I strutted through the swanky party in clothes I didn't like and acting like any other snobby guest attending the gala-of course, these cocktails were for a fundraiser. Not at all just an excuse to flaunt how much money the attendees possessed and how "refined" their taste in everything was. That would be scandalous. Absolutely rude!

I shook myself from my thoughts, wiping away my scowl and replacing it with a cultured smile-not too much teeth, but not too much lip. I also pushed my other kind of lip aside. I would make no friends by insulting their wasteful practices.

Driven as I am, I'm still easily distracted by my own thoughts, so it wasn't much of a surprise to me when I smacked into someone before I could completely break my trance. My forehead collided into the man's collarbone with an embarrassingly loud smack!

Horrified, I immediately peeled my skin free. But before I could apologize, I recognized the deep chuckle that my humiliation had sparked in the stranger. "You all right there?" asked Will, and I could see the ruinous moment when he recognized me. "Kara?"

The fact that it was spoken as a question gave me the tiniest ember of hope that I might escape his notice. "Who's Kara?" My lips twisted into a sneer as I observed that he was dreadfully under-dressed. "Shouldn't you be in the kitchens, or something?" I did my best to sound disinterested, posh, and disdainful as I shoved down my anguish at speaking to him this way.

Anger flickered in his eyes but it didn't reveal itself anywhere else. "My name is Benjamin Clemonte and I am right where I need to be." Will/Benjamin paused, gauging my reaction. "The question is: who, in fact, are you?" Will's tone was even, but his eyes challenged me to convince him that I wasn't the Kara who was his grifting partner who aided him in swindling the rich at parties not unlike this one.

I smiled in a slightly amused way then, confidently telling him the truth, even if he thought it to be a lie. "I'm Elizabeth Irvine, and I'm here with my father, Charles Irvine II, illustrious businessman." With that, I glided away on torturous three-inch heels to find my dad and rob him blind. You know, because reasons.

Unfortunately, "Benjamin" wasn't persuaded by my name-dropping and painful truth-telling. He pursued me through crowded ballroom and discreetly dodged round tables positioned in the banquet hall until I halted by one table containing little cream cards with names written in curling script. I sat in the chair labeled Elizabeth Arabelle Irvine, pointedly laying my hand on the forearm of the clean-cut man next to me.

The aging man turned to face me, surprised by the tender gesture. He appeared to be in his late fifties, but he maintained a handsome look. Years had passed, but I recognized him. His smile was kind when I said, "Hello, Dad."

Charles Irvine II gently tucked a stray hair behind my ear, just like he did when I was little. "My Arabelle."

This time, my grin was real as I felt, without seeing, Will stiffen in surprise, exactly like I knew he would. I changed my stance to match that of the eleven-year-old girl who bounced with joy as she greeted Daddy when he came back home after a business trip-the girl I once was. Let him think I still am that girl, I thought, let him think his twenty-two year old daughter hasn't changed in the past decade.

I shifted my chair closer to his. "So, what's the fundraiser for?"

His easy smile became mischievous. "I can't recall. I'm only here to-"

I finished his sentence. "out-donate Mark Rockefeller. It's good to see you haven't changed." We shared a light laugh, but Irvine nervously glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was eavesdropping. In a flash of irritation, I snapped, "Do you have somewhere to be?"

My father's smile was faker than plastic surgery. "No, not at all."

I strained to sound teasing. "You sure?"

He ducked his head as if to avoid my scrutiny. "Actually, I might go chat with a few potential investors. But only if that's okay with you!"

I gritted my teeth together. "Go ahead. It's fine!" He was gone before I finished my sentence. Yeah, go ahead. No need to spend more than a minute with the daughter you haven't seen in a decade! After all, time is money, and I of all people should know you have screwed-up priorities! I sighed and flagged down a waiter with a platter of cocktails, taking a long sip of the beverage.

It really wasn't that big a deal. After all, I was here to rob him, for goodness' sake! I set down my glass, watching the last drops in the basin. That went disappeared far too quickly.

"So, Elizabeth, is this seat taken?" I stiffened, turning to face Will. My first name sounded like a mockery on his lips.

I made no attempt at manners. "Actually, yes. We have assigned seating, in case you haven't noticed. I wouldn't expect you to have a seat anyway, let alone an invitation!"

Will looked disappointed as he sat in the chair next to me, completely ignoring my statement. "So, the prodigal daughter has returned to her father. Or, at least his wallet."

He was so bitter, so sad, that I nearly told him my plan right there. But I didn't. If I did, I would be back to my old life with him before I had even left it. This would be my last score, and then I could finally live out my days in peace as a nobody, just a stranger on the street. This would be the last heist, for good, and Will wasn't going to screw that up for me. So I spoke my last snub, vowing to forget Will, to remember that this was Benjamin. "You're in my dad's seat."

August 21, 2020 20:16

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Meggy House
15:41 Jan 28, 2021

Oh, wow, this was so clever! Reading this was like I was on a carousal, with all sorts of hiding and reveals. You wrote it in a beautiful cyclical style and your characters were wonderfully developed. I'm surprised this doesn't have more comments!


Kate Ashton
01:41 Jan 29, 2021

Thank you! I'd almost forgotten I wrote this one! I realized after I published it that I'd used the name "Will" in my previous short story too, and it left me rather frustrated for not noticing. I appreciate your kind words, especially since I look up to you as a writer!


Meggy House
20:14 Jan 29, 2021

That is so kind of you to say! I don't think I've ever been looked up to, so I really appreciate your lovely comment!


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