“You will not believe what that man said, Ypres!” I closed the door to the flat behind me.
Instead of Ypres’s familiar maritime face, I was confronted with Cousin Andrew in one of his more spectacular suits. Indeed, it was so spectacular that I had to do a double take, prompting him to languidly turn the page of the art magazine he was reading.
“Who is this man you talk about, dear cousin?”
“What have you done to Ypres?”
“She went out to get some essentials at what I believe is called a thrift shop.”
I staggered backwards. The blow was harsh. Grabbing hold of the door handle for support, I steadied myself. Andrew, barely letting my dizziness subside, resumed his line of questioning like a Southern lawyer.
“I say, what did this mystery man tell you, and why could I not believe it? I assure you that, having lived in Brooklyn for the past couple of years, I have come to believe a number of things. My imagination has emerged broadened.”
“It doesn’t matter really – some trifling affairs at work. My opening line was for Ypres anyway. In any case, its dramatic effect has been lessened, as it were, by the revelation that Ypres is ambling about the streets of the Upper East Side having undertaken an acquaintanceship with a thrift shop. Her behaviour will forever continue to surprise me.”
“Surprise you!” Andrew declared, putting his magazine aside and rising from the sofa that took up much of the room. “She tricked me into saving that burly nationalist out of the water by using my dislike of Renzo Piano!”
“What are you doing here, anyway, Andrew? I thought your set never made it above 14th street, at least not during regular business hours. You know I am a busy working woman. On top of which, I must organise a tasteful party with Ypres’s help. It will probably be a low-key cocktail party, with a signature drink, and effortless elegance. Had Lord Mansfield been in New York I would have asked him to attend. I’m sure Ypres could invite that friend of hers who just wrote a book. Perhaps not as acclaimed as my Mayfair Conundrum, but nonetheless.”
“If you must know,” Andrew said, adopting the pose of an injured artist, “I came to keep tabs on you. Ypres suggested you throw a party, and, having been the unwilling victim of quite a few of your parties, I thought it humane to offer my help.”
I gave Andrew a dignified scowl.
“You always have le mot… The word escapes me.”
“Le mot juste,” came the reply from behind me. It was Ypres.
The rummy thing about Ypres is that unless you keep watch like a Nova Scotian fly fisher, you very seldom see or hear her come into the room. She’s like one of those odd sea creatures that dissolve themselves and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way, and then assemble across from where they were. That is fine and dandy when one is on one’s guard. Yet, when one is in conversation with one’s dandified cousin, seeking to rebuff his baseless accusations by using a bit of lingo from across the Channel, it strikes one as a surprise. Added to this, when one is highly strung from a difficult day at the office, it leads to a most undignified reaction.
I shall not burden the faithful Vasaniasta with the details, but suffice to say that Ypres was soon ready with some tea to comfort me after my emergency landing two yards from where I had stood when she uttered her original remark.
Luckily, Ypres had used the Lady Grey tea I had brought from London (Harrods), so in an instant all was well with the world. As is often the case when all is well with the world, a relative intervened.
“Ypres, I was just informing Vanessa how I came here to assist her with the party planning. You know, since she usually throws functions that have all the flair of an offended Edwardian widow.”
“You shall find, Andrew, that Ypres and most of society declare my social engagements to be the triumph of the season, whichever one it may be. I cast aside needless flamboyance in favour of Zen minimalism.” I took a deliberate look at Andrew’s suit as I said the last sentence, before turning to Ypres.
“You must forgive Andrew, Ypres. Rising above 14th street puts him in a foul mood.”
“No cousin, it is the thought of your parties. But I am sure Ypres, in her infinite wisdom, found plenty of cheerful necessities for the get-together at the thrift shop.” I shushed Andrew as a librarian would a serial candy unwrapper. He had purposefully said “thrift shop” at a high enough volume to be heard by the entire block.
Ypres, of course, was unmoved.
“Indeed, Mr. Vasa. I did pick up a few items. And in doing so, I took into consideration the financial situation of the household.”
“How prudent of you, Ypres!” Andrew grinned with delight.
“Ypres,” I began, “you do not propose to have the party here, do you?”
“I knew we were of the same mind.”
“Only the pre-party.”
“Yes. The hen party, or bachelorette party, as it is referred to in America, will have to occur in a traditional venue.”
“A traditional venue. How sensible and appropriate.” I gave Andrew a superior look, playing the part of a great lady, as I brought my tea cup to my lips.
“A strip club.”
I dropped my cup.
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