Walking up 14th Street, the 1930’s jazz was barely audible. Standing in front of the gray, octagonal house, its melody was distinctive, Django Rienhardt. Old flagstones led to the eight-sided, three storied, filigreed Victorian, built in the 1850’s, by an architect of the Transcendentalist Movement, a friend of Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The voile curtains hid the scene behind tall sashed windows, but defused light poured forth into the front yard. Jennifer looked at Peter before rapping on the deep lavender painted door.
For the paper invite occasion Jennifer had insisted they dress up. She knew Roxy and her quirks. Rummaging around Peter’s closet they found a white tux shirt (from a high school friend’s wedding) and a paisley brocade vest.
Holding the vest, Jennifer cocked her eyebrow in playful query, “This relic, what life?”
Laughing, Peter replied, “You think I’m like a clove on a baked ham? I kick up my heels when I feel like it.”
With his sleek black trousers, tux shirt, ochre string tie (borrowed from Jennifer), and brocade vest Peter looked almost like a riverboat piano player.
Anne had loaned Jennifer a mid – calf length, deep navy, velvet dress with a plunging “V” shaped back and long sleeves. In the little big city of Hornell she’d found a pair of white fabric flats at a bridal store and had them dyed to match. Being the end of Spring, she decided on bare legs and no underwear. It would mar the drape line.
The door opened. Laughter, warmth, and delicious whiffs wafted forth. The dark haired woman whom Jennifer had met, after her nuclear demonstration drop off of Roxy, smiled widely at her.
She bent over and took Jennifer’s shoulders, kissed her on both cheeks and turned to shake Peter’s hand, “I’m Sabine. Please to meet you. Please come in.”
As the couple followed their hostess into the house, Peter whispered in Jennifer’s ear, “What? No kisses for me?”
Walking into what Jennifer surmised was a visiting parlor; they strolled through two French doors into a large room with a great oval table and thirteen chairs. Six were occupied by three graduate and under graduate student couples. Roger Goldfarb, the photography teacher and his girlfriend Emily Tolman, a college librarian, were the only tokens from faculty. Three others were missing besides Jennifer and Peter. Jennifer wondered who they were. Sabine might have a partner, but her attention was stolen by Roxy Rosenberg and Chris Guston, the center of attention accepting the honey of adulation. Her lips were scarlet and she wore a beaded, black, silk, nineteen-twenties dress, he wore a vintage white linen suit with a red satin tie. Cole Porter whined about misbehaving in the background.
The table, set with a burgundy tablecloth and napkins, sported an assortment of white candles of various thicknesses in the center. Wine glasses of various styles, attractively mismatched old china dishes, and silverware graced each place setting. Jennifer could smell garlic and a rich fragrance of sweet roasted mystery coming from what she thought was the kitchen.
Settled in their places at the table, two women arrived. Jennifer recognized both. The dark haired beauty’s name was Jeanine. She was one of the paid models for the Life Drawing classes. Her aquiline features, high cheekbones, lush body, and pouty mouth invited both line and form-focused sketching. Accompanying her was Petra in lipstick and a dress, startling Jennifer who’d only seen her in bike gear or jeans. Petra raised her eyebrow with a sliver of a smile in Jennifer’s direction. She intuited her partner was more than a friend. As the women took their seats, a clatter and rattle of activity paraded out to the dining room.
Sabine, wearing a mid-length, lime green, lace dress, had a large platter of ravioli with tomato sauce, garnished with small roasted bulbs of fennel and fresh basil leaves. Laying it onto the table with two large serving forks, she returned with a huge salad bowl and cruet of vinaigrette. Jennifer noticed her hard, burgundy, lacquered nails gracing beautiful, long-fingered hands. On Sabine’s last trip before sitting down, came two baskets of garlic Gorgonzola rolls. Jennifer was initially impressed. The pillows of ravioli were tender and filled with ricotta and spinach, hints of nutmeg and coriander. But after dessert’s chocolate, Mandarin orange mousse with almond biscotti, she was bowled over.
After the wine at dinner came liqueurs. Jennifer had had enough to drink. She took pleasure in watching Peter enjoying himself in the exotic artistic atmosphere and reflected glory of her no nukes notoriety. He was savoring a small glass of Frangelico, a new experience. He delighted in Jennifer’s indoctrinations to the curiosities of cuisine.
Suddenly the music changed to Ragtime and two couples rose to dance. Before Jennifer had a chance to think, Sabine had her hand on her naked back.
She bent over and whispered into her ear, “Dance?”
Jennifer felt blood rising to her cheeks. She stood. Sabine took her hand with her blood tipped fingers and led her into the living room, which Jennifer hadn’t noticed. It must have been during dessert when they’d opened the pocket doors in the other wall of the sitting room. Figuring out the design of the rooms in the octagonal building was challenging. Another two couples came right behind them. The room was getting crowded. But Jennifer only looked at her partner, her swinging black pageboy haircut, beguiling eyes, and rouged lips.
Sabine led, gentle hand clasping Jennifer’s lower torso in a Foxtrot. Smiling, piercing Jennifer with furtive gazes of lustful intent, she whirled her partner, quick stepping in staccato. Sabine smelled like sandalwood and lemon, music mojo working. By dance’s end Jennifer was frazzled around the edges, flushed, and intrigued.
As they parted, Sabine’s eyes twinkled, “You must visit us again, later in the week. I’d love to have you over for tea.”
Jennifer stared mutely at the gorgeous creature in front of her and swallowed. When she had said tea, it sounded like… sex.
Returning to her seat, Peter felt the change of energy around his partner. Placing his hand on her hers, he asked if they should go. Jennifer knew Peter was not a dancer. Despite his athletic grace on a bike or playing basketball, it didn’t translate to the dance floor. She wanted to dance with Sabine again. I was a pleasure to be in her arms, smelling a woman’s essence. Entertaining thoughts of a future visit in the week felt lustfully dangerous.
Back at the bike shop Jennifer noticed the first floor smell of bike tires and light machine oil from the repair area in the back. After showers, climbing into the four-poster, Jennifer slid on top of Peter and pinned his arms to the pillow, kissing him with more fervor than usual. He didn’t resist.