Attending a party was once her raison d’être. She absolutely lived for them, was even known to throw some of the best ones in Alpharetta herself. Rachel would insist on “black tie” attire only, lest certain people get turned away at the door. It prompted one man to quip, “Who do you think you are, Jay Gatsby?” But of course that’s who she thought she was. That’s all she had ever really wanted to be. Someone who put on a great show.
With the benefit of her much older husband dying of a heart attack soon after they married, she inherited his manor on Blakmaral Lane, just ten minutes outside of Alpharetta. She preferred this distance from the town. It made her feel as though she was a gargoyle perched above it, so to speak. And with Henry out of the picture, she could invite anyone and everyone she wanted over to “have a gas.” Little did she know, that turn of phrase would come to make her cringe in the months that followed the repossession of her beloved Blakmaral abode. How was she supposed to know anything about unpaid maintenance fees and owing back taxes? She was under the idiotic impression that Henry was actually a savvy businessman instead of just another simpleton who happened to be born into money, only so he could mismanage and misallocate it. God, what a fool she had been. Here she thought she had escaped her life of general tackiness in Atlanta (complete with working as a Hooters girl and stripping at the Tattletale Lounge), only to be sucked right back into it with all the inheritance money ripped from her clutches. How was she ever going to throw her most epic party now?
She had been planning it since she was a child. Something that truly was pulled out the pages of The Great Gatsby, but she wanted to get it just right. It would be her masterwork, like Picasso’s “Guernica” or Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” People would talk about it for years to come, and maybe the lore would even spread to other states and draw them to the house near Alpharetta where they would come to pay homage to the great woman who gave so many a good time. But those fantasies were entirely dashed at present, as Rachel looked out the car window in the back of the taxi she had spent her last thirty or so dollars on to take her to her sister’s house over in Atlanta. Where the parties were quotidian and uninspired. Punctuated by red Solo cups and bags of Doritos. Oh the horror. The sheer lack of glamor. How was Rachel going to function without her art?—her party-throwing.
As the weeks wore on, so, too, did Rachel’s depression. It was enough to make Wilton go insane as she shouted at her older sister one morning, “How about you get your ass off the couch and find a goddamn job? ‘Cause I can’t let you stay here forever. That’s what we call enabling.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “And what, pray tell, are you meant to be enabling in this case?”
“Your lethargy and self-pitying,” Wilton returned as she tried on different earrings in front of the closet mirror.
“What does it really hurt you that I’m here? It’s not like you’ve got some boyfriend you live with to tell you what to do.”
Wilton glared at her. “Is that meant to butter me up? Because the logic failed miserably.” She sighed. “I don’t mind having you here or that you only decided to ‘slum it’ with me out of desperation. But I will not stand by as you waste your life because you don’t have money to throw a stupid goddamn party—and, by the way, I’m having one here tomorrow night. So maybe that will cheer you up.”
Rachel did bolt up instantaneously at the mention of the word “party.” “You’re only giving me twenty-four hours notice to plan it?”
Wilton arched her brow at her poor, delusional sister. “Honey, there’s nothing to ‘plan.’ It’s a party: people show up, they drink, that’s it.”
Rachel sunk back into the couch muttering, “Oh god, the fucking red Solo cups.”
Wilton settled on some oversized gold hoops and declared, “Okay, I’m leaving. You better not be on this couch when I get back.”
And Rachel wouldn’t be. She got it in her head that even if Wilton said she didn’t want any planning done, surely she wouldn’t mind if Rachel just went out and bought a few “props”—using Wilton’s credit card, of course. She had been a halfwit to leave it behind on the counter “for groceries.” But Rachel could technically count party supplies among that category.
When Wilton returned that night, the apartment was dark. It left her feeling unsettled rather than relieved, as though she knew some ill portent was at work. When she turned the lights on, that much was confirmed by the insane amount of decorations that had been put up. From crepe paper streamers to arbitrary signs that said things like “Let’s Get Crunk,” it seemed as though Rachel had brought Party City’s entire inventory into her apartment. It was not a good look. She placed her purse on the couch and went to the fridge, now overflowing with alcohol. She pulled out a Michelob from one of the six-packs and started to drink it heartily. How was she going to resist the urge to kill her sister, she wondered.
Moments later, Rachel herself waltzed back into the apartment with still more bags, having absolutely no sense of shame on her face. Wilton laid into her immediately with, “What the fuck is wrong with you? Did you seriously just max out my credit card for all this bullshit?”
Rachel waved her hand dismissively as she set the bags on the floor. “Oh stop it, Wilton. I’m gonna pay for all of it. And you know how?”
Wilton shook her head stoically and took another sip of beer. “No.”
“Your so-called pep talk this morning really inspired me. And I know what I can do to make money: party planning. Tomorrow’s event will be like a calling card so that all your guests can spread the word about me.”
Wilton pressed her index finger to her temple, feeling a headache coming on. “You goddamn stupid bitch. This is Atlanta. Not Alpharetta. People don’t need a party planner. I don’t roll with the fucking Real Housewives, okay? They’re just coming here to let their hair down without the pressure put on them to have a ‘good time’ because you put some effort into decorating. And let me tell you somethin’ else, sis. Do you know the surest way to not make a party fun? It’s by putting pressure on people to have it. So why don’t you take all this shit down and return it before you wear on my last fucking nerve.”
With that, she stalked away toward her room and slammed the door. Rachel remained undeterred, and, no, she did not remove the decorations. A fact Wilton was horrified to see the next morning as she emerged dressed for work. “Rachel, why are you doing this to me?”
Rachel, who was sipping coffee at the counter, calmly responded, “Just wait, Wilton. You’re going to thank me. These people are going to have the time of their lives.”
Wilton exhaled, surrendering to her sister’s pathetic doggedness about a meaningless party. “Whatever Rachel, it starts at eight. I’ll be home around seven.” She exited without bothering to pour coffee for herself or discuss things any further with Rachel. Wilton’s lack of fight almost made Rachel change her mind about the whole thing, for it meant Wilton was that confident Rachel would fail and she might as well just sit back and watch at this point. But no, Rachel was a party-throwing goddess and tonight’s would be no different, even if it was for plebes.
Rachel set about layering on more décor to the walls and peppering the balcony with a tiki torch or two. She then made a phone call to professional party starter Aaron Remald. Yes, professional party starter basically meant he had all the drugs that anyone could want. He agreed to show up at nine, but by then Rachel would be glued to the toilet anyway.
Even if it was a party “just for the little people,” Rachel still wanted to look her best. And she had to admit that she had already put on too much weight in the short time since she had been crashing with Wilton. Becoming that proverbial image of the woman who stays at home and eats bon-bons all day. She needed to drop some pounds to fit into the tight red bodycon dress she had in mind for the evening. That meant turning to some tried and true “ballerina tea.” She was sure to take it early that morning, in between sipping cups of coffee that would further propel her bowel. She wanted it all out, and she wanted it all out now.
Alas, nothing was happening. In all her history of using the effectual “quick weight loss” solution, it had never been known to delay. And while it was a mild concern that the effects could come to roost at the worst possible moment that night, Rachel pushed any such negative projections aside for the sake of brainstorming a different ensemble that would just have to give the illusion of her being thinner than she actually was at this moment in time. That ended up being a floor-length black lace gown. One she didn’t seem to think would be inappropriate considering the casual context of the party. But fuck ‘em, maybe she would set an example for people regarding how to put on the ritz at any future gatherings.
Wilton showed up at seven, just as she said she would, proceeding to barely acknowledge the additional flourishes Rachel had added to the space as she went about the business of slapping some chips in a bowl and making her own “special” punch for the table. Wilton said nothing about Rachel’s over-the-top ensemble, instead going through these motions silently until Rachel herself finally asked, “Are you going to change?”
Wilton looked up at her blinked. “No Rachel. Of course I’m not. This is a casual party. Not a fucking fête at Norma Desmond’s.”
Rachel glared at her. “You’ll see. They’re all gonna go apeshit, and you’ll beg me to throw another one.”
“First of all, you’re not ‘throwing’ this, my credit card is. Secondly, even if they did go ‘apeshit,’ it makes no difference to me. A party isn’t supposed to have this many expectations put upon it, do you understand that?”
Rachel sighed, giving up. She was relieved the doorbell rang just then, perking up to say, “Oh, an early bird. I’ll get it.”
The early bird in question was actually Aaron, even though she specifically instructed him to show up at nine. “Doll face, how ya doin’?” As Rachel opened the door wider to let him in, Wilton looked like she might vomit at this weird rockabilly throwback of a man.
“Lovely. Come in. Even though I thought we said nine.”
“Ah come on, I know you wanna get the party started asap, don’t ya?” And with that, he unloaded his backpack of wares. Bags of coke, weed, heroin, MDMA, benzos, uppers, downers, all-arounders—the gamut. “What would m’lady like to get started with?”
Rachel looked up at Wilton for guidance, but she said nothing, just kept stirring her punch as though neither of them were there. Rachel declared, “How ‘bout a little coke?”
“A classic choice,” Aaron said as he started to cut them both a line. Unfortunately, Aaron didn’t think to tell her that the coke was laced with a laxative. Which is why, approximately ten bumps later, she had fled to the bathroom. Just as the actual party goers were arriving. Wilton greeted them instead, saying, “Hi everyone, my sister loves parties so here’s a bunch of drugs and decorations if you’re interested.” And they were interested, just as Rachel knew they would be. She could hear their merriment from the remote confines of the bathroom, and it brought a smile to her face. For even if she couldn’t be happy and enjoy the fruits of her labor, at least they could. That had been the whole point all along, and, she felt, it proved just how selfless she was—even if Wilton couldn’t see it that way.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this was the night the lock on the bathroom door decided to arbitrarily malfunction, which meant that Rachel had to be ready to launch herself up from the toilet at any given moment in order to prevent someone from seeing her in delicto flagrante. In other words, being in the midst of having explosive diarrhea thanks to a combination of ballerina tea and laxative-laced cocaine. This monopolization of the only bathroom in the apartment, to Rachel’s unanticipated dismay, was what ended up cutting the party short so quickly. People needed to piss or have sex or primp—and the bathroom was utterly indisposed. So they left. In about under an hour, opting to take the party to some other guy’s house nearby instead. Rachel wanted to peel herself from the toilet (for longer than just the period of time it took her to lunge at the door and scream, “It’s occupied!”), really she did, but her stomach simply had other ideas about the matter. Effectively cancelling all the fun. Negating all the work she had put into his stupid throwaway event. Nonevent, more like it. And then it dawned on her how much these sentiments applied to existence itself.
Wilton knocked on the door after everyone had left and offered, out of pity, “I think it was a hit. You were right.”
“Don’t blow smoke up my ass.”
“No, of course not. You already have enough shit up there anyway,” Wilton retorted as she walked back into the kitchen so she could piss into the sink.