“Well, can I get away with this Mom?”
“I guess you can,” Jan said as she looked at Katy, in her v-necked sweater, jeans and knee length patent boots, “given what I’m wearing.”
“True,” Katy said as she looked at her mother’s satin blouse and pants, “right, to the make-up...”
As she made her way back to the dorm, she stood and looked at Holly as she slipped on her white ankle boots.
"Oh whoa Holly!" Katy exclaimed at the skin-tight leather trousers the blonde had somehow eased herself into. "Those are simply incredible."
"Tommy hates them,” Holly said as she stood up, “because every other man in a room looks at me when I wear them."
"I can see why." Katy shook her head. "As lenient as Mom can be in allowing me to chose what I wear, I think she'd draw the line at those."
"She probably would," Holly agreed, "but maybe next winter?"
"We can but hope," Katy giggled.
"Well I thought I was daring," Letty said as she came in, wearing a halter topped jump suit with a plunging neckline, "but compared to you Hol I look pretty tame."
"At least you have the height Letty to wear something like that, on me with my lack of inches it would look ridiculous."
"And so the eternal fashion debate goes on." Abby giggled from where she was sitting doing her makeup, "is it better to be tall and leggy, or cute and nubile?"
"Okay who kidnapped the real Sands?" Katy gasped as her friend entered the powder room in a tight midnight blue mini-dress.
"Oh no, I knew I'd look ridiculous!"
"Err No! That is not the word I'd use." Katy guided the younger girl in front of a mirror. "I think beautiful is far more appropriate."
"I guess I do look kinda okay." Sandy tilted her head to one side.
"More then just kinda," Holly hugged her, "now you must let me do your makeup for you."
"So what do respectable women our age wear for a night out in Stowe?" Denice asked Barbara as they sat in their room.
"Anything they like."
"Meaning just what Barb?"
"Just what I said,” Barbara aid as she looked round, “anything you like. The only rule should be that you like yourself in it."
"So what are you wearing?"
"I have a forest green cocktail dress, that comes to just above my knee, shows a little cleavage, but which isn't too tight that I can't dance in it if I get the chance."
"Now if I was you Denice I'd wear those tight black jeans of yours, and borrow this from me." Barbara held up a gold sequined boob tube. "This was in the Fashion Kollektiv collection, they gave it to Jeans, who passed it on to me, and now I think it would look best on you."
"That is lovely...but," Denice sighed, "isn't it a bit young and daring for me?"
"You won't know till you try it on. Besides, why should the youngsters have all the fun?"
“You make a good point,” Denice said as she pulled the top on and looked at herself. “Not bad at all for a single mom.”
“Neither of us are – even if one of us has a supermodel for a daughter, and the other a genius,” Barbara said with a smile. “Right – let’s go join the others. If I remember correctly, the cocktails in this place are to die for...”
“You girls got a few minutes,” Juliette said as she and Diana came into Sandy and Heather’s room.
“Sure – we want to talk to you anyway,” Sandy said, “along with the other girls about the job. We think it can be done, but we need to go back to basics and keep it to the seven of us – keep it simple and quick.”
“I agree,” Juliette said, “so tomorrow, all seven of us are going to ski together, apart from the others. One of your cross country trails Heather.”
“I know a little place we can talk quietly,” Heather said, “so let’s table it until then.”
"Okay even I know that is a Mary Quant original Ama." Pepsi looked at the scarlet and dove grey hooped mini-dress Ama wore. "Was that another of your finds at the markets?"
"No this one Mom bought me, and it is kind of my favorite because of that."
"Well it is divine."
"I think you have to be as thin as me to wear it."
"Oh dear yes on most of us those hoops would make us look 10 pounds heavier."
“Well, I like your outfit,” Ama said as Pepsi stood up, smoothing down the skirt of her leather pinafore dress over a white jumper.
“Before I forget,” Ama said in a low whisper, “are you ready for Wednesday?”
“Oh yes – well...”
“Did someone mention Wednesday?”
“Indeed – shall we join the others,” Pepsi said as she looked at Doc.
“Oh come on,” Anna said with a note of desperation, “someone has to tell me something!”
“Not a chance,” Pepsi said as she clapped her hand on her friend’s back, “you’ll just have to find out on the day, like the rest of us...”
“Have I mentioned how much I hate you,” Doc said with a grin as Poppy came in, wearing a white blouse over a grey sweater, leggings and suede boots.
“Nice look Bones – what’s your mum wearing?”
“Something similar – so where are we going after the meal?”
“I’m told the club at the Base Lodge is fun, but we’ll follow the number one party goers lead.”
“Oh – you mean...”
“All right, Ladies,” Nell said as she and Ally came in, wearing silk dresses, “the New York Sluts are back for the season, and ready to PAR-TAY!”
“I am impressed,” Sarah said as she sat with Grace, “this is certainly several steps up from Grenoble. It even puts some of the training camps I used to go to into the shade.”
“Harriet called me by the way,” Grace said, “she’s arrived safely and looking forward to Christmas with her brother.”
“I saw you by the way,” Grace said with a smile, “looking at Denice’s ski instructor. Jean-Claude, wasn’t it?”
“Ah – you noticed,” Sarah said with a smile. “Well, he is cute in a tall, tanned and snowswept way...”
“Oh come on – you want him to buy you a drink, don’t you?”
“Just a drink?” Sarah giggled as she said “I may just go to the nightclub with Heather and the girls while you older and more steady people look after the babies...”
Harrison’s Restaurant and Bar
The patrons turned and watched as the party came in through the doors, wearing furs and looking round, the younger kids in padded jackets and a few toddlers in arms.
“Miss Huntingdown, welcome,” the owner said as he came over, “we have the private room ready for you upstairs, and a fire burning.”
“I’ll have a Sunset Martini if you’re ordering drinks,” Sandy said as she made her way across the floor to the restroom, nodding to the two older women as she went in.
Finding an empty booth, she sat in silence before the stalls next to her were flushed, and she heard the two older women coming out.
“Was that Juliette Huntingdown and the Sinners coming in?”
"It was indeed.”
“I see they have some new members.”
“I noticed that too. How does a group that is so selective, also manage to be so, well the word that comes to mind is democratic, in who it lets in?"
Sandy suppressed a giggle as she sat in her stall whilst the two matrons outside washed their hands.
"Well I know Diana de Grechy,” the other one said, “we are on a couple of charity boards together, but she has never once invited me to one of their functions."
"I know, I know darling, it's so frustrating, I made a special point of telling my daughter to get to know some of their younger girls, but though they are friendly, they haven't taken her in."
"You know I'm not really a snob darling, but it's so terribly frustrating knowing that there is a social grouping that is beyond even the reach of someone like me..."
Sandy waited until they had left before she slipped out, and looked in the mirror.
“Diana? Don’t they know my own mom’s a member as well – and they sit on the Ball organizing committee with her...”
Washing her own hands, she made her way up the stairs to the private room, noticing the younger girls had congregated round the fire while the others were by the bar.
“There you go,” Juliette said as she handed her friend a cocktail.
"I just had the most entertaining visit to the privy," Sandy barely suppressed her laughter.
"Oh why?" Juliette raised an eyebrow.
"Oh listening to two very typical Upper East Side bleached blonde trophy wives going on about how frustrating it is that we have never invited them to become Sinners."
"Oh that old complaint?" Ju smiled. “Well, it’s their loss.”
“True – so what are people having...”
“We’ll be okay with the burgers, Mom,” George said as he looked at Katy and Sands, both of them nodding, “but can we get some cheese fries as a starter?”
“No problem – we can sort out some chicken strips and food for April and Judith as well.”
“Well, let’s get a portion or two of each of the starters and just stick them in the middle, let everyone get what they want,” Sandy said.
“Sounds good,” Denice said as she looked at Mercy, the other mother nodding in agreement.
“So, main courses?”
“Well,” Diana said, “I for one will be having the Lobster risotto. Abby?”
“The grilled salmon sounds divine,” Abby said as she looked at her cell phone, and deleted the message. “Anyone else looking at the fish?”
Barbara and Jeannie looked at each other, and said in tandem “Fish and Chips.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Doc said as she shook her head.
As they went round the table, Adam looked up and said “am I the only one considering the sirloin?”
“No, I’ll join you in that,” Clint said as he looked up.
“You’re welcome to it,” Susan said quietly, “Apple cider chicken for me.”
“Steak tips for us,” Marina said as Kylie nodded in agreement.
“I have to confess, I am really hungry darlings,” Kylie said with a smile.
“We all are,” Helen said as the waiter came over, and they started to give their orders.
“So how does this compare to a ski trip at the old school, Miss,” Jeannie said as she looked at Sarah.
“We’re off the clock here Jeannie – if you girls can call Annie Annie, then it’s Sarah. But, to answer your question – it’s less stressful, much more fun, and I can relax rather than wondering what’s going to happen next to give me heartburn.”
“So just how bad could a school trip to Grenoble be?”
Sarah and Grace looked at each other, before Grace said “go on – tell them about it.”
“Not the 2011 school trip? That is the stuff of legends,” Jeannie said with a smile.
“Now that sounds like a story worth telling,” Carina said as she sat next to Annie.
“Well, you were at the sharp end,” Grace said as she looked at Sarah, “you begin.”
“Okay,” Sarah said as she took a deep breath. “Well, every year I and some of the other teachers would organise a ski trip to a resort in Grenoble. This particular year was almost exclusively years 10 and 11.”
“Freshmen and Sophomores – same as us,” Jeannie translated.
“Now, to truly appreciate what happened, we start at the beginning. We would take them by coach – Harlow to Dover, ferry to Calais, and then down the roads to Grenoble. It should take about twelve hours, including the ferry crossing. So, we prepare to set off this morning, and – well, we knew it was going to be one of THOSE trips when we got caught in a traffic jam on the M25.”
“That’s the motorway round London, isn’t it?”
“Yup,” Grace said, “the Chris Rea song Road to Hell? A hate song to driving on that road.”
“Then, when we finally get to the road to Dover, Operation Stack has kicked in, because of a problem in the Channel Tunnel, so we get diverted to Portsmouth – two hours along the coast. The net result is, we finally arrive in France six hours late, with a bus full of cranky youngsters. The drivers cannot continue, but the ferry company at least find a hotel we can stay in before pressing on.”
“Well, at least you got some rest.”
“You would think so,” Sarah said as she shook her head, “but remember – bus full of tetchy and tired kids. It took until about two in the morning to get them into their rooms, and be sure they were asleep – and we had to be up at five to make sure we were on the road in time.”
“Sounds painful,” Annie said as she handed Judith a piece of chicken.
“So, seven, very tired, only had a light breakfast, and we’re on the eight or nine hour drive to Grenoble, the trip only punctuated by sign alongs and the occasional bout of projectile vomiting. Eventually, we arrive at the hostel, get everyone off the bus, get them in their rooms, and let them loose for a couple of hours before dinner.”
“So, to recap,” Grace said, “delays on ferry over, bad night in temporary accommodation, long and weary bus drive, and a group of cranky 14 and 15 year olds. Can you guess what happens next?”
“That depends,” Diana said quietly, “on how close they are to a vendeur de vin...”
“And you win the star prize,” Sarah said as she smiled. “Some of the more adventurous and older looking pupils slipped out and purchased various bottles of alcohol, slipping them into the hostel and under cover while we had the evening meal, and our trip leader read the riot act on behaviour and decorum.
“So, they went off to their dorms, and we, the teachers, looked at each other. We actually ran a book on how long it would take for the first incident to happen.”
“Did you win?”
“Nah – I was optimistic. The book started at nine, and I thought it would be midnight. As it was, the first incident was after forty minutes – a group of boys managed to block one of the toilets with a sleeping bag.”
The women looked at each other as the girls burst out laughing. “Very old school,” Jo eventually said, “but at least they got to ski the next day.”
“Well, yes,” Sarah said, “and the forecast had been for glorious sunshine for the week we were there. So imagine the scene when we got to the slopes, and it was raining – a true Scotch mist...”
“So is that why you called it The Mist?”
“Oh no – we’ll get to that eventually. What it meant was we were wet, and the snow was slushy, but at least we managed to get some of the lessons in on that day. As a result, a bunch of tired kids, and the teachers – including me- got to have their first relaxing evening in three days.
“Which lasted until 2.30 in the morning, when someone set off the fire alarm, and we all had to troop outside. I think that was when I said before we went back in that if they should discover who set the alarm off, they should make them know how much they appreciated standing in the cold and dark.”
“Did they discover who?”
“Let’s just say two of the boys were walking with a limp for a couple of days after that. Anyway, the second day, it was cold, but at least it was dry, so another quiet day.
“And then the Mist descended. From the Wednesday to the Saturday there was a dense mist over the ski slopes, and nobody was getting up onto them. So we had, every morning, to try and find something to do with a bunch of kids who had come to go skiing, and to whom a day spent going round the local ruins was not an idea of fun.”
“I’ll tell you how bad it was,” Grace said as the others stopped laughing, “Thursday lunchtime, I got a call from Susan, saying there was a threat of open rebellion amongst the kids, and any chance of getting them back early. Well, there wasn’t, but I did offer to buy the drinks for all of them when they got back.”
“And then, on the Thursday night, one of the boys got rather drunk on the booze they had bought, and decided to see if he could jump safely out of a third storey window.”
“Oh my,” Katy said, “did he make it?”
“Well, he survived – he hit a snow drift which was rapidly turning into slush, and he was so drunk he just relaxed in it. He was, however, VERY lucky.”
“So what happened in the end?”
“We survived the week, set off – and the moment the coach started, the mist lifted and there was the most glorious sight.
“Through the rear window of the bus...”
Grace laughed as she said, “I almost had to buy the entire bar that night...”
“Okay,” Juliette said, “let’s eat, and then we’ll head to the lodge for the nightclub...
“Now this is more like it,” Holly said to Ally and Nell as they went on the dance floor, the group taking over several tables as they came and went. Klaus and Juliette had taken the toddlers and babies back to the lodges with them, allowing the rest of the group to relax...
“Gotta agree with them,” Nikki said as she danced with Pepsi and Ama, “good skiing, good food, and then party the night away...”
“And for those of us back from our colleges,” Jo said as she danced with Abby and Cari, “it’s just what we need to unwind for the holidays.”
“Training Tuesday, Jo!”
“Oh – wonderful...”
“All right, I admit it,” Denice said as she picked up her glass of wine, watching Denice with the girls, “this is easily the best weekend I have spent for a long, long time - and that’s with our current home in Mary Thomas’ townhouse and all that brings.”
“Damn right it is,” Mercy Kinman said as she saw Letty laughing with Anna, “it’s amazing how good this feels, especially with everything that has happened this year.”
“You know what I love about all this,” April said as she sipped her beer. “That it’s just a massive group of people who get on. A toast, ladies.”
“What to,” Barbara said.
“Look at them,” Diana said as she looked at Kylie and Marina, “it is amazing what they have become in the time since Easter.”
“Indeed – I am very proud of them, and I know Susan is as well,” Helen said as she looked at the girls.
“I understand you will visit London soon, Helen.”
“Indeed – although I still need to make the arrangements.”
"So what are the things that the Saints and Sinners really prize Diana?" asked Catherine.
"Oh I think knowledge, tolerance, friendship. Those are the links that bind us all."
"That sounds like you've thought about it before?"
"I suppose I have," Diana paused a second to reflect. "We really just want to be friends with each other I guess."
“Which is the strongest bond a group could have,” Catherine said quietly.
“Come on George,” Katy said as she grabbed her boyfriend’s hand and dragged him onto the dance floor, “let’s have our own fun.”
"Now who taught my daughter to dance like that?" Jan shook her head as Katy ground her body against George's.
"Umm...Guilty." Pepsi put her hand up. “I guess I went a little far?”
“Oh I don’t mind – at least she is behaving herself in a way...”
"Can you teach me?" Sands asked quietly as she looked on.
"You want to learn to dance like that Sands?" Doc asked in disbelief.
"Well it might be useful to know," the young girl blushed.
"Who'd of thunk it?" Ally whispered in Nell's ear to the side.
"Yeah I think little Sandy is starting to grow up." Nell whispered back.
“Shall we tell Jo?”
“Or Heather,” they said in unison before laughing.
“So, anyone here catch your eye,” Annie said as she looked at Grace.
“Oh those days are well behind me,” Grace said with a smile.
“I hear Ju used to say that as well...”
"Well Sarah and Jean-Claude appear to be hitting it off." Grace glanced over at her friend dancing with the handsome ski-instructor.
"Don't they just." Annie smiled. "She and Mr. French Canadian Muscles have been chatting and dancing all night."
"I say good for Sarah, her last boyfriend was a guy none of us liked. Bit of a sleaze bag really.”
“I think I understand the term,” Annie said, “we’ve met our fair share of those men.”
“How did you deal with them?”
“Scared them off...”
“Jean-Claude,” Susan said as they came over, “you know Annie, but this is my housemate Grace.”
“A pleasure ladies – may I buy you a drink?”
“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea...”
Kylie walked slowly over to where the two girls were talking, carrying a tray of drinks.
“What were you and Erica chatting about darling?” She asked as she put the tray down.
“She’s going to go to the second-hand book store with me tomorrow Kylie.” Jeannie said as she looked upwards from her chair. “I want to see if they have anything I don’t have in my collection.”
“I might tag along if it’s at lunchtime, if that is all right with you both.”
“Okay,” Erica said, “after our morning runs we will do it.”
“So what does the term ‘your collection’ mean?” Kylie said as she sat down.
“Basically old fashion magazines and books devoted to the industry.”
“I don’t buy things,” Kylie said as she sipped her drink, “but I do keep a scrap book of things I have seen in the papers or magazines that I think might trigger ideas.”
“Well everyone agrees you’ll be an important designer one day.”
“Oh I doubt it.” Kylie blushed.
“Girls can we beg a dance?” the taller of two blonde boys asked with a strong Eastern European accent.
“I will, but my friend here is disabled.”
“Go, I can watch the drinks,” Jeannie said with a smile as they walked off.
“So what was he like Pips?”
“He’s one to avoid,” Pippa scowled as she came back to her friends, “all hands.”
“Yuck - I loathe guys who think they can get a free touch if they dance with you.” Kelly shook her head.
“Do I need to have a word with him Pippa?” Clint looked at her with concern.
“No thanks Clint…I spiked him with my heel. I think he got the message.”
“Well that guy I danced with was a saint.” Denice smiled as she sipped her drink.
“He should be darling, he’s gay, that’s his boyfriend over there.” Kelly pointed.
“Oh is that why?” Denice giggled.
“Gay guys are ideal partners to dance with sometimes.” Ingrid spoke up, “they usually look after themselves and look good, most of them can dance well, and they are all gentlemen round women.”
“Do you all know many gay men?”
“Denice most of us work in the fashion industry…what do you think?” Pippa smiled broadly.
“I guess it comes with the territory.”
“Talking of the fashion industry, did you notice how many different magazines are represented in this room Pippa?”
“I had. I think there’s at least one senior staff member from every fashion magazine in New York here, if not the US.”
“And how many supermodels there are?” Pepsi grunted, “its making finding dance partners hard for mere mortals such as me.”
“Come on,” George said as Katy nodded, “I’ll try to do my best...”
"So who in here should I know? And who shouldn't I?" Denice said as she sat down next to Sandy and Heather.
"Meaning what?" Heather enquired.
"I guess meaning who is famous and who isn't?"
"Hmmm difficult question." Sandy pondered as she looked round the room. "There is yourself of course..."
"I'm not famous!" Denice looked shocked.
"You are a Sinner Denice, that does bring a certain amount of fame." Heather smiled.
"Okay that accepted, who apart from our, and notice I did say our, group is here?"
"Let me see," Sandy looked round, "well, I can see at least three Olympic gold medallists, sundry other personalities from the sports world..."
"Not all with their wives by the way," Heather interrupted.
"A few one-hit wonders from the music world," Sandy continued, "one or two excellent actors..."
"Also not with their spouses."
"This place is a hotbed of infidelity," Denice laughed as well.
"One with the boyfriend his wife doesn't know he has..."
"Stop interrupting lover," Sandy now started to laugh, "oh and sundry society types, as well though as masses of regular skiers, instructors, etc."
"How the hell do you know all those people by sight?"
"That's what I asked at first Denice," Heather ate a nacho, "but you soon learn to recognise them."
“You may have heard that when people know you’re a Sinner,” Sandy said, “there can be a certain – jealousy. But it’s as simple as this – we’re all really good friends.”
“I thought the people Mary knew were amazing,” Denice said, “but this – is that Justin Bieber dancing with Erica and Poppy?”
“It might be,” Heather said with a smile as they watched.
“What’s happening,” Barbara said as she came over to join them.
“Denice is just wondering who’s who.”
“You remember when we first met in Saks, Barbara, and you told me some of the things that might happen?”
“Of course I do, why?”
“It’s taken me four months, but I think I’ve just realised you weren’t joking, or telling me everything...”
“So Monster Momma,” Cari said as she danced with Annie, “How do you want to spend tonight?”
“Oh I can think of a few ways,” Annie said with a smile, “but most of them involve getting you naked, and it’s a little bit crowded here.”
“Well, we could...”
“Oh no you don’t,” Holly said as she walked by, “you stay for a while. Ju already said she is looking after Judith tonight.”
“All right – but nobody said we couldn’t take a walk in the moonlight...”
“Excuse me, are you Jeannie Brewster?”
Jeannie looked over to see a young man standing beside her, with short blonde hair.
“Guilty as charged,” she said with a smile, “what can I do for you?”
“I was asked to pass this message to you,” he said as he handed her a sheet of paper. Reading it, she looked round and then wheeled herself across the floor.
“Well now, fancy meeting you here,” she said with a smile as Winston reached down and lifted her out of the chair. “I thought you weren’t able to get up this weekend.”
“Change of plans – I was able to come and join the family early. At which point, they said they were coming here for a few days, so I tagged along.”
“Hi,” she said as she looked at Winston’s parents. His father, Winston Brewster the Second, was as tall as House, but thin as a rake, while his mother was about her own mother’s height, with her brown hair cut short.
“Mother, Father, would you object if I stayed with Jeannie for a while, and came back to the hotel later?”
“Of course not,” his mother said, “we’ll see you and your mother tomorrow, Jeannie.”
“You are a very good dancer,” Jean-Claude said as he sat at the bar with Sarah, “is this your first time in the resort?”
“Yeah, it is – I only moved to the US last August.”
“Ah – what do you do for a living?”
“I teach English Literature – some of my pupils are in the group I’m here with.”
Jean-Claude looked over, before he said “so you teach Miss Burton and Miss Carter?”
“Not Katy, but the others – most of them go to St Angela’s.”
“AH – so you know Jeannie and her group as well?”
“Indeed – I share an apartment with Grace and another teacher.”
“Then you are a fortunate woman, to have such good friends,” he said with a smile. “So, do you like what you find here?”
“I do actually – it’s a trip with friends rather than school trip, so I get to relax, ski the way I want to, and have a little fun as well.”
“Will you return to England for the holidays?”
“No – I’ve been invited to Christmas Dinner with friends here, and then I have some work to prepare. But now I have visited here, I am sure I’ll be spending more time here over the winter.”
“Ah good – so you have discovered something here you like?”
“I may have,” Sarah said quietly as she looked at him.
“Come on,” Ally said as she and Nell grabbed Jo and took her onto the dance floor, “you need to be helped to forget Doctor Curt for a few minutes.”
“Yeah – it’s a damn shame he had to spend Christmas with his folks,” Jo said as they started to move to the music.
“Is it just me,” Nell said, “or are more people than usual watching us?”
“I’m trying not to notice,” Jo said quietly, “I want to unwind this weekend, not tense up.”
“Okay sis – signal Letty will you? We need a crowd dance.”
Nell nodded as she signalled to the tall girl, who was standing next to Doc and Pepsi.
“We’re needed on the dance floor girls,” Letty said as she looked over, “gather the troops.”
Jo smiled as from each direction the girls gathered, providing both the support and the comfort she needed as they started to hide her from prying eyes.
“Why are the girls gathering,” Heather said as she looked over.
“To dance together, obviously,” Diana said as she looked on.