Alex maneuvered his way through the crowd, circulating carefully with a tray of hors d’oeuvres. The home that he shared with Lisa had a nice open plan, making it easy to weave through the many guests. Soft jazz played through the build-in sound system at just the right level – loud enough to be appreciated, but soft enough that their guests didn’t have to shout to be heard. Alex hated parties where the music was so loud that you woke up the next morning with your ears still ringing.
“Hello, Tamica,” Alex greeted.
“Alex! What a wonderful party!” Alex held out the tray and Tamica took one of the proffered carpaccios. “Lisa must be so proud.”
“Well, her promotion was a long-time coming, but you know what they say about perseverance.”
Tamica nodded, biting into the thinly sliced meat rolled to form a small tube around a small spread of goat cheese seasoned with a lemon infused olive oil and pepper. “These are wonderful, too.”
Alex smiled. “We found the recipe on the web. Enjoy the evening.” He walked away after Tamica took another of the hors d’oeuvres and moved into the living room. About twenty people were here, clustered in little knots of threes and fours. Many were co-workers from Lisa’s firm, and the rest were friends and neighbors. Alex made sure to stop at each group, chatting with everybody and offering them the carpaccios. Everybody was having a great time, enjoying the hors d’oeuvres and wine.
“Having a good time, Darren?” Alex asked.
“Hmm…oh, yes. Wonderful party.” Darren said, his eyes carefully scanning the room as his teeth slowly nibbled on his lower lip.
“Are you looking for somebody?”
“Well, I was wondering if Justin would be here tonight. I mean, you know that Lisa got the promotion over him and he wasn’t very happy about that.”
Alex nodded. Lisa had told him that Justin had been rather vocal in his disappointment at being passed over for the promotion. He’d even threatened to sue the firm for age discrimination though Justin was only a year older than Lisa. “We did invite him,” Alex said. "And he told us he’d be here. I’m sure he’s just running late.”
“I hope so. He’d told me that he had sent me an e-mail with proof that Lisa had been unfairly promoted and I wanted to ask him about it.”
A shiver wriggled around the nape of Alex’s neck and he licked the roof of his mouth in an effort to moisten it, though he managed to keep his smile. “I didn’t think Justin was that upset.”
“I'm sure it's nothing,” Darren admitted with a small chuckle. “From what Donald told me everything was above board and we all know that Lisa is perfect for the role. But since I’m the head of HR I have to at least hear him out.”
“Well, enjoy the evening.” Alex offered Darren one of the carpaccios and he grabbed one of the savory bites. Alex turned back to the other guests.
It wasn’t long before the tray was empty. Alex excused himself from two of Lisa’s friends from the gym and returned to the kitchen. While the house had an open floorplan for the living and dining areas, the kitchen was located in the back behind a restaurant-style swinging door. He liked the freedom of having the kitchen separated from the rest of the house so that he and Lisa could dirty up the kitchen and not have to worry about making it look ‘neat’ when the guests showed up. He and Lisa considered it to be a working kitchen, where they experimented with new and exotic dishes they found on the internet.
Alex swished through the swinging door and set the tray on the large center island. “Lisa, darling. You need to go make the rounds. Your guests are waiting for you.”
“I will. I will. I just want to get the last of these carpaccios finished.”
“Everybody loves them,” Alex said, leaning over to kiss her. “Darren was asking about Justin.”
Lisa wrinkled her nose and gave Alex a questioning look with her eyes.
“I’m sure it’s nothing," he said in response, "but he said that Justin had sent him an email about your promotion. He wanted to ask him about it”
“Well, it's a good thing Justin won't be able to help him,” Lisa remarked with a look at the last carpaccio she'd prepared. Alex wrapped his arms around her in a loving hug and looked at the hors d’oeuvres on the cutting board.
“Justin has been a huge hit with everybody. You’ve really outdone yourself this time." He picked up one of the rolled, meat hors d’oeuvres and popped it into his mouth. "It would be a shame if we ran out while the party was still going strong.”
Lisa looked at the dwindling supply and then gave Alex a small kiss. “Justin was a little twerp," she said by way of apology, "and I didn't expect so many people to show up."
"Hey, it's not your fault so many of our friends wanted to come out and celebrate with you. It is a big promotion." Alex gave her a quick peck on the cheek and smiled. He glanced toward the kitchen door. "I think I can make some more."
"Are you sure? I ran out of the meat and I don't want you to have to miss the rest of the party."
"Don't worry. You go mingle with your guests.” Alex handed her the tray freshly filled with the savory meats. He picked up a meat cleaver. “I know where I can get some more.”
Lisa smiled and gave him another kiss, then went to mingle with her guests, the tray of carpaccios perched in one hand. Alex walked up to the kitchen door, pushing it open slightly. He spotted Darren across the room. “Darren,” he called, clutching the cleaver behind his back. “Can you give me a hand in the kitchen?”
(Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/keukenliefde/)