Frankie looked around, and she was Napoleon at Waterloo, minus the hemorrhoids and the Duke of Wellington. She was Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar, minus two shell hits to her flagship and all the wood and debris in her eye. She was Sir Francis Drake, she was Anne Bonny, she was every man and woman to ever stand fast on the field and look through the telescope or binoculars or their own hand at the crowd, and decide how to properly butcher the lot. Where should the cavalry charge, where should the cannons blast, where will the screaming melee run to try and find salvation, and how to lock their retreat, so that by dusk there will be nothing left that crows can't manage. All of them were in her, like a warm smoke, smiling mildly. But she wasn't about to win or lose a war, borders wouldn't change as a result of her success or failure, people wouldn't suffer under oppressors or rejoice in freedom depending on her flair, it was just a pleasant evening people spent at a club, in a town, somewhere on Earth. Or was it?
The man was indeed not very much off the mark. There they were, an unbelievable collection of idiots. However, by now she had observed enough to notice a few interesting points. They were not rich. To her it was obvious, the way lack of truffles is obvious to a seeker sow. She knew more rich idiots than any banker, or broker, or junk bonds salesman, or casino floor manager, or luxury hotel front desk person in the world. By now a deep understanding of the way rich idiots are was already starting to crystallize in her pretty blond head, and she could spot one in the subway or under the sea, in no matter how large a crowd of penguins. It was like kids cheating in school. Some kids cheat and behave as if nobody knows; some kids cheat and behave as if everybody does. The more money they had, the less they behaved like idiots in fact, trying to cover the dirty little secret of their own hollowness. And if they didn't have any at all, they behaved like this bunch, as if everybody has already spotted it, but if they are nice and well behaved and don't make a ruckus then maybe everybody will be kind enough to not point it out. And suddenly Frankie was gleeful... it was all obvious. All they wanted was to be left alone. They got together and formed a club so they can leave each other alone, and then pretend to themselves this artificial construct is enough social life for any human, so they don't have to meet anyone else, that maybe might not leave them alone. What a cozy nice place. How well designed, who is after all likely to be inclined to join their club without being one of them? The man had happened on it and of course he realized all of this at the first sight of the first one of them.
Frankie frowned at that thought, but quickly mended her forehead because the first guy she had met here had noticed it and was visibly worried.
It was always like that, he always realized everything at the first damned sight, and then he would say and do things which seemed a bit odd, a bit out of place. He seemed a bit odd and out of place all the god damned time. And yet, if you clear your head and look around and pay attention to details and try to see how it all works, the way you would examine an old mechanical watch for instance, it suddenly strikes you, he was perfectly right, precisely on the mark, and not only did and said the perfectly right thing, but made you do it too, in spite, or rather in total disregard of your own mind as if he had strings in your god damned head. But one day she will surprise him. She will one day stumble on a huge gap in all that perfection he uses as a net over the entire Universe. She will live to see the day when there is uncertainty and sudden realization in his eyes too, and the bit of fear and the bit of joy. Then she will find the right words to stab him, until pointy edges of words can be seen coming out of his back... or maybe she would just laugh and laugh and laugh... or maybe she would just smile and caress him...
More people came, and Frankie was suddenly pulled from her reverie by an alarm bell in her head : there was another woman present. Her eyes were already focused before her brain had the chance to realize what was going on, and she was already cutting the newly arrived woman into small bits and weighting them. Frankie never particularly liked women, nor their presence. She always felt compelled to have an attitude. Either agree or disagree, like or dislike, each and every gesture they made, the most insignificant details of dress, whether they spoke with an accent, whether they always spoke with the same accent, the way they walked, the way they sipped water from a glass. It was as if every single woman she ever met had to be carefully checked against an average, and the differences, all of them, had to be marked as beneficial or detrimental. Frankie didn't really like much in other women, or even liked much the concept she could like anything, so more often than not it would end as a race to find fault with everything, or find reasonable excuse to consider every single detail and mark of individuality as a fault and a flaw. It was downright tiring, and so, without noticing, she ended up unable to stand any of them. Well of course, there were exceptions. Poor Peggy wasn't an exception, quite the contrary, and through an interesting inverse effect, because it was so plain obvious how she managed to do herself disservice by most things she does, and the way she does them, Frankie liked her more than most. It was, after all, not so hard to find that saving fault that would make it all okay. In this particular case, the woman had been left. Either her husband, or her long-term boyfriend, but very likely her long-term husband left her, and very likely for some other woman. That one never happened to Frankie. Or to any of her friends. Which is to say, she wouldn't be friends for long with anyone who was that inept. At a time like this, anyone with any sense would stay as far away from the eyes of the world as possible. Obviously though, this woman was not very aware what the world even is, and Frankie felt a sudden warmth for the poor idiot woman rise in her, the diffuse and imprecise way affection works in women that never had children. While she was quite unaware of that feeling, she was very aware of the terror and hate she was causing in the subject of her observation, but when Peggy did not even raise her eyes to meet her gaze, the battle had been won, and Peggy didn't even know, had not realized there had been a battle. On the other hand, that simple fact, maybe random, maybe dictated by some unconscious voice of ancestral experience, assured that while Peggy was defeated, she wouldn't be purposefully mistreated. After all, she wasn't, and never was, a challenge.
Frankie pondered what to make of it for a brief moment, then decided that if she just won't notice the tubby she came in with, he will feel ignored and follow her wherever she's going and that will be alright, for a while at least. As the woman left Frankie went back to her previous line of thought the way you go back to a tasty dish you were just about to sink into when the phone rang. To make the best of this she would have to play along, at least for a while, and of course that was just what the man said she should do, right when they talked about it the first time. Let them cocoon her into their cozy little place, the way a wayward family of asocial spiders would, covering each and every feature she had, until she is nothing more remarkable than a plump blob... she shuddered for a moment, a lifetime spent to underline and define and even invent features if need be, and now allow these bunnies to make her into pulp, even if it were just for their private mental use of her image... how horrible. What's the matter with that anyway she wondered, she never minded much that all the kids in school would religiously masturbate at least once a week (Wednesdays usually, gym day) thinking of some naturally occurring or not image of hers. And then she realized every man she will ever meet will do the same for the rest of her days, some of them more, some of them less, there might be some variation in frequency, but they all will do it, and she didn't particularly mind that either. Yet somehow she found it very repugnant this time. Odd thing, have to think about this some more later, you never know what the surprise she wanted to deliver to a certain party will be built out of. Frankie had for years now a running tab with disparate parts she would ponder now and again in the vague hope something in there might turn into the peg to trip her friend with, but mostly because it was fun to ponder them.
Registering the new arrivals at last, Fred realized he should be at his post by the front door, greeting people. Glaring briefly at Manny, hoping beyond hope that Manny would get the message and behave, Fred mumbled something towards Frankie to excuse himself and bolted for the front door.
Standing just inside the open door Fred checked his watch, 5 to 8, time for the others to start arriving any minute now. Glancing back to see how Manny was behaving he noted that Frankie and Manny had moved back into the main room, Frankie settling into the sofa like a queen surveying her realm, Manny hovering over her in a rather protective manner, Peggy was back by the refreshment table looking busy and Ralph seemed to be stumbling slowly in that direction, trying to tear his eyes away from Frankie. Fred considered what he might say to draw Manny away, still not convinced that he would behave himself.
"Hi, Fred, uh, I mean hello."
John made his usual mumbled greeting, started a bit when he noticed the unfamiliar face in the room, and made for his usual corner behind the bookcase, before Fred could manage even a simple hello, much less a handshake.
Practically on John's heels the others started arriving, people who had joined in the last few days and had not yet had a chance to meet anyone else. Fred was occupied for a bit there introducing the newcomers to each other and finally managing a moment to call Manny over and ask him to introduce this group to those already inside. Now with a moment to collect his thoughts Fred turned to count heads of those inside and try to determine if he should be expecting anyone else. He was startled by a soft female voice with a slight accent that he could not place speaking practically in his ear.
"Hello, My name is Janice, is this Asylum?"
Fred turned to find himself drowning in the bluest eyes he had ever seen.
"Hello, Janice, welcome to Asylum, we are just about to start a meeting, will you be joining us?"
The young woman smiled radiantly and looked a bit past Fred into the room. A shadow passed over her face, like she had seen something she didn't like but she quickly recovered and turned back to Fred with a warm smile.
"Yes, I would like very much to join you, at least for this evening."
After a last look at the street to see if any other surprises were about to drop in on him, Fred closed the door and showed Janice into the room.
"Everybody, this is Janice."
"She is, isn't she."
Fred looked at Frankie a bit puzzled and swallowed an 'huh?'
"Is what?" Asked Manny while fixing the new girl as if he was going to paint her as soon as he got home.
"Janice", Frankie said, matching the frozen gaze of her sometimes best friend and part-time arch nemesis.
"Eh shuddup, at least it's a girl's name." Janice was slightly red on the forehead, which on her very white skin looked actually rather nice.
"Oww aren't you cute, all flushed like that." Frankie really liked the way a crossed Janice looked, and besides, she didn't mind all other people called Frankie that she ever met were male. Poor Janice will have to learn one day that in order to get on somebody's nerves you have to say something they would hate to hear, not something you would hate to hear. But she'll be damned if she will ever share that particular bit of practical wisdom with her.
"Why, thank you, dear. Busy tonight, unfortunately."
Right about now Fred finally managed to find the only screwdriver they had available, and all the various screws scattered on the floor, and painfully fixed his jaw back in place, at least enough to mumble comprehensibly and attempt to put a stop to the developing melee.
"Manny, will you be kind enough to pull in an extra couch for our new guest?" Meeting the popping eyeballs of Manny, he realized the enormity of his request... Jesus what a gaffe, he thought, simultaneous with hearing
"A sofa will do." coming through the smiling rosy lips of what he now subconsciously considered the club's mascot wolverine.
"Do I smell coffee?" An obviously unconcerned Janice wanted to know. She precious knew her ass was not too big, in the appreciation of all those that should have a say, which didn't include scrawny female remakes of some second rate gangster hero or other.
"In the kitchen, through there." John said in a calm, very distinct tone, and he suddenly had all the eyes on him, which oddly he didn't seem to even register, let alone be bothered by.
Both Fred and Manny were eying John, both pondering in disbelief whether it was indeed him that spoke, or if he had a recording hidden somewhere? And what a devious and definitely not to be neglected in the future character he turned out to be. Both were so submerged in contemplation, in fact, that they missed the luscious swaying of a certain form for which a sofa would suffice on its way to the kitchen, not even hearing her say
"Thank you, kind sir", in a definitely softer voice, until a few seconds later when she had already gone through the door. Frankie smiled noticing their simultaneous late turn towards the door frame that had already swallowed Janice whole, and the subsequent and also simultaneous return to eying poor John, the kind sir. While wondering if they were twins, or just very equal on the IQ scale, she was eagerly awaiting a horrified scream coming from the room where both the other women had retreated, which she heard was called kitchen... odd choice of words, isn't it?
"Do you know the lady?" Obviously Fred had somehow managed to surface from his previous pensive stupor.
"Which lady?" Frankie was still smiling.
"Can't say that I do." said Frankie, certain that her statement will be taken to mean that she doesn't know Janice.
Fred was looking at her with his eyebrows about to mix with his hairline, Manny was just staring blankly.
"But...uh....I mean... hmmm.... well you did seem to be... uhm... I mean..."
"Well what can I say, she is probably nice and welcoming like that with everybody."
"You think? She did say she was busy tonight." Manny tried hard to enter the game.
He was certain something was going on between these two girls, he was in fact secretly convinced something is going on between all the girls, no matter what size serving, if there are at least two of them together anywhere, they definitely have some scheme going on. That idea never formed explicitly in his mind, but he was always trying to figure the secret and most arcane plot any group of women he happened in the proximity of was certainly weaving. Come to think about it, this was all Manny was able to summon up for an entice and entangle the opposite sex craft. The notion, very vague and imprecise, they all form a sort of witch coven, and the even more vague notion that if he would somehow manage to guess what the plot was, extraordinarily good things would happen. Do not ask what, precisely, these good things were, this being the vaguest part of the entire matter, which was vague to begin with.
"She did say unfortunately, however." Frankie sent the ball back, for the pure pleasure of playing, and Manny looked at her, wise to the fact she was playing, but not wise enough to notice he was being played for a fool.
"Hmmm, that she did." Even in school girls would always chuckle around him and his few friends, and that always served to strengthen their conviction that indeed the girls were all playing out an elaborate scheme, and they of course looked more resolved than ever to crack it up and bring it all to light, not anything public, just include themselves by the sheer power of their deductive skills... which of course made the girls laugh to the point of nearly pissing in their cotton knickers, which of course a girl can't quite afford doing in school, so they had to quickly flee the scene, which in turn would make it seem to the boys they came very close that time, and should try harder next time... this is probably a good definition for what a nerd is : a person that thinks they can get into some girls underwear by the sheer power of their deductive skills.
In the kitchen Peggy was still busy arranging cookies on platters and other little chores to occupy herself, still not ready to emerge and greet that woman she had seen in the office with Fred.
"Hello, I was told I might find some coffee here somewhere."
The accent was definitely British, and the voice much too mellow to have come from that icy blond creature.
Peggy turned to find another model of that woman standing there, this one in a different color scheme, blue eyed and dark haired, but just as perfectly coiffed and manicured, yet much softer and more real. She actually returned the woman's smile in spite of herself.
"Sure, coffee is over there." Peggy pointed but made no move to get anything.
"Thank you. I'm Janice." The woman put out a hand to shake and Peggy could hardly refuse to take it. It was soft and now she probably smelled of perfume. Great!
"I'm Peggy, are you joining Asylum too?"
She smiled broadly, "Well, if that beast out there doesn't manage to kick me out first."
She moved on to the coffee pot and fixed herself a cup of coffee while Peggy turned back to the plates of cookies trying hard not to giggle out loud.
"I can see you giggling, you know? Your back is moving."
With that Peggy actually burst out in laughter.
"Welcome to Asylum, I am sure we will get along fine, and what can she do, two against one."
"She can drink very, very hot coffee."
"You got an ice machine here?"
"No, but there is ice over there for the sodas."
"Good girl. Microwave?"
"Yup, no way Ralph would be around here without one, over there."
"Alright, make sure you know which cup, put it in the oven until just the very second it gets served, then dump an ice cube in it and be sure you'll be around to watch the results."
Peggy blinked, it sounded like a very sophomoric trick. But indeed, it might be good for a laugh.
As she lifted the first platter to carry to the refreshment table in the main room Janice spoke up again,
" Oh, please let me help you with that."
Both women then walked back to main area, hands full with plates of goodies and Peggy thinking that this woman might indeed be an asset to the club.
Refreshments placed about the room, cups, soda bottles and ice arranged on a side table used for refreshments, Peggy looked about the room and inquired if anyone else would care for coffee. She noted the requesters and then after a quick glance at Janice, who had settled onto one end of the sofa, returned to the kitchen.
Fred took center stage, and welcomed the newest members to the club. He explained briefly about the event schedule they had come up with so far and invited more suggestions for additional events. That small bit of business aside he introduced John, explaining that John had bravely volunteered to take the first turn at story telling.
Just as John had stepped forward to take a seat on the stool they had decided would make a nice perch for the story teller, Peggy returned from the kitchen bearing a tray filled with steaming cups of coffee. There was a small pause while Peggy moved about the room, placing cups and saucers at hand for those who had requested them, Frankie was served last.
That task complete Peggy moved back to stand near the end of the couch where Janice had curled up, the empty tray dangling from one hand.
John, from his vantage point on the stool surveyed his audience, cleared his throat and began.
"Once upon a time, in a land far away but not so very different"
his voice was clear and distinct, resonating so that the room seemed to fill with the soft tones. It seemed that indeed John would be an excellent storyteller, the only oddity about it was a lack of focus in his eyes, instead of looking at his audience it was like he was watching a scene that only he could see.
"from our own, there lived a man with three beautiful daughters."
The sound that startled everyone but John was somewhere between a screech, a shout, and a cough, certainly not a sound to be expected coming from the formerly composed Frankie. The coffee cup she had just sipped from flew from her hands, tumbling through the air towards the unsuspecting lap of Manny, seated on the couch next to her, spitting dribbles of coffee the way a swirling porcupine would dart quills at everybody in sight, and her hands were grabbing her throat, which, coupled with her almost popping eyeballs made for an incomprehensible scene. Was she choking herself? Extracting a fish bone, repenting her sins, starting some demon summoning ritual? Uhh...
The ill fated cup struck Manny on the knee, slopping hot coffee down his leg and bounced on, this time towards the array of dishes spread on the coffee table in the center of the group. Manny's leg jerked in response and he tried to leap to his feet, unfortunately the toe from one oversized foot at the end of his lengthy leg caught under the edge of the same coffee table and he toppled it sideways, lifting one end of the table a couple feet above its normal station.
Slowly, almost majestically, the dishes began to slide down the polished incline, first a platter of cookies, then the tray bearing condiments for the coffee, another platter of cookies, this one in some disarray since it now included shattered pieces of the coffee cup and finally the pretty blue vase that had graced the center of this table since the day John showed up with it.
The room erupted in a flurry of sound and motion. Some jumping backwards, attempting to avoid the toppling Manny and crashing dishes, others reaching forward trying uselessly to catch or arrest the sliding dishes. Peggy, horrified at what she had done, dashed for the refreshment table to get more ice for Frankie. And in the midst of all this commotion John sat calmly, continuing his story, apparently unaware of the disturbance.
"And as luck would have it, one rather plain daughter."
John continued implacably with his story as the first platter of cookies and the tray of coffee condiments reached the end of the incline and crashed to the floor. By the time the blue vase had arrived at the end, the table had settled back to an almost level position and it teetered there on the edge for a brief moment, as if thinking about whether to topple or not.
"Now this daughter as it happens was also very bright and curious and had curly hair." Abruptly he stopped, noticing at last the predicament of his precious blue vase. In one smooth leap he crossed the distance, caught the vase and darted to his usual location behind the bookshelves, not making any further noises.
"Are you hurt, dear?" Janice had this soft voice, but more than that, it was almost as if her palate never quite got around to calcifying, and consequently she almost had the soft voice of a four year old.
Peggy had to turn to see this one. Unbelievable, she had never seen anything even remotely like this, that woman didn't feign innocence, she simply spoke with downright innocence. If a jury, nay, if a conclave of the brightest juridical minds of the land was assembled to decide if Janice had anything to do with the little plot, not actually coming up with the idea for it, and bossing Peggy around to do it for her, but simply if she had anything at all to do with it, even as much as a suspicion, a shadow of a guess that it might be planned, she would get acquitted. She would not even have to do anything, or say anything remarkable, witty, or crafty, or even anything at all for that matter. She'd just look at them with her big blue eyes as she sat curled on the sofa, and maybe ask what was the time, or if it rained outside, and that was it, home free.
Looking over her shoulder as she was, she felt blood rising to her face, and she quickly went back to the kitchen before anyone had a chance to notice she was flushed, if indeed she was. That woman ! She really didn't have a chance, did she. She never will have a chance, and indeed she never had as much as a shadow of a hint of something badly worn that sometime, ages ago, resembled vaguely a chance. She suddenly realized the ridiculousness of it all. In college she was indignant because boys would ignore her, and that was based on her deep belief that in fact all girls in that campus were essentially the same. Sure some were blond and some were dark and some were tall and others short, and some studied a lot better than others, or maybe just a little better. But all these were to be, at least in her mind, details, vague and not very important specifics that didn't matter enough to change anything fundamental. After all every girl sat on a chair and each ate supper, and drank about just as much water, and got the same number of marks, if different marks still just as many of them as any other, and all were required to take the same exams, which were delivered to them on standard bits of paper, one for each, the same for each, and they all got the same time to do the task, and would get marked with no regard to anything but what they managed to write on the paper, at least ideally, and practice was not very far off from that, to her recollection. All along, everybody kept telling her, telling all of them, that they are all about the same thing, and more importantly, that "you my dear, can be anything you want to be". After pounding that load of crap at her for years, her parents, their relatives, their friends, the nice people on TV, all of them, they just gave up saying it, and instead acted as if it were perfectly true, with the cafeterias and college courses and exams and tax statements and driver's licenses and conveniently packed 1 serving consumer goods.
But it never was true. It never even was a reasonable mistake to make. It was so untrue, in fact, that people didn't even have a clue what the hell she wanted when she demanded, without knowing it, that they live up to her preciously deceiving world view, and keep treating her with that sort of sameness. It's why she could never quite explain to anyone what precisely she resented so deeply in their behavior.
After all, this Janice probably never even went to college. She probably didn't miss a single frat party, of course, and God only knows what they do there, but that isn't really college. And why not? Peggy hated the way a small gremlin, or whatever other tiny devil breed she seemed to carry around nowadays, kept always asking these sorts of nerve wracking questions.
Back in the war zone, Frankie was eying the Siamese cat on the sofa, but strangely enough she wasn't in the least bit frowning, as all the men in the room rather expected, she didn't seem furious or reaching for the ominous self defense implement she had to be carrying in her purse. Instead she was just sitting there looking at Janice.
Manny had finally managed to disentangle himself from the legs of the coffee table and assorted junk now in a pile at the end of it. He stood a bit shakily and started brushing at the coffee spots on his brown corduroy pants. Not too awful, at least the coffee matched.
"No, I am not hurt. It would take more than a little tumble like that to hurt me, I used to play college basketball." He spoke radiantly, if in somewhat modified colors.
"Oh, I'm not sure they make coffee tables tall enough to satisfy, then."
Just because she was not particularly upset with Janice didn't mean Frankie was anywhere near the kind and caring disposition she had started the day with, either. And she could almost see how some inept question about her own relative state of health was working its way through that college basketball veteran's brain, as if the thing was transparent and a little blob was moving slowly through alembics and pipes and filters and whatever other mechanical parts make up the normal brain.
Fred, finally recovering himself, looked about for Peggy and then realized she had gone into the kitchen.
"Peggy, would you please bring out a broom, dust pan and whatever else we need to clean up this mess."
While waiting on Peggy's return he looked about some more and noticing some tension among the parties figured he really should get them all working together to smooth things over.
Peggy heard Fred call for whatever else was needed to clean up an overturned coffee table, so she picked up that (if you don't know what, we aren't going to be telling you either) and drifted back into the room, still much absorbed by her thoughts. You see, she always blamed her husband. It was his fault. Life is a succession of choices, you do the right thing, you do the wrong thing. There is no mistake about it, nothing just happens, you don't slide slowly and wake up one day in Parchman. The way you end up there is at some point you make the decision to be a criminal, just as she made the decision to study hard and finish college and get married and have kids. And just as he decided to fuck around and be the unreliable turd he appeared to anyone disposed or inclined to use enough of the day's light on him. But she never made a decision to burn a perfect stranger in her life, and she didn't think she just started either. If Janice walked in over some guy in some kitchen and told him to drop his pants, she was pretty sure the result would be just as immediate. And a funeral or a plane in flight or an elevator or anything else in the circumstance didn't likely make much difference. Where is then that hypothetical guy's choice? Where was her choice really?
"Maid Peggy, to the rescue." Frankie had again an air of commanding officer on the battlefield.
"Be so kind and help her clean up the mess, will you?" She never mentioned Janice, or even looked at her, and yet Janice was quickly to her feet and between the two of them, everything was cleared in a few minutes... well everything except the various coffee stains everywhere.
After that everything happened very quickly, as if on strings, Frankie got her jacket, Janice was opening the door, and without a word, before anyone quite realized what was going on, if anything at all, they were outside on the sidewalk and Frankie was stopping a cab.
The rest of them just stood there for a moment, gaping as the door closed behind the girls. Fred was the first to take action.
"I suppose this little accident has really spoiled our story night, in fact," he said looking around, "our storyteller, John, seems to have disappeared also. Perhaps we should all call it a night and reschedule this event?"
Manny looked at Fred with amazement.
"What reschedule? You are wanting to change our schedule now over this little thing? After we worked to come up with events, and then find out what nights people could come and ..."
Peggy interrupted at this point, she could see the red starting to creep up Manny's neck and figured he would reach boiling temperature any second.
"Manny, it seems we may need to be a bit flexible here. Our new friends have already left and I am sure they will be wanting to hear the rest of John's story at some point."
"Oh, yes, indeed. Why did they leave anyway? And together, too? I thought Frankie said she didn't know Janice, this is indeed a most puzzling development."
Ralph spoke up for the first time in what now seemed liked hours, so much had happened.
"You know, we really messed this up by moving the furniture about. If the sofa had just stayed where it belonged then the coffee table would not have been so close and then you would not have gotten your foot caught an..."
Even Fred could see that at this rate there would be a real argument if something was not done. Damn those women anyway, they didn't belong here at all.
"Alright" he said, "I think we all need to cool off, go home and talk about things some other night."
With that he walked over and opened the front door, actually glaring at each in turn to make sure they understood he expected them to leave with no further ado.
Manny opened his mouth, prepared to continue with his comments, then managed to notice the determination on Fred's face and closed it again. Still, he was not really ready to leave just yet, and managed to find ways to make himself look busy while the others drifted towards the door and said their good nights. Manny was really confused and upset by the whole scene, here they had for a few minutes, the two most beautiful women he had ever seen in their midst and yet somehow it had all been screwed up. What had happened anyway? First the two were at each others throats, like a cat fight or something, and then after whatever happened to Frankie and the coffee, they looked like best friends. Bah. Nobody could ever understand women. And that incident with the coffee, what in the hell had happened? Peggy served the coffee, could Peggy have done something awful to Frankie's coffee? But why? That made no sense at all. Peggy was at the door, she and Ralph, apparently together, what was up with that? Still confused Manny finally realized he was the last and Fred was watching him expectantly, perhaps he better leave.
Manny stepped out on to the sidewalk, Fred firmly closing the door behind him, just in time to see the two women getting into the same cab.