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Retro Stories, The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Nancy Does Bridge… But Prefers Canasta

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Nancy is enjoying her last cup of coffee while flipping through the latest copy of Redbook. “You Send Me” wafts softly through the kitchen from the turquoise blue Motorola clock radio that is perched atop her dreamy canary yellow Westinghouse refrigerator. Just a few more puffs of her Lucky and another sip of Maxwell House, and Nancy will have to get into action.

Today’s bridge game is sure to be full of excitement. Nancy and the other wives take turns hosting their Wednesday afternoon card games. Today, Susan Schaeffer is hosting. Nancy has not seen her since Gladys’ Cocktail Party last month.

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Margaret Prescott called Nancy Saturday to tell her that she drove by Susan’s house and saw her walking to the mailbox from the car with a bandage across her nose. Margaret could hardly breathe, she said, as she did her best not to run over the Miller’s cat and end up on the sidewalk. This sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting day of bridge. Nancy loves a mystery!

And thank goodness Susan serves cocktails at her house. If this were Vicky Pool’s turn, it would be much less fun, as she never serves alcohol. The ladies have not mustered the courage to find out why, though. The Pool’s don’t seem particularly into the Church. Poor Vicky always seems so excited about her new iced tea discoveries: Sun Tea, Instant Tea, Lemon Tea. How many iced teas can one drink in an afternoon? Nancy even saw Mary Peterson dump her glass into a plant once.

On Monday morning, Nancy awoke with a well thought out plan of attack in respect to the outfit she would wear to this week’s bridge game. After a quick phone call to Rogette’s, Nancy’s mind was at ease; the shop girl, Jacqueline, assured Nancy that she had a wide variety of the latest day dresses in stock.

The ladies typically look to Nancy for style advice since she worked at a fashion magazine as a receptionist before she got married, but little do they know, Nancy really doesn’t know as much about fashion as they think she does. None of them know that she is from a small farm town. But, it was a good way to get into the group when she and Chip first moved to the neighborhood.

One must keep the show going though, so it was a serious job. Nancy had every magazine known to the fashion world delivered to her house regularly. She spent hours combing through the pages, memorizing the names of designers and upcoming looks and trends that these magazines anticipated. Luckily, Chip was willing to give Nancy just about anything to be able to golf every Sunday or go to the club with the fellas. And, Nancy was happy to exchange a new frock or two out monthly.

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Tuesday was a very productive day. Nancy got her nails done, had her hair set at the beauty parlor, and at Rogette’s, Jacqueline was reliable as always, having several perfect dresses set aside. They were just peachy, so much so that Nancy had to have all three of them. She decided to grab an extra bottle of Chip’s favorite gin on the way home, and to prepare his favorite meal, a nice roast, just the way he liked it.

Shoot, it’s 9:00 a.m. already; she must be ready by 11:00. Nancy closes the magazine, puts her coffee cup in the sink, and begins to head down the hall towards the bedroom, carefully making sure to trip over the cat. Those ballet lessons she took in her late teens never really helped her grace as much as she would have hoped. Pat Boone’s “Love Letters in the Sand” is now on the radio; oh, how she adores that song. She must remember to ask Chip for the new Pat Boone record for her birthday next month.

Nancy enters her bedroom and lets out a bright sigh of happiness. She just adores her bedroom; it is by far her most favorite room in the house. The walls were done in a perfect shade of Chantilly Blue, her absolute favorite color.

Yellow and gray lace curtains hang over the large windows with little cream colored pompoms hanging from the hems. She spent months looking for the perfect carpeting for the room when she and Chip moved into the house. In fact, they had to live with the horrid old wood flooring for several months until she found the exact shade she was looking for. It was the most gorgeous color named Imperial Ivory; the name alone just made her squeal with delight. Chip was so handy that he was able to find the same color in paint and have Nancy’s dressing table painted to match.

And the bedding, well, that was also a treasure hunt. Nancy really wanted the bedding to match the walls, so finding the exact style in Chantilly lace was quite a feat. Finally, she had to visit local decorators, an older Italian couple, who were able to have a Chantilly Blue bedding set made as she described. Lots of lace she required and lots of pompoms. And oh, what a spectacular job they did! The bedspread and all of the dressing pillows were all finished in cream lace and pompoms, and the bedspread had a beautiful lace pattern, too.

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Nancy opens her closet doors and realizes that she is going to have to take another set of dresses to the guest room closet. How she is always running out of room, it’s so puzzling.

She takes the three dresses from Rogette’s and lays them on the bed. This is a very difficult choice indeed. All these dresses would be perfect and all of them will work nicely with her bouffant up do. After much internal debate, Nancy chooses a yellow polkadot shirt dress with cap sleeves and scalloped edging. Luckily, she has a pair of cream sling back heels that will match just swell, and the perfect yellow bow to attach to her rather large bouffant.

Just as she sits down at the dressing table to begin making up her face, she hears the clacking of rain on the window. Oh no, Nancy cannot risk having her hairdo ruined! She studies herself in the mirror. There is no way that a hat will fit on the work of art atop her head. She digs into her bottom drawer and chooses a pretty floral scarf with plenty of yellows and golds. This will do; this will do nicely.

Two hours later, Nancy is in the Ford on her way to Susan’s house, only a five minute drive, thankfully, and the rain has subsided. Chip doesn’t think Nancy is a very good driver so he makes sure to keep her in a new car with all the latest safety features. Nancy probably drives a lot better than she lets Chip believe. After all, she did grow up on a farm and had to drive the tractor quite often to help her father out. But, if it means a new car every few years, then Nancy will continue to keep up the ruse.

As she pulls in Susan’s driveway, Nancy sees that all the gals have arrived. She prides herself on being the last one to arrive at all gatherings so her entrance is uninterrupted. She knows she will be showered in comments about her outfit.

Nancy has chosen to bring a bunt cake. She has never been very good at baking. When she and Chip lived in Chicago when they were first married, Nancy would purchase cakes and pies and then warm them up in the oven or cool them in the fridge on her own plates to give the illusion that she baked them. She even took baking classes, but still, no success. Now she has Margarite, her housekeeper, who does all of her baking and no one is the wiser. Everyone particularly loves the lemon bunt cake with powdered cinnamon sugar.

Just as Nancy walks up to the door with her cake tin, she feels a rush of excitement. Will Susan open the door with her bandage still on? Will there be a new nose on her face? She can hardly make it to the door without tripping over the walkway. She takes a moment to breathe, adjust her dress, tighten her gloves, put a smile on, and rings the doorbell.

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And there is Susan, smiling and looking, well, exactly the same: no bandage, no new and improved nose. Come to think of it, Susan’s nose is just darling, actually. Is Nancy just not remembering what it looked like before?

A little puzzled, Nancy walks through the door, gives a quick kiss and hug to Susan, and accepts all of the squealing and admiration for her beautiful dress. Nancy can barely get into the foyer as the girls rush over to admire her hair and her scarf: “Is that Hermes?”

“Why no, of course not, ladies,” she says. “It was a gift from Chip when he traveled to New York.”

She turns to Susan to tell her how lovely she looks in her pink circle skirt and cream cardigan, then shoots a look at Gladys, already mixing up cocktails, who shrugs her shoulders. Could Margaret have been wrong? Is it possible? It seems so unlikely, as Margaret has been the trusted news source of the ladies’ group for the last six years, and she has yet to be wrong.

Nancy notices Gladys’ absolutely darling dress, a mint green gingham printed Sheath with matching green pumps. The way it sets off her hair color is very becoming. Nancy is going to have to keep her eye on Gladys; she has really been close to outdoing her in her wardrobe lately.

After a few minutes of chit chat, everyone follows Susan out to the Florida room. Nancy pulls Margaret back for a moment and asks her if she is absolutely sure that she saw Susan with a bandage on her nose. Margaret emphatically states that she is absolutely sure and that she can even remember the exact time that she drove by. Both ladies admit that they don’t see anything different about Susan’s nose; it looks exactly the same.

“Well, now this is a mystery!” Nancy says to herself. How are the ladies ever going to unravel this one?

Susan has a delightful spread laid out for the ladies: egg and tuna salad sandwiches, bread and butter pickles, and bridge mix. There are several delicious sweets that the ladies have contributed, a gorgeous lime and apple jello mold, Vicky’s rather runny Ambrosia salad, which Nancy makes a mental note to skip, Nancy’s bunt cake, and a chocolate mousse cake, which of course has to be donated by Gladys; she is a terrible chocolate addict.

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As the ladies nibble on their sandwiches and sweets, they talk about the big news that has been occupying everyone’s minds lately: the highway. The state is planning to build one right next to their development in Bridge Grove. Some of the ladies are up in arms about it. Surely driving fifty miles an hour can only attract hoods and criminals. Vicky seems to be beside herself when she hears that there will be a fifty mile an hour speed limit; she can’t imagine why anyone would want to drive that fast. Nancy is no speed racer, but she did ride with Vicky once to a picnic and was sure that Vicky never broke fifteen miles per hour the entire drive! Nancy thinks Vicky is one of those people who was just born a middle aged woman; she can’t imagine her as a young girl.

Nancy manages to lure Mary Peterson into the kitchen as she gathers up a few plates. There, they whisper quickly about Susan’s nose. Does Mary see a difference? Does Nancy think Margaret got it wrong? Could there have been a change that they just don’t seem to notice?

Susan interrupts them as she walks into the kitchen with a stack of lunch plates. Nancy thinks quickly and tells Susan how much they admire her kitchen decor, the tropical wallpaper, and florida oranges motif is just darling. And even her Corelle-ware has little oranges all over it.

“How ever do you find these things, Susan?” Nancy asks.

“Well, as you know,” Susan replies, “Bob travels to Florida regularly for business and we have been vacationing there for years now, even before the children were born. Every time we are there, I grab anything I can find with oranges or with a tropical print. I just adore everything about the tropics.”

“This is true,” Nancy thinks. The entire house looks like one of those themed restaurants that serves Hawaiian style food. And Susan always has a tan, no matter what time of year, she is perfectly brown or brownish orange.

As they walk back into the Florida room, all the ladies are whispering and stop the moment they see Susan. “Rats,” Nancy thinks to herself, “it looks like Susan knows something is going on.” And when Susan asks what everyone was just whispering about, the group looks like deer caught in a headlight. Finally, Gladys bursts out with: “We were all talking about how watery Vicky’s Ambrosia salad is,” and everyone shakes their heads. Vicky frowns and tries to say something, but Nancy catches Gladys kicking Vicky’s foot.

Susan, beginning to grow suspicious, suggests that everyone settle down for bridge. As everyone takes their seats, Gladys whispers to Vicky that she is sorry and of course it isn’t true but she had to say something to break the silence. Vicky grumbles but accepts the explanation.

Nancy lights a cigarette and begins to shuffle and realizes that Susan is at her table. Well, maybe this is a good thing, since all the ladies think she is the best one to figure out the mystery for some reason. So, Nancy decides she will put her detective cap on and try to suss it out.

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After an hour or so of bridge, Nancy catches Carla staring at Susan. Nancy gives Carla a light kick under the table to break her stare. Carla squeals and then laughs when Susan looks at her with confusion.

“Everything okay over there, dear?” Susan asks Carla.

“Why yes, I’m fine, just fine; I seemed to have kicked my own ankle by accident,” giggles Carla.

Nancy is sure Susan suspects something now, so she quickly changes the subject to the new Elvis Presley movie, Jailhouse Rock. Everyone immediately swoons. The two things this group can always agree on are Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Vicky Pool, of course, favors the latter. She and her husband, John, don’t care for rock music, but she sure does think Elvis is dreamy.

It’s been three games and Nancy has yet to win a hand or pick up very many tricks. Why can’t these ladies play Canasta like most civilized people? Nancy is going to have to put more time into her bridge learning.

She looks out onto Susan’s backyard, noticing that she does do an awfully good job with her garden. In fact, her roses are stunning. Nancy admires the way the sunlight comes into the Florida room and the way the swirls of cigarette smoke dance around the ladies heads, it’s such a calming sight.

Mary takes another trick. Nancy sips her gimlet and is just reaching into cigarette case when she hears Susan slam her cards onto the table and say to Carla: “What is it?” Why do you keep staring at my face?”

Nancy freezes. Oh no, she knew that Susan suspected something.

Carla is absolutely flustered, beginning to stammer nervously: “Oh, nothing dear. I was just um, just, I was looking, at, well, you see…”

Just then Gladys jumps up and shouts: “Who is up for another drink? Anyone care to join me in another cocktail?” The ladies all immediately jump up and starting chattering about their drinks when Susan stands up and silences the room.

“What is going on?” she asks. “Now someone had better fess up and tell me what in green gables is going on with all of you? Why has everyone been staring at me and whispering?” At this point, she seems to have gone from annoyed to very near to tears.

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Everyone is frozen. No one moves, and no one says anything. Nancy is praying that Gladys will break the silence, but she says nothing. So, finally Nancy decides that honesty, decorum, and grace will surely solve this problem.

Nancy walks over to Susan and grabs her hand. “Now dear, you know that we all just adore you, and it seems that one of us should have just asked you plainly when we arrived. But it seems that you were injured last week, and well, we were all just so concerned and now nothing seems to be amiss. That’s all it was dear, concern for you.”

Everyone lets out a silent sigh and looks to Susan for her reaction. You could power an entire city with the silence in the room.

Susan begins to laugh, hard, then uncontrollably. “Oh, my,” Nancy thinks. “She’s drunk. How many Gimlets has she had?” She looks to Gladys, who seems surprised and shrugs her shoulders. She only made one drink for Susan, she recalls.

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All the ladies are looking around the room at one another in shock.

Finally, Susan gathers herself and turns to the group. “My dear friends, I am so lucky to have your care and concern. You see, my Skip had tryouts for the junior varsity football team, and well, Bob was practicing with him in the yard while I was tending to my roses. Bob called out to me to watch Skip kick the ball and well, he did. He kicked that darn ball real well, right at my face! The doctor thought my nose was broken, but it was just a sprain. There was terrible bruising for several weeks, so I didn’t leave the house the entire time.”

The ladies all begin to look to Margaret.

Susan continues: “I had to leave the house finally last week to pick up Skip from school one afternoon because he was sick.”

Margaret looks over to Carla and shrugs her shoulders. “Well, I never said that she actually had a nose job! I said that I saw her with a bandage on her nose. I can’t help what you all take from that.” She crosses her arms and sits down.

Susan begins to laugh again and then everyone follows. She looks over at Nancy and nods her head. “Well, I see how fast news travels! You all thought I had a nose job? I can’t believe it. Actually, I can’t believe that you all managed to keep quiet for this long. I think I would have burst by now!”

Gladys, in between snorts of laughter, tells Susan that Vicky was on the verge of passing out. At that, everyone cracks up laughing again. Vicky frowns again and pours herself another glass of iced tea, which makes everyone laugh even harder. She looks around at the ladies, completely confused.

That evening, back at home, Nancy lounges on her yellow Danish modern sofa with Chip, relaying all of the events of the day. She stirs the little glass cocktail stick in her box car as she giggles, remembering the look on Carla’s face. Chip states that he just will never understand women. “Why didn’t someone just call Susan up after Margaret saw her and ask if she had a nose job?”

“Oh, Chip, you see this is why you men need us!” Nancy says. “You would completely foul up every social situation with thinking like that.”

Nancy lays her head back on the sofa and lets out a long sigh, turning her attention to the next big event: What will she wear to Vicky’s Barbecue?

xox- Sailor


Retro Stories, The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Gladys Is Having a Cocktail Party and You’re Invited!

It’s 1957 in a suburb outside of Chicago. Gladys Richmond and her husband Jack, who works in aviation in sales, are very proud of their newly built ranch style home. They are a typical middle class American couple, enjoying their postwar modern conveniences and the comfort of being a two car family. Gladys adores her 1955 Chevy Bel Air almost as much as she enjoys juicy gossip.

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Tonight Gladys is throwing a cocktail party. Every detail has been carefully planned. She has been waiting to put on this party for almost five months; she just needed the new carpet to be installed, and then the brand new living room would be ready to show itself to the neighborhood.

It took a lot of convincing and many perfectly crafted gimlets to get Jack to agree to an entire living room redesign. After all, he did get that promotion he had been gunning for last year, and they were still using the furniture Gladys’ parents gave them when they got married in 1950. She squealed with delight when he agreed to the plan: brand new wall-to-wall carpet in the perfect shade of almond, and a delightful wallpaper pattern that is most popular among Hollywood stars. The wallpaper store clerk assured her that the print called “Tropical Paradise” with its gorgeous hues of teal, yellow, and pink, the name alone saying it all, is like having a piece of Maui right in your living room. And of course, she found the new Starlight sectional sofa in canary yellow and dual turquoise sitting chairs. It’s just a dream, this set. It perfectly compliments the new modern cherry wood Hi Fi cabinet and matching coffee table they purchased after the promotion came through. The purchase of a top of the line Hi Fi took a few less gimlets for convincing.

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All of the furnishings have now been placed perfectly, even the gorgeous, new pink ceramic lamps with whip-stitch shades, a gift from Mother that accents the room wonderfully. Gladys was even able to find matching pink ceramic ashtrays with tiny little gold boomerangs inlaid, what a hoot. The last item that she needed was the perfect size starburst gold clock that she had seen in an advert somewhere, which took some searching. But finally, a fellow that Jack works with had a cousin in furnishing and found the largest one she had ever seen. She put it in its place right over the couch. The room was finished with perfection.

It’s now 4:30 p.m. Gladys has just returned from the Beauty Parlor and the groomers. Her apricot locks have been expertly coiffed in a stunning foot high bouffant and her nails freshly polished in the perfect shade of blush. The poodles, Petra and Petey, have been groomed and donned with pink and blue bows, accordingly. Jack should be home within the hour to prepare the bar. She has another cup of coffee from the electric percolator and takes a brief moment to observe the arrangements that she’s been up since 5 a.m. preparing. She spent all weekend planning the buffet and cocktail menu. Last month, when the Benson’s had a cocktail party, Carol laid out a spread of very exotic Asian hors-devours, such as Peking wings, pineapple and ham rings, Spam and cherry tarts. It was very impressive, so Gladys had to be sure to raise the bar.

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She reviews her menu before putting on her face, carefully checking each dish and noting what time she should begin heating each item:

Strawberry Cheese Salad
Bacon Wrapped Mini Franks
Deviled Eggs
Liver Pate
Pickle & Pimento loaf Pinwheels
Bologna Cheese Wedges
Curried Tuna Toasties
Cheez Whiz on Crackers with Pearl Onions
Jello Cherry Cheese Charmer Mold

Finally, Jack walks in the door with several bottles of gin, as requested, along with two cartons of Chesterfields. Gladys tells him that there is a new Hawaiian print tie waiting for him in the bedroom and to please be sure to remember to change into it after he shaves. As always, she hears a “Yes, Dear” and a chuckle as she races down the hallway to put on her face and get dressed. She chooses a brand new Midriff interest dress made of a luxurious peacock blue crepe fabric. Its softly draped bodice is wrapped in a cummerbund-effect of fine pleating; the skirt is a whirl of tiny unpressed pleats. With its scoop neckline, this dress is sure to wow, or at the very least make Mary Patterson from across the street green with envy. At Mary’s last cocktail party, she had the nerve to show off her new red Asian print dress that her husband Barry brought back from a business trip that made her look like a model, or a mistress, even! This time, Gladys would be sure to outshine all her card playing gal pals with this amazing frock.

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This is Gladys’ favorite time, where she gets thirty minutes to herself, a perfect break for pampering and running through final plans in her head while preparing her look for the evening. Taking her seat at her vanity, she spreads out her makeup items. She just had a lengthy discussion with Eva, her Avon Lady, last week about tonight’s event. Gladys wanted to be sure she had the latest in eye shadows and lip shades; pinks and misty blue shades were chosen. Shalimar will be her signature scent for the evening. Jacks knows it’s her favorite and always gets her a bottle for her birthday, which she saves for special occasions. After a few puffs, she wriggles herself into her girdle, stockings, and her new dress. And what dress wouldn’t be complete without a gorgeous pair of strappy, pink, peep toe pumps?

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Gladys emerges from her bedroom forty-five minutes later with her face neatly “on,” her eyes powdered in risky blue with her darkest false lashes draped across her lids, her cheeks perfectly blushed, and her lips decked in Double Dare red. Her dress is tighter than she remembers when she tried it on. Sitting will be challenging, but no matter; she looks ravishing, and, after all, she is the hostess.

Gladys checks with Jack to see that the bar is fully stocked and ready to go. They jointly review the cocktail list:

Vodka Gimlet
Gin Rickie
Old Fashioned
Manhattan
Sidecar
Tom Collins
Gin Martinis

Gladys reminds Jack of the fun little umbrellas that she purchased for the party. She saw them in a McCalls feature and thought they would be a darling addition to tonight’s cocktails. She admires the ice bucket they chose last year when they purchased their bar. She loves the multi colored starbursts and the gold handle, which matches the room perfectly.

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Guests are due to arrive at 6:00 p.m. Surely, Vicky and her husband, John Pool, the car salesman, will be the first to arrive, promptly at 6:02 p.m. Vicky has never understood the practice of the term “fashionably late.” Gladys is fairly certain that the Pools fast all day before a party or card game and are first to arrive so as not to miss the spread.

The food dishes are now heated and the buffet table is stocked. Jack admires the bounty and tells Gladys that she has outdone herself. Just then, at the stroke of 6:03, the door bell rings. Jack and Gladys look at each other and laugh as they simultaneously mouth “The Pools.” As
Gladys goes to the door to greet her guests, Jack starts the music, choosing Martin Denny’s new album Exotic to begin the evening. Gladys thinks one last thought before she opens the door, imagining several types of murder scenes and the possibility of prison if anyone spills anything on her new furniture. She quickly ushers the poodles off the new couch and rounds the corner to the yellow double doors to greet her guests.

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By 8:00 p.m. Gladys’ house is packed. She has clearly impressed the ladies from her bridge group, and she overhears Nancy Gold tell Susan Schaefer that Jack must have gotten a rather large promotion, because the new living room looks like it cost a fortune! And the dress, all of the ladies have been absolutely falling over for it, and even Margaret Prescott asks if Gladys has a new diet plan, and Margaret is rare to hand out the compliments as she was born a size zero!

Phyllis Spencer tells her husband Dick that she wants the exact same carpet when they re-do their family room. Gladys thinks that the shade will be odd with their country style decor, and wonders if perhaps she can talk her into another shade, perhaps a lovely orange, at their next bridge game.

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Stan Mitchell is drunk again and trying to dance with anyone who walks by. The smoke is thick in the air and the only items left on the buffet are a few slices of Jell-o mold and a couple of mini franks. Carol tells Gladys that she certainly succeeded in outdoing her own Asian inspired shin-dig and could she share the recipe for the wonderful strawberry cheese salad, Bill just adored it! She had been seen with several Martinis, but Gladys decides to take the compliment as true statements and not the booze talking.

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It’s a job well done. Gladys gladly accepts another Tom Collins (this might be her fourth, but who’s counting?), kicks off her shoes, and allows Jack to take her for spin around the living room to some Bossa Nova. Gosh, this carpet feels heavenly!

xox- Sailor