Ann hadn't been at William's party for five minutes, when a very strange woman, wearing a skirt made out of a bunch of neckties, had introduced herself as "Celia-and-you-must-be-Julie's-mother-she's-such-a-nice-girl…" and had proceeded to alternate a non-stop monologue with a sort of relentless third degree for the better part of an hour.
Try as she might, Ann had not been able to pry herself away.
At the moment they were involved in the third degree, which seemed, somehow, to always reveal some important person that Celia knew, and would be all too happy to introduce to Ann.
"A restaurateur, are you?" she said, popping a small potato filled with caviar into her mouth. "Really? How wonderful! Have you met Kelsey—He runs the Seaside Bar and Grill?"
Ann shook her head, searching her mind for an excuse to leave.
"He's catering this very party. Wait—I'll introduce you." She scanned the deck, and spotted Kels wedging himself out through the door from the house. She waved wildly, and shouted across the deck.
"Kelsey! Over here! It's Celia! I have someone you must meet!"
Even though everyone else heard this, Kels apparently didn't. His glance swept past them as though they weren't there, and then he suddenly seemed to remember something very urgent and squeezed his way back into the house in a great hurry.
Ann tried to become very small.
Celia patted her arm.
"Stay right here," she said, "I'll bring him over."
She threaded her way through the crowd. Ann breathed a sigh of relief, and searched the deck for a quiet corner, where she could sit alone for a moment.
But it was not to be.
A young woman, about Julie's age, accosted her before she had moved two feet, and it started all over again.
"Hello," she said. "You must be Julie's mother."
"Yes," Ann smiled, "But I'm afraid that at the moment I have to…"
The lovely young thing stuck out a hand.
"I'm Chris." she said.
Ann took the hand, her eye's on the door. She had to get away before Celia returned.
"Ann," she said. "Why don't you walk with me."
"I'm an old friend of Tim's, just back from Europe."
"Do you know where he is?"