Keeping Up with the Joneses (Part One)

As Mrs. OBL prepares for her daughter’s birthday party, I am reminded that way back in 2005, my readers and I used to write collaborative stories on my blog.  I am reminded that we wrote one about an eleven year-old girl’s birthday party, called Keeping Up with the Joneses.  And I am reminded that there are worse things at a children’s party than a rainstorm.  The story, at more than 10,000 words is much too long for a single post, but here’s the first part of the story.  Perhaps I will post the entire story, bit by bit over the course of the day.  Perhaps it will take Mrs. OBL’s mind off her impending disaster.  Perhaps  she should uncork another bottle of wine.

Part 1 – by Doahsdeer

“Stop it already.  You’re starting to sound like your mother.”  Richard knew better than to give voice to this thought, but he liked to live dangerously, in a middle-aged suburban, couch dweller, sort of way.

Nan stared daggers at her husband.  “Don’t you even think it.”

Richard forced himself to laugh.  “I’m sorry sweetheart.  It’s just, you know, it’s just a birthday party.”

Just a birthday party.  Just a birthday party!  “Have you lost your mind Richard?  Just a birthday party!  Do you realize how important it is to live up to…”  She paused to consider the enormity of the event.  “When I was her age, a birthday party was just the neighborhood kids, an ice cream cake and… omigod, you’re right, I sound just like Mom.”

It was their daughter’s eleventh birthday and every minute of the party had been planned for (and paid for).  Eleven eleven year-olds.  Enough to make Nan wonder whether it was too late not to have kids.

A make-over party, for Alyssa and ten of her closest girlfriends.    With outfits for the girls to try on.  New hairstyles.  Make-up tips.  My god, Nan thought, they’re only eleven.  What am I doing?

But Nan knew exactly what she was doing.  She was keeping up with the Joneses.  More specifically, she was keeping up with Jocelyn Jones, her across-the-street neighbor and mother of Pearl, Alyssa’s best friend in the whole wide world.

Alyssa and Pearl were inseparable, so Nan did her best to tolerate Jocelyn, who was insufferable.  Nothing was good enough for Jocelyn.  Certainly nothing having anything to do with Nan Walker.

Nan was determined that Alyssa’s birthday would be perfect.  Still, she had no doubt that Jocelyn would find fault.  What had possessed her to agree to a make-over party?  And then, not to hire Jocelyn’s salon?  Nan was asking for trouble.  And so she agonized over every detail.

As each girl arrived, each Mom would spend a few minutes chatting with Nan, her close friends, Connie and Deb, volunteering to stay and help with the party, the others confirming a pick-up time and making their exit.  But when Jocelyn arrived with Pearl, she made no offer to help.  Neither did she make any effort to leave.  Instead, Jocelyn snooped around the house, appearing intermittently with negative comments about everything, the food, the music, the closet space, the air conditioning.

Nan agonized over every detail, and, in truth, every detail was perfect.  Nan had spent hours turning the guest room into a boutique-style changing room.  The pre-teen boutique had shown up right on time with a van load of outfits for the girls to try on.  The make-up artists set up shop in Nan’s sewing room.  The hairstylists arrived late, but they set up quickly in the master bedroom, waiting patiently for the master bath to become available so that they could finish setting up.

The girls were running around the house giggling, modeling their outfits and thumbing through fashion magazines.  The hairstylists grew impatient waiting for access to the master bath to begin cutting.  One of the stylists, a girl barely older than the partiers, sought out Nan sipping coffee in the kitchen.  “Someone must of locked the door by mistake,” the girl offered by way of explanation.

Nan was momentarily put off by this minor imperfection in her party planning, but Richard took the skeleton key from above the door and popped the lock.  Nan laughed with relief.  Even the minor party problems were perfectly resolved.  Everything about Alyssa’s party was perfect.

Everything that is, except for Jocelyn’s dead body slumped over the sink.

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