“Where is Ramona?” Bradley asked, filling the crystal tumbler with a good splash of Crown Royal. He turned and considered his wife Naomi. He had married lucky. But when you were born into money and you used that money to make even more money; well then, if you didn’t marry lucky, you had only your bad judgment to blame.
Bradley Magnuson of Magnuson Transport Enterprise had not been lacking in good judgement. Naomi was eight years younger than Bradley and possessed the natural attributes that were required to read off the nightly news in front of millions of news-numbed citizens.
What was real news back then had consisted of what she was going to wear in front of the cameras, if she had decided to change up her hairstyle or if she was going to get in another heated argument with the lead newsman, Curtis Winslow.
She did that for three more years after meeting Bradley. It was soon after her first daughter was born that Naomi discovered she didn’t need to do news casting any longer. Being treated as nothing more than a sweet face and figure commodity by the network had eventually thinned the glamor of it. Naomi had a brain and Bradley had put upon her the respect and responsibility that acknowledged her untapped capabilities. Raising daughters and running the Magnuson Mansion provided all the contentment she needed.
“Ramona?” Bradley asked again.
“She is running late,” Naomi said, setting a platter on the dining room table. “This will hold folks until my turkey is done. Not long. Stephanie and Armando will be here shortly.”
“Stephanie is here now,” Stephanie announced, swinging into the dining room with a ruffled flurry of her light lavender colored dress, planting a kiss on her mother’s cheek and her father’s forehead with the same speed and agility of a hummingbird.
“Goodness Stephanie! You do know how to make an entrance! You are not drinking those awful energy drinks, are you?”
“No Mom,” Stephanie said with her ‘certainly not’ voice.
“And Armando is making his entrance as well, but I shall not attempt to whirl about like a dizzy bird,” Armando said, stepping further into the dining room.
“Armando is that a new suit? I like it, very sharp,” Naomi said.
“I got tired of dark navy; I thought a light gray would be nice. And my tie matches the color of Stephanie’s dress.”
“This was to be a casual dinner party; not formal,” Bradley said, swirling his drink slightly. He looked at Stephanie’s boyfriend with approval though. Going above and beyond was a good thing. Being an up-and-coming architect was a good thing too.
If the income trajectory of the prospective suitors for the Magnuson girls looked unlikely to cross the one-hundred thousand dollar a year mark, then they were disqualified. Naomi and Bradley taught their girls how to measure these things.
They were also taught that this requirement was to be strictly adhered to; if the girls did not dismiss the men that fell short of this mark; Naomi and Bradley were exceptionally creative in making it happen. The Magnuson family was destined to always step forward in their economic advantages, not fall back.
“That is casual for Armando and I was not a ‘dizzy bird.’ I was a graceful gazelle. Where is Jennifer?” Stephanie asked, pushing back a wave of her long, honey-blonde hair.
“Upstairs. Making herself pretty for Frederick. He will be here shortly,” Naomi said, “Stephanie, you can help me in the kitchen.”
“Pop-sticks mother,” Stephanie said with genuine light disgust, “Everything is supposed to be ready when I arrive. If I get one drop of grease upon this dress, I will screech.”
“Jennifer doesn’t have to make herself pretty; she already is pretty. Ramona, Naomi? She is the one still living with us. She should be the one helping in the kitchen. No screeching; I don’t want any screeching,” Bradley said.
“Ramona is out. She left over an hour ago. She said she had to pick something up for tonight,” Jennifer said, slipping past Armando.
“Whoa! Look at that dress!” Stephanie said, surveying her younger sister as she entered the room.
“Isn’t it a thing of splendor?” Jennifer said, performing a slow twirl in the center of the dining room.
“The neckline is too low. Naomi, her neckline is too low,” Bradley said, watching his middle daughter complete her graceful three-hundred-sixty-degree turn. He took a drink from the crystal tumbler in his hands. These girls required constant watching.
“Well, it is a festive evening,” Naomi said, not helping.
“Daddy, I don’t live here anymore,” Jennifer objected.
“And what in the blue blazes does that have to do with the drop in your neckline?” Bradley demanded.
“Since I am out on my own, I get to decide, and this is what men like to see,” Jennifer said demurely.
“You’re out on your own and still living on my dollar. I get to say. I say men don’t need to see that much,” Bradley said.
“It is a festive evening,” Stephanie said, mimicking her mother. Both girls broke out in laughter, touching one another affectionately. Bradley took another drink, their laughter and playful nature signaled that the way ahead was closed off to any adjustments tonight. He sighed inwardly; his girls required constant watching and now that they had started their own lives, that was about all he got to do, was watch. Watch and not make his adjustments; not an easy change for him to accept.
Jennifer and Stephanie helped Naomi in the kitchen, no one got grease or sauce on their new dresses, so there was no screeching. Frederick showed up and visited Jennifer in the kitchen but was kicked out by Naomi. Dinner preparations were accomplished, some of Bradley’s business companions began to arrive with their dolled-up wives. Bradley had proclaimed a casual pre-Christmas dinner party, but it was turning out to be a pretty festive evening. Bradley called Jennifer over to Naomi and himself as people gabbed and milled about the large living room.
“Jennifer, tell me again. What exactly did Ramona say she had to do tonight?”
“Ramona said that she had to go and pick something up for tonight,” Jennifer said with a small shrug.
“Perhaps an errand of some sort,” Frederick added, holding on to Jennifer.
“I don’t know what that could be,” Naomi said. “I did all the grocery shopping and I don’t believe I left out anything that was needed. I certainly did not make any special requests. The culinary students have followed my instructions to the letter. I don’t want to over-cook the turkey. We can wait a little longer.”
“Well I hope Ramona is using good judgment in picking up what she thinks is so needed,” Bradley said, feeling a foul mood starting to brew up inside of him.
Right at that moment Ramona was getting ready to pick up what she had decided was needed. There was a line of homeless men waiting outside of West End Ministries, each one hoping for a chance at one of the available beds. Ramona pulled up in her silver Mercedes E400 coupe and checked out the line of raggedy men. She would pick out the worst of the worst and take him home to daddy. Ramona was here to pick out her next boyfriend.