This was not the usual dinner party
| The Party|
I don't recall how it all started. Could have been when Janet met me downtown and we nearly missed our bus ride home.
We had spent too long at the mall and everything was closing shop. A light mist was falling as we ran to the bus stop to catch the last bus home.
Janet's short, dark-brown hair glistened as it caught the moisture from the mist. It was always amazing how we both still had no grey streaks in our hair even at sixty-two. Our age hadn't caught up with us and shopping until the stores closed was a shared pleasure.
It was late - later than we usually shop on a Saturday. The sun had long left the sky and it was dark and colder than usual for a September evening in New York. That was actually not so strange. But, somehow, something didn't seem right.
Something was odd that evening. It might have been after we met that strange lady on the bus going home.
She was friendly enough but there was an edge of chill in her voice. Some sort of iciness in how she said things.
"I am going to a dinner party," she said confidentially as if we were already part of her acquaintances. "I don't really like going alone."
It was strange how we got sucked into going. I don't even remember how it happened. It wasn't that she had actually asked us. But then maybe she did and I just can't remember it that way.
Janet and I found ourselves trudging along a dark street in some residential section of the city outskirts, following a lady by the name of Ginn. It was way past our personal curfews, but we could not find a way to explain that to Ginn.
We finally ended up in a brightly colored house at the back of a street with a sign stating it was a dead end.
"Come on in." The hostess was warm and friendly. Too friendly, it seemed, for someone we had never met. "The dinner is about to start."
The food was exotic but delicious. But that wasn’t what caught our attention. It was the conversation that seemed a bit odd.
“Uncle Bill left for China, today.” The girl at the end of the table seemed intent on letting everyone know.
“He was such an odd fellow,” chimed in another next to her. The rest nodded in agreement.
And away went the rest of the evening. All about Bill and how he was this and that. I glanced over at Janet. Were we supposed to know this Bill?
She whispered, “Could it be your uncle William?”
“He’s not in China,” I whispered back.
Then the room went quiet for a few minutes while desert was passed out by a young girl dressed in a simple pinstriped dress.
‘She could pass for a servant girl,’ I thought.
Once the desert was set in front of the final guest, the girl curtsied and backed out of the room quickly.
‘Strange,’ I thought to myself. 'She looks a little like myself when I was a lot younger.'
It was then that I took a closer look at the other party guests. There were many that looked like people I had known when I was only twenty-three. They should have been a lot older by now and somehow time seemed a bit strange. Like it had wrapped around itself.
I looked over at Janet. She was toying with her lemon pie, deep in thought. Did she see what I saw? Or was it different in her eyes? Something was not quite right at this dinner party.
Suddenly, she stood up and announced that she had a bus to catch and she thanked everyone for the lovely party and dinner. Quickly, she headed for the door and I jumped up to follow her out. I managed to mumble a courteous ‘thank you’ and left the house behind her.
Once outside and down the block far from the house, I grabbed her arm.
“What’s the hurry?” I asked.
“Did you notice the other guests?" she said. "They all looked like younger versions of my family and friends.”
I stared at her for a moment. “Like your family and friends? They looked like mine!”
“Time was warped,” she gasped as she hailed a cab driving by.
It was then that I noticed.
“Janet,” I said, “your hair has white streaks in it.”
She stared at me. “Yours, too,” she whispered.