Her husband Elrod settled his large frame into the seat next to hers. He didn't appear to be the least bit nervous. Not like Leda. Her nerves probably looked like a downed power line, all jumpy and sparky.
The membership committee entered the room and positioned themselves in a neat semi-circle facing Leda and Elrod. An inquisition committee couldn't have emitted more threatening vibes. The primmest of the prim spat her question at Elrod. "So, Mr.…" She looked down at something in her hand. "…Smelly, how long have you lived in our fair community?"
Leda cringed. Elrod's family name always produced a snigger from the less refined. She hated the name when it was mispronounced. "Smel-lay," Leda corrected the woman. Elrod jabbed her for her effort.
"Leda has lived here all her life, but I've only been here about four years."
"Really? I don't remember you, Mrs. Smel-lay." Her over-exaggerated pronunciation could have sawed a two-by-four in half.
"Thirty-six years," she beamed.
The Prim One uttered her thinly veiled accusation. "I don't recall having seen you before today."
"Surely, you have. I've lived in Worthington all my life." Leda squinted at the blurry speaking blob. The voice sounded familiar, but she couldn't see the woman without her glasses. Elrod had urged her to leave them in her pocket, as he had explained to her that appearances meant everything.
"Oh, I see," the woman simpered.
But Leda didn't think that she did.
The interrogation continued. "How many children do you have?"
She relaxed. This was a comfortable topic for her.
"Two." Elrod answered for them. This was their agreement before the meeting. He would be their mouthpiece.
"Oakridge or Sheldon?"
Eldon shifted in his seat. Six pairs of penetrating eyes stabbed her husband. A crime show would have called it multiple stab wounds. He seemed speechless as the blood drained from his face. It was gross to behold.
The quiet was embarrassing. Leda jumped into the fray. Feigned ignorance might be the best offense. "Pardon?"
The clocked ticked louder than a beating kettledrum as the committee waited for her reply. She knew they knew her children did not attend one of the elite private schools in town.
Leda exhaled a barrage of words. "J.S. Templeton. They're both honor students. They're in the gifted program. Heather is in All City Choir, and Jordan is on the football team…"
"I see," the woman interrupted her.
Leda bit back the rest of her babbling. Did the woman look as pointy as she sounded? She scrounged in her pocket for her glasses. The entire committee stood just as she found the wayward spectacles. The Prim One issued their verdict without discussion. "We appreciate your interest in Pine Valley. But unfortunately, we have no openings available for new membership at this time…"
Elrod rose from his seat. "That's not what Jim told me…"
Leda's eyes focused and settled on the Prim One. "Oh, it's you." She beamed. This might turn out right after all. "How was your trip to the beach?"
Fire flamed up the woman's neck. "My trip to the beach?" she stammered.
"It was such a wonderful week for a beach vacation. The weather was perfect. It's a shame we didn't get acquainted while we were there. But maybe we can now. Your husband is such a nice man…"
Another member of the committee found his voice. "Alice, what is this woman talking about?' A vein popped in the man's cheek as he hurled his question at her.
"Myrtle Beach. Last week. She and her husband make such a handsome couple. You know him, right? He's such a nice man."
"Mrs. Smelly," the man sputtered. Her teeth ground to stifle another correction. The man continued, his anger mounting by the microsecond. "I am her husband."
Leda's eyes grew three times their normal size. "Oops."
The Prim One lost her aplomb. "She's lying. I swear it."
Leda lost her cool. She'd had enough of these people and their condescension. "Why would I lie about that? Our money spends just as well at Myrtle Beach as yours does."
Alice's husband left the room, leaving fiery patches of anger in his wake. The remaining members of the committee turned inquisitive eyes on Alice. She trembled so much that only snatches of incoherency tumbled from her lips.
One of the other women addressed Leda and Elrod. "We apologize for the inconvenience, but I think perhaps we should reschedule this interview for another time." She turned to Alice. "The committee has some things it needs to discuss."
Leda and Elrod left with their dignity intact.
The following week a formal invitation arrived in the mail. Leda May and Elrod Smelè declined the Pine Valley Country Club's gracious offer of free membership, preferring the companionship of the Mountain Ridge Square Dance Association.
(c) Denise Moncrief 2010