Art Pact 90

"That's clearly the worst thing that's ever happened to her," I said, staring down on the scene from above. "I mean, if you can't rely on your mother not to give you your birthday present at the precise instant on your birthday that you want her to, what can you do?"

"I don't suppose she'll ever be able to overcome the betrayal," Yasmin drawled. "That's it for her - over, the rest of her life ruined. She'll be driving around in that tractor with the pure taste of ashes in her mouth. It'll be like a burning ball of embarrassment and resentment in the middle of her gut. Oh sure, she'll be getting from A to B in style, she'll be fending off the envious looks of the lower classes as they walk, or cycle, or - god forbid - sit in a bus, but what good is all that when deep down she'll know that the whole thing is meaningless? The car will be a huge albatross around her neck, just weighing her down with the knowledge of what could have been, if only her mother had followed instructions and given it to her at the climax of the party."

She leant on the banister and, carefully plucking the olive out of her martini, she slid it along the cocktail stick until it popped free, then dropped it over the edge of the landing into the crowd below. I craned my neck to follow the path of the fruit - her aim was perfect, the little green bullet plopping into a cup of coffee being held for the birthday girl's father by the waiter who was standing patiently behind him. A little shower of low-fat americano flew out of the mug, staining the front of the waiter's white jacket and the rear of the proud father's light-blue shirt, clasped in the back with a pin. He turned, furious.

"Now look what you've done!"

Yasmin, content to have thrown the golden apple without knowing what chaos had ensued, was already looking away from the scene, staring across the landing to where a drunken couple where fumbling with doors, obviously attempting to locate somewhere they might continue their tryst with greater privacy.

"Idiots," she said. "Of course the best rooms are going to be locked. What's the point of a drunken assignation at a party if you don't seize the chance to ruffle the homeowner's bedspread?"

"You mean we should only attend parties in houses where the internal doors don't lock?"

"Good lord, no! Can you imagine what sort of party that might be?" She shuddered, although there was a wicked gleam in her eye behind the studied apathy of her expression. "No, I'm saying that the only responsible thing to do is to find the best room when one is sober and pick the lock. You have to take a chance that someone else won't find it first, of course, but that's part of the game I suppose."

I looked at her out of the corner of my eye.

"Did you pick a lock earlier?" I asked. She turned towards me, holding my gaze for a second and then letting her eyes roam up and down from my feet to the top of my head.

"Your optimism is quite endearing," she said, smiling, and turning away to look down at the fracas in the reception hall again. "But I did not. A good thing too - if you'll forgive me the frightful sin of expressing myself honestly, I have to say I'm getting a little tired of this place. Can you imagine what sort of medical examination you'd have to go through if you spent any worthwhile amount of time in the same bed that those people"--she extended her left arm in an airy wave over the crowd--"fucked? It doesn't bear thinking about."

She fell silent just in time for us to hear a slap and then a surprised gasp mixed with nervous laughter from below. I had hoped that the ungrateful hostess's mother had laid one on her demon spawn, but to my dismay it appeared to be the other way around.

"That car," Yasmin said slowly, "is wasted on that horrid creature."

"Quite," I replied. We surveyed the crowd, and noticed that their attention was unanimously centred on the newly adult ingrate and her red-faced progenitor - and, therefore, resolutely away from the object of the dispute, the brand-new Jeep. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"If you're thinking how tedious it would be to have to walk home from this disaster, and how pleasant it would be to be able to leave early with a... party bag," she said, turning to smile at me, "then yes."

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