We’re in a beautiful glass convention hall, with tables tucked to one half, with dinner plates cleared, with hundreds of stylish people dancing around the other half. There’s a bride—a beautiful redhead in a sleek, sleeveless gown—beaming in her husband’s arms. They do a quick spin, and we see him; he’s beaming even wider. He’s attractive too, though he’s batting up a couple notches; he seems so warm, so charming, so stupidly happy. His three-piece suit rivals her gown in fit and frill. Just past them, we see a sharply dressed guest—ALINA, 45—mingling with two other women. They’re all wearing pant suits or blazers, hair pulled tight and sipping their upped cocktails. While the other two women chatter, Alina has her stony, bespectacled gaze fixed on someone just past the newlyweds.
The object of Alina’s attention is HELENE, 63. Whereas Alina hides behind her own prowess, Helene radiates ease, approachability. Her greying hair is buzzed short, and her legs are crossed at the knees beneath a modest navy dress. Her ivory earrings contrast her dark skin, and a long, beaded necklace accents the number. Helene watches the groom and bride with such grace and sincerity, admiring the purity and splendor of the moment; she’s lost in thought as they dance. Alina’s stare softens as she studies the older woman; then, for a brief second, their eyes meet. This catches Helene off guard, her smile disappearing as she realizes she is being watched. She sends Alina a nod, and Alina raises her glass very subtly, sending a hello back across the room.
The music fades away, and the groom leaves his bride to retrieve a microphone: “Hi everyone. I’ve said it enough times tonight, and I know you’re all thinking it too, but can we just take a few seconds to marvel at this beautiful woman.” His bride blushes again, and even Alina feels elated. We see this beat unfold from her POV, as the groom continues: “Now, we’ve got her fine parents to thank for making sure she turned out so perfect, but there’s someone here who is responsible for this gorgeous gown, and that same someone is largely responsible for how I’ve turned out…a verdict I’ll leave up to you, but as far as I’m concerned, it means I owe this very special person a lot.” He and his bride turn their focus to Helene, who doesn’t want the spotlight, but she’s got it now. Someone shouts drunkenly “We love you, Helene!”, followed by a steady, graduated cheer. Then, the groom again: “Helene, I can’t imagine working for anyone else; I’ve learned more from you in our decade together than any other mentor or teacher or textbook could show me. I admit, I was a little offended when Rebecca wouldn’t let me design her dress…I’m good enough for Kate Middleton to call multiple times, but apparently not for my own wife on her biggest day. That’s reassuring….” The crowd chuckles. “Really though, Helene, I’m not good enough for you. Nobody is. I remain humbled by your kindness and talents.” We see Helene smiling timidly, frozen from the attention; Alina is frozen too, her stare affixed to Helene, even as the groom concludes: “Thank you for making this beautiful gown, and for being here with us today. We love you, so much. May I have a dance?” More cheers as the music resumes with an up-tempo number, as Helene extends her hand to the gentleman and accepts his invitation. Then quickly, once more, her eyes look over to Alina, as if to seek permission, or perhaps to boast.
As the song ends, one of Alina’s friends turns to the other: “Honey, let’s dance. Come on, we never get to.” They set down their cocktails, grab hands, and steer towards the action. The other turns to Alina: “Are you coming? You gotta dance to at least one song…don’t be so pouty!” Then they’re gone. Alina sips her martini, surveying the room and wishing she could disappear. With a deep breath, she builds an ounce of energy to follow her friends and join the mob. She slinks to the dance floor as the music changes to another slow song. She steers nervously toward Helene as the groom hugs her and kisses her cheek; it’s taking Alina a lot of courage to make this approach. The bride comes over to hug Helene as well, before reuniting with her new husband for the next song. Helene turns away from them, right into Alina’s care. Helene’s smile falls flat, as she is unsure again how to handle this attention. She says to Alina: “I thought you were just going to stare all night. Make me sit there, looking like a spinster.” She extends her left hand to Alina; there’s a wedding ring on it. “So here, why don’t I ask you to dance, then?” She emphasizes the “I” and “you”. They both relax as Alina accepts the offer.
The night is over, and the crowd slowly pours out onto the street: Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, in Prospect Heights. We see the exterior of the building, the massive Brooklyn Museum, beaming like the bride. Alina is alone; she lights a cigarette and crosses the busy street to a boulevard, then across another one-way street before tossing the cig and entering her own front door; the venue location could not have been more convenient. We follow her through the lobby, then up one set of stairs, then down a long hallway, then into her apartment. It’s stunning, as sharply appointed as one would expect from an Eastern Parkway pre-war occupied by a posh power lesbian. She untucks and unbuttons her blouse to relax, then pulls out her ponytail before removing her heels. She walks to the bathroom door. It’s closed, and there is a faucet running on the other side of it. She knocks a couple times: “Are you almost done? Could you draw the bath for me?” The door opens, and we see Helene there, in her pajamas, prepared for bed. “All done. I’ll let you draw it. In 20 years, I haven’t once gotten the temperature right.” She scoots past Alina, then into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Alina sighs to herself, then walks to the tub to turn on the water. She cranks the cold handle, and we cut to black.