I am certain the seasoned reader is familiar with the expression descend into laughter. I believe I have used it on numerous occasions, and it is one of Ypres’s favourites. Well, it does not do justice to Cousin Andrew’s reaction to the news that part of Ypres’s plan was to organise a bachelorette party at a strip club.
His mirth was magnified with each passing squeal of laughter. He guffawed with grand abandon, gasping for air at regular intervals. By the time his oxygen levels reached critical conditions, he was on the floor, and had turned an innovative hue that would have perplexed the most intrepid interior designers. I thought this unbecoming display had come to an end once Andrew had wiped the tears from his eyes, but he gave me one look and started the process all over again. I was beginning to think a medical intervention might become necessary. I shared my detached concern with Ypres.
“Shall we call a doctor, Ypres?”
“I believe time is the best remedy to Mr. Vasa’s condition.”
Ypres was right, as is often the case. After another seven minutes, time during which I decided to paint my fingernails a delightful new colour, while Ypres cleaned up the tea I had daintily spilled, Andrew regained the seated position and was his usual complexion.
“I was in need of a good laugh,” he said whipping the remnants of dewy mirth from his cheeks. “Although, I think I should have a glass of water as a precaution. I have shed so many tears of laughter that I fear I might risk dehydration. Would you mind, dear Cousin?”
“You can get it yourself. The tap and glasses are within eyesight as the flat you secured me is the size of a matchbox. I am sure you have enough reserve to pour yourself a glass of tap water without risking the perils of dehydration. Wouldn’t you agree, Ypres?”
Ypres coughed. This can signal either acquiescence or distaste. I turned my line of enquiry towards her.
“By the way, Ypres, as much as I trust your judgement, I would like to have more information on why this hen party requires a pit stop at an unclothing venue.”
I was hoping Ypres would give me a clear answer, but she stuck to her guns (a familiar trend in America) and mentioned that it was all part of her plan to get Madame LaPeine de Mort to disapprove of the engagement and call it off on her own accord. The force that would induce this fervent volte-face of denial relied on behavioural psychopathic, as it were. (I am fairly certain that is the term Ypres used.)
“I have taken the liberty,” Ypres went on with the quiet determination of rainbow trout, “to make the necessary preparations. As Mr. Vasa divined, I picked up a few items for the pre-party. It will occur at the flat, and Madame LaPeine de Mort will be invited. The party will then move on to the strip club which is in Midtown. I am told that a private booth will be provided. Due to economic considerations, I was unable to book the more popular performers.”
“What a shame!”
Andrew’s faux sympathy left me unmoved, and was rendered less effective by his stifled giggle. Ypres continued.
“Nevertheless, I am confidently certain that seeing the engagement move ahead, Madame LaPeine de Mort will be amendable to its dissolution after the event.”
“Unless,” Andrew ventured, “she is the type of individual who is enchanted by seminude gyrations on poorly lit stages. I have heard that they do exist, and having seen the aunt and her guttural borborygmi, she may just be susceptible.”
“The plural of borborygmus, dear cousin.”
“Of course, I too am familiar with el idioma italiana, as practised in the better parts of Milan.”
Ypres issued another one of her signature coughs. I must admit that her habit can get very tiring very fast. I was just about to say as much to Ypres when Cousin Andrew interrupted.
“Well, Ypres, couldn’t it be a possibility that the aunt goes with her primal instinct, and, being enchanted by the hen party, even if thrown by Vanessa, ends up giving her blessing to the engagement?”
“Indeed, Mr. Vasa, it is an unlikely possibility. However, I have confidence in the plan. It has progressed as anticipated. It is one of my core beliefs that actions are mightier than words.”
“That may be, but you had promised that Papa and his Foreign Office chaps would have meddled their way into the affair by now. And that has not happened, has it, Ypres?”
The phone rang, as if directed by a stage manager. It benevolently brought Cousin Andrew’s questioning to a halt.
As usual, I used my best BBC voice to answer. Madison was on the other line. I held the receiver close to my ear so the others could not hear what was being said. Although, given Madison’s natural pitch, it was hardly necessary. I ahem-ed, right-ho-ed, and ah-ha-ed throughout the conversation. I hung up the receiver.
I had news to deliver so I struck the appropriate pose.
“You appear to be wrong, Andrew. Your mansplaining was unnecessary. Ypres was right! That was Madison on the line, as I am sure you could tell due to the sound of the neighbourhood dogs howling in anguish in the distance. She has excitedly informed me that informal approaches have been made, by the British Permanent Mission at the United Nations, and the Consulate General in New York, through the French, towards her aunt. A whisper campaign is in full swing against the engagement. It appears Uncle George has really pulled through. It seems Madison’s aunt has some choice words for him or ‘that Vasa’ as she has christened him in her calmer moments.”
I stifled a chuckle.
“Are you sure ‘that Vasa’ isn’t you, Vanessa?”
“Nonsense, Andrew. The adjectives used by the aunt as described by Madison don’t apply to a woman. In any case, I think you owe Ypres an apology. After all, she is your fiancée.”
“Me?” Andrew gave the look the last redcoat must have given when confronted by American revolutionaries.
“Yes, you. Did I, in my selfless monotonously…”
“Thank you, Ypres. Did I, in my selfless magnanimity, not do the same?”
“Ypres, I apologise.”
“It is accepted, Mr Vasa.” Ypres paused. “I am afraid I too, must apologise, Mr Vasa.”
Both Andrew and I gave Ypres a look.
“As Vasa does not have an established credit history in the United States, I have used your full name and address to book the strip club. I do hope that I did not take an unpardonable liberty.”
As Andrew’s jaw reached the floor, it was my turn to descend into laughter.
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