Belles of the Ball – Part 2









7.10 pm

The Waldorf Astoria


“Well, here I am again,” Judy said as she stood with David.


“Indeed – but this year as a guest, as opposed to one of the debutantes,” David said as he looked at his girlfriend, who was wearing a pale green gown.


“Now then,” Will said as he came in, adjusting the cuffs on his white shirt under his tails, “where are the ladies of the moment?”


“You rang, darling?”


The three looked on as Mandy came in, wearing a red gown with a high collar.


“Very daring, mother,” David said with a laugh, “and the true star of the evening.”


All of them watched as Angel walked in, before bursting out into a round of applause.


“You look fantastic,” Harry Cameron said as he took her arm.  “But we need to get going...”


7.15 pm

The de Ros Mansion


"So any leaks Mom?"  Carina asked as they sat awaiting Abby's descent downstairs.

"Only that I heard all three front runners made great Impressions..."

"Sounds like you are talking about racing?" Guy lifted an eyebrow.

"I guess in a way we are,” Juliette said as she adjusted her gloves, “it's the selection process to replace Anna Mitchell, now she's taking a promotion. The first interviews were today and the also-rans got eliminated."

"So do we have a horse in the race Juliette?"

"We do, I'd very much like to see Pippa Ashley get the job."

"Ah, that I can understand," Guy smiled, "both a friend, but also someone with similar ideas to yourself."

"Just so."

"Well I ran into Marie-France Erec earlier," Natalia shook her head, "and my cousin’s niece or not, there is just something about her that I dislike."

"She can be very abrasive," Guy nodded, "and she half broke Willies heart once you know?"

"Not that I didn't know?" Juliette looked up, "what is the story?”


“I may tell you later,” Guy said as Annie came in with Ingrid and Adam.


“She will be down in a moment, if I hear Alice correctly,” Annie said.  “Natalie, how did you manage without a drink last year?”


“I remembered why I was doing it,” Natalie said as the door opened, all of them standing as Tony escorted Abby into the room.


“Well, what do you think,” Abby said as she looked at them.  The dress was made of white silk, with a bodice that was inlaid with silver thread, the neck raised behind as Abby’s blonde hair was arranged on her head.  The sleeves were puffed at the shoulder, her long white gloves coming to the cuff.


The skirt flowed out from the waist, with an outer layer that made it look like the skirt of a dress from the days of the French royalty, but allowed her the room and freedom to do all she had to do.  A string of pearls were around her neck, and the diamonds on her bracelets glittered in the light.


“Magnifique,” Guy whispered, “and so are you my child.”


“Thank you,” Diana said as she followed in a royal blue gown, the skirt split at the front as she walked.  “But tonight – tonight is Abigail’s night.  The cars are outside – shall we?”


7.45 pm

The Pierre


“This is Jeanne Beckmann, reporting live from the Debutantes Ball 2016, and we have already seen the leading lights of New York society arrive to support these beautiful young ladies on this, their very special night.  Coming down the red carpet now I can see Sir Charles and Lady Olivia Treharran of Penhaddow, whose daughter Fiona is one of the debutantes.  Lady Treharran, may we have a word please?”


“Of course Jeanne,” Olivia said as she and Charles came over.


“How does it feel to be here tonight?”


“Well, I still find it a little frightening, but this is the night for Fiona and her friends, and we wish to support her all the way.”


“The recent photos of you and Fiona have raised a great deal of interest.  Will we be seeing more of you in the fashion world later this year?”


“All I will say, Jeanne, is watch this space.”


"Is that a Nick Wu original Lady Treharran?"

"It is Jeanne, as you might have heard I just signed a deal with Nick's company to be their spokesmodel."

"Can I say it looks amazing on you?"

"Well all the compliments should go to Nick and his staff, I'm just an old clothes-horse."

"OLD!" Jeanne made a cutting motion across her throat to end the interview before she burst into laughter. "Bandit you are a BITCH, you know you look someone like me?"

"Titi you know very well you could still model yourself."

"Oh flattery, flattery." the TV presenter started laughing again. “Let’s wrap this up.”


As they started filming again, Jeanne regained her composure.  “Thank you very much, Olivia and Charles – and we have a very special party coming up now.  Diana, may we have a word with you please?”


“Of course,” Diana said as she came over, Guy and the others standing to the back.


“May I first say that is an amazing dress?”


“Thank you – Alice McKinnon has excelled herself with both my gown and Abigail’s.”


“Abigail is the youngest of the debutantes this year, but also one of the most famous.  She finishes her schooling this year – any hints as to where she may go then?”


“I cannot say at this stage, Jeanne, but I am certain wherever she goes she will be a credit to all of us.”


“And where next for her?  Vienna?”


“We have been invited to attend the Opernball with some of the other ladies here,” Diana said, “and then we see what fortune awaits.”


“Diana, many thanks for talking to us tonight.”


“Thank you Jeanne,” Diana said as she joined the others.


“So why didn’t she ask you tonight Mom,” Carina said as they walked in.


“She cannot – because her boss is in the running to be my boss, conflict of interest kicks in.  Klaus and I, I am sure, will talk to her later.  But tonight, unlike last year, we get to relax.”




“It looks so different from this side,” Angel said as she stood with Samantha, Abby and Fiona.


“I know – I mean, look at us,” Angel said as they looked round at the other debutantes in their white gowns, and the male relatives in their tails or formal dress.  Charly’s father was wearing his full ceremonial dress, while at the other end Alan Kennedy stood nervously in his white tie and tails.


“Mister Kennedy?”


As he turned, he saw Archibald Gordon standing there.




“It shows doesn’t it,” he said as he looked at the Scottish Laird in his kilt.


“Just stick by me, you’ll be fine...”


“I now know just how nervous Cari felt,” Abby whispered as she saw Nessa walking round, talking to the girls as she did so.


“Ladies,” she said as she came over, “we need to start taking the photographs soon.  Have you seen Trina Culver anywhere?”


“I think she’s over there talking on her phone...”


“Well, enjoy the show – and in a few weeks time you’ll be at our table.  ‘Bye for now!”


"So who was that from?" Trina's father asked.

"That was Mary, telling me that she's watching the feed from the ball on the High Life channel."

"She's a nice girl."

"Yeah, I love her for being just so well...Mary like."

"I get what you are saying darling," her father smiled proudly, "and can I say how beautiful you look?"

"Why thank you Daddy, compliments are always accepted."


“Miss Culver,” Nessa said as she came over, “the photographers are waiting, and then you have to greet the guests.”


“See you before we go in Daddy,” Trina said as she walked over.




Nessa beamed as she watched the photographers taking the group and individual photos.


“You really seem in your element here,” David McIlroy said as he came beside her, dressed in white tie and tails.


“Well, I enjoy seeing the young ladies as they are presented,” she said with a smile, “but it’s a little more this year.  After all, you are here as well.”


“So when do I get to meet your family?”


“I have to make sure they go through first to be presented,” Nessa said, “but I can clear that up now.  Come with me.”


He took David by the arm and walked her to where Sandy and Heather were talking to Juliette and Carina.


“If I may interrupt for a minute ladies, David this is my daughter Sandy.  Sandy, this is David McIlroy.”


“A real pleasure to finally meet you,” Sandy said as he kissed her hand.  “My partner Heather, and this is my friend Juliette Huntingdown and her daughter Carina.”


“And it is a real pleasure to finally meet you,” David said, “I look forward to talking to you later...”





“Good evening Victoria,” Diana said as she walked over to where she was standing.  “Samantha looks radiant tonight.”


“As do all of them,” Victoria said as she looked over.  “It is amazing how such beauty can come out of...”


“Is this really your first time back here since then?”


Victoria slowly nodded.  “Archie was wondering why I was so nervous, and I had to remind him.  He hadn’t really forgotten, but he hadn’t wanted to say anything.”




“Ah – Victoria, may I introduce you to my sister in law, Natalia, and you remember Guillieme of course?”


“A pleasure to meet you both,” Victoria said as Guy and Valeria came over.


“Ladies,” Nessa called out, “please line up to greet your guests!”


“Victoria Gordon, Mama – who is she?”


“A much wronged lady – come, we must enter and take our place.”


5 pm Pacific Time

Oakland Hills


“They look amazing,” Vicky said as the four girls sat in the apartment, watching the live feed as it mingled with the debs and their families.


Mary nodded as she watched closely.


"Is that Mick Harran?"

"It is little sister," Mary smiled as she hugged Alison close.

"Have you actually met him?"

"No, but I do know that girl with him..."

"She's so lucky, a date with Mick Harran," Suzie sighed and looked adoringly at the TV.

"Or not so lucky depending on your point of view," Mary laughed, "Fiona is his sister."


"So it's like she's had to take her brother as her date to the prom?"

"Sort of," Mary weighed up the pros and cons of explaining that Fiona was a lesbian.


“What are they doing now?”


“From what Trina said, they have to formally greet their guests.”


8 pm

The Pierre


“I see the girls are lining up,” Abby said as Trina looked at her phone.


“From Mary again?” asked Abigail.


“Yeah,” Trina said with a smile, “she was just saying how beautiful it was, just like the prom she never had.”


“She never went to her prom either?” Juliette asked.


“You never went to the prom either Juliette?” Trina asked.


“No boy asked me…” Juliette shrugged her shoulders.


“Okay, well please tell me the story behind that another time please, but in Mary’s case it was more she couldn’t go then wasn’t invited.”


“Howso?” Carina asked.


“Mary dropped out of school when she was 16 to help support her family, by the time of what would have been her prom she was working in the kitchens of a hotel.”


“Oh that is too bad.” Charly looked saddened.


“What made it worse was the fact that the hotel where they held the prom was the one she was working in at the time. So not only did she miss it, but as she cleaned dishes and plates, she knew that the noises from upstairs were her former classmates having fun.”


“Oh my Goddess that SUCKS the big one.” Juliette shook her head.


“She told me all that one night…It’s why I’m so determined she comes to my ball.”


“Your highness, ladies – please,” Nessa said as she indicated the other debutantes.


“Here we go,” Abby said as she joined the line with the others.




As the guests made their way down the line, sharing small talk and congratulating the girls, Shirley and John joined the line with Susan and Clint.


“Congratulations,” she said to Abigail as she held her hands, “enjoy your evening.”


“Thank you Shirley,” Abby said with a smile as John kissed her on the cheek. 


“Break a leg kiddo,” Susan whispered as she kissed Abby, and then greeted Nell and Ally.


“Congratulation, my dears,” Valeria said as she kissed Ally and Nell, the line slowly disappearing into the ballroom as Vanessa watched.


“Abigail looks amazing,” Annie said as she took her seat at the table.


“I know,” Carina said, “but let’s see what happens.”




“Thank you for agreeing to by my escort tonight George,” Caroline said as she sat with Shirley and John.


“My pleasure,” George said as he held the chair for Caroline to sit, while Mandy, David and Judy sat with them.  “I enjoyed myself last year as well.”



“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the toastmaster called put, “please take your places at your tables and the ceremony may begin.”





“Ladies and Escorts,” Vanessa called out, “line up please.”


“See all of you inside,” Charly said as she moved to the end of the line with her father.


“I guess we lead off,” Sharon Kennedy said as she went to the front of the line, Alan standing by her side.  “Nervous Dad?”


“Would it sound awful if I said I would almost face those hellcats again?”


Sharon gave her father’s hand a squeeze as Vanessa went down the line.


“Daniel,” she said as she stopped for a moment, ”double duty.  A rare occurrence.”


“Alex has offered to help out later – but I am incredibly proud to be here,” he said as Ally and Nell held an arm each.


She smiled as she moved down the line, finally reaching Rudolf as she said “if you are ready, Your Majesty?”


Rudolf nodded as Nessa made a curtsey, and then nodded to the two men as they opened the doors to the ballroom.


Oakland Hills


“Hey,” Dave said as he and his oldest son came into the flat, “is that the New York ball?”


“It is,” Mary said without turning her head.


"Mary,” Dave said as he looked over, “there was a time you'd have walked fifty miles to avoid stuff like this."

"Yeah Pop, but it's different when you actually know some of the girls," Mary smiled as she looked over her shoulder at her father taking off his work boots.

"So have you seen anyone you know yet?"

"Oh a few faces in the crowd, but they haven't got to the actual presentations of the debutantes yet."

"People just look so beautiful," Alison looked away from the TV for a second. "All the dresses are so pretty."

"The guys all look like penguins." David moaned.

"I think they look smart."

"Well you would,” David said as he looked at Vicky, “you are too young to know better."

"Quieten down please," Mary turned her head. "I'm trying to work out what kind of dress I'll need for Trina's ball."

"A Cinderella dress." her youngest sister breathed in awe as the first of the debs was shown waiting with her father.


“Come on – I’ll open a couple of beers and we can talk in the kitchen,” Dave said as he put his hand on the shoulder of his oldest son.




The Pierre


The orchestra stopped as the conductor saw the doors open, and the lights turned to the doors as the toastmaster came to the microphone.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, Honoured Guests,” he said as Diana and the others looked on, “Please welcome the debutantes of 2016!”


There was a round of applause as the lights shone on Sharon and Alan.


“Miss Sharon Kennedy, accompanied by her father, Alan Kennedy.”


The room applauded, Carina watching as she walked forward with her father, her white gown glistening in the light.  Sharon and Alan smiled as they approached the dais, Alan holding her hand as she curtseyed, and then went to the side as Alan went to join the table.


“Miss Katrina Culver, accompanied by her father, Mister Derek Culver.”


Rebecca Culver and some of her family clapped and cheered as Trina walked down the line, curtseyed and stood next to Sharon.


“That was different,” she whispered.


Sharon nodded as the toastmaster said “Miss Elizabeth Silowski, accompanied by her father, Abram Silowski.”



“Nervous, my dear,” Guy said as he held Abigail’s arm.


“Does it show,” Abby whispered as the line moved forward.


“Imagine you are on the catwalk, and you will be magnificent,” Guy said as he kissed her cheek.




“Miss Eleanor and Miss Allyson Rochermann accompanied by their father, Mr Daniel Rochermann.”


Mary and her sisters watched in San Francisco as the two girls walked down on their father’s arms, beaming as the lights reflected on their diamond tiaras and bracelets.  As they approached the guests of honour, both girls moved to the side and curtseyed, before they joined the line, Ally standing in the line before Nell.


Another girl walked down before the Toastmaster said “Miss Buffy McGeorge, accompanied by her father, Doctor Giles McGeorge.”


“All right, I admit it,” Ally whispered to her sister, “she does look good in white.  But if you ever tell her I said so...”


“Lady Fiona Treharran, accompanied by her father, Sir Charles Treharran of Penhaddow.”


The room applauded, Olivia beaming as Fiona walked down on her father’s arm.  They approached the stage, Charlie whispering into her ear before he stopped, holding her hand as she curtseyed and stood up, and then walked her to the line before coming to the table.


“Here we go,” Archie said to his daughter as the Toastmaster said “Lady Samantha Gordon, accompanied by her father, Lord Archibald Gordon.”


“She is truly radiant,” Alan whispered to Victoria, Samantha’s mother nodding as she came forward on the arm of her father.


“Lady Angelica Fitzwilliam, accompanied by her father, William, Marquess of Ordford.”


Mandy and David stood up and cheered as Will walked down, his face full of pride as Angel beamed next to him.


“When does Abby come out?”


“In a few minutes,” Diana whispered to Alain as the toastmaster said “Countess Brigitte Karonsky, accompanied by her father, Count Alexander Karonsky.”


Diana and the others clapped and cheered as Brigitte walked down, curtseying before she took her place.


“It should be her now...”




Abby shook her head as Charly leaned over to whisper “could be worse, could be me...”


“Abigail, Countess de Ros, accompanied by her grandfather, Guy, Duc du Grechy.”


Abby blinked as she walked into the ballroom, the other debutantes smiling as she heard the cheers from the table where Diana, Carina, and the others were sitting.  Shirley and John also stood and applauded as the lights reflected on her jewellery.


“Step, step, step,” she said as she kept smiling, and then held her grandfather’s hand as she slowly curtseyed, then walked to the end of the line as Guy joined the others.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, Honoured Guests, be upstanding for Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, accompanied by her father His Highness King Rudolf of Ruritania.”


The room stood as one and applauded as Charly came in, a white sash over her gown as Rudolf held her hand, the others debs curtseying as they walked past and she held her father’s hand, doing the same low curtsey as everyone else before she was walked to the end of the line.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are honoured to present these fine young ladies here tonight to you.”


“And breath,” Charly whispered to Abby, the laughter going down the line as the applause filled the room.


“Well done Vanessa,” Alex said as she joined the table with David.


“The night is young – Alex, this is David McIlroy.  David, my brother Father Alexander Richmond.”


“Pleased to meet you,” Alex said as the two men shook hands, “my partner for tonight, Glenda Verducci.”


David nodded as he took his seat, while the toastmaster said “and now, we introduce your escorts for the evening. Cadet Officer Todd Verducci accompanying Miss Sharon Kennedy.”


Sharon smiled as the West Point cadet walked forward in dress uniform, stopped and saluted before offering her his arm, and escorting her to the table.


“You must be very proud of him,” Alex said, Glenda nodding as she applauded.


“Mister Anthony DeNozzo accompanying Miss Katrina Culver.”


“Another Hollywood star,” Ally whispered to Nell, “does she have a bottomless contact book?”


“Ask her later,” Nell whispered back as the toastmaster said “Mister Richard Calderman accompanying Miss Elizabeth Silowski.”


One by one the escorts came forward and took their partners to the table.


“Michael Treharran accompanying Miss Fiona Treharran.”


“Take my arm sis,” Mike said as she smiled and walked with him to the table.


Samantha smiled as her escort came forward, and then the toast master said “Mister Harold Cameron accompanying Lady Angelica Fitzwilliam.”


“And away we go,” Harry said as he bowed and took Angel’s arm, Brigitte following her before the toastmaster said “Mister Anthony McNally accompanying Abigail, Countess de Ros.”


Tony smiled broadly as he came forward, bowed and took Abby’s arm, walking with her to the table as Valeria and Diana stood to lead the applause.


“Here you are,” Willy said as he passed Abby a glass of champagne, “you have earned this.”


“I still have dances – don’t tell me I lead that off.”


“Joint effort,” Jack said as the toastmaster said “Prince Victor de Savoie accompanying Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Ruritania.”


“Please let that be the last time I’m called my full name tonight,” Charly said as the room applauded, and the orchestra prepared themselves for the first formal dance.


“May I,” Tony said as he offered Abby his hand, smiling as she stood and accompanied him and the other couples onto the dance floor, all of them smiling as the music started and they moved around the floor.


“I have to say,” Tony whispered into Abby’s ear as they crossed the floor, “you are the true belle of the ball to me.”




Oakland Hills


“They looked amazing,” Vicky said as Mary nodded.  “Will you look like them Mary?”


“Oh no – for one thing white is not the colour of choice for the one I am going to,” Mary said quietly.  “And for another, I don’t have any jewellery.  No, this one is more of a party as I understand it.”


“So what happens now?”


“Lots of dances, lots of fun I imagine,” Mary said quietly as she stood up, “but I need to sort supper out.  Keep watching if you want to.”



The Pierre


As the orchestra stopped, the escorts stopped and bowed to the debutantes, before escorting them back to their table.


“Thank you – and thank YOU,” Abby said as she sat down and accepted a glass of champagne from Diana, “I now know exactly how Cari felt last year.”


“You were magnificent, my child,” Alain said as he held her hand, Willy nodding in agreement.


“Did you doubt otherwise,” Valeria said with a smile as she raised her glass, “May I propose a toast – to the most beautiful debutante in the room, Abigail.”




“I think other tables would disagree, but thank you,” Abigail said with a smile.


“Well done, my dear,” Juliette said as she came over, “Klaus would like the honour of a dance later, once Guy has had the Father’s Dance.”


“Of course I will,” Abby said with a smile as she looked over to the other table, smiling at Klaus.




“So do you think one day April will be one of the young ladies walking down here,” Caroline said as she sat with Susan.


“Who knows – that is a logn way away,” Susan said as she sipped her champagne, “and i cannot tell you how good it is to drink this this year.”


“Don’t let Annie hear you,” Caroline said with a smile, “she and Frieda are suffering in silence tonight.”


Susan looked over to the van Roon table, where Pussy was sitting with her wife, and over to where Carina and Annie were talking together, and nodded in agreement.  “I’ll meet up with them later, form a mutual support society,” she said, “alongside Natasha.”


“They all looked so beautiful tonight,” John said as he looked at the Rochermann twins talking to the Lodge boys, “and no chance of a burlesque dance off tonight.”


“Not tonight,” Shirley said with a smile, “so how about instead, we have a dance?”


“Of course,” John said with a smile as he took Shirley’s hand, and led her onto the dance floor.





“My dear, shall we?”


“Of course,” Diana said as she took Alain’s hand, and went onto the dance floor with him.  As they went round, he looked across and said “Mon Dieu, is that Victoria James?”


“She is Lady Victoria Gordon now,” Diana said, “and both Valeria and I have made both our apologies and our peace with her.”


“Forgive me, Diana, it is just a shock to see her.  She is well?”


“Yes – her daughter Samantha was one of those presented tonight.”


“I may say hello later,” Alain said quietly, “in many ways I still feel responsible for that night...”


“My dear brother,” Diana said quietly, “we all have our regrets.  If I had not been on that modelling assignment, if Valeria had insisted on him staying with her that night, if Victoria had not left early – we all have our regrets, but it is in the past.  We must let it go.”





"There is nothing quite like the site of the young swans in their white dresses." Frieda said as she smiled broadly. "I really enjoyed my coming out."

"That's not what I heard," Pussy laughed, "according to your mother darling you were a most reluctant debutante."

"Yes,” Frieda said as she nodded, “but once it started...and now in the golden afterglow of memory..."

"Well I still LOATH having been one, I was TERRIBLE at all this."

"She really was pretty bad," Liz shook her head, "it didn't help that I'd been Deb of the Year in my year..."

"And EVERYBODY constantly told me that fact." Pussy interrupted.

"Still you did it," Paulie patted her daughters hand, "and very much pleased your parents."


“Even the Trumpet Voluntary,” Gus said with a smile.  “A truly inspired addition to the evening’s entertainment.”


Pussy put her head back and laughed out loud as the memory came back to her.


“Were you here for Sandy’s presentation?”


“We were – the Deb of the year that year as well...”


"So what was your coming out like Tracy?"

"Tea parties,” Tracy van Roon said, “a formal ball like this, then my parents threw a private ball."

"Not too many girls today get a private ball." Sam sipped his drink.

"Well they are so expensive...mine cost a fortune even in today's money, and that was back in the sixties." Paulie commented.

"Mine left a big dent in Daddy's bank account." Tracy nodded in agreement.

"But it was where we first met..."

"...and that made it worth every penny Augie my love."

"Did you have a private ball Puss?" Frieda asked.

"No, but Liz had a dance she shared with four other girls."

"It was the last big event really held in our house." Paulie remembered.

"You know we really do need do something in the old place again." Gus stroked his chin. "Get a lot of young people in, get some music and dancing to disturb the cobwebs."


“Well, maybe you should find out who hasn’t arranged their sweet sixteen yet,” Blair said.  “I think Ama’s got hers sorted, who would be next?”


“Becca Morse or Jeannie Brewster I think,” Pussy said, “but it’s an idea...”






“Thank you,” Sharon said as she sat back at the table, Todd smiling as he bowed.  “May I introduce my father, Alan Kennedy.  Dad, this is Todd.”


“A pleasure sir,” Todd said as they shook hands, “my thanks for allowing me to act as your daughter’s escort tonight.”


“I think the honour is mine,” Alan said as Glenda and Alex walked over.  Todd turned and smiled as he said “Grandmama, Father Richmond – I was just thanking Mister Kennedy for the opportunity to be here tonight.”


“Perhaps you can introduce us?”


“Of course – Mister Kennedy, my grandmother Glenda Verducci and Father Alexander Richmond.  Grandmama, Fataher Richmond, Mister Alan and Miss Sharon Kennedy.”


“An honour to meet you,” Alex said as he shook Alan’s hand, “I’ve had the honour of being the escort twice, and I remember how nerve wracking it was each time.”


“Thank you,” Alan said, “so are you related to Vanessa Richmond?”


“My sister – but don’t hold that against her.”


“My dear, you opened the evening in a brilliant manner,” Glenda said as she sat with Sharon.


“Thank you – but your grandson made it extra special...”


“Dad,” Sharon said, “I believe it is time for the Father’s dance...”




“I believe it is time,” Guy said as he stood up and took Abby’s hand, “if i may have the honour.”


Rudolf stood and took Charly’s hand, as one by one the fathers brought their fathers onto the floor.


“Heads or Tails,” Ally said as she tossed the glass mat.




“You go first,” Ally said as Daniel took Nell’s hand, and took her onto the dance floor.



Oakland Hills


“Hey Mary,” Suzie said, “the dads are dancing a waltz.”


Mary sat down and nodded as the music started.  “This apparently is part of the tradition, so there’s Trina with her father, Abby with her grandfather...”


“Where’s her father?”


“I read he died when she was a toddler.  They do look so proud though – ah, now that’s a possibility.”


“What, the white gown?”


“No – that one there,” Mary said as she pointed at the screen.


La Pierre


“Thank you,” Angel said as Mick Harran took her hand and led her out for a dance.


“Look at her,” Jack said as she watched her sister go onto the dance floor, “she now looks as graceful on the dance floor as she does on a horse.”


"Well I feel like a princess." Pepsi said as she pulled her long Harrow Blue gloves that matched her evening dress back above her elbows. "I'll never get to do this, but seeing it through Angel's eyes is just as good."


“Oh you are easily the match of any of the ladies here,” Jack said with a smile. 


“When Becky told me about this last year, I didn’t believe her,” Pepsi said as the orchestra stopped and the dancers applauded.


“That was divine,” Angel said as she sat back down, “and this is an amazing event.”

"Darling, these things are overrated." Mandy drawled.

"Mummy,” Angel said with a smile, “I've seen your scrapbook, and I know how much you enjoyed your season."

"Even when she was criticised for having her nose pierced and a diamond stud in at Queen Charlotte's Ball." Will laughed at the memory. "You should have seen the fight between Mandy and her mother, before Mandy agreed to not wear anything in her lip piercing."

"You were even a punk debutante Mandy?" Pepsi asked slightly in awe.

"She tried to be..." Will laughed as Mandy hit his arm softly.

"Changing the subject, where does Trina dig up all these film stars from?" Harry Cameron asked.

"Actually darling it's not too hard, film people love the publicity they get being at events like this, especially when their 'date' is the heiress to one of the world’s greatest mining fortunes. His agent probably asked Missy if she had any girls coming to the major balls."

"Oh that is how it's done eh?" Pepsi shook her head.


“Well, I would imagine young Master Treharran’s agent had similar thoughts – although if that was the plan, it may have hit a small obstacle.”


“Oh,” Pepsi said, “and that is?”


“A Rochermann sized bump,” Angel said as Nell went on the dance floor again with Mick.


"Nell is asking for trouble Mother." Ally whispered in Kelly's ear.


"Because she's dancing far too much with Mick Harran."

"He keeps asking her, darling."

"I know Mom,” Ally said, “and in a club he can do that, but as a celebrity escort he's expected to ask a lot of girls at a ball like this. Sister dear is getting some very nasty things said about her at various tables."

"I better go have a word with the Treharran's," Kelly stood up. "You tell your sister."


“On it,” Ally said as she walked over to Abby’s table.


“Hey,” she said, “have you danced with Mick yet?”


“Not yet, no,” Abby said a sshe sipped her champagne, “why?”


“Claim the next dance with him, will you?  I need to have words with my sister.”




“Olivia, Charlie, can I have a word,” Kelly said as she sat at the table.


“Let me guess,” Olivia said, “Michael is not fulfilling his social responsibilities to everyone?”


“I know he likes to dance with Nell – amongst other things,” Kelly said, “but I don’t want her to get into trouble or him.”


“Who’s going to tell Nell,” Fi asked.


“Only two people here can do that effectively – they’re working on that.  Can you sterr Mick on the right path for the rest of the formal ball?”


“i have a way to keep him occupied,” Charlie said as she stood up and walked over to one of the organising committee.  “Olivia, darling, get his dance card marked please.”




“Hello Mick – may i claim my dance now?”


“Of course,” Mick said as he took her hand, while Ally took Nell to one side.


“Have you really fallen that hard for him sis?”


Nell looked at her twin sister, and said “I may have – oh god, is it that obvious?”


“For tonight,” Ally said, “you may need to remember about the rest of us – let us have a chance with him as well.  Once the disco starts, that’s another matter, but for now, Nell – you need to share.  The other boys will dance with you as well.”


“I know – and I’m sorry,” Nell said with a smile.  “You’ve got my word Sis – I’ll hold off until later.”



“Enjoying yourself, Monster Momma,” Carina said as she sat with Annie, after Klaus and Clint had danced with them.


“Oh yes – it’s so different from last year,” Annie said, “nowhere near the same tension.”


“Tell us about it,” Sandy said as she and Heather sat with them.  “So have you had a few dances this time Annie?”


“Yeah – it’s kept me from this as well, thank goodness,” Annie said as she sipped her diet coke.


“By the way,” Heather said, “we realised today you haven’t told anyone yet.”


“Told anyone what?”


“Is it a boy or a girl?”


“Well, I’m a girl,” Cari said.


“So am I,” Annie said with a smile.


“Do we have to torture it out of you?”


“There is a reason,” Annie said, “and it has a lot to do with not giving Klaus and Juliette something else to worry about.”


Heather looked at them, before she said “no...”


“I’m missing something, aren’t I lover?”


“Tell you later,” Annie said as Heather saw Nessa and David walk back to the table. 


“Oookay – come on Sandy,” Heather said quietly as they walked back to the table.


“Vanessa, could we have a word,” one of the committee said, Nessa nodding as she said “I’ll be back in a minute.”


“So David,” Sandy said as she and Heather sat either side of him, “where did you meet my mother?”


“Ah – nothing like a simple opening question,” David said with a smile.  “We met at a lunch for charity trustees – one of my responsibilities is to manage financial assurance for the Firefighter and Police charities.  As the chair of the Richmond Foundation, we were introduced to each other, and then – well, we talked about anything except charitable financing...”


“Not my mother’s favourite subject, certainly,” Sandy said with a smile.  “Mom said you moved a few months ago from Philadelphia.”


“Well, a few weeks ago if truth be told,” David said quietly, “I needed to have a fresh start – my first wife died last September.”


“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Heather said, “what was it?”


“Breast cancer – by the time we knew, it was too late.  So there were too many memories there for me...”


“I can understand that feeling,” Sandy said, “we have a friend whose fiancée’s first wife died of the same thing.  So you moved to New York?”


“Indeed – I was offered the SVP post here, and took it with both hands.  I wanted to bury myself in work – but then, first week here, I met your mother.”  Sipping his wine, he said “May I ask how long it has been since your father died?”


“Oh over ten years ago now – I was in my Freshman year at University,” Sandy said.  “Did you have any kids?”


“No – never seemed to happen,” David said with a smile.  “Nessa told me you have two children?”


“Indeed – George and Sands.  So do you know any of the other people here?”


“Nessa introduced me to a few – she is an amazing woman, to be involved in something like this.  She told me you are an interior designer?”


“Well, it keeps me occupied,” Sandy said with a smile.


“Your uncle fascinates me,” David said, “did he play football?”


“Before he went to Vietnam, yes – he still maintains a key interest in it.”


“You can tell – and I see him in your eyes, Sandy.”


"I must apologise for the interrogation," Sandy laughed.

"She was going to blame it on the children wanting to know something about their Gran’s escort, but truth is she was as curious as hell...weren't you lover?" Heather looked happily at her partner.

"Nessa said you were originally the children’s nanny Heather."

"Was and am David. I may be their mother’s girlfriend but I love the job too much not to be the nanny now."

"I think I can understand that."

"So do you know Alan Kennedy? He's here with his daughter?" Sandy asked.

"A little, compared to New York the Philadelphia financial industry is pretty small and intimate, so yes we have met, and I know of the terrible fate of his wife."

"Yes that was horrible," Sandy shook her head. "But he seems to be recovering."

"I have heard his bank may be moving him to New York."

"Oh that's interesting." Heather smiled.

"Do you know our friend Shirley Xavier?" Sandy asked. "She also has insurance interests."

"Of a different kind, we are mainly a life, vehicle and general insurance company. Xavier's are more a niche property operation."

"it seems a profitable niche for Shirley."

"Indeed Sandy, I'm researching them for my company...”  David looked over at the table where Shirley and John were talking to Susan and Clint.  “Actually, can I tell you something?”


“Do tell,” Sandy said as she looked at Heather.


“Without it going further I hope, can I say we are interested in buying their insurance business out."

"Of course it goes no further." Sandy crossed her fingers.  The last thing she wanted was for David to get on the wrong side of Shirley.  She liked him – and doing that might get him hurt...




"Who is the younger girl dancing with Lord Ordford's oldest boy?" Terri asked Diana.

Looking across the floor, Diana smiled and said "that would be Nicola Broadhurst - she's the daughter of a friend of mine, she goes to St Angela's."

"Isn't she a trifle young for him?" the King asked.

"A little, she's sixteen, but Jack still isn't quite 20. The age difference is less then four years, and in a couple of years no one will think anything of it."

"True," Terri nodded. "So is it serious?"

"VERY!" Diana smiled, "she has a red hot temper, but she’s a lovely girl."

"How often does she break it off?" the King asked with an amused look in his eye.

"Oh at least once a month according to Abby, but ALWAYS within hours they make it up."

"Well then the poor boy is hooked," the King laughed, "if you remember, Terri was always doing just that to me."

"I remember." Diana laughed.

"But you loved me when I forgave you each time," the Queen said as she patted her husband’s hand.

"Might I present her to you?" Diana asked.

"Please," the King answered, "let the poor girl get the formal thing out of the way."


Diana smiled as she walked over, and talked to the young couple as Rudolf and Terri looked at each other.


“Your Royal Majesties,” Diana said a sshe came back with them, “may I present John, Viscount Millingham, and his partner Miss Nicola Broadhurst.  John, Nicola, this is King Rudolf and Queen Teresa of Ruritania.”


“Your Majesty,” John said as he bowed, and Pepsi curtseyed, “it is a great honour to meet you.”


“A pleasure to meet you as well,” Terri said as she kissed Pepsi, “it is good to see such young people enjoying themselves at an event like this.  Do you think you will come as a debutante yourself?”


“I fear not, Your Majesty...”


“Please – now the formality is over, it is Terri and Rudi.”


“I have to say I doubt I will ever be one of the white ladies,” Pepsi said, “but I am enjoying myself immensely.”


“Hmmm – now why have the orchestra stopped,” Rudi said as he looked to the stage, one of the organisers standing at the microphone as she said “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lester Lenin Orchestra.”


As the dancers stopped and applauded, Nessa and Mick Harran went onto the stage and took a microphone.


"Normally we do not do anything like this at our ball," the woman at the microphone said, "but having knowledge both of the talents of a dear friend who is one of our patronesses, and having had my granddaughter explain just who Michael Treharran is to me," she paused for the laughter, "I was prevailed on to ask them both if they might sing for us tonight. I'm not sure either was over-enthused with the idea, but a proposal from their friends and relatives to donate a large sum to charity if they would sing has persuaded them...Just about,"


"Sing for your supper," someone in the crowd of dancers shouted.


"So with no further introduction, may I present singing 'River Deep, Mountain High' Nessa Richmond and Mick Harran."


“Ready, Miss Richmond,” Mick whispered as the band started to play.


“The things I do for charity,” Nessa said before she turned sharply, the skirt of her gown twirling, and put the microphone to her mouth.


When I was a little girl
I had a rag doll
Only doll I've ever owned
Now I love you just the way I loved that rag doll
But only now my love has grown

Mick joined in as he smiled and put the microphone to his lips

And it gets stronger, in every way
And it gets deeper, let me say
And it gets higher, day by day

And do I love you my oh my
Yeah river deep mountain high
If I lost you would I cry
Oh how I love you baby, baby, baby, baby


As the orchestra played the interlude, Nessa raised her arm to allow Mick to take over.

When I was a younger boy
I had a puppy
That always followed me around
Well I'm gonna be as faithful as that puppy
No I'll never let you down

Taking each other’s hand, the crowd started cheering as they sang together.

Cause it grows stronger, like a river flows
And it gets bigger baby, and heaven knows
And it gets sweeter baby, as it grows

And do I love you my oh my
Yeah river deep, mountain high
If I lost you would I cry
Oh how I love you baby, baby, baby, baby

“Take it Mick,” Nessa called out as they went into the bridge.

I love you baby like a flower loves the spring

He then pointed to Nessa.


And I love you baby just like Robin loves to sing

And I love you baby like a school boy loves his pet

And I love you baby, river deep mountain high

The crowd cheered as they danced on the stage, and then sang to the crowd


Do I love you my oh my, oh baby
River deep, mountain high
If I lost you would I cry
Oh how I love you baby, baby, baby, baby


Nessa hit the top note as Mick harmonised, the crowd cheering as the music finished and they took a bow.


“Ladies and Gentlemen, Nessa and Mick,” the conductor said as they left the stage.


"Wow! That was exceptional," David congratulated Nessa as she came back to the table, "on top of everything else you can sing like that?"

"Well I try," Nessa blushed.

"Nessa you really can hit those notes." Mick Harran kissed her on the cheek.

"Well it helps when I have a professional singer up there helping."

"False modesty again darling." Paulie hugged her best friend.


“Paulie speaks truth,” Glenda said with a big smile, “I never knew you could sing like that?”


“Well, I only recently re-discovered the joys of singing,” Nessa said as Alex applauded.





“All right, i can see why the girls like you singing,” Fiona said as Mick came back to their table, “But I still don’t see the attraction otherwise.”


“Stop teasing your brother,” Olivia said with a smile, “he loves what he does, and so do you.”


“Anyway,” Mick said, “she is a good singer as well.  Why hasn’t she done more?”


“Ask her over supper,” his father said as Charly came over.


“My turn for a dance I think,” she said as she took Mick’s hand...



Oakland Hills


“He is so dreamy,” Vicky said as she sat with Suzie and Alison, "Will he be coming to San Francisco Mary?"

"Probably,” Mary said as she dried Alison’s hair, “he's pretty surely going to be Fi's escort."

"What chance we might get to meet him and get his autograph?"  Suzie looked at her sister, her eyes pleading.

"You know I haven't got a clue," Mary paused for thought, "I suppose I could ask Fiona..."

"PLEASE!" her sisters pleaded.

"I'll see what I can do, but now it's your bedtimes."

Alison sighed as she said "It would be so cool telling the girls at school I met Mick Harran."

"BED GIRLS" their father came into the sitting room.


“Go on,” Mary said as she hugged and kissed each of them, David bringing her a mug of warm milk as she turned the television off.


“So I have to compete with Mick Harran?”


“Of course not, you big lug,” Mary said with a smile, “just be yourself.  Mick’s only one of the partners who will be there.”


David smiled as he sat down.  “Well, all right – and I know you’ll be watching out for me as well.”


La Pierre


"Shirley, Susan, we need a quiet word in private." Sandy ushered her friends into a corner.

"What's wrong?" Shirley asked as she looked at them.

"David let it slip that AMININCO are looking at Xavier International’s insurance business with an eye to making a bid to buy it."

"Oh crap" Susan took a quick drink to steady herself.

"Quite Susan." Madame paused for thought. "I should have guessed that we might attract offers, but of course I can't sell, you know that we launder a lot of our..."

"I did." Sandy interrupted.

"But we can hardly go gangster on them," Susan spoke again, "this is just routine business in the 'normal' world, a big company like that trying to buy a successful smaller operation."

"I know," Shirley thought deeply, "I really am going to have to think hard on this, but thank you for the heads up Sandy."


“Well, I have to admit I like him, so good luck,” Sandy said as the group returned to their tables, Shirley swirling her drink as she looked over to where David and Gloria were sitting with Alex and Nessa.


“Shall we dance?”


It took her a couple of minutes to realize john was holding his hand out.


“Sorry – of course I’d love to,” Shirley said as she followed him onto the dance floor.


"I'd give an awful lot to know what is going though your head at this very second my love" John Hammond whispered as he and Shirley danced.

"Sandy just broke a rule,” Shirley said with a smile, “but was a friend doing so."

"Sounds Intriguing."


"It was, Nessa's escort is with AMININCO, he let slip confidentially that they are interested in buying my Insurance division."

"Well strictly speaking,” John said, “you are right - Sandy should not have told you..."

"But it does give me a chance to think it all out."

"I take it you really don't want to sell?"

"Well especially here in New York that business is VERY profitable."

"Well when and if an offer comes, just refuse it."

"I suppose so," Shirley answered whilst she thought of AMININCO looking at the business too closely before making a bid and what that might reveal.




“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Victoria Gordon said as she went to the powder room, emerging a few minutes later and looking out on the dance floor.




Victoria Gordon turned round slowly as she saw Alain du Grechy standing behind her.  “Alain,” she said quietly, “it has been a long time.”


“I know – I was surprised to see you here, but then Diana told me of Samantha, and I could understand how proud you must be of her, just as Diana is of Abigail tonight.”


“Indeed – they are all beautiful tonight,” Victoria said quietly as Samantha and Abigail came over.


“Uncle Alain, Lady Victoria” Abigail said quietly, “forgive me if this is out of turn, but both Samantha and I know something happened between our families, and...”


Victoria and Alain looked at each other as Diana came over.  “Perhaps it is time they both heard the truth,” Diana said, “let’s find a quiet room.”


She led the group across the dance floor and into a small room.


“Sit down girls,” Diana said as she looked at them, “and please remember what we are about to tell you happened a long time ago – nearly twenty years ago now.  I was living here in New York, and your late father was attached to the embassy in the role of a cultural attaché.”


“For my part,” Victoria said, “I had come over to New York to do a shoot with some other models – Juliette had just given birth to Carina, correct?”


“That is correct,” Diana said.  “I was taking part in the same shoot, but I was already having some misgivings about being a model, so I took the assignment with some reluctance.   Alain was visiting, so he had agreed to keep Jacques company.”


“Abby told me something of her father’s reputation,” Samantha said.


“It was a well deserved reputation,” Alain said.  “His mother, Valeria, was also visiting, and the plan had been for the three of us to go to dinner, and then spend the evening in a game of cards.  A very civilised approach – but Jacques said he had to work late at the consulate, and Valeria had agreed to postpone the dinner, so we both ate at the mansion.”


“While this was going on,” Victoria said, “your mother and I were at the assignment, and it was going well – but I started to feel unwell, so I made my excuses and left.  I should say i was wearing a short skirt and a thin top that night.”


“Why,” Abby asked.


“Because I still blame myself a little for what happened next – Jacques de Ros was waiting outside, hoping to surprise Diana I suppose, but instead he offered me a lift home.”


Abby and Samantha looked at each other, before Sam said “Mum, you don’t have to go on any further...”


“No – it is important you both hear this and understand what happened.  Abigail, your father was more than a letch and a cheat.  I will not say exactly what he did,  but...”


“Jacques arrived back at the mansion, and stormed in as I was coming through the hallway,” Alain said.  “I saw the door was open, looked outside, and saw Victoria in the back of the car.  It was obvious she was upset – and when I went to see what had happened, I was ready to do him serious harm myself.  Your mother’s needs outweighed my anger, however, so I drove her to a hospital.”


“Mum...  What happened to him?”


“When I got back,” Diana said, “I heard Valeria and Jacques arguing.  I went to see what was going on, only to be pushed to one side as Jacques made his way out of the house.  Valeria told me what had happened – and that she had decided we would all return to France to avoid a scandal.  I felt at the time I had no choice – but I still went to see Victoria in hospital.  Alain, bless him, had told a small lie.”


“I said I had seen her wandering along the road and brought her in.  I do not know what passed between your mothers – I left the room – but a week later they moved back to Paris.”


“I retired – and on my return to Scotland, your father asked me to marry him.  You arrived a year later, Sami – and I put that behind me.  We heard of the death of Jacques, and that Diana and Abigail had returned to New York – but last year in Paris was the first time we had met since then.”


“There was one other reason we returned,” Diana said, “when Jacques stormed out, he got into our other car and drove off drunk.  There was – an accident.  He mounted the pavement, and ran over a woman in her early thirties.  He did not kill her, but he crippled her for life.  That also had to be hushed up – with a little more difficulty.  We had to pay compensation, and we still pay for her medical costs.”


“Goddess,” Abby whispered, “what was her name?”


“Coleen Hargraves.  You know her sister – she came to work for us on our return, in gratitude for what I had done.”


Abby looked at her mother for a moment, before she whispered “Edith?”


Diana nodded as Samantha stood up and embraced her mother.  “Thank you for telling me – does Father know?”


“He knows of the attack, but not who – so please, do not tell him.  As Diana and Alain said, the past is in the past.”


“Of course,” Samantha said as Archibald looked in.


“There you are – come my dear, they are dancing a Polka, and then I understand a small surprise is being announced.”


“Are you ready Mum?”


Victoria nodded as she wiped her eyes, and then took her daughter’s hand.


“May I have this dance, darling Sister?”


“Of course – give us a moment Alain,” Diana said, her brother bowing as she left her with Abby.


“He raped her?”


“She was not the first or the last – but it was the straw that started to break my back.  Come, child – be the beauty you are...”


“Are you all right,” Natasha said as Abby returned to the table.  Guy and Valeria looked closely at her as she smiled and said “yes – Mama and Lady Victoria were telling me and Samantha of their modelling days.”


Valeria raised an eyebrow and nodded as she said “Good – it’s important we learn from our past.”




“Fiona – enjoying yourself?”


“I am actually.  I see your adoring fans are keeping you busy dear brother." Fiona sat down next to her brother as he sat at a table signing autographs on everything from napkins to purloined Pierre notepaper.

"A little,” Mick said as he handed over another paper, “but the crowd is thinning out."

"Well just remember you owe me the last formal dance...” Fiona said as she punched him playfully in the arm, “not Nell Rochermann."

"I know,” Mick said as he rubbed his arm, “but I can then at least dance informally with her."

Looking at him through her glasses, Fiona said "You are getting interested brother?"

"Well...   She's sexy, intelligent, fun..."

"But remember she has something of a reputation."

"Yes, I know all about the New York Sluts,” Mick said, “but I can see the real girl beyond the wild girl."

"Oh Lord, you do sound serious," Fi shook her head.


“Well, it happens to all of us sooner or later, even you one day,” Mick said with a smile.  “On ehich subject, when are you going to tell Mum and Dad?”


“Soon – when I find the right moment...”




"Debutantes can you please gather up your escorts for our traditional Midnight Waltz, our last formal dance of the night," the bandleader stood at the microphone and smiled.

"May I Alan," Todd said as he stood at attention in his uniform.

"You may young man" Alan Kennedy smiled as his daughter stood and placed her white gloved hand in his.  Her father watched as they made their way onto the floor.

"They make a charming couple don't they." Glenda smiled.

"Very nice." Alex nodded his approval. "She's a wonderful girl Alan."

"Thank you Alex,” Alan said quietly, “but I think it’s mostly what is naturally within her, I'm afraid other matters for too long isolated me from her.  Something I intend to rectify if I can."

"Well,” Glenda said as she heard the music start, “my grandson is I think a little smitten by Sharon."

"And she by him Glenda, it's so nice that she has met a really good young man at last, some of her Philadelphia friends..."

"Left a little to be desired?" Glenda ventured.

"Yes...just a little."


“My sister’s escort, David McIlroy, comes from Philadelphia as well.  He said you may be moving here?”


“Oh did he?”  Alan smiled as he said “it’s true actually – I’m been transferred here.  Hopefully the move will help me and my family move on from some – unpleasant memories.”




"Our cygnet is truly a swan." Will said with a smile as he looked happily at his only daughter dancing with Harry, "and I approve of young Harry."

"Is that because he will one day inherit the best grouse moor in Southern Scotland darling?"

"No,” Will said with a sink, “though I admit I did welcome the chance to shoot there in the autumn."

"Or is it because he went to your old school?" Olivia laughed lightly.

"Well any school is better than a damn Etonian, I'd even have accepted a Rugbeian..."

"Now hang on Will, there are limits you know," Charlie Treharran said as he joined his wife laughing.

"But I will admit,” Will said as he picked up his glass, “Harry being a Harrovian does sooth some of my fears."

"Darling if only the 21 year old you could hear the current version." Mandy shook her head.

"We've both learned a thing or two since then," Charlie kept laughing.

"Exactly Charles," Will clinked glasses with his old school chum.


“David looks supremely happy with Judy as well,” Mandy said, “I wonder how long it will be?”


“Before what,” Olivia said quietly.


“Before he gets down on one knee as well – I can see it when I look at him.”


“I’m not getting the wedding fund out of coffers just yet,” Will said, “but they make a wonderful couple as well.”


"So on that thought,” Olivia said to Mandy, “if one day Jack wants to marry Nicola?"

"I'd be extremely happy Olivia darling."

"Your father might not have approved though Will?"

"Why not,” Will said, “with her racing background..."

"I thought Grant worked for the New York Transportation Department?" Olivia asked.

"He does,” Will said, “but his father was according to friends of mine a good trainer, and when Grant one day monetarises his interest in Saints and Sinnerz, he will at least put three or four million in the bank."

"I suppose when you look at it that way, that she's the daughter of a successful owner and granddaughter of a trainer." Olivia mused, "then she'd be considered at least fringe to our world back in England."

"I think though we'd both approve anyway," Will smiled, "she makes Jack happy, and for that I'd say damn society."

"Quite right." Charles nodded. "we both married for love, so should all our children."

"Hear Hear darling," Mandy drawled.




“Ladies and Gentlemen, that concludes the formal part of the evening – please welcome to the stage DJ MARK!!”


“FINALLY,” Carina said as she grabbed Annie’s hand, “let’s do this!”


“Come on Adam – let’s join them,” Ingy said as they followed, while Klaus went to the bar.




As she looked up at the smartly dressed young man, it took her a few minutes to recognise him.


“Dirk Waters – what brings you here?”


“Supporting a friend – Juliette, can I have a quiet word please?"

"You certainly can Dirk," she patted the seat next to her.

"Thank you.  You know that I edit true crime books at Trippler's now?"

"No I didn't...well done."

"Thank you," the younger man blushed, "I think that marvelous reference that CS gave me when I left helped."

"So,” Juliette said, “what can I do for you now though?"

"Your Great-Aunt was a renowned criminologist..."

"That she was."

"Could I maybe convince you to write a book about her greatest cases for us?"

"You want to commission me to write a book?" Ju smiled remembering that a couple of years ago Dirk had been little more than a glorified office boy at CS.

"Well, Yes..."

"You do know that there is a huge problem,” Juliette said, “in that on her death all her papers were destroyed as per her instructions in her will?"

"I did,” Dirk said, “but I still think that I'd like you to attempt it."

"I've never really written anything other than fashion before Dirk."

"Meaning what?"

"Don't her cases merit the attention of a professional crime writer?"

"I thought about it,” Dirk said with a smile, “but first you are a superb writer Ju, and second I'm hoping you can work in some family legend and gossip."

"Hmmm," Juliette thought, "when would you want it by?"

"To have it in the stores by next Christmas..."

"You do know I'm getting married this year?" Juliette interrupted.

"I did, but can you please think on it?"

"I guess so, for an old friend." Juliette gave him a peck on the cheek.

“I can’t ask any more than that – give me a call when you’ve decided,” Dirk said as he got up and walked away.


"Who was that?" Klaus asked as he arrived with more champagne.


"Dirk Waters, he's an editor for Trippler, he wants me to write a book of my Great Aunt's most famous cases..."




“So are we all having fun,” Angel said as the debs gathered in the corner.


“Oh yes,” Samantha said, “I’m never going to forget tonight.”


“Me too,” Sharon said, “so this may be the right moment to say I’m moving to New York soon with the family – hopefully I’ll get to see some of you around.”


 "Okay the post-mortem is as always lunch tomorrow in the usual place." Abby laughed, "For those girls who don't know it just ask someone who does."

"Am I invited?" Buffy yelled out.

"As long as you and Ally don't get us all banned for life." Abby shouted back.

"There is always a drawback..."

"Agreed!" Ally shouted as she and Buffy started laughing simultaneously.

"Well that sounds promising," Abby whispered in Nell's ears.

“Yeah – we  may finally get them to agree on something...”


"The other rule," Ally yelled, "is NO BOYFRIENDS!...How can we really gossip if THEY are there?"

"To which I'll add a definite NO MOTHERS amendment." Charly piped up.

"Oh they usually end up in Sandy's kitchen gossiping all about us as well Charly." Annabel chuckled.


“Okay then – so when are we doing it?”


“I’ll tell DJ Mark twenty minutes – get the record cued up...”





"Well I might be by far the smallest guy here," Peter van der Arden smiled, "but you look in the record books, who in this room scored the most points in college football?"

"That is only because you were a kicker Runt," one of the burly guys laughed.

"Hey don't discount kickers," Alex called from the side of the bar. "And I say that having played for Parseghian, know how many games our kickers won for us at Notre Dame?"

"He's right," Gus nodded his head as they both downed very stiff single-malts.

"I still say they don't really play football..."

"Nor do you Young Pardee," Gus laughed heartily, "you spent so much time on the bench at Harvard this year I hear they had to remove splinters from your ass."

"Oh that is below the belt Sir!"

"Did you ever even get injured playing Runt?" Jeff Peterson asked, "at least I broke my leg honestly trying to block that monster from Clemson."

"Well I did sprain a toe once..."

The laughter changed to groans.






"What's going on at the bar Glenda?" Nessa asked.

"Former football players swapping tall stories."

"Oh dear God, and the racing men are all at the other bar, this disco is just about to be ruined by a shortage of men on the floor."

"Should I round up ladies to break this up?"

"You'd better," Nessa looked at several girls having to dance with each other.


“Well, we may have a chance in a moment – it’s that time again.”


“That...  Oh Goddess...”


Nessa watched as the debutantes took to the dance floor, and DJ Mark started to play the Birdie Dance, Carina almost collapsing in laughter...



“The Birdie Song?  They all danced to the Birdie Song?”


Shirley, Susan and Caroline looked at each other and burst out laughing as Pepsi shook her head, standing on the side with Jack and the escorts.


“Original – definitely original,” Jack said as he watched his sister jump a quarter turn and start to dance again.


“This is what happens when you give Abby the job of picking the Deb Dance,” Carina said as she shook her head, and then stood to lead the applause when they had finished.


“All right, now I can fully relax,” Abby said as she came back to the table and had a drink.  “Who’s up for a boogie?”


“Miss Rochermann, may i have this dance?”


“I thought you would never ask,” Nell said as Mick Harran took her onto the dance floor, while Ally was pulled on by David.


“This is always the time the youngsters get to have fun,” Nessa said as she sat with David.


“and why should they have all the fun – come on,” David said as he took Nessa onto the dance floor, Sandy smiling as she danced with Heather.


“Certainly no age barriers here then,” Paulie said as she and Gus came onto the dance floor as well.


"Definitely no age barriers...nor social ones," Juliette laughed at the Ruritanian royals Secret Service detachment dancing awkwardly with Rudi and Terri.

"Shall we join them my love?" Klaus asked.

"I suppose we ought to show these youngsters how to really get yes." Ju stood up.


And soon the whole floor was filled with happy dancers of all ages...





“So we’re agreed gentlemen,” Mick said as they gathered at the bar after the dance, “we meet for lunch tomorrow while our ladies seek recovery elsewhere?”


“I know a good place to meet up,” Tony said, “make the best full English in the entire city.”


“And you know this because?”


“I showed him it at Halloween,” David said.  “I’ll make sure they get a full hangover cure ready for all of us.”


“And this Full English – what does it involve,” Todd asked.


“Sausage, Bacon, Eggs, Black Pudding, Mushrooms, Tomatoes – grilled, some sort of potato, toast, and PLENTY of tea or coffee.”


“Sounds – intriguing,” Todd said.


“Can they do Haggis,” Andrew McFarlane asked.


“You can’t get proper haggis here – import controls,” Tony said, “BUT it is Burn’s Night next week – can you call them and ask David?”


“In the morning yes.  You may have to put up with the local version, Andy – no sheep’s lung and cooked in an artificial cowl.”


“Ye gods, the sacrifices we make,” Andrew said as he threw his hands up in mock anger.





“Okay - Why does that man keep looking at you cross-eyed sister dear." Ally gestured slightly over her shoulder as Nell looked at the middle aged man sitting at a table.

"Because he's my worst nightmare," Nell said quietly as she dragged Ally into a corner.

"Your what?"

"He thinks he recognises me..."

"And should he," Ally interrupted, not overly liking where she could see this conversation going.

"Only if unlike most Johns he doesn't forget the face of whores he has slept with..."

"NELL!" Ally registered the quietest shout of all time.

"I think he's still unsure, but I hate that he's even looking."


“Okay – I get where you’re coming from,” Ally said quietly, “want me to run interference?”


“No – let’s ignore...”


“Excuse me.”


Ally and Nell both turned suddenly at the sound of the voice, only to relax when they saw it was Mick Harran.


“I brought you both a drink,” he said, “and some of the guys are watching the watcher.  Everything all right?”


“Yeah – what were you guys talking about anyway?”


“Meeting for brunch tomorrow – if you can do it, so can we...”


Nell looked at her watch, it was too late to phone now, but she definitely owed Doc a call first thing to give her a heads up about 'Mr. Wright'.




"Alright is there any club here in the city we all either had the misfortune of being put up for membership at birth by our fathers or grandfathers, or in which we have guest privileges courtesy of a club we do belong to?" asked Rick Shelby.

"Probably the New York Athletic Club," the Runt, aka Stewart Pardee Jr, spoke up.

"Who is, and isn't a member, or doesn't have guest privileges gentlemen?" Rick asked.

Most hands kept down.

"Alright then tomorrow night we resurrect an old tradition and a have a Bachelors Night at the club."

"Any non-members we will sign in as guests." Runt laughed.

"I agree,” Jack Fitzstuart smiled, "why should all events in the season be organised round the ladies?"


“Precisely – so Gentlemen, 8 o’clock tomorrow, The Tap Room.  Todd – any chance?”


“I have a 48 hour pass, so I should be all right – so long as I stay semi-sober.”






"I see a horde of young men plotting no good." Carina pointed as she and Annie danced, "something about a bachelors night tomorrow."

"Isn't that good clean healthy fun?" Klaus asked as he and Ju joined the dance.

"Not always," Ju laughed as she and Annie answered simultaneously.

"A couple of years it ended up with the St Louis City Jail full of the best names in the city." Annie shook her head.

"That has happened more than once here in NYC as well."

"I remember that Mom." Carina laughed at the thought of the names on the arrest list that the Daily News had published.


“So we need to spread the word to the ladies – be prepared...”






"Is Nell in trouble Ally?"

Ally looked over her shoulder at the source of the enquiry, surprised to see Buffy McGeorge standing there.

"Not that I know of Buffy," she tried to say in a light manner.

"Okay,” Buffy said quietly, “it's just I heard and saw a man trying to work his one brain cell overtime trying to think of something and looking hard at Nell."

"It's nice of you to be concerned Buffy,” Ally said, “but I think it's alright."

"Hey, Ally - just because you and I have been at daggers drawn for years, doesn't mean I don't still care for Nell."

"I appreciate that Buff," Ally smiled genuinely, "but any mess that either Nell or I get into, it’s safer to stay a million miles away from."

"So she is in trouble? Honestly,” Buffy said quietly, “can I help?"

Ally looked closely at her, and then at her table.  "Has Steve Thompson toughened up, or does he still have a glass jaw?"

"Hey, he's my escort you know?" Buffy giggled, "but I don't think he's over tough...Why?"
"Because,” Ally whispered, “if the worst happens we might need a couple of muscles to remind that guy Nell is still just a lady."

"The New York Sluts are LADIES?" Buffy giggled as Ally raised an eyebrow, "And Ally that was said more in envy then nastiness."

"Alright, I get that Buff." Ally paused, "Nell and I have scandals that we'd rather keep buried."

"Yeah, I get that." Buffy nodded. "Just remember I used to keep both yours and Nell's secrets at one time."

"You were my best friend," Ally looked at the other girl, "What really happened between us Buff?"


“I’ve been asking myself that a lot these last few weeks,” Buffy said quietly, “and i need to do something I probably should have done a long long time ago – apologise.”


Ally looked at the young woman, before she said quietly “apology accepted.  Look – is Holly and Cari can get over their differences, maybe the two of us can do so as well.”


“Maybe,” Buffy said with a smile.


“By the way – whatever happened to him?”


“Zimmerman?  No idea – and that’s the funny bit.  I dumped him a week later – his breath was TERRIBLE!”


Ally burst out laughing as she said this, Kelly and Sukie looking over and smiling as they did so.




“Ladies and Gentlemen, breakfast is served.”


“Have you enjoyed the evening,” Tony said as he walked Abby to the buffet.


“Very much so,” she said as she rested her head on his shoulder, “it has been like a dream come true – and we get to do it all again in Vienna in a couple of weeks.”


“I hear it’s very different – even more formal.”


“Indeed – but great fun none the less,” Abby said as she unbuttoned her gloves and started to put some food onto a plate.


“So you and Buffy have begun to make things up,” Nell said as she walked to the buffet with Ally.


“Well, it’s a sta...  Oh shit.”


Nell saw the look on Ally’s face, and said “he’s coming isn’t he?”


“Oh I am so sorry – are you all right?”


Both girls looked over to see Fi standing in front of the man as he looked at the champagne stain spreading on his shirt.


“I am so terribly sorry – i took my glasses off for a second, and...”


“Please accept my apologies on behalf of my sister,” Mick said as he took his hand, “if you will come with me to meet our parents, I am sure we can arrange for the cleaning costs to be covered...”


“What a shame,” Buffy said as he joined the twins, “now what do you suppose could have possessed Fiona not to wear her glasses at that exact moment?”


“Thanks,” Ally whispered, Buffy smiling as she said “remember to take some food to Mick for both of them, will you Nell?”







Guy turned and smiled as he said “Archibald Gordon – how are things in the Highlands?”


“They are good,” Archie said as he accepted a coffee.  “I hear the stud is proving itself?”


“We are looking good for this eyar,” Guy said with a smile, “and we hope to find a second runner for alongside Saints and Sinners this year.”


“Victoria told me that she, Diana and Alain talked to both Abigail and Samantha tonight.”


Guy looked at Archie and said “Ah – how long have you known?”


“Who attacked her in New York?  It was a fairly open secret Guy – but I have never pressed her on it, and I never will.  It is in the past – and he is hopefully rotting in hell now.”


“Do not let Valeria hear you say that,” Guy said quietly, “she is still his son.”


“Does Natasha know?”


“No – but i suspect Willy does.  One thing about du Grechy men – we keep a secret too.”


“Good – but they were so radiant tonight, were they not?”


“Oh yes – truly magnificent.  I will see you in Vienna?”


“I look forward to it,” Archie said as they headed back to their tables.




“It has been a wonderful evening,” Shirley said as she and John joined Klaus and Juliette at the buffet.


“Indeed,” Klaus said, “John, do you have a moment to discuss a small matter?”


“Of course,” John said as Juliette and Shirley helped themselves.


"I hear we may have a problem Shirley?"

"A small one Juliette,” Shirley said as she placed some salmon on her plate, “but I really do need to see Heather before she goes."

"To make sure your cyber-security is as good as she says it is?"

"Exactly...I want to be fully aware of what anyone sees, and if necessary plant information that I want them to see."

"That's natural." Juliette smiled, "the problem hiding in plain sight is we have to maintain two faces to our businesses, and one must be above reproach."

"Yes, completely,” Shirley said as the men came back.  “So what were you talking about?”


“A small weekend away – at the same time as...”


“Let’s eat,” Shirley said as she took Juliette by the arm...



"I'm not sure what frightens me most." Kelly Rochermann said as she shook her head, "Buffy and Ally as enemies, or seeing them make up and remembering the mayhem they used to accomplish when they were best friends as kids."

"Ouch, you know I'd forgotten that," Sukie had a sudden look of panic. "Don't say we are seeing the re-birth of the 'terrible twosome'."

"Good God I hope not." Kelly said with true feeling.  “But come on – the girls are at Harvard, and Buffy is at Wellesley.  A bit of a drive.”


“Let’s hope so...”



“Hey – can I join you?”


“Feel free,” Tony said as Trina Culver sat down.


"Your movie star departed Trina?"

"Yes,” Trina said, “and what a let-down he was."


"Yeah, all he wanted to talk about was himself."

"One of those eh?" Abby shook her head.

"It's a habitual problem with actors, they are all self-obsessed."

"So do you have someone better lined up for your own ball?"

"Yes, but I'm keeping his identity secret."


"Aren't I just." Trina giggled, "at least though I know he's someone who can hold a good, intelligent conversation."


“So – Vienna next?”


“Oh yes – the most formal of them all.  At least we can all let our hair down in my home town...”






"Oh this year has been so much fun." Carina kissed Annie. "You know, this is technically our anniversary Monster Mama."

"One year as a couple." Annie kissed her back, "and it's been such an interesting year."

"That it has, and with another little one on the way this year should be even better."

"Break it up you two," Ingrid laughed as she and Adam watched the couple kiss. "Papa says the limo is here."

"Okay." Annie laughed back.


“So when do we tell them what’s going to happen?”


“Oh soon, soon,” Carina said with a smile.




“So the night comes to an end,” Diana said as she sat with Valeria, “did you wnjoy yourself?”


“I did actually,” Valeria said as she watched Abby saying goodbye to some of the girls, “but I am ready for bed.  Age does slow us down eventually.”


“Indeed – I too am ready for sleep.  Abigail, Tony – I think it is time for us to leave.”


“I will arrange the cars,” Guy said as he stood up.





"All I can say Mick is let us both think on it, and then maybe talk tomorrow?"

"Sounds good," Mick said as he stood up, kissed Nessa on the cheek and went to find Nell.

"And what was THAT about?" Paulie asked in conspiratorial tones.

"Would you believe he wants me to sing a couple of tracks with him on his new solo album?"

"Oh my God!"

"I know, I told him to think about it and if he still thinks my voice is good enough then we'd think about songs."

"CONGRATULATIONS!" Gus hugged her, followed by David.

"You know what would suit both your voices?"

"No...What Paulie?"

"Rockin' Good Way."

"You know," Nessa paused a second, "that is definitely an idea."







Jack smiled as Pepsi slowly opened her eyes and said “what time is it?”


“Time you went to bed,” he said as he gently kissed her lips.


“Hmmm sounds nice but I feel so tried...”


“Come on,” he said as Mandy helped her to stand up, “let’s get you back to the hotel and a nice comfy bed.”


“Cuddle me,” she said sleepily.


“Of course,” Jack said as he walked her out of the ballroom.









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