SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
so nervous," Corinne Campbell muttered as she wrung her hands
together. "Everything has to come together just perfectly."
"There's nothing for you to worry
about," her husband, Dr. Talbot Campbell, attempted to reassure.
"You and Francis have gone to great lengths to make sure that every detail
is taken care of."
"But this is the largest benefit that
the auxiliary has put together." She took a deep breath to calm
herself and surveyed the room to see the guests starting to arrive.
husband's right, Corinne," Francis Callison spoke up. "We've
checked and double checked all the details. Everything's going to be
"Of course you're not nervous,"
Corinne muttered dryly. "You're not the one who has their reputation
on the line here."
"Excuse me? I think this is going
to be a reflection of all of the members of the auxiliary."
"Francis, dear, I don't want to diminish
your role in helping to put tonight together, but I'm the chairwoman of the
auxiliary. Ultimately, it's going to be me who takes the blame if anything
"Likewise, I'm sure you're going to be
the one who'll take all the credit when things turn out perfectly."
Francis shot her "friend" a cold look. "Look, Corinne, we
all had a hand in putting tonight together. Any success or failure should
be shared by all of us."
"No surprise to me that you're so casual
about all of this," Corinne muttered with disdain.
Ladies!" Talbot interrupted. "I know that tensions are running a
bit high out of nervousness, but let's not forget why we're here tonight or
that this entire benefit is the result of the combined efforts of every woman in
the hospital auxiliary. None of you could have done all of this
"Oh, Talbot, darling, you're
right," Corinne cooed and then kissed him lovingly on the cheek.
"I guess it really is my nerves talking."
"Oh, look, there's Jillian's sister
Judith." Francis motioned across the room towards the elevator that
had just opened to allow Judith Linford to step out into the ballroom.
"I should have known," Corinne
grumbled in disgust. "That woman can't keep her distance for more
than fifteen minutes."
"You know, Corinne, I've often thought
about inviting Judith to an auxiliary meeting. She's just the type of
influential woman our organization needs."
"I don't think so, Francis."
Corinne folded her arms across her chest defensively as her jaw tightened.
"The last thing our auxiliary needs is a woman like that."
"Oh, Corinne, don't be petty,"
Talbot chastised and then quickly motioned Judith over to them, annoying his
wife even more. "Judith, how good to see you here tonight."
"Talbot, I wouldn't have missed tonight
for the world," Judith smiled and then made a point to smirk in Corinne's
general direction before turning towards Francis. "Mrs. Callison,
you've done a splendid job pulling everything together."
"It was a joint effort, Judith,
dear," Francis reminded. "Each one of us contributed to
"Yes, Francis, that's true,"
Corinne nodded, stepping forward just enough to place herself between her husband
and Judith. "But as auxiliary chairwoman, I'm the hostess of this
it your way, dear," Judith smiled with false sweetness, patted Corinne on
the shoulder, and then returned her attention to Talbot. "Do I look
all right? I wasn't sure exactly how formal this affair was going to be
and I was worried that I was going to be overdressed." She held out
her arms and turned in order to show off her gown.
"Judith, you look magnificent,"
Talbot complimented. "You're far from overdressed. Why, I think
that you could very well be the belle of the ball."
Corinne's head snapped around and she glared
at her husband before making a not-so-subtle clearing of her throat.
"Yes, dear, you wanted
something?" He was clearly oblivious to the point that she was trying
"So, Judith," Corinne's full focus
turned to her rival, "did you find the valet parking to be adequate?
You didn't have any problems did you?"
"No, of course not," Judith
laughed. "Why would I?"
I don't think that there were any places marked for brooms."
"You didn't have any trouble, did
"Well, now," Francis spoke up,
grabbing hold of Judith's arm, "if I could get you alone, I'd like to go
over a few things with you about the upcoming new addition to our
"Of course," Judith smiled in
Corinne's direction. "Isn't it wonderful news?"
As Francis led Judith away, Corinne's blood
began to boil. How dare Judith Linford show up at her party and attempt to
make a fool out of her, cozying up to Talbot like that? Well, Corinne
wasn't going to stand for it. Judith had definitely gotten under Corinne's
Which was exactly what Judith had planned on
"Judith, you shouldn't let Corinne get
to you," Francis counseled while she led her across the room. "I
know she can be rather...well...abrasive, but...."
"Corinne Campbell get to me?"
Judith let out a bemused laughed. "That woman couldn't get to me if
she tried! She's barely worth me giving any attention to -- no more
noteworthy than a buzzing fly."
Francis exhaled in relief.
"Good. Granted, I know that her heart's in the right place as far as
this benefit is concerned, but her methods can often leave much to be
you made it!" Jillian Callison exclaimed as she turned and threw open her
arms so that she could hug her eldest sister. "I'm so glad you're
"Me, too," Judith smiled.
"Now, when are we going to get together to plan for this new little bundle
of joy that you're expecting?" She struggled to maintain her smile,
but the effort was definitely obvious to everyone present.
"Judith, are you all right?"
Jillian asked with concern.
"Oh, it's nothing," Judith
sighed. "It's just that the irony isn't lost on me. I thought I
was going to be the one to have the first Stokes grandchild, but now...."
"Judith, I'm sorry." Jillian
bit her lip nervously. "I was afraid that the news would make you
"Nothing of the sort! Don't you
even feel the least bit bad for me. This is happy news for all of
us. True, it does make me feel a bit melancholy, but that has nothing to do with you."
glad you feel that way, Judith," Reginald Callison spoke up, putting his
arm around his wife Jillian. "We both want this baby to be a joyous occasion
for both of our families."
"Is Corinne being her typical
self?" Charles Callison whispered into his wife Francis's ear as he noticed
that her attention was drawn back across the room to where Talbot and Corinne
"Of course," Francis sighed.
"To hear her tell it, this benefit is all about her. To hell with the
hard work that everyone else has put into it. And I'm not just talking
about myself, either. Each and every single one of us worked together to
make tonight possible so that we could raise money for the new children's ward,
but Corinne wants to make it all out to be that she did everything
single-handedly -- without breaking so much as a nail."
"Forget about Corinne
Campbell." Charles kissed her tenderly on the cheek. "I
know how much work you put into this and I'm certain her husband knows,
too. Dr. Campbell is a smart man. He's not fooled by her airs."
Hearing Corinne's name mentioned, Judith
leaned in and listened carefully.
"Look, there's Douglas and
Lorraine!" Reginald spoke up, pointing across the room.
"Douglas!" Charles exclaimed as he
greeted him with a handshake as the couple walked over to them. "I
see you've gotten back from your trip."
"Just barely," Lorraine
laughed. "I was worried we weren't going to make it."
how did the meeting with Macalister go?" Charles led Douglas away
from the group so that they could discuss business. "Did you convince
him to sign with us?"
"Not...exactly," Douglas muttered.
"What?" Charles's jaw dropped
in surprise. "But I...your phone calls sounded more favorable.
You sounded like you had the deal all but sealed."
"I did," Douglas sighed.
"Well, I thought I did."
"What went wrong?"
"N-nothing, really." Douglas
motioned for a waiter to bring him a drink. "Macalister just...wants
to meet you in person before he makes a final decision. It was a good
meeting. He sounds very favorable. I think he'll sign."
"Well, that's good," Charles
nodded. "Did he say when we should expect him?"
not...really." Douglas looked away. "But, like I said, he
Meanwhile, not far away, Lorraine only
half-listened to the conversation occurring between Reginald, Jillian, Francis,
and Judith. Her attention was fully focused on her husband as she tried to
overhear what they were discussing. Ever since Douglas had arrived home,
she couldn't get the impression that something was wrong out of her head.
Concerned, she pulled herself away from the conversation and walked over to her
"Douglas, are you all right?" she
asked, drawing his attention away from Charles.
"Yes," he replied.
"Why would you think I wasn't?"
"Well, it's just that...."
Her voice trailed off, not quite sure how to express her concerns.
"You've seemed different since you got home. It's like there's
something on your mind." She paused briefly to collect her
thoughts. "Did something happen in California?"
"Everything's fine," he
muttered. "I'm just a little...preoccupied with this deal, that's
you sure?" She touched him lightly on the shoulder, an expression of
her concern. "I mean, you haven't quite seemed yourself since you
walked in the door."
"Honey, I've only been back for a few
hours," he reminded. "I'm just a little tired from my flight,
that's all." He stopped and quickly glanced around the room.
"Look, I see one of my department heads and I need to go talk to him about
some business. I'll catch up with you later."
And as Douglas quickly walked away, Lorraine
couldn't get over her worries that something was, in fact, wrong with him.
He didn't seem himself. Although she couldn't quite put her finger on what
exactly about him worried her, it still continued to gnaw at her.