A young waiter appeared, offering her another apple martini. She shooed him away with a glare, and the instructions that when she required assistance, she would summon him.
She was rummaging through her Prada bag searching for the cell phone that might indicate a reason for her friend’s tardiness, when the door to the café swung upon. A smile lit up her face as Barbara whirled into the room.
“Darling, what kept you?” She asked, as they imitated kissing each others cheek.
“Would you believe I was pulled over by a police officer for running a red light?”
Victoria did believe it. Barbara was famous for piling up tickets in the glove compartment of her classic Jaguar. “Oh my word! Are you okay? Do you need a valium?” She fussed.
Barbara waved it off. “No, no, I’m fine. I’m just a tad flustered. You would think with all the crime going on in this neighborhood that the police would have better things to do than harass an innocent woman.” She checked her make-up in a diamond-gilded compact mirror. Satisfied she looked around curiously. “Where’s my drink? I’ve been here for at least five minutes. Where’s out waiter?”
“He’s a flake. I’m telling you the service in this town is falling to pieces.” Victoria spotted the waiter and snapped her fingers repeatedly until he arrived. She berated him for not coming over to take her companion’s order immediately upon her arrival before ordering two more cocktails.
Barbara rubbed her temples, “With all this chaos, it’s a wonder one leaves the house anymore. Now tell me darling, what was so urgent that I had to cancel my procedure to be here?”
Victoria stifled a snort, knowing that the “procedure” was actually a few shots of Botox. The overwhelming excitement to share her gossip hindered her urge to tease or berate her friend about her choice of words, or her priorities. She leaned across the table, covered one side of her mouth with her hand in a clandestine manner, and whispered, “Schadenfreude”.
Barbara gasped, then composed herself incase this was a fraud. “Now wait just a moment, are we talking about a mere case of morose delectation, or real, true-to-form Schadenfreude?”
“Real, unadulterated, true-to-form schadenfreude my dear friend.” She replied with a delicious smile.
“Oooooh!” Barbara exclaimed, eyes wide and quietly clapping her hands together in giddiness. “Do the tells!”
Victoria took a long sip of her drink, increasing the tension and reveling in the excitement at the table. “Well,” she began. “You remember Amanda Keen from the sorority?”
She made a sour face and nodded. “Of course I do, that beast of a woman.”
That may have been the very first time anyone had referred to Amanda Keen as a beast. She was perfect. She was beautiful, kind and always at the top of their class. She organized and participated in more charities than all the graduates combined. Everybody loved her, including Matt Holtz, the young man who held both Barbara and Victoria’s hearts all through college. He dated all three of them, and probably a few more girls, during their four year scholastic careers. He married Amanda Keen.
“Well,” she continued, dinging her three carat Henry Winston against her glass in a slow rhythm. “I ran into Amanda about 6 months ago. Her Versace dress was practically buckling at the seams!”
“No!” she replied wide-eyed. “Amanda Keen has gotten… heavy? How delicious!” She raised her glass for a toast. “Schaden…”
“No, no, no,” Victoria cut her off, signaling for her to lower her glass. “That’s what I thought too, but no. She’s pregnant.”
“Oh.” Barbara pouted a little. It took a moment before her eyes lit up again. “But wait! Matt said he never wanted kids. He said children were sticky little parasites. He must be furious!” Glee erupted across her features and she reached for her glass again, hesitating when she realized that this announcement had not impressed her friend whatsoever.
“That’s what I thought as well. I approached the topic with Amanda and she explained that since Matt’s father had died, all he could talk about was having children. He even set up the appointments with the fertility clinic himself.” And when she said ‘himself’, she really meant his personal secretary took care of it.
“Hmmm, well good for them. It sounds like things are going swimmingly for the happy couple.” She guzzled back her cocktail and signaled the waiter to bring her another.
Victoria laughed and patted Barbara’s hand comfortingly. “Fear not darling, I brought you here for schadenfreude and schadenfreude you shall have.” She smiled with more than a hint of conspiracy. “I ran into Amanda again a few months later.”
Giddiness sneaked back into Barbara’s eyes. “And?”
Victoria took another long sip of her drink before continuing. “Well I had heard from Martha Downing that Amanda had been fired. You know how she took her law degree to practice with legal aid. So when I saw Amanda I offered her my deepest condolences. She became teary-eyed while she rubbed her growing belly. She loved her career ever-so-much and without the double income, there was no possible way they could stay in their condo without mommy and daddy’s help.”
“Fired? Destitute?” She repeated, her eyes getting wider and shinier with every word. “Dismissed and distraught!” She reached for her glass and began to shout the word again, “Shaden…”
“No, no, no, Barbie.” Victoria motioned, yet again, for her to cancel the toast, letting out an exasperated sigh. “Martha had it wrong. Amanda quit her job with legal aid because Matt insisted she be restful for the baby.”
“But the money?”
“Well it wasn’t much to begin with,” She paused, and then spoke quickly into her glass. “And Matt apparently got a promotion with an eight figure signing bonus.” She glanced up to see Barbara rubbing her temples again.
“Another round please.” Barbara hollered at whoever was in earshot.
Victoria decided it was time to put her friend out of her misery. “So,” she traced her martini with one finger. “I ran into Amanda again this morning.”
Barbara looked skeptical.
“I barely recognized her; she hasn’t lost an ounce of the baby weight.” She studied her friend’s expression carefully and continued in an innocent tone. “She was pushing a baby carriage and wearing some sort of generic brand sundress, except there was nothing sunny about it.” She paused for dramatic effect. “It was then that I looked into the baby carriage and saw…”
“Ladies, is there anything else I can get you?” The waiter interrupted.
She thought Barbara was going to smack the waiter. Furious herself, she snapped at him, “I do hate to repeat myself, should you interrupt us again, I’ll have you fired.”
The two women shook their heads in dismay as the waiter backed away with a clumsy apology.
“As I was saying, I looked into the carriage to see that the baby was…” she searched for the proper word, for she was nothing if not politically correct. “African American.”
“NO!” Barbara exclaimed a little too loudly. She covered her mouth at the sound.
“Yes!” she replied smacking the table for emphasis.
“But, who?” she asked, her eyes darting around as she fumbled for a decent guess. “The pool boy? The electrician? The man who sells those delicious pretzels on the corner of 59th and 96th?
“Better. The child was fathered by Matt’s boss!” This had gone on long enough; she was ready to celebrate and broke the news all at once. “Now, now, before you think this is going to twist around to her benefit, let me assure you it is not. Amanda Keen and Matt Holtz signed a prenuptial agreement; she will get nothing due to her indiscretions. Not that it would matter, as Matt is no longer employed. His boss, Amanda’s now ex-lover, refuses to leave his wife or acknowledge their lovechild. Sure Amanda could fight him in court with a paternity test, but he’s a partner in the largest family-court firm in the city. Even if her mommy and daddy do go to bat for her, and she is living back with mommy and daddy, he would bury them paperwork for years to come!” She finished, giving Barbara a moment to take it all in.
Barbara reached across the table covering Victoria’s hands with both of hers, all signs of her headache faded. “That darling, was the most wonderful representation of ‘happiness at the misery of others’ I have ever heard.” She said, beaming with gratitude.
They smiled smugly at each other, raised their glasses in unison and cackled as they toasted, “Schadenfreude!”