Velma has been invited to some sort of special event, tonight – ‘the great mystery,’ she calls it. It’s not just her – a fair few of the other passengers are on the same list and I’m not invited. Even old Mrs. Bellamy is going, and she smells of wee (well, she does!). I’m trying not to sulk but it’s not working very well – what have I done to deserve this? Velma, however, is all cat and cream, and would never miss tweaking a little jealousy, despite doing her best to keep a contrite face while I stomp around in my flats. There’s a special invitation card, with gold edging no less, and a leering mask embossed upon it – perhaps it’s some sort of masked ball – though no one has said as much. Velma wasn’t supposed to show me, but that’s Velma and rules for you. I’m sure it will be some decadent something-or-other, especially since no one will talk about it. Rumour is that there is going to be a film. Of what? No one knows.
Never one to appear less than 100% Coco Chanel, Velma got dressed up special – the little azure dress with its bead hem, her shell hat with the nouveau brooch, cigarette holder at the ready. ‘Don’t worry, darling,’ she said, picking up the ball of onyx on the sideboard, and scratching at the lighter in it, ‘there’s bound to be another.’ (Just not as good, is the attitude).
Well that’s all fine and well, but it’s rather annoying when one’s surname appears in the stupid half of the alphabet (Ms. ‘O’Sullivan’, anyone?) The who’s-who of attendance seems little more prosaic than a few pickings from A-M on the passenger list.
Pfft. I probably didn’t want to go anyway.
Queer, though, that Velma should mention something else: almost in passing, she said that there was a man called ‘Bailey’ going.
‘Not like that you silly puss,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t even mention the [word omitted – because, honestly…], but he came up to me, just after the Cabin Steward had delivered the invitation, and asked me who I was, trying to take a sly peek at the name on my card. Well, that was quickly pressed to my bosom – I’m an inveterate presser – but he asked who you were, too. Casual, my dear, but very keen to know, if you know what I mean?’
Velma is no retiring wall-flower, so she told him to go boil his head and more besides (oh, dear). But she did say there was something about him.
‘Not anything that would go badly in this ‘gathering’?’
‘Oh no, no, no,’ she laughed. ‘But he might have had the look of a private investigator, if he wasn’t such a disreputable cull of a fellow.’
I must have looked scandalised. She flicked me with her scarf – ‘oh darling, of course I would know a Dick when I see one, and he’s not one! I just didn’t like the cut of his jib. I think the poor, old, dear is looking for someone, that’s all.
Besides, it’s not me I’m worried about.
Now, time to go.’
I gave her a kiss on her ear for luck. She air-kissed me back, nodding her ruby lips and white cheeks in my general direction, and left me filling in this stupid, old diary.
On her way out, she almost knocked over the bashful rose – it still, I am loathe to report, resolutely refuses to blooming-well bloom!
What a flat tire.
Stupid, stupid old cruise.