Priscilla’s director at work, Brenda McStevens, was a frightening woman. She was strict and forceful and aggressively ambitious. She was also bizarrely fond of Priscilla, to the point that she wanted Priscilla to date her son Devon. Priscilla, however, didn’t want to date Devon at all for about eighty different reasons. For one thing, they had gone to the same elementary school growing up, had even been in the same class for a few grades, and Priscilla had seen him lick his bearded iguana during his grade six speech. There was a whole host of other reasons she didn’t want to date Devon though, such as his tattoo of Evanescence lyrics, the fact that he used to own a bearded iguana, and how he always smelled faintly of onions.
Every year, in the middle of January, Priscilla was sent to a gala with her director Brenda in support of a children’s foundation their department supported. It was a great foundation, almost always backed by the weirdest charity events. The previous year, the entertainment at the gala had been a troupe of unruly and mostly drunk mimes. The year before that, it had been a jazz xylophonist. This year, it was some sort of expressionist dance piece. Brenda kept dropping very unsubtle hints to Priscilla about how Devon would be there and wouldn’t it be nice to see him? Priscilla, however, didn’t think it would be nice to see him so she harassed Oscar into being her date for the evening.
“You just have to pretend to be my boyfriend for, like, five hours,” she told him on the subway three mornings before the date of the gala. She had told Brenda she would be bringing a plus one with her so she was really banking on him saying yes. If he was unavailable, her next plan was to coax Ramsay into going with her, which seemed much, much more difficult. After that, she’d pretty much have to turn to men on the street.
“No,” Oscar returned bluntly for about the third time.
“Why not?” Priscilla demanded, whining just a little to really drive home her point.
“Because our lives are not the plot line to a Hilary Duff movie,” Oscar replied matter-of-factly. Beside him, Ramsay snorted.
“Please?” She begged. “You don’t understand. My boss is trying to set me up with her son, who is ugly and unlovable.”
Bernie barked out a laugh.
“Harsh,” Oscar returned.
“Accurate,” Bernie corrected.
“Please?” Priscilla begged again. Ramsay had given up on the conversation entirely at this point and was reading while he stood on the subway, instantly becoming everybody’s least favourite passenger. Oscar looked over to him, as if searching for help, found nothing, and then sighed deeply.
“Fine,” he relented and Priscilla grinned at him in what she hoped was a charming manner. It was more likely faintly deranged and terrifying.
The night of the gala, Priscilla met Oscar at his apartment and they took the subway together. They were dressed way too nicely for the subway or public transportation in general. Priscilla was wearing a black velvet dress with a high neck and a low back. It had long sleeves and it went to her mid-calf. She was also wearing four-inch black heels that she’d borrowed from Sybil’s extensive and impressive collection of amazonian heels. Oscar was wearing a three-piece navy blue suit that he said he’d bought for his ex-girlfriend’s sister’s wedding, which was a bit of a sad note. He bounced back quickly however, adding a story about getting stupidly drunk during the reception and hurling out a cab window on the way to family brunch the next morning.
“I cannot believe I let you talk me into this,” Oscar grumbled as they entered the hall where the gala was being held. It was an immense ballroom at a convention centre. There was a stage set up against one wall for the dance performance later in the evening.
“I can’t either to be honest,” Priscilla replied, scanning the crowd for her boss Brenda and Brenda’s son Devon.
“I had to put on a tie,” Oscar muttered bitterly for approximately the eighth time that evening already. They’d only been together for about thirty minutes thus far.
“You feel very strongly about ties,” Priscilla observed, catching sight of Brenda and Devon approaching from across the ballroom.
“I fucking hate ties,” Oscar growled, tugging on his grey one. Priscilla slapped his hand away.
“Here they come,” she hissed, nodding discretely to Brenda, who was wearing a floor-lenth, silvery-blue evening gown and matching cropped jacket. Devon was trailing behind her with a horrible goatee. He was wearing cargo pants and white running shoes with a white collared shirt and a suit jacket. The shirt wasn’t even tucked in. Oscar turned to her in abject rage.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” He demanded. “I put on a goddamn tie for this and your boss’ shitting son is wearing fucking cargo pants?”
“Yeah, but you look nice and he looks like a forty year old divorced dad of three who works in IT and has nothing left to live for,” Priscilla returned swiftly. It didn’t seem to do much to appease Oscar, but he stopped grumbling at her under his breath when Brenda and Devon reached them nonetheless. Priscilla introduced Brenda to Oscar and then Brenda took over the conversation, going on and on about the foundation and the various people attending and, finally, everything Devon had been up to since Priscilla had seen him last. Frankly, it wasn’t all that much. Apparently he had bought himself a pet parrot, which was instantly horrifying to Priscilla. Birds freaked her out.
When Priscilla and Oscar finally broke free unde the pretense of checking out the silent auction table and getting drinks, they bolted and didn’t look back. Devon had spent a very long time talking about his parrot and what kind of seed he fed her. Brenda nodded encouragingly the entire time. She seemed to be under the impression that Devon’s bird knowledge was charming and would inevitably lead to a never-ending and undeniable love connection between he and Priscilla.
“Jesus, I thought you were being grievously cruel when you branded that idiot unlovable, but you’re amazingly not wrong,” Oscar remarked as they beelined for the nearest waiter holding a tray of full wine glasses. “I don’t even think his mother loves him.”
“Owning birds is so creepy,” Priscilla replied. “It’s for sure creepier than owning too many cats. Cats may eat you after you die, but a bird will give you mouldy lungs. And that’s a real thing. Look it up.”
“No,” Oscar retorted immediately. “I don’t look things up anymore. Not since Miles told me to google camel spiders.”
They managed to dodge Brenda and Devon until they were seated for dinner. They had bid very lowly on a few items at the silent auction to say that they had tried to contribute. All of their bids were surpassed. It was fine because Priscilla didn’t know what she’d have done with a full set of golf clubs anyway. Dinner was chicken and undoubtedly the best part of the evening. There were mini cheesecakes for dessert, which were also amazing. Oscar ate his own, plus Brenda’s because she was watching her weight, and then stole another one from a neighbouring table when the other person was in the bathroom. Priscilla would’ve scolded him for it if he hadn’t been seated next to Devon at dinner, thereby enduring an astoundingly long monologue about the proper way to raise various reptiles. It was a passion of Devon’s that Oscar most definitely did not share, but he managed to keep it to himself. He was doing really well.
And then the entertainment began.
“Interpretative dance?!” He hissed to Priscilla as the chair of the foundation announced the performance for the evening. “You told me this was going to be a play about boxing!”
That was exactly what Priscilla had told him. She wasn’t even ashamed of it.
“Well, would you have come if I’d told you it was actually adults flailing about on a dim stage with scarves?” She returned as the dancers took their places on stage.
“Of fucking course not!” Oscar hissed back.
“There you go then,” Priscilla said, feeling her point had been sufficiently proved. Oscar glared at the side of her face for a while, but she pointedly ignored him. She was partially convinced that it wasn’t actually going to be as bad as Oscar was expecting. Priscilla had grown up dancing. She’d been to many, many dance competitions in her lifetime. She’d seen a lot of spectacularly bad dance performances. She had once watched an eight year old do a tap solo on a raised stage in a hotel ballroom. The kid hadn’t moved more than a metre away from her starting position, she barely moved her arms, and the seating was just folding chairs set in rows and not raised auditorium seating. Priscilla hadn’t been able to see the kid’s feet move. She essentially spent two and a half minutes watching an eight year old in rouge and false eyelashes stand still and smile like a maniac. She assumed it couldn’t be any worse than that. She was wrong.
This was far worse than that. Even Priscilla had to admit that it was not good dancing. It was hard to watch. It was harder for Oscar.
“Fucking hell,” he groaned about ten minutes in. “They look like blind people stumbling around unguided.”
As far as comparisons went, it wasn’t inaccurate.
“Well, except for the one with the blue scarf,” he added. “She looks like she really needs to take a shit, but might have forgotten how.”
Again, another startlingly accurate analogy.
When the performance ended, they pretended to be upset about not getting anything from the silent auction, said goodnight to Brenda and Devon, who was licking the wrapper of his mini cheesecake, and then made a desperate bid for freedom into the night’s air.
“Never again,” Oscar said firmly on the subway on the way home.
“Fair enough,” Priscilla nodded.