Catherine glanced out a spotless window that stretched from floor to ceiling. The track far below showed a few jockeys and their mounts walking on immaculate grass, surveying the turf one last time before thundering over it. Seats in the stands were almost filled.
A hand touched her elbow. Startled, she turned in her chair.
“Hello!” said a young woman about her age. The English accent was posh, soft, and playful. Blue eyes, blonde hair and high cheekbones gave the Brit a strong resemblance to Charlize Theron.
“Hello,” Catherine replied cautiously.
“Is that your bag?”
“Huh?” Catherine’s eyes followed where the blonde was pointing. She saw her purse (a sturdy but unremarkable thing that she had purchased in a thrift store) lying on the hardwood floor behind her. It was leaning precariously, and the contents were dangerously close to spilling out around the busy traffic of feet passing by.
“Oh my gosh!” Catherine scooped it up and set it carefully on the table. “Thanks. That almost was a disaster. I guess I shouldn’t have left it down there.” She flushed. Catherine had laid the bag on the floor because her thrift-store purse had embarrassed her in this place.
“No problem,” the blonde replied. “You don’t want to lose your wallet in this vicinity!” She laughed, a happy sound.
Catherine laughed also, releasing some tension.
“Say,” the blonde said. “You’re low. Would you like another?”
Catherine glanced at her empty martini glass. It had been hours since she had finished it. “Well…”
“This place is insane.” The blonde gestured toward the bar, crammed with patrons shouting at three fast-moving Chinese bartenders. “If you go over there someone will steal your table, right?”
“Right.” Catherine did not mention that she hadn’t ordered another drink because the drinks were so expensive.
“I can order for you. What are you drinking?” The blonde smiled, a picture of confidence. Catherine stared at her. The woman radiated health and glamor. She looked like one of life’s winners. Her black sweater and charcoal skirt made it hard to tell if she was a businesswoman, or a socialite, or something else entirely. Her style, though impeccable, did not give anything away. One thing was for sure though: she clearly belonged here as much as Catherine did not.