Caroline and the Masquerade


Part I
Friday
Carolines apartment

..........Annie pushed the down elevator button. She got on and rode down to the ground floor and got her mail. She had the usual bills. Then one envelope caught her eye. It was a gold colored envelope. She turned it over looking for a return address. Annie finally gave in her to her temptation and opened it. She read it quickly and squealed. She hopped back onto the elevator and burst into Carolines place.
.........."Caroline!" She called out. Richard was parked at his usual spot at the desk. "Where's Caroline?"
.........."She is upstairs."
.........."I'll be right down." Caroline called. She pulled on a sweater as she came down the stairs. "Whats up?"
.........."I found this in my mail box this morning." She gave Caroline the envelope.
..........Caroline opened it and read it out loud. "Annie Spadaro and a guest are invited to the annual masked ball at Rocketfeller Center. Formal dress required, don't forget to wear you mask." She put the card back in the envelope. "Get out!"
.........."I'm out!"
.........."Not yet anyway." Richard said not looking up.
.........."Anyhow. I thought you would like to come with me. Maybe bring Joe?" Annie said.
.........."I don't know. Joe's belief system is very complex." Caroline moaned. She looked at Richard expecting a crass remark.
.........."Joe needs to put you before his political needs." Richard stated boldly. "I would be honored to go if you need me to."
.........."Richard?" Caroline said surprised. Annie had a secret smile on her face. Richard glared at her and she cleared her throat.
.........."I don't picture Del going to this kind of thing either." Richard continued.
.........."But who sent it to you?" Caroline asked. "Could this be a nut?"
.........."Then half of New York could have sent it." Richard said getting some coffee.
..........There was a knock at the door. Caroline walked over to the door. She gave Annie her invite back and looked through the peephole. There was a gigantic eye looking back at her. She jumped a couple of feet. She opened the door.
.........."Charlie, don't do that!" Caroline said as he skated in. "People get hurt that way."
.........."I'm sorry Annie...Caroline. I get you two so mixed up." Charlie looked around.
.........."Okay, this is for you." Charlie handed Caroline a large bouquet of roses.
.........."Wow...I mean...wow!" She took the flowers. "To my darling Caroline. I hope you love these. They're not signed." Caroline looked around in the flower buds. "Do you know who sent this?" She asked Charlie who was skating around salty.
.........."It's not Dell." He said.
.........."And I don't think Joe has enough allowance money to buy all that." Richard observed.
.........."Right." Annie said.
.........."If not Charlie or Del or..." She glanced at Richard.
.........."I'm allergic to roses so make my answer no way in hell."
..........Caroline put the roses in water. She gave Richard hr box of tissues.
.........."Then who?" Caroline wondered as she looked at the dripping petals glisten in the light.


Part II

..........Caroline and Annie and Richard prepare and await the big night.
..........Annie came out the dressing room. Annie, Caroline and Richard were being fitted for some very glamorous evening gowns for the party. Annie was wearing a very low cut dress, Caroline went for a very simple design.
.........."Where's Richard?" Caroline asked looking around the store. She a clasped a piece of costume jewelry onto her wrist. Earlier after Annie came with the big new Caroline instituted a rare day off. Annie skipped her matinee of "Cats" so she could go to the beauty parlor for a major makeover for the night. All Richard had to do in reality was get a tux and a mask. But Caroline being the way she was insisted that he have a teeny trim. He had been inside the tuxdeo store for a long time. "Hows my dress?"
.........."Fine." Annie said standing next to her. She was wearing a showgirls outfit."Even better once we find a way to pay for them."
..........A salewoman overheard Annie. "Mademoiselles, someone has already arraigned to pay for your outifts. The same goes for Monsieur Karinsky."
..........Caroline nodded as the woman walked away. "See, Rich could never afford a night like this. And he certainly wouldn't pay for your ticket. Richard would never have the tickets sent over in your name either. It must be someone you know."
.........."And to quote Richard, that could be anyone in New York."
.........."Do you think it was anyone I know?"
.........."Was what anyone you know?" Richard appeared in his black tuxedo. He had his face comvered up by a mask. He moved it and he was not wearing his tradmark glasses.
.........."We just found out that our outfits were already paid for." Annie said. She then looked over Richard. He did look very striking in the tuxedo. "You look great. But where are you glasses?"
..........Richard put them back on."I can't wear these and the mask at the same time. He looked at the girls. He spent a minute gazing at Caroline. Annie he skipped all together except to say. "Good lord, is there nothing holding up that dress?"
..........Annie frowned and stepped back."What now?"
.........."Why don't we get something to eat." Richard suggested as they went ouside. "Taxi!" He started to say. "Or we could take that hired limo."
..........Caroline and Annie turned to look at the limo.
.........."Wow!" They both said. They walked over to the limo and the driver let them in. Caroline picked up an object. A large box was sitting in her seat.
.........."What is it Caroline?" Annie asked while Richard closed the door.
.........."I don't know." She said and opened the box. There was a shimmering emerald and diamond necklace. She read the accompmanying note."Like you, these jewels are the real thing, and one in a million are perfect." She closed the box.
.........."Let me help you." Richard volunteered. He took the necklace and sat behind her. He draped it around her neck. He could not help but look at her neck. Richard pulled the ends together and clasped it together. He unknowingly let his fingers linger there for any extra second. Annie had noticed this, Richard looked at her. She sat back and kept her mouth said. Caroline turned around.
.........."I wonder who is doing all this for us. They must have saved for a lifetime."
.........."Well." Annie said. Richard looked at her. "It must be someone who has feelings." She glanced a Richard. "Very strong feelings for you."
..........Richard sighed. His secret love for Caroline will not remain one as long as Annie is around. Later at the ball, he decided, he would do something about it.
..........The gang gets to the dance where a few surprises await them.


Part III

Rockefeller Center
9:00

..........The limo driver got out and opened the car door for the trio. Richard got out first and helped Caroline, then Annie get out of the car. He made sure no one tripped on their dresses on the way up the stairs.
.........."Such a gentlemen." Annie murmured to him. Caroline nodded as the entered the door.
..........The ball was held in the main lobby of the building. It was decorated immaculately for the occasion. A string orchestra was playing. People were dancing and laughing. There was a shimmering ice sculture of a swan at the far end of the room. There was a huge crystal chandlier hanging directly over the heads. Caroline looked around. She felt overwhelmed by the elegance of the whole place. She breathed the atmosphere slowly. She nudged Richard and Annie.
.........."It's mask time guys." She reminded them.
..........Caroline picked a nice cat mask, Annie a very elaborate mask to match her showgirl outfit. Richard picked an ordinary black mask. He took off his glasses and placed them in his jacket pocket.
.........."Do you think the people who set this all up are here?" Richard asked.
.........."I don't know." Caroline said. "I don't know anyone here."
..........They looked at Annie."I don't know anyone either.
.........."Well, maybe they'll meet us late." Caroliine felt a hand touch her shoulder lightly. The hand was slightly cold, and it shocked her. She turned quickly.
...................."Del?" Caroline asked. Del moved his mask so she can see him
.........."Hi."
.........."What are you doing here?" Annie asked Del.
.........."Beats me." Del pointed to the buffet table. Charlie was eating shrimp "Charlie gave me this invitation this afternoon. I don't know who it came from."
.........."Did someone pay for your tux?" Richard asked. "Because someone paid for their dresses and my tux before hand."
.........."Nah. Had to rent." Del looked at Caroline. "Joe called me this afternoon. He also got an invite. He's here too."
.........."Where is here?" Caroline asked.
.........."I should say was here, he left as he got a page from the vet office."
.........."Missed his curfew did he?" Richard cracked. Annie actually laughed the joke.
.........."He'll be there all night." Del continued.
..........Caroline exhaled. She had expected that, even though she didn't know he was there for a short time. She had missed him by five minutes. The orhcestra played a new song. Del beckoned Caroline to dance with her. They went to the center of the room and danced, or at least tried to, a waltz. Annie looked at Richard. He was watching Caroline dance.
.........."Do you really love her?" She quietly asked. "Then why don't you tell her?"
.........."I don't know." Richard said. "But I do know that I would appreaciate doing something for me."
.........."Anything." Annie said.
.........."Would you please stop with the inneundos?" Richard looked at Annie as she checked her hair. She put the mirror away. "If and when I tell her I do love her, will you let me do it in my own time? My own words?"
.........."I will. But to tell you the truth, it will happen sooner than you think if she ever finds that letter." Annie said bluntly.
..........Richard nodded. "I'm going to get a drink. Behave."
..........Del and Caroline made a lot of mistakes when they were dancing. At times Caroline would step on his foot and sometimes he would step on hers. They laughed about it.
.........."So, who do you think did this?" Del asked. "Who set this wonderful evening up?"
.........."I don't know. I only know one rich guy,he hates my guts. Well maybe.."
..........The lights went out. Del let go of Caroline and looked around. There was a scream coming from the center of the room As it trailed off the lights turned back on.
.........."What the hell was all that about?" Del turned look at Caroline. "Caroline?"He looked all over the hall and looked at all the balconys. "Caroline!"
..........She was gone.


Part IV

..........Caroline awoke in a dark room. She blinked a few time. Eventually her eyes adjusted to the dark. She didn't know where she was, for this was the first time she had been to Rockefeller Center. She could be in any one of the hundreds of small rooms. She got up off the floor and looked for a way out. a light flashed on, almost blinding her. She covered her eyes. The single light seemed to point a small chair. On it was a envelope. She grew closer to the chair. Caroline looked around, but she finally realized that she was alone in the room. She finally picked up the envelope. She had to squint to read the writing on the envelope. It was strangely familiar.
.........."To Caroline, From Richard?" The envelope was a little battered and dog-eared. It was probably about four months old. It seemed to be printed with the same stationary she had planned to use with her thank you cards. Her fingers started to itch, she could no longer help not opening the envelope and reading what was inside. She opened the envelope and pulled out a letter.
.........."Dear Caroline: I don't what I'm writing so please bear with me. I'm probably breaking several rules of etiquette telling you this...."
..........Meanwhile back in the lobby, Del was looking for the lost Caroline. Annie had already searched the balconies and the bar. Del had ordered Charlie to round up some help, so far he was only eating more shrimp. Del decided to let him stay there. He met Annie in the middle of the room, where she had disappeared.
.........."So what do you think?" Del asked her.
..........Annie could only shrug. "Hey." She thought. "Where's Richard?"
.........."You're right. I haven't seen him since he danced with Caroline."
.........."Looking for me?" Richard tapped Del on the shoulder.
.........."Yeah where were you?" Annie asked.
.........."If you really need to know, I was in the bathroom." Richard told Annie.
.........."For twenty minutes?" Del asked.
.........."There was something called a line." Richard grew a little bit ruffled. "Why are you asking?"
.........."Caroline's disappeared." Annie said.
.........."Oh my god."
.........."Right." Del said. "We could split up and look for her." He offered.
.........."Kind of makes me wish that blind date my mom set me up with was here." Annie mused. Something shiny caught her eye. "Where ever she is, she's missing this." Annie picked up one of Carolines shoes.
..........We'll split up and look." Del said. Annie nodded and went one way while Richard and Del went another.
..........Caroline reread the letter. Did he really fell this way about her? If Richard did feel this way about her, he was doing a hell of a job hiding it. form her. How come Annie or Del, or even Joe never alerted this letter to her. Someone must have found it and decided to have her see it. She sat down. She noticed one of her shoes were missing. Her feet were getting cold. Caroline stood again and walked around. The constant motion should keep her warm. She held the door open. She stood and looked at the dark figure as he approached. It was one of the guests from the ball. He wore a large black mask.
.........."Are you the one who did this?" She asked now clutching the letter.
..........The figure didn't answer. Instead he pulled the mask off, revealing his true identity to her. She gasped.
.........."It's you!" She said, in shock. "All this time it was you!"


Part V

..........Richard stepped from the shadows, mask in hand. He took out his eyeglass case and put his glasses on. Caroline stared in awe. He turned on one of the lights. The light filled the room. Caroline looked around. She soon discovered that she was no longer in the Rockefeller building. Far from it. She was in Richards apartment. She realized that the reason it seemed so empty is that he had cleaned it and put everything away. Except for the chair which bore the letter. Richard put the mask down on the sink.
.........."I hope you're not mad at me." Richard said.
.........."Whatever for?" Caroline asked.
.........."That it took so long for me to tell you how I feel about you. I have to assume you have read the letter by now.
..........Caroline looked at the envelope. "When did you write this?"
.........."The night before I left. I went to Remos and he told me a story that inspired me some what. I wrote the letter in my old place. I then went to your loft and left it in the thank you cards."
.........."You were at Remos." Caroline continued. "You kissed me. You ran out of the restaurant."
.........."I then went back to your place. I looked for the letter, but I broke my glasses when tripped on the coffee table. Before I could figure out what to do, you and Del came back. So I hid on the window ledge. I thought you were still getting married to Del. Thats when I left."
.........."But why?"
.........."Because I think I valued your happiness over anything else at that moment. Thats the letter I asked about when you first saw me when I came back. That's also the real reason that I was at Vickis when she had the baby."
..........Caroline nodded. Richard continued.
.........."Annie knows about the letter. She knows how I feel."
.........."Then how did you set this all up?"
.........."A week ago I sold a painting to a very influential person. They had told me about this ball. I told him about your Caroline. This new friend of mine sent the messenger to Annies place, paid for our outfits, the limo. The whole shebang." Richard clasped her hand. "I wanted to tell you that you were my sincere amore."
..........Caroline thought for a moment. Richard hands were so warm and soft. "Remember when you were in the hospital. The polyp?"
.........."Yes," He rubbed his nose. "All too well."
.........."Well the nurse accidentally gave you a sedative when it was supposed to be given to a gall bladder patient. You came to my place acting all goofy. When I took you back you told me I love you when I left you."
.........."I did?" Richard thought. "If you say so, but I don't remember."
.........."It's just as well." Caroline cleared her throat. "Do you want to go back to the ball? They're looking for us."
.........."Sure. But let me ask you one thing."
.........."Sure."
.........."What happens after tonight? Joe for example."
.........."I guess we'll have to take little baby steps and see what happens."
.........."Okay." Richard led her out of the room. "I love you Caroline."
..........Caroline beamed. "I love you too, Richard Karinsky."
..........Richard pulled her close and kissed her. They looked at each other and they walked down the stairs, unaware of what the future may bring their way.

THE END