Lady in Carmine

Was that catty?  I didn't mean to be catty, but the look Red's giving me is not what I'd expected.  The way he was looking at Puppy during his phone call with Joel was a little obvious though, and he did get her a present.  There's clearly something much deeper going on here than I understand.  I think it's best that he knows that I know though, so there's no misunderstanding while we're pretending to be a family.  I like Puppy, I don't want her getting jealous because I'm acting a little affectionate towards my husband-for-the-evening.

I get out of the car while he's still looking stunned that I'd noticed.  City hall is an odd building: it's mostly concrete, but it's all Art Deco.  I actually quite like it, and when you get inside and can't see much evidence of the concrete anymore it's actually beautiful.  I've been here a few times, but not for an occasion as grand as this.  They've got a doorman out front looking cold in his fancy gold-frogged jacket, and there's a couple of dark-suited men trying to look discrete despite wearing earpieces and having strangely-bulging coats.

Red and Laika get out, he helping her.  He's got a bit of an odd look on his face, like he's just picked up a spray-can and the wrong colour paint came out.  Tartan paint, by my guess.

"Come on sweetheart," I say, slipping my arm through Red's.  "I know this will be a little dull for you both, but it's important to me.  For my career."  I've decided that Boston Emma is pushy and career-motivated.

"Oh, I'm sure we'll find something to keep us entertained!" says Red, and I frown slightly.  I knew he wouldn't go along with Joel's suggestion that he was mute.

We go in, and I use a trick from diplomacy meetings: I project my personality as forcefully as possible.  I keep my head up, looking straight-ahead, and watch my peripheral vision for anything that might be interesting off to the side.  As we pass a mean looking door that is slightly ajar I feel Red tense slightly; I suppose he's spotted it too and is planning on coming back.

The Mayor's luncheon seems to have about 60 people in, and I scan the room quickly.  I'm relieved to see that I don't recognise anyone -- someone recognising me from my diplomatic post would be... undiplomatic.  There is a long buffet table along one wall, with the windows behind it, and people are mingling stiffly as people who don't really know each other do.  There are a couple of tight clumps of three or four people here and there, and it seems likely they either came together or work together.

I glide over to the buffet table, towing my erstwhile family with me, and gather them near the vol-au-vents, crudites and mashed potatoes.

"Right," I say quietly.  "Red, if you're going to wander around do it now, but don't get caught.  Please.  Laika and I will stay here and mingle; for now no-one's really doing it, so this is a good time for you to be absent.  Don't take too long.  And try not to get paint on your hands."  I wink, to soften my words, but I don't know if Red sees it.

He looks like he's going to say something, but then Laika picks up a handful of mashed potato and dollops it onto a plate and starts pushing the crudites into it and he looks slightly embarassed.  Red has gone red.

The End

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