After lunch with Matthew, Dana made sure that all last-minute preparations had been taken care of for the Sugar Plum Ball, which would be held in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria. She left work early, returned home, and got dressed, changing into the black gown from the House of Cirone. As she looked in the full-length mirror in her dressing room, she added a few ropes of pearls, pinned a white silk camellia, and draped the Chantilly lace shawl. In that moment, Dana thought of fashion’s most enduring icon who created this elegant and alluring style, and the happy personal life that eluded her. Mademoiselle Chanel died in 1971 at the age of eighty-eight while working on her spring collection, but her passion for work did not fill the void of marriage and children. Her success was costly, but clearly the choice of an uncompromising woman determined to achieve greatness on her own. She had once said, “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.”
As she checked her makeup one last time, Dana wondered what Helen would think when she announced the winner of the contest. Bob had thought her idea to be absolutely ingenious, but the solution would affect other departments in the store, especially Helen’s. In the long run, Helen’s reaction would not affect Dana’s announcement or, for that matter, her future actions at the store. She had proven herself this past week, and had shown her colleagues that she was more savvy than they had given her credit for. She respected the executives who had paid their dues for many years, but if Ira were going to pursue the emerging youth market, then she would continue to speak up when she felt she had something to contribute.
“You look beautiful,” Brett said as he finished donning his tux.
“Thank you,” Dana said as she turned and straightened Brett’s tie. He had been a charming host the night before, and he had surprised her with his invaluable assistance to Johnny. The old Brett, self-absorbed and distant, would not have taken the time to help her childhood friend extricate himself from a potentially damaging situation that would also have led to a marriage of questionable merit. He was still distracted at times, but Dana felt that she had indeed, to paraphrase her brother at lunch, found the right person.
“You do know how to wear a tux, Mr. McGarry. You look quite handsome.”
“I bet you say that to all of the lawyers who are in line for partnership,” Brett said.
“Only the thoughtful ones.”
• • •
The Sugar Plum Ball was a black tie event preceded each year by a cocktail reception at six o’clock at the Waldorf. When it was time for the ball, the guests were seated as the finalists’ fathers escorted their daughters, all wearing white gowns, into the winter wonderland ballroom. The first dance between father and daughter was to “The Way You Look Tonight.” Later, the contestants were seated at tables with their respective families. Seated at the B. Altman table were Dana, Brett, Andrew, Helen, Bob and Bea, each with their spouses. At Brett’s invitation, Davis, Konen and Wright was supporting the charitable event, and Jack and Patti Hartlen were seated at the firm’s table. Brett surmised that Richard was still tenaciously trying to get the Hartlens to retain the firm.
Opening remarks were made by John S. Burke, Jr., the chairman of B. Altman and the president of the Altman Foundation. Burke welcomed the guests and thanked them for their support of the Eighth Annual Sugar Plum Ball for the benefit of the Children’s Aid Society. Burke explained that in 1913, under the provisions of Benjamin Altman’s will, the Altman Foundation was established to support charitable institutions that benefited the people in the city of New York. Committed to that mission was the Children’s Aid Society, founded by Charles Loring Brace in 1853, when orphanages and “poor houses” were the only services available to homeless children on the streets of New York. Brace introduced “Orphan Trains,” which took tens of thousands of abandoned orphans from city slums to live with farm families across America. Currently, the Society, together with dozens of other agencies, provided foster boarding care, adoption programs, and community centers offering healthcare and leadership training. The Society was also a founding member of the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Champagne was poured before coffee and dessert as Dana rose from her seat and made her way to the front of the ballroom to make the much-anticipated announcement. As she faced the audience, she was distressed to see Brett get up and leave the ballroom. This was her moment! Where could he possibly be going? In fact, Andrew had also left the table. She’d worked for three months on the contest. Where were her biggest supporters?
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