The party gave every sign of being a rip-roaring success.
Pablo was moving guests through the bar area with admirable efficiency, very few people seemed to be pigging out on the hors d’oeuvres, and I was allowing myself to exhale for the first time in twenty-four hours.
Meanwhile, Michael had apparently decided to give tours of the house.
All well and good, but from the few snippets of conversation I was able to catch as he shepherded his tour groups past, it sounded suspiciously like he was taking credit for lots of my ideas (“thanks, I do think a striped throw pillow here and there livens everything up”).
Then, just when the party was kicking into high gear, a couple of uninvited guests showed up. And when I say uninvited guests, I’m not talking garden variety hangers-on who’ll go anywhere for a free drink and a handful of canapés.
I’m talking Daniel and Charlie.
Yes, the very same Daniel who had painted our house the wrong color and then fired us for having the audacity to bring it up. In he sailed, pudgy and self-satisfied as ever, trailing behind him Charlie, the guy from the coffee house who had so thoroughly trash-talked Daniel behind his back a couple of years earlier.
I was chatting with Roger the Painter when this unsavory pair rolled in. In fact, we were discussing the wall color and how everything had turned out perfectly well in the end.
When Daniel spotted me he trotted right over and said, “Well, I see you didn’t change the wall color after all.”
My first impulse was to give him a punch in his smug little snout.
But I didn’t. “I tried,” I said, “but it kept coming back. Like Lady Macbeth’s stain.”
He stared at me blankly, then began giggling like a school girl. I was pretty sure he’d never read a word of Shakespeare and thought I’d made some sort of gynecological joke.
So I tried to help him out (I was feeling somewhat magnanimous tonight). “You know, ‘Out, out, damned spot.’”
This sent him into further gales of laughter.
Oh, why bother.
“And I see you haven’t upgraded your furniture either,” he sputtered between giggles.
“Actually they had a sale at the Shoddy Furniture Warehouse in San Juan. We bought them out.”
This was Michael, who had appeared out of nowhere at exactly the right moment.
“Oh my,” Daniel said, struck speechless at the very thought. But soon he recovered sufficiently to say, “Roger darling, would you lead me to the bar? I need a drink.”
To his eternal credit, Roger looked mortified. But as a businessman who undoubtedly got lots of work from Daniel, he obeyed.
And off they went.