2009-12-24: White Elephant Party

Starring:

George_V4icon.pngHallis_V4icon.pngHelen_V4icon.pngNathan2_V4icon.pngStephanie_V4icon.pngTracy_V4icon.png

Guest Starring Lizette Valois-Van Cortlandt

Date: December 24, 2009

Summary:

It's Christmas eve and someone's stocking is going to be filled with coal this year.


"White Elephant Party"

Arbor House - Bedford, NY

The night of Christmas eve, it's the perfect weather with the large snowflakes drifting down from the sky. Lizette Valois-Van Cortlandt couldn't have asked for a more perfect setting than the one God has provided her with tonight. Unfortunately, her ups always come with downs. The down on this particular evening is a very drunk Chevy Chase that is trying to make time with a hat rack in the front room while being coaxed along by Paul Simon. She was never a fan of the "rock and roll" but she had invited her neighbors to be polite.

Another shady spot in an otherwise brilliant day, her granddaughter had come home from the city convinced that she gained 50lbs in less than a minute's time. The poor matriarch's world had always been filled with the drama of her family, it would have been odd if tonight had been the night things changed. Regardless, the girl's mother was able to procure some Valium to calm the poor girl down.

At the arrival of each of the guests, they are ushered to Lizette who welcomes them cordially. The usually chilly woman seems quite warm this evening. At her side is her most trusted friend and butler Beauregard, ready at a moment's notice to call security should anything go wrong.. which with Hallis in the house, it usually does.

The weather has delayed Nathan's arrival. Dressed in a heavy black wool peacoat, modern pinstripe tuxedo (picked out by Trey amongst Nathan's very noisy protests), and a red woollen scarf, he sweeps the snow (yes, it's snow, NOT dandruff) from his shoulders upon entering the grand residence. He has that bright Brayden-dimpled smile pasted over his lips as he glances about the room and ponders who to talk to and how to work it.

Like all guests, he's ushered towards Lizette who he greets with that same bright grin, "Ms. Van Cortlandt. Nathan Petrelli," he offers her his hand. The two haven't met, but he's familiar with the matriarch, "Thank you for the invitation."

The elaborate Christmas party is slightly different than the events Tracy is used to attending — but only slightly. A different location, a different crowd (but in some cases potentially an overlapping one where politicians and their many acquaintances are concerned, meaning she is ever the more on guard) … but at its root, it is a familiar atmosphere. The rich and somehow important, the socializing, the champagne. Formal, even white tie events are not a foreign affair to the woman who follows the Senator toward Lizette. Accompanying politicians to such parties — also in the realm of the familiar, although she keeps a respectful distance from him, not exactly close enough to be considered on his arm. Technically.

Tracy doesn't have the luxury of wearing a coat, because such things aren't meant to be worn with gowns. What slip of fabric she did wear to brave the snowflakes is handed off to someone in the entryway before she approaches Lizette. Her dress is long, slim and white with rouching at the waist, a wide V of a neck and a skirt with much hanging fabric: not as elaborate for a ball gown, but it makes for an elegant, beautiful and neat appearance all the same. "Ms. Van Cortlandt. Your home is lovely."

"Senator Petrelli, Ms. Johnson, I'm quite pleased you could come in such weather." Lizette answers, pressing each of their hands in turn between both of hers. The venerable Van Cortlandt is dressed in a dark olive velvet and taffeta gown, one that compliments her slight figure, a commonality between the older and younger generation.

A small click on the grand staircase has Lizette looking up to the second floor landing where Hallis is wavering slightly. The younger Van Cortlandt would likely be a vision in her white feathery dress with silver accents were it not for the fact she has a large shawl wrapped around her entire body. Lizette's eyebrows come together in a stern frown and she leans closer to her butler who casually makes his way up the staircase to usher the young woman back into her room. Then she turns and smiles to the two guests that she's greeting and gives them a nod. "Miss Johnson, I understand that you are Senator Petrelli's aide? You must be quite pleased at his appointment. Perhaps when all the guests have arrived, we will be able to talk a bit more."

Tracy's greeting of the house matriarch continues with a wide smile — out of courtesy, but it is bright, gracious. She does look happy to be here, despite her numerous reservations. Once her hand is released from Lizette's squeeze, she tucks a strand of dark red hair behind an ear with a glint of earrings that must be some vintage couture or another. In an attempt to look more unlike herself, her already colored hair has been given a faint wave.

"Yes," she answers without delay, though she is distracted — momentarily — by a glimpse of Hallis on the staircase. The young woman's shepherding back upstairs is given a vaguely curious eye and nothing more, inquisitiveness promptly dulling. "I'm an adviser to his office — to the Senator personally on political matters. Of course, I'm thrilled, and I'd be thrilled to speak with you later. But I'm sure you'll be busy! It's quite a turnout."

"Thank you for having us, Ms. Van Cortlandt," Nathan reiterates before the matriarch's attention is redirected. With furrowed eyebrows, his gaze also turns to the staircase and younger Van Cortlandt as his hand goes the small of Tracy's back and he leans forward to whisper something in his advisor's ear.

Upstairs, the sounds of the party muffled by closed doors, George leans forward to double-check his appearance in a mirror designed more to show off the gilded curlicues of its frame than to be actually looked at for its own sake. Everything seems to still be in place - he's dressed in a black jacket and slacks, and a light blue silk shirt to go along with the winter season - but he's starting to get concerned. He arrived early and then snuck up here to pay Hallis a surprise visit before their public appearance… but if she doesn't come up to this room pretty soon, then he might have to sneak back out again and look for her elsewhere.

It's a good thing that George is on the other side of the closed door. He might just hear Hallis protesting as Beauregard ushers her into a completely different room. "No, I'm not hallucinating! Don't you see Beau? I have a huge J-Lo booty! I need to get to the party to see if there's a plastic surgeon. I need to make an appointment to get all this fat hacked off." The butler is paying no mind to the young mistresses current rantings, it's always something with her. In two days time they'll be able to ship her off to a fat farm, if that's what she insists on doing. Tonight is Lizette's night and the young lady will not be allowed to ruin it.

Downstairs, the elder Van Cortlandt is greeting yet another new arrival, this time with a tight smile as she witnesses Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel playing a prank on the poor drunken Mr. Chase. Unfortunately, there is a victim to the jest as the two men lead the comedian up to a young socialite and introduce her as his wife. Poor Mitsy Smythe-Blakeley, she'll never get rid of the white haired man.

The whisper from Nathan to Tracy prompts another quick glance up the staircase even though the younger Van Cortlandt is no longer in sight. With another polite smile to Lizette, she movess further into the mansion toward the ballroom, the copious fabric of her gown whisking the floor and turning her normally efficient — if hip-swaying — strides into an elegant glide. She pauses, looking back to Nathan with a mostly bare-shouldered shrug. "Maybe she's having a fashion crisis," she says flatly, distracted. Hallis may very well be in some kind of plight; Tracy doesn't seem particularly concerned. She's soon eying the populous. Looking for familiar faces beyond celebrities. "See anyone you know?"

Famous last words from Tracy. As a member of Nathan's staff, Helen was invited to this shindig at the Van Cortlandt manor. Never really comfortable at formal parties and mingling with people she doesn't know very well, the red head parked herself by the food table and munched on appetizers and smiled pleasantly at those who passed her. As a publicist, she's very good with being friendly, but not quite so good at being personal. And so, she found herself cornered by a rather impetuous old Southern Gentleman who thought it was his duty to make sure her drink was filled and her needs taken care of. The first glass of champagne, Helen took from him with genuine gratitude, which she sipped down while listening to his stories about his glory days as a young upstart lawyer and nodded at all the right places. The second glass, she was more reluctant to take from him, but as a lawyer he was very good at arguing that she should have both a good time and another glass. The third glass she didn't even know that she had taken - he merely refilled her glass while she wasn't paying attention.

This all means that Helen has partaken in far too much champagne for the young woman. She blinks slowly and attempts to focus on the man in front of her still talking about his court cases and his prosecutorial record until she smiles and adds, "You know who I want to see more of? Mr. McCoy on Law and Order. I really liked him. He's not doing as much in the new season, don't you think? He was really quite an attractive older man."

"No one familiar yet," Nathan admits as he peers through the sea of faces. "You?" Beat. "If you need to, we can cut out early." Or he can create some kind of diversion. Maybe. Of course, he's trying to play the role of Senator, hence the appearance. Smoothing his tuxedo jacket again he murmurs quietly as he glances about the room, "I guess we should try to —" And then his gaze falls on Helen causing his lips to quirk into a very broad involuntary smile. He motions for Tracy to follow him towards his publicist. "Never knew Sam Waterston could float your boat, Hel?" The lawyer is flashed a bright political smile.

This wasn't the way that George planned or wanted them to meet up tonight. It'll have to do, though. Opening the door a crack and peeking out, he waits till the butler has moved on, then steps outside just long enough to take hold of Hallis's wrist and motion for her to follow him back into the other room. "Hallie— ssh, Hallie, what's wrong? Let me feel your forehead?" She's never had any trouble holding her liquor that he's seen; this must be something else.

Turning in panic, Hallis finally realizes that it's George that has a hold of her and not some letcherous old person from downstairs. The feathers on her dress sort of float in the current of the air and combined with the Bvlgari set that Jaden bought for her for Christmas, she's a vision. Except for the imagined double D's popping from her chest and the enormous protrusion of a rear end… which, had they been real and not imaginary, would have actually made the young woman look curvy rather than the stick figure she is. "George!" she whispers loudly, "Don't you see? I'm grotesque! I've got… these" And both of her hands fly to her minimal chest, "And.. and … this!!" And they both fly to her bottom, which by all accounts is still nonexistent.

In the ballroom, Mitsy is trying her best to shake the drunken Mr. Chase from her tail. Art and Paul are laughing it up with Mike over a few glasses of champagne, and Lizette is doing her best with the help of a very good party planner to make certain that everything runs smoothly and not go by the wayside. It takes a few minutes before the elderly woman is able to pause at the table where Helen is avoiding the flirtations of the barrister. "I am so sorry about that disturbance earler, Ms. Johnson and Sentator Petrelli. Oh, Ms. Muth, what a delight it is to see you here. I am certainly glad you were able to accept the invitation." How does the old woman know everyone by name? Well she has spent the last week studying pictures and memorizing at least one personal detail of each guest so that she would be able to carry on a little conversation. It is the way of royalty after all.

The smile of so-called 'Linda' has faded since her greetings and some of her more grim concerns show. No amount of makeup can mask that, unless Tracy herself forces the lie of being happy and carefree on Christmas Eve. If only. So far, however, she's yet to see any faces from her last political career. "Not yet," she nearly echoes Nathan. A good sign, but it'll take more champagne than Helen has apparently had to make this ice queen relax. Wait— Helen? Catching sight of the redhead as well, the white-gowned adviser follows, a very vaguely amused smile finding purchase on her lips for (or due to…) the publicist. "Hello Helen." The approach of Lizette is acknowledged in due time, though Tracy is quiet so far, casually as possibly dividing her focus between the group and the crowd. Having a drink in hand may help; she lifts a flute from a passing waiter.

Helen's own dress is a quite stunning purple ensemble, a sort of halter top with a flutter skirt that reaches down to the floor. In her hands is a half empty glass of champagne which she doesn't even realize is her third glass. Though she knew Nathan and 'Linda' would be there, she has yet to see them. And possibly it is to her detriment that they're only coming to see her now. Glad to see someone she knows, she takes a strong hand to grip onto Tracy's arm and gives her a deer in headlights sort of look that means 'help me and get me out of here' to all women who know such distress signals.

"Hiii." Her greeting is a little too friendly and drawled out to be normal for the publicist, who is normally so prim and proper. "He's dreamy," she nods affirmatively at Nathan, also sending him the 'help me' vibes in order to get out of her conversation as easily and with as little bruised feelings as possible. Someone, hopefully, will realize her distress and save her. The woman that approaches her she gives a friendly and appeasing smile to. "Oh, Mrs. Potts. I loved your song at the end of Beauty and the Beast," she smiles happily at her.

"You have many guests, and I bet your duties keep you particularly busy tonight," Nathan says politely to the elderly woman as he too steals a flute of champagne from the waiter. He can't help but smirk at the leechy lawyer hitting on his publicist. Decidedly, he turns to the man and puts on a very Braydenesque political smile, "I don't think your prospects with my publicist are good tonight." Beat. "Hence the mention of Sam Waterston. You don't resemble him. At all." Perhaps blunter than Helen was looking for, but it's to-the-point. He leans towards the man and murmurs quietly so just him and the other can hear, "If you want better prospects, I suggest you save the young lady from Chevy Chase." He punctuates his point by raising his eyebrows.

George scratches his head, walking slowly around Hallis in a full circle and looking at the areas she points out. (Shut up, she totally asked him to!) He knows she's had body issues - that one time she collapsed and got taken to the hospital was proof enough of that - but the forcefulness of this relapse still catches him off guard. "I don't get it, what do you mean? They look the same as last week, and they looked— you looked fine then. And I'm not just saying that, okay? I mean, you've been a model!" A shoe model, mostly, but there's always a chance that she'll forget to make that little leap of logic.

Blinking away her Valium retarded tears, Hallis looks up at George and furrows her brow worriedly. "You mean… you don't see how fat I am? I gained at least fifty pounds, I don't even know when. Stephanie said I've always looked like this. Have I always looked like this? With these disgusting D sized flesh bags on my chest and this horrible huge ass? I feel like I have implants or something." She looks in one of the hallway mirrors and frowns at what she sees, a very curvy version of herself. "But you can't get implants in five minutes… and I don't have scars, I looked." Logically, she shouldn't even be able to fit into the dress, had she actually gained the weight that she sees. Unfortunately, faced with a crisis of the body kind, logic has taken a vacation.

Down in the ballroom, Miss Muth is given a very stern glance just before the matriarch fixes a pointed stare at the lawyer. "Would you be so kind as to fetch Beauregard for me? I'm afraid I sent him to take care of my grand daughter and he hasn't returned." The request is obeyed post haste and the woman's icy blue eyes are once again laid on the drunken publicist. "I am afraid I don't know what you mean, Miss Muth, my name is certainly not Mrs. Potts." The insult (even if it wasn't meant as such) is kindly ignored in favor of proper decorum. Certainly the Senator is more than capable of handling his own staff.

Tracy may have been too slow — or more likely, apathetic — to do a thing about Helen's silent plea for help, but it's after Nathan takes the initiative and the elder Van Cortlandt speaks again that she seems to take some form of pity on the woman. "Helen." She plasters on a smile as she tucks a small, silvery clutch purse against her side to place her freed hand on Helen's wrist. "Excuse us, I have something I forgot to tell Ms. Muth," she says, urging her quietly away, lest the champagne encourages Helen to insult their hostess again. She moves a small distance from the little circle, on the outskirts of the ballroom, gown brushing the Persian rug. "Drunk publicists aren't exactly good for… publicity," she says quietly with a hint off annoyance punctuated by a sip of champagne. Nathan's staff can take care of his staff.

Proper decorum is something that Helen has left behind her tonight. She normally doesn't drink at all and she's not sure what is wrong with her tonight. Grateful that Tracy is dragging her away, she doesn't even really mind the annoyance that she's being given. Technically, Helen is Tracy's boss, isn't she? "That's what you forgot to tell me? Hell, I knew that." Swearing may also be indicative of Helen's not normal state of mind at the moment. "I…I think they put something in this drink. It's only my second and I feel a little bubbly." Maybe it's just the carbonation. "He—he kept refilling my drink. And talking to me about some weird court cases down in the South or something. He tried to get fresh with me, you know, but I didn't even allow that."

Relieved that Tracy guides Helen away from their hostess, Nathan turns back to her, "You'll have to excuse Ms. Muth, Ms. Van Cortlandt. She doesn't function well after hours. I keep her far too busy outside of them." He offers her a bright toothy grin before he adds for good measure, "And might I add you look lovely tonight." He grins as he sips his glass of champagne.

George shakes his head, making a show of checking Hallis out in the mirror as well. "Well, you have always looked like this— I mean what I'm seeing, not what you're seeing. Maybe someone messed with your head again, we can try to work it out later…" Right idea, though it may well lead to the wrong person. "Right now, we better get down there and do the whole grand-entrance thing. And if your so-called friends say anything bad about your body, just ignore it, all right? I could smell the cattiness from a mile away."

Nodding to George, Hallis finally takes a close look at him. "George, where's your tuxedo? Did you forget it?" She's certain she mentioned that it was a formal event but she just shakes her head and adjusts her silk shawl to cover up as much of her horrible body as she possibly can. Forever will she rue the day that she ordered the backless gown because at this moment, she's certain that there's a protrusion of backfat just waiting to escape its confines. "I hope Grandmother doesn't mind that I'm going downstairs… can we just try to stay out of her line of sight?"

Nathan's compliment is met with a very lovely smile from the older woman. "Why thank you, Senator. From what I hear you are interested in our nation's security?" While it's true that Lizette is not a natural citizen of the United States, as indicated by her faint accent, she has come to think of the country as her first home. Despite the obvious French influence of the decor. A quick flit of her eyes is cast toward the man's two employees and she inclines her chin ever so slightly toward them.

Boss schmoss. The only boss Tracy answers to is the Senator. Her light grip on the publicist lets up. She gives Helen a skeptical look with a raise of her eyebrows as if to say 'you don't get out much, do you?' while sipping her own champagne once more. The crowd is eyed slowly from corner to corner — Lizette given a polite smile (everything's great!) before she speaks up again, only to say to Helen — or rather, laugh and murmur covertly, "Mmh, just wait until the Mother Superior over there resumes her rounds." Seen one matriarch socialite, seen them all.

That may be true for now, but if Helen has anything to say about it, if Tracy starts stepping out of line, she is going to find herself under the personal glare of the one true redhead here. But, for now, the woman is just trying to keep her composure in front of all these people. And it's not doing very well. No, it's true, Helen does not get out much. Her life has been about her work and that does not involve champagne often. The nervous glances over at Lizette turns the already pale publicist a little paler. "I—I think I need to step outside." And without waiting to hear Tracy's answer, she moves toward whatever is the closest doorway that will lead her there.

"It's true. I have a vested interest in keeping Americans safe — it's part of my job. Although I have reasons beyond my duties — and their names happen to be Simon and Monroe. Our children deserve a better future. A safer future with stronger community ties." Nathan nods with that same smile that pinches his cheeks. It's all very well rehearsed. So much that it makes him feel like a broken record time and time again. He finishes his flute of champagne. He glances back to his employees and sees Helen making her way towards the entrance. "I'm sorry to do this Ms. Van Cortlandt, but will you excuse me?" he smiles again as he takes a step away and traipses after the publicist.

As he guides Hallis back outside and toward the stairs - staying behind her to help conceal the worst of the imagined unsightly bulges - George shakes his head. "I didn't know we were supposed to! One of my assistants at the office read things off to me, one of us must have— Wait, you know what? Let's just go with it. Let people gawk at my outfit instead of your— instead of you."

Then he quiets. They're finally here! In full view. Okay, three-quarters. Okay, profile, and you'd have to be looking up at that exact moment, but at least they've showed up.

As they make their way down the stairs, Hallis' shawl slips from her shoulder and she's pleasantly surprised that the looks she is receiving aren't gawks of disgust. She's still quite self conscious, however, and clings to the flimsy silken square as though it's a security blanket. So far, Lizette is occupied with a small crowd of guests, making small talk with them as Senator Petrelli makes his way toward Linda and someone she's never met before. The young woman isn't as well versed on the guests as the matriarch, perhaps out of shallow disregard or maybe the latest drama in her life. When the pair finally make it into the party, Hallis is quite pleased to discover that Mitsy is trying to shake two old men off of her. "Look George, there's Mitsy," she says brightly and lifts her hand to give her 'friend' a finger wave. When the other socialite looks up, she has an expression of envy… mostly due to the accessories that Hallis is wearing. They likely cost more than her new car.

Stephanie'd been accompanying Hallis for a while. But she can't very well enjoy the party if the party girl won't come out of the room. She's in a black strapless dress with some elaborate silver-and-crystal ornamentation at the front and matching heels. She takes a look about at the socialites gathered, and seems amused. "I told you everything was fine." she tells Hallis. Of course it is; she's stopped her little meddling in that regard.

To follow Helen or not to follow Helen… as it happens, just when Tracy was leaning strong toward the latter, Nathan makes up her mind for her. Thus, she too makes her way toward the retreating Helen, glancing around as if unsure she (rather, Helen) is headed the right away to begin with. Her steps are unhurried, but, being closer, she catches up to the Senator and falls in step at his side. "She's just had a bit too much to drink." A few of the crowd's looks toward the staircase to prompt Tracy to glance in that direction as well. "There's Hallis and Congressman Dawson," she murmurs. "I'm glad he's the only Congressman here I know." So far. There are many. "I'm still not sure I trust the man—" Hang on. "Nathan," Tracy's voice hushes into an adamant hiss and she suddenly grabs Nathan's elbow. Tightly, although her grip is nothing compared to that of the sister he's more familiar with. She says nothing else, but her icy eyes say it all as she continues looking over her shoulder with an intent, pointed stare — not at Hallis and George, but the girl in the black strapless gown.

The red haired woman in the purple dress doesn't notice Nathan nor Tracy following after her. She just needs some fresh air and she needs it soon. She doesn't know who Stephanie is or why this is a significant revelation to her boss and co-worker. Instead, she attack the doorway to the garden with ferocity, unsure if it is locked or she just can't work the doorknob. It bangs against both itself and the frame. Those close by turn around just slightly to see who it is that is making such a racket. With a sheepish grin and laugh, she waves at them and then attempts to pull it again. Still nothing. Why does nothing work for her properly after three glasses of champagne?

"It doesn't take much," Nathan murmurs through a strained smile until Tracy grasps his elbow and turns his gaze to Stephanie. Great time to have left his new head of security at home. Clenching his jaw, he weighs something in his mind before his line of sight shifts back to Helen. "I think we should duck out." He doesn't know if his mother dealt with this, or whether that had even been her intention. Finally he comes to Helen's side, "Helen. I think that's the broom closet…"

Playing things as low-key as possible (not very, for the personal consort of a family member), George offers the standard smiles and greetings and handshakes as he and Hallis make their way through the crowd. Hi, catty friend, he thinks to himself, offering Mitsy a brief wave of his own. Then: "Who's she?" he whispers to Hallis out of the corner of his mouth, a glance serving to indicate her more genuine-sounding friend in the little black number.

Playing things as low-key as possible (not very, for the personal consort of a family member), George offers the standard smiles and greetings and handshakes as he and Hallis make their way through the crowd. Hi, catty friend, he thinks to himself, offering Mitsy a brief wave of his own. Then: "Who's she?" he whispers to Hallis out of the corner of his mouth, a glance serving to indicate her more genuine-sounding friend in the little black number. There are enough other people milling around that he just misses spotting Nathan and company, and instead winds up diverting some more of the crowd's attention away from the three of them.

Hallis gives Stephanie a worried glance as she comes up behind her and whispers, but as she catches a view of herself in the mirror… she's suddenly normal. "Oh my god!" she cries out, much to Lizette's embarrassment. Rushing to the mirror, she grips the sides of it and could almost kiss it, she's that happy. "I'm beautiful again! I don't have a J-Lo booty! I don't have back fat! I don't have… My boobs are perfect!!" The last part of that is what grabs the attention of many males in the room who turn to see the dainty blonde admiring herself in the mirror.

Lizette just clenches her jaw angrily and points her trusted butler in the direction of the young Van Cortlandt. It takes nearly no time at all before he is pulling a Tracy and grabbing the young woman by the elbow and escorting her back up the stairs from whence she came.

Stephanie looks over as Hallis is getting escorted away. Which leaves her free to mingle as she sees fit. Her eyes sweep the room. Famous types, rich types, political ty—-oh, look. It's Nathan and Niki. Well, that could be interesting. She starts through the room, heading in their direction. Nothing purposeful, and certainly nothing malicious in her demeanor. Just one of the crowd.

"Good idea. This isn't the time. Or the place." Tracy reaches out and set her half-empty glass of champagne on the passing tray of a waiter. She's trying to keep track of Stephanie, and though she loses sight of the young woman a couple of times in the mingling crowd, the next time she spots the blonde hair and black dress with sparkling diamonds, she's closer than she was before. "Come on." Helen's exit would have been convenient if it weren't, apparently, not an exit at all. "I wonder if she followed us." She doesn't let go of Nathan, ready to make a quick exit if need be.

"N-no, it's the—" Helen pauses and reorients herself. "Right." That is a closet and not the door to the outside. She takes a step backwards as if the handle was too hot to handle and crosses her arms in front of her. Then, narrowing in on the proper door, she reaches and turns it open. This time, there's no yanking and no loud noises. It opens seamlessly. The redhead takes a breath of relief. "Thank God. I just…I need some air." Still not knowing what Stephanie means to either of them, she moves for the outside. "Don't let me ruin the party for you. I just need to step outside for a moment."

"Uh…" Nathan's brows furrow as Helen steps outside. He glances at Stephanie again and guides Tracy outside, following Helen. "Nonsense, it's a beautiful night." He tries to smile earnestly, but all earnest has faded from his eyes. They're lackluster, empty, even if his lips try to smile, the rest of his face won't comply. "Besides, I could use some air… and I've probably had enough merriment for one night…"

Meanwhile, back inside the manor, George is busy making the butler's job more difficult. "She's fine," he murmurs, quietly enough that only the three of them and a handful of others close by would hear. He's keeping hold of one of Hallis's wrists to prevent her from being dragged upstairs again. "Tell the family I'll take responsibility for her, all right?" A sidelong glance to Hallis: is it, in fact, all right? They can duck out for some fresh air themselves, if not, but she's been so thoroughly looking forward to this evening after all.

The young blonde looks between the butler and George and then her eyes fall on Lizette. The utter disappointment in the old woman's eyes is enough to make Hallis wither where she stands. Her chin quivers when the realization of what she's done hits her. Turning to George, she shakes her head and purses her lips into a line. "No, it's alright George. I don't want to embarrass Grandmother more than I already have." The dress, the diamonds, all of it wasted. Mitsy, on the other hand, is lapping up her friend's humiliation. If only Chelsea was there, or even Olivia, unfortunately the two of them were vacationing on a beach somewhere in Greece with their families. She gives the congressman a squeeze of the hand and a small smile, "Will you come up when you're finished mingling? I don't want to spoil the party for you too."

Drat. Her prospective conversation partners have left. Annoying, really. Stephanie turns, heading back towards Hallis, to see what's going on there. She approaches with relative lack of care for any attempts at the dragging-away…at least till she sees it. Eyes narrow, and she asks "What's going on here?" in a somewhat annoyed tone.

It's understandable, really. When you think you've been losing your mind and then it stops, you need to reassure yourself out loud. Alas, they can't actually explain that to the crowd without making things even worse. "Hallie has… been under a lot of stress lately," George offers, looking Stephanie briefly up and down, assuming her to most likely be another relative yet to be introduced. "I'm just going to see her upstairs, if that's all right?"

"I'm here for you first," he adds, giving Hallis's fingers a quick squeeze, "hobnobbing second. Having to stay down here by myself, that's what would spoil it for me."

Giving Stephanie a very apologetic look, Hallis manages to keep her eyes off her Grandmother for a few moments as she tries to explain. "I'm sorry, Stephanie, I've been rude and horrible. Please stay and enjoy yourself, I just want to forget this horrible day has ever happened." She doesn't go into her odd behavior, she can't even begin to explain its sudden appearance and then disappearance. The only commonality is the woman in front of her. A weak smile is delivered, a smile that wanes as Mitsy slithers over to the trio and gives a self satisfied smirk.

The brunette latches onto George's other arm and puckers her lips a little, in the same way that Hallis does when she's thinking. "Congressman, there are some people here that you really should meet. I'm sure Hallis won't mind if I steal you away for a few minutes?" She narrows her eyes at the dainty woman on the staircase for a moment before turning to him and giving him a dazzling smile. "Of course not, besides, you haven't even said hello to Grandmother Van Cortlandt yet."

A Grandmother who is standing right there as Mitsy attempts to lure George away. "Of course he has said hello," she says in a very pleasant tone, "Congressman Dawson has been here for the better part of the day, Miss Smythe-Blakeley. He's been helping with the preparations as much as he can." It's apparent that the elderly woman is as fond of the dark haired woman as Hallis is.

Stephanie smiles back over to George. "I'm sure she's fine. Hallis, you don't want to miss your own party…you've been talking about this all day." And then there's the viper there, the one with the dark hair. Oh, no. While Stephanie might be willing to mess with Hallis, that doesn't mean anyone /else/ is allowed to. She narrows her eyes just slightly as she sees the other woman…

The brunette seems a little caught off guard by the venerable woman and turns her head a little too quickly. Perhaps it's the slough of champagne that she's downed this evening, or perhaps it's something else but for the tiniest moment, her eyes become a little unfocused before she takes a step toward Hallis. A tragic misstep as her foot catches the front hem of her dress and it pulls downward, leaving Mitsy frontally exposed to the entire room.

…and, at the same time, George turns toward Mitsy, politely but firmly withdrawing his arm. Drawing upon his career experience, he keeps most of his annoyance out of his voice, instead preparing to channel it into a whisper that only she would hear. Go be a barnacle on some other ship—

In the split second before thoughts begin to become words, he's caught up short by the wardrobe malfunction. Well, he may dislike her, but not enough to just leave her like that! Without another word, he slips off his jacket and drapes it in front of her; then, shaking his head a little, moves back in anticipation of leaving with Hallis.

Hallis' eyes go wide at Mitsy's sudden exposure and she purses her lips together and claps her hand over her mouth in shock. Half wanting to laugh out loud, half wanting to die inside for the other woman, she's left just staring. It's rather unfortunately for Mitsy though, half of her drunken audience are males, males who come from unhappy marriages. As swiftly as George's coat is wrapped around the young woman there are a half dozen offers to help her find her way home.

Stephanie gives a bit of a smirk. There. That was handled easily enough. "Hope you feel better, Hallis." And that said, she'll start to make her own departure from the party.

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