly looked like an intellectual. Michele was decked out in a pair of gray dress slacks. She wore a matching gray vest and the vest was topped off by a gray shirt underneath. A baggy, heroin chic shirt. That is, it had long sleeves. It had long sleeves and it was rather bulky in size. Michelle had a self image problem. She thought that she was fat. She weighed 96 pounds exactly.

"What are we celebrating?" asked Michele, looking around the room as she sipped a glass of champagne.

"Concertina's getting married," said Valerie. She made a clicking sound with her mouth and she thought that Michele was rather dense. The purpose of the party was on the invite. Hadn't she read the invite? Perhaps she feeding the white monster again.

"Is that him?" asked Michele, pointing out an attractive little dish with plainly parted hair. The dish was all decked out in a blue suit and for a moment Michelle thought that his suit was black. The light was playing a trick on her eyes.

The young man was holding serve by the baby grand. It was positioned by the dining room window. The young man took a drag of his cigarette and then he placed his hands on top of the piano.

A sense of dread overtook the young man and he felt a knock in the pit of his stomach. The young gentlemen looked towards the kitchen. He dreaded the appearance of Concertina, his fiancée. She was an emasculating little bitch sometimes. The little tart hated it when he touched that fucking piano with his tobacco stained hands. The young man took a puff of his square. He blew the smoke towards the window. He wondered why he was marrying Concertina. He damn sure didn't love her. Oh, but her money was so tempting.

"Is that him?" asked Michele. She wondered if she needed drugs tonight. Concertina's cheery disposition was a bit much sometimes.

"The one and only," laughed Valerie, watching Concertina as she made her way through the double doors of the kitchen. She was wearing a little black number with spaghetti straps. It had spaghetti straps and a plunging neckline that made it impossible to look at her face. A semi-plump, rather plain face. Concertina was a rather attractive thing. She had curves in all the right places. She wasn't fat, but she certainly wasn't thin.

"Hi darling," she smiled. Concertina kissed her fiancée's cheek and then she wrapped her arms around his waist. Concertina gave her fiancée's ass a slight squeeze.

"Not here," he smiled. He made sure that his hands weren't touching the piano. Concertina always had a fit when she her fiancée touched the piano.

"Hi Val," laughed Concertina, waving rather simply at her chum. Val and Michele were standing at the bottom of the staircase, some 25 or 30 feet away from the spectacle. The spectacle by the piano, dear reader.

"Isn't she speaking to me?" Michele asked, whispering to Valerie. Valerie was still waving at Concertina. Michele wondered if Valerie was capable of doing two tasks at once.

"You took money from her, Michele."

"I screwed up Valerie. I told her that." Michele hated this whole scene. Everyone in Concertina's little circle was so fucking phony. Michele was as phony as anyone. She always kissed Concertina's ass. That's the way it was though. If you weren't in Concertina's world, you were a nobody.

Ok, so Michele had damaged her relationship with Concertina. Ok, so Concertina paid Michele's rent for three months. Ok, so Concertina put Michelle in rehab. Ok, so Concertina gave her a place to crash when she got evicted. Why did Michelle get evicted? The darling spent her rent money on an ounce of cocaine.

Michelle didn't see the problem though. Concertina wasn't a fucking saint. Her siblings hated her pomposity and her father was a drunkard who couldn't handle money. Ok, so Michele forged a check in Concertina's name. In this life, everyone made mistakes. Everyone except Concertina. Concertina was perfect.

"What do you want from me?" shrugged Val. She watched the busboys as they circled the crowd. They balanced full trays on their palms with relative ease. Valerie felt her sobriety slipping away and she felt a clamminess in her palms. She was one of those recovering addicts that couldn't be in the same room with an alcohol related substance.

"You wanna a drink?" laughed Michele. She wasn't appalled by her lack of taste. She owed Valerie that one. Valerie was always sucking up to Concertina. They, (Concertina and Valerie,) had been rather chummy lately. They, (Concertina and Valerie,) had discovered a lost long kinship of some kind.

"I don't want a drink," Valerie growled, eyeing Concertina's beau. He and Concertina were holding serve by the piano. She had to say, he was a rather tasty dish.

"He's rather yummy," Michele chirped, taking a sip of champagne. Michele saw someone doing a line of coke on the baby grand. The little bitch was going to explode. The thought of it, (Concertina's melt-down,) excited Michele to no end. The champagne tasted a bit more sweeter.

"That's Concertina's fiancée?" asked Valerie. She felt the cigarette smoke as it collected in the back of her throat and she wondered where her sense of morality had come from. When it came to men, there were no rules. Often times, sex took precedence over friendship. Both Michele and Valerie took what they wanted. They didn't care about the consequences. Besides, Concertina believed in the same theory. When you wanted something, you took it. How strange, Valerie and Michele were actually on the same wavelength for a change. The idea was rather surreal.

"By the way Val. Why did Concertina invite me?"

"You know her. Concertina never wants to make a scene. She'll deal with you in private. Besides, public squabbling is rather tacky."

"Ask a simple question, get a simple answer," thought Michele. She wondered who Concertina had cried to. Now she knew why people were avoiding her. The game was afoot. For now, Michelle was socially dead.

Part II

Sophie had always hated social shindigs. She wondered if she belonged with Concertina's crowd. Her father had come into a great sum of money. That part was true. Sophie had been poor for most of her life. It was strange, being in Concertina's world. She was standing in front of a house that had angel like shingles on the roof. It was painted beige and for some odd reason, the color reminded Sophie of her father. He was a tank shaped mulatto man with a dragon tattoo on his right bicep. On the first of every month, he placed the bills on the left side of the table. The bills went on the left and the cash, (his check from the Park District,) went on the right side of the table. She remembered the flickering light bulb in the living room. It worked when it wanted to. It always irritated her father's eyes.

"God damn it," he would sigh, filling every envelope with cash. The next day, each wad of cash was turned into a money order. Every money order was mailed out. Every money order went to a specific creditor.

His lips watered and for a second, a dishonest thought entered his mind. The pile of money got smaller and smaller. As more envelopes got stuffed, Sophie's dad became resigned to his fate. He wasn't going to have much spending money for the month. Daddy always paid his bills though. He always preached about good credit and fiscal responsibility. These two elements were the key to everything.

Sophie sighed. She felt the aftereffects of the coke that she had done before the party. Sophie felt somewhat euphoric. She was a little bit buzzed, but she wasn't acting like a fool. Besides, Sophie always leveled herself off with a valium. She knew exactly what she was doing. Sophie was in control.

"I'm ready," she told herself. Sophie eyes closed. She tried to erase all those negative thoughts. Her father had taught her to hate the rich. Sophie's father thought that fate was un kind. Everyone else enjoyed the good life except him. Sophie's father felt left out.

She knew one thing. It was great to be in Concertina's circle. Sophie wanted to belong. She wanted to hob knob with the beautiful people. This was her chance.

She shut the door softly and grabbed a drink from the waiter's tray. Sophie scanned the crowd. She didn't recognize most of the male flesh. All of the male guests were decked out in blue suits and power red ties. There hair cuts were clean and conservative

Sophie saw Concertina's beau by the piano. She gave him a wave and then she flashed him a smile. Sophie was quick about it. She didn't want Concertina to suspect something. He grabbed the wine glass from the piano and gave Sophie a silent toast. She smiled, nodded, and looked away. Sophie spotted Michele and Valerie by the staircase. She saw Val's head as it turned away in disgust.

"A catfight," purred Sophie, placing the wine glass beside the piano. She wined her way through the crowd and she smiled at all the men. Sophie never smiled at ugly people and she never smiled at poor people.

"Where's Concertina?" Sophie asked, bringing the conversation between Valerie and Michele to a stop. Valerie heard the voice and she recognized it immediately. The voice was detached, oblivious and sarcastic. Michele was talking, but Valerie couldn't hear her. Val heard an echo and then a whisper.

"Will you excuse me?" Val said.

She pushed past Michele and Michele mouth's was left hanging in mid sentence. Michele knew who it was. She knew the voice but she didn't feel like turning around. The action required to much effort. They weren't exactly friends, Sophie and her. Truth be known, Michele looked down on anyone who inherited money. You were naturally rich or you weren't. Then again, she had no beef with Sophie.

"The Princess is in the kitchen," said Michele, her back turned.

"Am I going to see your back all night?" asked Sophie.

Michele laughed and then she turned to face Sophie.

"Hello darling."

Michelle smiled and then she flashed Sophie a rather sardonic grin. It said "I'm not a touchy feely type of person."

"What did I do?" asked Val.

Michelle grimaced. Valerie was going to whine all night until Michele soothed her ego. The chick was so fucking needy.

"What the fuck are you talking about, Val?"

"You say hi to Sophie, but you don't say hi to me?"

"Grow up Val," whined Michele. She watched Concertina's beau as he lit up a cigarette by the piano.

"What is he doing with Concertina?" purred Sophie, gazing at Concertina's beau. Valerie shot the young man a glance. All told, there were three pairs of eyes on the young man. Valerie wondered why this fellow, (Concertina's beau,) was so popular. Especially tonight.

"What the fuck is his name?" asked Val. She thought that snapping her fingers was the key to mental recall.

"Jonathan, his name is Jonathan." Michele wasn't surprised at Val's shoddy memory. Too much partying, she thought to herself

"His name is John," cooed Sophie. She wondered why she had shared this little tidbit. In Concertina's circle, names were unimportant. Names were unimportant unless you were dating. Names were unimportant unless you had been intimate with someone.

"John, his name is John?" squeaked Michele, who covered her mouth.

"Somebody has a secret," laughed Val, giving Michele a nudge. She didn't want Michele to force a confession out of Sophie. Gossip was sexier when it was unsolicited.

The three women shared a laugh and then they all watched the kitchen door. They were disappointed when Concertina didn't emerge.

"You still on Zoloft, Sophie? You haven't been this happy in ages."

"You're horrible," laughed Val. She gave Sophie a reassuring look. In her heart, Valerie knew that she wasn't laughing at Sophie. Yes, Val's conscious was in the clear. Valerie thought so at least.

"Actually, I'm on Pacil."

"What is that exactly?"

"It's a tranquilizer," chirped Val. Val knew everything about everything.

"You're the expert on pharmaceuticals," laughed Sophie. She rather enjoyed that zinger. The silence was wonderful and the party was so much better when Valerie wasn't talking. Michele laughed and then she thanked Sophie with her eyes. Someone had finally shut Valerie up.

"There's Concertina!" yelped Sophie. She watched the kitchen door as it swung open. Concertina was holding a small copper bell with a golden tongue. John saw Concertina and then he threw his cigarette butt into the wine glass that was on the table beside the piano. He straightened his posture and fiddled with his tie and then he put his hands in his pockets.

Concertina made her way towards the middle of the room. She wined her way past the smell of imported hair oil. Along the way, Concertina flashed a few flirtatious smiles. She bounced off each male body with relative ease. Each gent gave Concertina a curtsey as she walked by.

The humanity cleared and all the gents joined John by the piano. Concertina saw the wine colored carpet again and she saw Michele, Valerie, and Sophie. They were standing by the staircase. She waved at Sophie first and Sophie responded in kind. Then she waved at Val. Val knew what the bell was for. She did not look at Michele. Instead, Concertina put her knee in John's groin. She kissed John's cheek and she stained it with cherry colored lip gloss. He grabbed Concertina by the back of the hair and pulled her close and he gave her a rather dispassionate kiss. He looked towards Sophie, who crossed her arms in either disgust or curiosity. She felt hurt. She wanted to know what his game was. Was he trying to prove something. Had he enjoyed Concertina's money that much. She practically humiliated him in front of everyone. The money dear reader, it was all about the money. John had to make his act look legitimate. Although, he wished that Concertina wasn't so aggressive.

Concertina released John's lips and then she strutted towards the center of the room. Concertina looked over her shoulder. She glanced seductively at John and then she shot a glance towards the staircase. Concertina scratched the edge of her lip with her index finger and then she winked at Sophie.

Concertina rang the bell rather prissily.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the roundtable."

"What's the roundtable?" Sophie asked, excited by the promise of something new and unexpected.

"It's like truth or dare," huffed Michele.

"It's better than truth or dare," cackled Val.

Sophie put her finger to her mouth. She shushed her compadres by the staircase. The three sets of eyes, six in all, focused their attention towards Concertina. She was standing in the center of the room with a shit eating grin on her face.

Concertina picked up the bell and rang it rather gingerly. She placed it on the table beside the piano. The host was standing in the middle of the room.

"As you know, men aren't allowed to participate in the roundtable."

The male contingent let out a disappointed groan. Concertina held up her hands and shushed the stragglers that were still talking. Concertina pounded the air softly and pleaded for silence.

"All of you know my fiancée, John. He's going to join our roundtable tonight. For the rest of you gents, drinks will be served in the basement. I hope that you enjoy the game room."

On cue, the blue suits headed for the game room. Their talk was giddy but it certainly wasn't loud. The men formed a single file line near the head of the staircase and then quickly disappeared into the basement.

John stood by the piano and his hands were in his pockets. He was rather mindful of his hands. He didn't want them to touch Concertina's piano. That piano was her "baby."

Concertina mouthed the words, "I love you." John smiled and he held the smile for as long as he could. He was relieved when Concertina finally looked away. John hated it when she bought love into the equation.

Concertina smiled. She took a breath and she clapped her hands. She rang the bell and then all the roundtable participants made their way towards the couch. Sophie and Val chatted like schoolgirls and they laughed uproariously. Michele stood at the bottom of the staircase for a moment longer. She The sound of their laughter of made Michele sick. She thought that Val was a bitch. She thought that Valerie was a cheap little follower who enjoyed the scent of new money.

Michelle looked over at Val. She and Sophie were giggling and carrying on.


"Yes, darling," she answered. Concertina didn't look at Michele.

"Am I still in the roundtable?"

Michele's lips puckered. She hopped from foot to foot and she waited patiently for an answer. Michele thought that Concertina was being a bitch.

Concertina huffed dismissively. She crossed her left leg over her right leg and she put her hand on her chin. It was true, she did detest Michele's presence. Then again, ripping Michele apart was so much fun. The roundtable was fun, especially when Valerie brought up Michelle's mother.

Michele's mom had died of alcohol poisoning when she was sixteen. Daddy didn't really like mummy and burying mummy was so expensive. So, he buried Michele's mother in a potter's field that he owned. Yes, Michele had to be a part of the roundtable. It wasn't the same without her.

"Well?" Michele asked.

Concertina's rested her elbow on the armrest. She placed her fingers on her chin.

"Well, what?" smiled Concertina.

"Am I still in the fucking roundtable?"

"Yes, yes," she waved, rather dismissively. She turned her attention towards the newcomer, who was sitting by Valerie. She patted Sophie's leg and then she looked over at John. He was fidgeting by the piano.

"Darling, sit down next to me." He waved her off and he looked towards the window and he wished that he was somewhere else.

"I'm fine darling."

"Ok, but don't scratch the piano."

"You and that fucking piano," he mumbled. He wondered why he was getting married. At least Concertina and him hadn't had sex yet. The thought of it sickened John. He felt like a whore.

"Stop grumbling and sit by me," she smiled, patting the cushion of the empty seat.

"I'm fine," he nodded. John said "stop, stop" with his hands and then he gazed at Sophie. Sophie felt his gaze and she squirmed in her seat. Sophie looked at Concertina and Concertina smiled rather sardonically.

"How do we play?" Sophie inquired. She looked at Val and then Val looked at Michele. Michele looked at Concertina and then Concertina looked at Val. Concertina nodded at Val and Val cleared her throat.

Naturally, Concertina stepped on Val. Concertina always monopolized the floor during the roundtable session.

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