March 23, 2006

"Did you put nutmeg in this souffle?" asked Taffy, breaking the silence. And, believe me, the silence needed to be broken. It was not a happy silence, like the quiet that blankets the neighborhood after a snowfall; it was the silence that presages Armageddon, the silence that signals the preparation for battle. The only question was which battle would occur first, the one for Suzette's regard, or the one for the butterflake rolls.

"Why, Taffy dear, however did you guess?"

"It's my nose. Ever since I got pregnant, it's like I have this super power. I can smell anything in a room, for better or for worse." Taffy wrinkled her nose, and while pregnancy and olfactory consequences might not be a polite topic of dinner conversation, I was grateful for Taffy's efforts.

"Okay, Ms. Super Smeller, what perfume am I wearing?" Lois shot back with a mischievous grin. She had obviously loosened up since arriving.

"Lutece rip-off, smartypants, but you always wear that, so it doesn't count. But, I'm also getting a whiff of eau de wine spritzer." Even Lois laughed at that; she really had been imbibing.

Karl joined in, "You know, there are people who really are professional noses, in the perfume industry. My brother is one."

Suzette gushed, "You have a brother?"

Karl smiled warmly in return and said, "Yes, in Paris. His nose is so good that he can spend time with a person and then tell them exactly what fragrance would suit them best."

"What a waste of time!" Frederick blurted out before his great aunt swatted him with her napkin.

But Karl remained gracious. "Actually, it's quite interesting to see how fragrance may express personality. I find it quite interesting myself, and Wolfie and I often play this little game when we're together."

Finally, an opportunity to play match-maker! My darlings, I had begun to fear that this dinner party would be a complete failure in that regard. "May I test you, Karl?" I asked, and he nodded. "What perfume should Suzette wear?"

Karl turned to Suzette, his cornflower blue eyes squinting in appraisal. "Young and pretty, yet demure, perhaps a little old-fashioned, no?" Suzette listened to his pronouncements with rapt attention. "Perhaps Lutece. Yes, I think that is so."

He paused, then said. "Now compare that to someone like Beatrice." Everyone else looked around, looking for this mystery woman Beatrice before realizing he meant me. "She is an extravagant person, a woman of generous spirit, someone who treasures beauty. She would be a Shalimar or Opium."

I looked over at Taffy. Her eyebrows were clear up to her hairline. She cleared her throat and said, "I think I'm going to get some more mineral water. Be-a-trice," she emphasized the name, "could you show me where to get some?"

"Why, it's in the refrigerator, ma amie." I replied, my attention still on Karl and Suzette.

"I think I'll need your help this time. You know, with my condition and all," she replied with the steely reserve that has sustained her in her five years of marriage with Ken.

As soon as we got to the kitchen, Taffy grabbed my arm and hissed, "Don't think you can get away with playing Jane Austen, lady! It's just ridiculous, and someone might get hurt."

I was busted, my dears.

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory