After the ball pricking incident, everything seemed to happen with remarkable speed. It was the morning of the Fitzpatrick’s Ball and Monica’s drones didn’t leave tiniest detail unchecked. The drones mistakenly believe that after the Patron’s Breakfast, a breakfast where only the individuals who’d donated a minimum of one hundred thousands dollars to the Fitz’s charitable fund for the privilege of dining with the couple themselves, they’d have a moment of solace since Monica and Sharon were at Cody’s getting their hair done. They were horribly wrong. If anything, Monica and Sharon were more demanding when they were out of office.

In some inexplicable way, their phone calls managed to send lightening rods through time and space—literally spearing the junior assistants in place. Joy was the only one who found this amusing. With Monica and Sharon off getting cropped, it was she who delegated the orders they barked over the phone…every five minutes. She answered each call brightly lest her lack of enthusiasm be mistaken as a sign of aggression.

“Hello Monica. How may I help you?” her head bobbed. “Yes, your dress is hanging on the back of your bedroom door. I hung it there myself tem minutes ago,” she paused while Monica peppered her with instructions. “Annalisa has Scott under surveillance—Um, I mean she’s with Scott making sure he’s dressed and ready on time.”

Ring- Have one of the girls meet KC at the ballroom and monitor her assistants at all times.

Ring- Confirm the Pardons received their bottles of champagne.

Ring- Make sure members from the press are seated with distinguished guest. The closer they are the action, the more obliged they’ll be to give us a favorable write up.

Ring- Did you just roll your eyes at me?

There was no getting around the madness. She—they—both of them called nonstop.

At twenty-one, Annalisa was the youngest and most inexperienced employee at Cara. She’d gotten the position solely on Sharon’s recommendation and thus far she’d proven an excellent choice. She was warm and friendly without a trace of ignorance—which played well with the male clients. Her large innocent eyes and petite frame made her appear much younger, while her curve said all woman. Her attention to detail and tenaciousness earned her high favor from Monica—this was no easy feat especially since she was a junior employee. Monica didn’t dole out unnecessary praise; if you performed well then she loved you…if not then, well, better luck next time. Interestingly enough, none of the employees disliked her. Yes, she was prone to fits of neediness. Yes, she could be anal. And yes, they worked long house but she took care of them when they needed it. Her door was always open.

Annalisa lay curled on Scott’s couch watching “What Not to Wear” while Scott finished dressing. She had strict instructions from Monica: Do not let him out of your sight. Her day had been remarkably unremarkable. By the time he and Monica returned from the Patrons Breakfast, she’d delivered his tux, rescheduled his conflicting appointments, and managed to squeeze in a forty-five minute nap. Monica was in the apartment less than five minutes but succeeded in dishing out two hour worth of orders.

With a quick smile, Scott went to his office to study, leaving Annalisa to fend for herself. According to the itinerary Joy printed out, Scott was in the clear until show time. “Scott Duty”, as the girls came to call anytime they were asked to wait on him, was a highly coveted task. Their function was to be around just in case Monica needed them and for the past month the job fell on Annalisa. When his nose wasn’t in a book or he was asleep, Scott got to know Annalisa. Their conversation normally revolved around school, Monica, and her boyfriend issues. She felt more comfortable talking to him about her problems than she did her girlfriends; she likened it to talking to an older brother—direct yet consoling. No wonder Monica was in love with him. He was easy to love.

Back at Cody’s Monica and Sharon sat going over each detail of the event line by line while Cody’s assistants made the final touches to their hair. Cody was coming to inspect their work and if it wasn’t perfect they’d (and everyone within a two mile radius) would hear about it.

“Grant asked me to marry him.” Sharon said casually as though she were commenting about the weather.

Monica’s eyes flew up to her. “What?! When? Wait…Huh?!”

Sharon closed her portfolio and clasped her hands so that the gleaming rock on her left hand twinkled. “He asked while we were in Savannah. We were planning to tell you guys tonight, we wanted the Fitz there but I couldn’t wait.”

“So you’re moving to New York,” her voice betrayed a hint of hurt.

“Not right away…I mean…if at all. You know how Grant is. It doesn’t matter where I am. Hell, he doesn’t live in New York fulltime.”

“Yes, but this is different. His business is based in New York. I’m sure his going to want you there…with him.”

There was a heavy silence. The assistants made a bash for the door. This was obviously one of those private conversations Cody warned them about. The door closed behind them.

“I thought you’d be happy for me,” Sharon bit her top lip.

“I am happy. I like Grant. You’re perfect together. It’s all so sudden. There’s so much to think about.” Monica said.

“Are you worried about the business?”

“No,” she laughed to keep from crying. “Why would I care about the business when I’m losing my best friend?”

“Don’t make me cry. Cody will kill me if I mess up his hard work.” Sharon giggled fanning her eyes. “It’s all happening so fast. I’m so nervous.”

“Don’t be nervous. Grant’s the one.” Monica confessed but inside stirred the impending pangs of loss. Her eye shot to the corner of the room long enough to collect herself. “Anyway, we have the wedding of the century to plan.” Her eyes lit with pride.

“Two wedding,” Sharon corrected her. “It’s only a matter of time for before Scott pops the question.”

Monica shrunk in her seat and closed her eyes. “Please. Let’s not talk about that.”

“How are things between you two?”

“Fine. Never better. His classes began a couple of weeks ago, he’s busy…”

Sharon listened to Monica drone on about work and plethora of other completely irrelevant topics. She knew her friend well; she was in tatters. It was neither the time nor place for an emotional breakdown. It would have to wait until later. There was always later.

Scott sat at his desk, leafing through page after page of statistics. It was an erringly still evening; not even a breeze stirred. The office was bathed in a mellow, warm light, and the temperature inside was perfect—perfect for sleeping. The time on his watch read quarter after four; it wouldn’t be long before Annalisa prompted him to shower and dress. Having Annalisa around wasn’t nearly was tiresome as having one of the other girls riding his back. At least Annalisa could carry a decent conversation without the excessive use of ‘like’ or weeping about her plight in life. Anna, as he called her, was different from the other girls. She was worship Monica from a distance rather than up her ass like the others. There were serious infidelity issues in her relationship with Anthony, her boyfriend of four years, but she wasn’t paralyzed by them.

Scott was concerned about Anthony’s increasing violence. His verbal abuse had escalated to shoving since he’d followed her from Macon. Scott told her it wouldn’t be long before she’d come to him with a black eye. He urged her to talk to Monica but she hadn’t from fear of falling out of Monica’s favor, her strict “No Drama” policy was well known. He promised he wouldn’t mention it to Monica but that didn’t stop him from trying to talk some sense into her. He’d seen it time and time again. The stories were all the same—only their names and locations of their charred bodies were different: Woman killed, burned by their jealous spouses. The thought of seeing Anna or anyone he knew meet with such a horrible demise sickened him.

“Scott,” Anna tapped on his office door. “Cody’s assistant is here to shave you. You’d better hop in the shower now.”

“Thanks,” he called through the door. Without an argument he rose. It was Monica’s night. Monica, his lovely Monica, he smiled proudly. The only woman he knew who influenced the lives of those around her with equal parts determination and selflessness. Sometimes she heart was too big for her chest—it was then the lines of exhaustion appeared, she bore too much. Yes, her moods could swing like a pendulum but only because, in her eyes, everyone’s success was tied to hers. And in many ways it was. Cara was a joint venture but it was Monica’s scheming which put them on the map. Sharon was Monica light: Less bitch, no less bite. Sharon was the one you never saw coming which was precisely why their partnership worked.

Scott was her leveler, the one who pulled her back from the edge, the one who slapped sense into her. He’d only agreed to have her assistant around to ease her persistent worry that she wasn’t home as much as she used to be. What did he care? He was in school or working. But it pacified Monica so he indulged her.

Plucked, plumed, and slightly pissed, Scott adjusted his cufflinks in the living rooms sliding glass doors. Grant called from the car waiting downstairs. It was game time.

“Monica and Sharon are already on site,” Anna handed him his top coat and pushed him towards the door. Their schedule was tight and she wasn’t going to be blamed for screwing things up. “Joy will be your escort. Be sure she seats you with the Fitz….”

“Aren’t you coming?” Scott asked finding her upper body strength disturbing.

“I’ll be there later. Now go before you get me in trouble.” She ordered and closed the door.

Yes, he’d been kicked out of his own apartment.

In the car, Grant leaned against the door with his eyes closed, and jacket folded neatly across his knee.

“You look like hell,” Scott removed his jacket and took the seat across from Grant. “What time did your plane land?”

“Thirty minutes ago.” Grant didn’t bother opening his eyes. “I was on calls the entire way over the Atlantic. I haven’t slept a wink in two days.”

“Welcome to my world.” Scott said. “Are you going to ask Sharon to marry you?”

“I already have. She accepted. We were going to tell everyone at the same time but…” he shrugged. “She told Monica earlier.”

Scott drew a deep breath. “Thanks for the warning. She’s gonna be a handful.”

The driver called Joy minutes before they pulled to the curb. She greeted them and ushered them inside. Guest having their photos taken by the event photographers flanked the left side of the cascading staircase while the paparazzi peons vied for a premium positions in the roped box to the right (the price to pay for not meeting Monica’s minimum donation requirement).

A rush of cool air hit them as they entered the ballroom. Taking in the dazzling splendor, Scott reluctantly admitted all the fuss had been worthwhile. Monica’s vision had come to fruition. The grand hall, some 150,000 sq feet of breathtaking beauty, was blanketed in white and soft creams. From the dinnerware to the chair dressing not one detail was overlooked. Silver ribbon bound stalks of white amaryllis and luminous votives set atop one hundred white silk draped circular tables. The palest of light sprung from under the tall creamy rose and magnolia topiaries flanking the room; their delicate scent sweetened the air. In the center of the room was Monica’s pride and joy: the dance floor lit from above with crystalline brilliance with a faint image of a blooming magnolia (Mr. Fitz favorite flower) shone down. Her attention to detail won over the room. None more so then Mr. Fitz himself, he was beside himself.

They were taken to greet the Fitz before being shown to their table. Within seconds they’d attracted the attention of every single woman in the room. Two handsome single men being escorted to the hosts table—either they were filthy rich or gay. The crowd seemed to be closing in. Mercifully, Monica and Sharon weren’t far behind them. The hounds backed off.

They looked magnificent. Monica wore a sleeveless black chiffon gown with a round neckline while Sharon wore a black satin halter gown with ruched bodice. Perfect.

Grant’s spirits certainly perked up. It would be an early night for those two. But not before the Fitz were done with them. Once again, they’d been summoned before the Grandmaster himself who then took up a microphone, went into a brief speech and announced Sharon and Grant’s engagement before a cheering audience. Just as Monica had hoped; the more connections they made, the better for business. But seeing her friends’ happiness was priceless. Sharon and Grant were head over heels in love.