Jennifer Collier: Some Very Lovable Neighbors

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Jennifer Collier Some Very Lovable Neighbors
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    Some Very Lovable Neighbors
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Jennifer Collier

Some Very Lovable Neighbors

(TNS – 0582)


Chapter 1

It was a small party – ten couples and a few unattached men and women – and it was, to Adie Rolfe's mind, rather a stuffy affair. Everyone seemed to be standing in little clusters, talking inanely of topics typical to cocktail parties: local and national politics, current fads and fashions, the Watergate, ad nauseaum. The hostess, a tall, statuesque blonde whose name was Luci Danton, circulated amongst the guests with a tray of various preferential drinks – and her longsideburned husband, Tom, sat next to a slim redhead on one of the living room's two couches, putting his hand on her knee almost possessively when he thought his wife wasn't looking.

Adie stifled an involuntary yawn, knowing that Jack and she should never have accepted the Danton's invitation. Jack had quit the Seattle Sentinal three weeks ago, and everyone in the paper knew why; as a consequence, minor reporters like Tom Danton thought it socially impressive to invite Jack Rolfe and his wife to their drab little parties. Yes, that was certainly the reason they had been invited; but they'd accepted anyway, knowing this, just to get out of their own house, to see some other faces, to talk with someone besides one another.

They had stayed home every night since Jack's resignation – they'd turned down two other invitations to social functions – because Jack was trying desperately to get his novel started, working twelve to fifteen hours every day, writing fifteen or twenty pages but throwing most of them away in anger and frustration. It simply wasn't going right, he had told her; the words wouldn't jell. The reason for that was a combination of things: the Department of Public Works was putting in a new sewer main on their street, and the noise of jackhammers and heavy machinery and large trucks was deafening at times; the phone seemed to ring continuously with calls from friends, well-wishers, dogs barking, power lawn mowers whining destroyed whatever moments of silence were left. He'd given it up this morning, calling the whole idea an abortion, saying that he wouldn't – couldn't – write another line in that house; he had to get away, he'd said, somewhere where he could be alone, in peace and quiet, to collect his thoughts and coordinate his ideas into the cohesive format of the projected novel.

And he had to do it damned soon, too; he'd already sold the book to a major New York hard-cover publisher on the basis of an outline alone, had been given a large advance (most of which was already spent on old bills and incidentals), and he had less than eight months in which to deliver the completed manuscript. It was to be a major, lengthy work, and if he was to meet that deadline he couldn't afford to lose any more time getting started.

When the Danton's telephoned invitation had come that morning, just after Jack's remonstrations, he had told Adie to go ahead and accept, what the hell; they might as well get out of the house since it was no use in trying to continue the novel.

Luci Danton came around to where Adie and Jack were standing near the large fieldstone fireplace and asked them if they would care for another drink. Jack declined politely, and she moved off again.

He said to Adie, "I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't have stayed home tonight. I could've stared at the typewriter and you could've stared at me."

She squeezed his arm, smiling up at him wanly. "I think we'd have had just as good a time."

"I hate parties like this," Jack said. "They're so damned pretentious."

"I know."

"I haven't heard an honestly intelligent statement all night."

"Spoken like a true novelist," Adie said in a gently chiding voice.

"Mr. Hemingway, I presume?"

"Ouch!" Jack said, recoiling in mock pain. "Your barbed wit cuts deep."

She touched the long, silky strands of her raven black hair in that unconsciously vain way women affect. "I was just teasing, honey."

"I know you were," Jack sighed. "How much longer do we have to remain at this abysmal affair, do you suppose? When can we leave without destroying our image?"

"Very shortly," Adie said. "Can you take another half hour of this?"

"Must I?"

"You must."

"This is a far, far better thing I do, as Hamlet said." Jack muttered, taking a moody swallow from his double martini.

Just then, one of the couples whom they had been introduced to upon arriving at the party – Bob and Sue Mason – made their way over to where the Suttons were standing. Bob Mason was short and heavy-set, with a salt-and-pepper crewcut and dark, intelligent gray eyes. He gave the impression of having once been an athlete – he was broad-shouldered and thick-chested, and the material of his Madras jacket was stretched taut across his pectorals. Looking at him, Jack Rolfe thought that he probably worked out regularly in one of the local gymnasiums or health clubs. He had a broad, friendly, contagious smile and an easy-going manner. He was carrying, oddly enough, a glass of dark ale in one huge hand. His wife, Sue, was tall and lithe with brownish-yellow hair and huge, luminescent green eyes with tiny yellow flecks in the irises. She wore a clinging blue shift which hugged and caressed her slender, highbreasted body, accentuating the easy, natural sway of her tight-mooned buttocks. She was holding onto Mason's arm and smiling warmly as they approached.

"Hello there, Rolfe," Mason said heartily as they came up. "Lousy party, isn't it?"

"Shall I be honest about it?" Jack asked.


"Yes. It's a lousy party."

Mason laughed deeply, with good-natured, infectious amusement. He said to his wife, "I told you I was going to like this Rolfe, didn't I, Sue?

He's a man after my own heart – honest and frank and totally lacking in the phony social graces."

"Thanks – I think," Jack said.

Mason laughed again. His eyes shifted to Adie, moving easily over her beautifully compact, perfectly symmetrical body in a way which was complimentary to Adie – not lecherous, but openly admiring. "How about you, Adie? What's your opinion of this little affair?"

The familiar use of her first name didn't bother Adie at all; she found herself rather liking this large man. "The same as my husband's," she answered ruefully.

"Don't really know why we came," Mason said. "Something to do on a Friday night, I guess."

"Same here," Jack said. They had established a common bond and he, too, found himself liking Mason. And Sue, even though she hadn't spoken as yet, struck him as being an intelligent, carefree soul like her husband. On top of that, she was damned attractive, Jack had to admit; very damned attractive.

They fell easily then into conversation. As both Jack and Adie had surmised, the Masons were witty, intelligent people, interesting to talk to. It developed that Bob was an electronics salesman for a large national company, extremely successful; so much so, in fact, that he was now semi-retired, working when he felt like it. Sue, in addition to being a housewife, dabbled in oil painting in her spare time. She was very modest about that, but Mason insisted that she was a tremendous talent, witness the fact that she had sold two of her seascapes for five hundred dollars each just last month.

The topic of conversation shifted, naturally, to the novel Jack was writing. The Masons had heard of it from the Dantons (no surprise there, Jack thought a little sardonically), and Bob was extremely interested in it. He asked, "What's the book about? That is, if you don't mind revealing same."

"No, I don't mind," Jack said. "It has to do with student unrest on a large California college campus. At least, that's the basic foundation of the book. I like to delude myself into thinking I've got something to say on contemporary youth – why they act as they do, what social, political, and historical precedents they have and will set, the longrange cause and effect of riots, demonstrations, dissent."

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