"She'll love it," Georgeann said. "You guys are living right in the middle of the in-crowd. They know everyone." Georgeann fanned her face with a clump of napkins. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't gossip."
"Oh no," I reassured her. "You know what they say, 'What happens behind the drink table stays behind the drink table.'"
She laughed, grabbed one of the watered-down Sprites, and took a swig like she was shooting vodka. "Kendra is the one who heads it all up. Rumor says she's pretty militant about it, too. You know, that everything has to be perfect." She smirked and did a scan of the crowd. "There's another one of your neighbors. With your husband, actually."
She pointed to a petite woman with a tiny knob of a nose, black hair cut into a severe bob that grazed the tops of her shoulders. I recognized her from the other night, too—despite her size, something about the way she squared her body suggested command. She was leaning in close to Adam, talking with her hands, and he threw her the warm smile that made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. I knew that smile well.
"That's Bettina Price."
Georgeann identified another neighbor, Alice Swanson, who was wrangling three young kids around a table. Alice was a good name for her, too—she seemed like the type that might slip curiously down a rabbit hole. She was as bouncy as her ponytail, moving swiftly to open plastic snack containers and set out toys. And at the same table sat the woman with the bracelet I'd seen through the window, head bent, oblivious, scrolling through her phone. Pia Burman, Georgeann informed me.
"They're the Ivy Five," Georgeann said. I made a mental count. Just four. I wondered who the final member of the band was. "But my friend Maggie calls them the Ivy Hive. You know, busy bees and all. But don't worry. They'll love 'you.'" Georgeann's tone was edgier now, like she'd drawn some sort of line between us. "I mean, you're perfect. The principal's wife, living on their street."
The principal's wife. I wasn't sure if I should be offended. My sister-in-law, Trixie, had warned me that suburban moms sometimes trended back to that old-fashioned mentality--just wait, they all sit home and bitch about their yoga instructors—but Trixie always had a sore spot for anyone who she thought had life easy.
I heard my name and saw Adam signaling from a corner of the room. He finally had a moment alone.
I said goodbye to Georgeann and hustled over. "I'm meeting the whole state of Virginia, feels like," he said quietly, though I could tell he was pleased about it. He fixed my necklace clasp, which had fallen forward.
"I saw you talking to one of our new neighbors," I said, curious.
"Ah, yes." Adam's eyes twinkled. "She told me they'd love for you to join in on their Halloween party planning meeting this week. I said I'd allow it, but that would count as the one time per month I let you out of the house without my supervision."
That made me laugh. I bet it had made them laugh, too. He was going to be very good at his job. I could tell from the way everyone melted around his messy mop of hair, round wire glasses, his earnest talk about education and making a difference.
"Come on, I'll introduce you," he said, tugging me along before I could protest. I caught Georgeann's eye as we passed, and she winked.
Kendra McCaul was in the middle of a story as we approached. "—and I was like, I completely had told you not to go with him, so what did you think was going to happen?"
"Excuse me, ladies," Adam interrupted. "I just wanted to introduce you to my better half. This is my wife, Theresa Pressley."
The women stood between two cafeteria tables, four of them with slight smiles, heads cocked at the same angle, a united front. An army with moisturizing sunscreen and Kate Spade purses, doused in Yves Saint Laurent perfume.
"Well, I'll leave you all to it," Adam said, patting me on the back and disappearing into the crowd. He forgot sometimes that not everyone was comfortable meeting new people.
Bettina broke the silence and introduced herself. "So, you've been married for a year?" she asked after we shook hands.
"Well, it'll be a year in March," I said. "Still newlyweds."
"How did you meet?" Alice bent down to fish one of her children out from under a table. "I'm Alice, by the way," she called from the floor, snatching a dirty penny from a toddler's clutches.
"Uh, on a plane actually," I said. They didn't seem like the type, but I always braced myself for a "Mile-High Club" joke whenever I shared that fact.
"A plane! That's so funny." Pia, the oldest of the group, held out her hand and introduced herself.
"If the only way to get married was to meet on a plane, I'd be single forever," Bettina said. "The second I sit down and buckle my seat belt, the headphones come on. Small talk with someone you're trapped with for hours like that is my nightmare."