Everything was a soggy mess.  The women were huddled on the paisley couch; the men were standing in the other, with drinks in hand, as if nothing had happened.  The mood was damp.  Dr. Morganmeim left ten minutes prior, angry and offended.  Miriam slowly cleaned up the table.  It hadn’t started out this way; Miriam had planned every single detail to ensure a night of success– the number of guests, of course; the dinner menu, accounting for allergies and preferences; the right blend of social stratifications and such.  The dinner party wasn’t small enough to be considered intimate, and it wasn’t too large in which someone could leave unnoticed.

Dr. Morganmeim moved to Arlington just four and a half months prior, bringing his liberal West Coast sensibilities with him.  Arlington was a small town, and most were curious about Dr. Morganmeim because he had no roots there.  Most of the town could trace their ancestry to the very first settlers, and were proud of it.  During morning coffee at Miriam’s, Mary Pepper told the girls that she heard Dr. Morganmeim was a descendent of the first governor of the colony, but she didn’t know why or how people thought this.  It spread like wildfire.

As a neighbor, it was Miriam’s duty to bring Dr. Morganmeim into the town, whether or not he had deep roots.  Of course, it would be nice if he had some clout, but nevertheless, he was a doctor.  Not a real one– but a head one– some people disagreed about his profession, but mental illness was not something talked about out loud, not even at the morning coffees or dinner parties.

However– one thing that was discussed at much length, without any clarifying details, which lead to more discussion and speculation– was his marital status.  He seemed to be single with no children.  Yet he had a ring on his finger.  Well, not really.  He had a pale band that suggested a ring was missing.  Mrs. Pallington noticed it in church, during the hymns.  Very religious, she would lower her head while singing and she could not keep her eyes away from the tan hand with the glowing, white band.  She told this story at morning coffee, and repented that her mind strayed from God that Sunday morning.

The gossip was enough.  Miriam wanted to move the topics to the usual:  upcoming debutantes and parties, the town fundraiser charity dinner, and the Christmas pageant.  She planned a dinner and invited all the right people.  Miriam had a reputation for planning perfect parties, until the night she invited Dr. Morganmeim and until the moment when her husband shot the questions.


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