top of page
  • Jo

Mrs. Davenport's Daughters




 

Jeremy was Mrs. Davenport’s favorite child at the breakfast table and he wasn’t even hers. He sat in his usual spot on the built-in bench overlooking Central Park in the family’s luxurious high-rise on East 77th Street in Manhattan. But that’s not where the Grande Damme of the family had always called home. Mrs. Davenport was born on a drama-filled morning in South Wales in 1950. Her first breath took the form of a scream heard ‘round the entire maternity wing and she didn’t stop wailing from that day forward. She was vocal about all things concerning her and many things that didn’t. A beauty queen from age 13 through University, she met her husband, the dashing entrepreneur from Connecticut, while studying in The City to complete her Master of Education while often voicing her disdain for children.


She had three daughters, Pippa, Emma, and Victoria, and wasn’t overly pleased with any of their present outcomes. She had her reasons.


Pippa graduated from a certain Ivy League in New Haven and was deep into her residency as a neurosurgeon. Mrs. Davenport would have preferred that her eldest marry a neurosurgeon instead and do something about her eyebrows. She sighed loudly whenever her daughter mentioned anything about brains. 


Emma, the middle child, spent too much time in a place that Mrs. Davenport referred to with utter disgust as “downtown” which was anywhere below 14th street but also sometimes 23rd. In reality, Pippa worked at a fabulously successful gallery and was acing her final year at NYU. NYU would have made any other parent proud except that it was on 8th Street which was unequivocally “downtown,” no matter what map you consulted.


And then there was Victoria. Vix, as she was called everywhere but her own home, was in school in Boston and not particularly happy with that particular life decision. She was a New Yorker through and through and, no offense to Bean Town, but, it just didn’t cut it. Vix liked to party. She liked to dance and wear glitter up to her eyebrows. Her friend group consisted of a colorful bunch who were street-smart enough to take advantage of The City That Never Sleeps from a very young age.  Being the youngest, she was sinfully adept at keeping her real identity from her mother and, if pressed, after two Sapphire martinis, Mrs. Davenport would admit that she was the favorite of all of her disappointing daughters. And then, there was Jeremy.


Jeremy met the Davenport family while enrolled at Manhattan Country Day school in first grade where he shared a desk and a chocolate milk with Vix. From that point on,  Jeremy was a more or less permanent fixture at the Davenport household where he learned about things like caviar and Vix’s mother learned everything that her daughters were trying to hide. They learned the hard way not to talk about anything important around Jeremy. He was a constant snitch. But he was funny and cute and took the matriarchial attention away from them so all three girls put up with his constant presence.


“I don’t know why you wouldn’t date a proper young man like Jeremy, VicTORIA” she would sing, generally out of the blue, from her beloved dressing room.


“Because he’s gay,” Vix would call back from the hallway, smart enough to stay out of her mother’s sacred space. 


“He’s NOT!” Mrs Davenport would holler back, the second word spiking up an entire octave as if she were auditioning for the opera. Twenty years in New York and Mrs Davenport’s British accent hadn’t waned one iota since her departure from the UK.


“You girls, you think because a man has MANNERS and a sense of STYLE and CHARM that he is, well, you know. And, you’re WRONG,”


Vix wasn’t wrong. Jeremy was gay. And, she knew on some level that her mother, in her ivory tower of her bathroom where she was spending an increasing amount of time, knew that. Also, Vix knew better than to argue with Mrs. Davenport. It had gotten her sisters nowhere and was an honest waste of time. So, she agreed.


“Of course, Mother,” Vix was home for Christmas break and trying to distract herself from the fact that she was dreading her Amtrak return to Massachusetts the following week. She knew that she needed to go back to school, and that her parents would murder her or find someone else to discretely murder her if she didn’t return to college. Dropping out wasn’t an option in the Davenport family. They were a hardworking bunch. Her father’s father had made shoes out of old tires during the Depression and somehow turned that into a successful sneaker company. The details of this ascent were never clear to the Davenport girls but they certainly appreciated the leg up in life that it provided. Vix walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge out of pure boredom. Since she didn’t feel like celery or Chardonnay, she closed it. Then she sighed. 


Vix needed something to look forward to, to forget about the damp and dreary dorm room, the decrepit Irish pubs that closed at One and seemed to be her classmate's only options for nightlife. She was sick of the Boston angriness which was different from the New York angriness in that Vix did not find it remotely cool. She looked out her window, a view that was both comfortingly familiar and wildly exciting. The apartment, like The City, was part of her.


It was large by any city standards and just enormous by New York’s. Her father, a slick and skillful businessman, had purchased the classic six in the late 70s, before the real estate boom of the 80s, and had held onto the place with the foresight that turned into his career calling card. And it was quite the investment. The elevator led directly to the family’s light-filled foyer. The kitchen, to the right, was a room that Mrs. Davenport avoided like public transportation. Her bedroom, at the end of the long hallway to the left, was her oasis. Mr. Davenport had it remodeled for her in the early 90s and it showed. The shiny white tile and gold fixtures were what we’d now describe as Trumpian. Then, it was the definition of luxury. Mrs. Davenport would spend hours in her bathtub with freesia-scented candles lining the gilded table. It was her sacred space. No one, literally, no one,  (ok, fine, minus the housekeeper) was allowed in.


During her endless baths and dressing routine, her high school-aged daughters would steal expensive wine from their parent’s bar and conspire on the floor of one of their bedrooms. Pippa was convinced that their mother was hiding a leprechaun in her tub. Emma threw out the possibility that their mother was a mermaid, like Darryl Hannah in Splash! And had to keep her tail wet at all times. Vix was mostly interested in what fun pills were hiding in her mother’s medicine cabinet. It didn’t matter. Being disappointments or not, all three grown women were terrified of crossing the threshold. So the conspiracy theories abounded and were a great source of entertainment for Mrs. Davenport’s daughters. As Vix’s eyes drifted into her parent’s now-unused dining room, she got an idea.


“Mother?” Vix heard some water gurgling. Maybe Emma was right. Vix couldn’t help but snort at the idea of her mother as a mermaid.  Vix sighed. Her once vivacious mother had lost so much of her bite. Vix swore that she wouldn’t let that happen to her. Another reason to get out of Boston.


“Mother, you won’t be here for New Year’s Eve, will you?”


“Of course not, Victoria.” Her mother replied curtly. “We will be going to Ciprianis. Where else would we go?” Mrs. Davenport had turned being offended into an art form. 


“Would it be ok if I had a dinner party? A proper dinner party with my girls?”


Vix knew that her mother was inclined to approve of anything with the word “proper” in it. Mrs. Davenport emerged from her bath in a silk jacquard dressing gown, her hair thoughtfully gathered in a shower cap covered in an animal print, purchased from one of those wildly overpriced pharmacies on Madison Avenue that catered to women exactly like her mother. 


“I think that sounds lovely,” Was Mrs. Davenport’s response. “Of course, you will serve Cornish Game Hen.” With that bit of advice, she turned on her velvet slipper and went back into her bedroom. And that was how the  New Year's party came to be.


Vix was excited to get dressed up, cook up nine small chickens, and set the dining room table using her mother’s third-best China. She planned to host the perfect dinner party using her parent’s supply of wine and booze and silverware, and then dash out to one of the clubs in the Meatpacking District before her parents got home. She spent the entirety of the day cooking and chatting with her dinner party invitees on her phone. Which was hilarious. She would be seeing them in person in just a few hours. But, such was being a nineteen-year-old girl.


Vix zipped up her sparkly sequin dress and slid on her highest heels. She lit dozens of candles and placed the glass votives around the table and sideboard. They flickered against the city lights sparkling through the tall windows. The city looked like a movie. The dark sky, the buzz of people, the colors of the billboards and signs and streetlights. Central Park sprawled out below her, like a jungle in the middle of the madness. Vix took a deep breath, inhaling all that was New York.


She played her father’s favorite Sinatra CD. The smell of rosemary and thyme wafted from the kitchen. Vix may not have appreciated her mother’s opinion on most things, but the Cornish Game Hens were admittedly a good call. She dimmed the rest of the lights and checked herself out in the front mirror. Just as Vix was about to put the finishing touches on her face and wrists, the buzzer rang from the doorman.  Vix looked at her Fossil watch. She wasn’t expecting her guests for at least another half an hour and every legit New Yorker knows not to be on time.


She pulled the tan receiver off the wall, “Hello?”


“Miss Davenport,” Vix did not like being called “Miss Davenport,” She was already considering a myriad of pen names and wasn’t even a writer,


“Hi Benjamin, its Vix.”


“Mr. Jeremy is on his way up.”


Vix’s nose scrunched up reactively. Jeremy? This was specifically a girl’s dinner to talk about specifically girly things and then get into a club where their only shot at admittance with their Christopher Street-purchased fake IDs from states like Hawaii and Iowa were their low-cut tops and short skirts. A guy did not fit into the equation. Right as Vix was piecing the puzzle together, her mother appeared in yet another silk dressing gown, this one with a memorable zigzag print and matching slippers.


“Darling,” Mrs. Davenport only called her daughters “darling” when she’d had her gin or wanted something or was delivering news that she knew wouldn’t be well received. This time, it was all three of those reasons.


“I invited Jeremy to your dinner party. I knew you wouldn’t mind.” Before Vix could protest or debate her way out of the situation, the door buzzed.


“Mother!” Vix cried,


“Daughter!” Mrs. Davenport responded and promptly returned to her bathroom to do whatever she did in there for most of the day. Vix immediately imagined the Leprechaun and realized that her mother really could be hiding a human on that wing of the apartment and the rest of the family would never know. But Vix didn’t have time to entertain this possibility because, annoyed or not, she was her mother’s daughter and her manners would not allow her to keep a guest waiting at the door, even if it was a short redheaded narc who would ruin their chances of ringing in the New Year at Limelight.


“Hello, Jeremy,” Vix undid the three latches and deadbolt and begrudgingly invited her mother’s favorite child into the foyer.


Jeremy was dressed to the nines. Like, a full tuxedo. Vix thought he looked like a waiter at one of her parent’s favorite uptown Italian restaurants. Jeremy clearly thought he looked like a real lothario. He stood on his tiptoes to kiss Vix on either cheek, a custom borrowed from the Europeans by City Kids in the 90s.


“Thank you so much for the invitation,” Jeremy handed Vix a very nice bottle of champagne. Lucky for him, (and he knew it) his hostess was a sucker for bubbles. 


Two glasses later, Vix had mostly forgotten about her annoyance with her uninvited guest. She kissed her parents goodbye, wished them a happy new year, and accepted the praise from her mother about how “splendid” her dinner party looked. 


Mrs. Davenport smiled at Jeremy. “You keep an eye on things? We’ll be home after midnight.” She turned to her youngest and slightly most favorite child, “Never be the last one to leave a party.”


“Of course,” Jeremy replied with an exaggerated wink. Vix wanted to punch him in the throat.


She closed the door behind them and pulled out a bottle of vodka from the bar.


She’d never been a huge martini fan, always associating the perilous glass with both her mother and her mother’s difficulties, but this night felt like a special occasion. And it was.


The other girls drifted in, all dressed in metallic and sequins. Minus the minor inconvenience of having to set another place at the table, the night was off to a splendid start. An authorized party at her parents’ fancy Manhattan apartment was something that Vix had never thought of before. Sure, she’d had some illicit get-togethers while they were out of town in high school but there was only so much a kid could get away with in a doorman building. 


But here she was, on a special night, with her oldest friends, with an impressively well-stocked liquor cabinet and enough chickens to choke a fox.


So the girls (and Jeremy) ate and drank and took off their shoes and danced and then drank some more. Vix remembers it being a mostly perfect night, except Jeremy, being all of five-foot-two, getting more and more annoying with each martini he finished. He had skipped two grades, one in elementary school and also his sophomore year of high school. According to Mrs Davenport, this made him a genius. According to Vix, it made him nowhere near old enough to hang out with. She tried so hard not to show her irritation. It wasn’t his fault that her mother had invited him over. And what else was he going to do? What does a vertically challenged 17-year-old do on New Year’s Eve in The City? Come to her house, she guessed.


The food was eaten, the dessert served, and the drinks continued to flow. One thing that Vix did not anticipate was the less-than-savory cleanup of her poultry situation but the trash, and subsequently, the giant city rats, were just fine with her throwing it all in the can.  She looked at her watch. 11:15.


“Guys, let's freshen up and get out of here so we can be at the club for the ball drop.” All eight girls agreed on the plan but disagreed on what “freshen up” actually entailed. While eyelashes were reapplied, shoes were changed, teeth were brushed, and someone found a lavender wig, time was ignored. Before Vix knew it, it was 11:40. Shit. How were they going to get to West 17th Street in 20 minutes? Vix wasn’t sober enough to do that kind of math.


“Let’s go!” Vix called impatiently, holding the elevator door open.


“Do we have everyone?” Lavender Wig asked to the wall. (She’d had her share of champagne.)


“Yes!” Vix yelled, “Come on. The clock is like, literally, ticking.”


“Where’s Jeremy?” 


“Oh. Oh shit.”


Vix let the door go and marched back into the apartment. “Everyone search.” The over-served and under-age girls canvassed the apartment. They looked in the kitchen which had definitely seen cleaner days. They looked under the table in the dining room and behind the sofas in the living room. They looked under Vix’s bed and in her sister’s closets. Needless to say, Jeremy was in none of those places. 


Vix looked at the clock on her nightstand, now at 11:55. Dammit. She knew that having Jeremy along was going to ruin the night, this just wasn’t how she anticipated it happening.


“Everyone look again.” Vix dialed Jeremy’s cell. It rang and rang and- wait- she could hear the ringing. It was coming from the end of the hall.


“Do you guys hear his phone?” Vix hung up and called him again. Yes, she definitely heard his phone. She followed the sound, slowly, her friends banding together with her, walking down the hall as a group like the Sharks snapping their fingers in West Side Story. She dialed again. It was his phone all right. And it was coming from her mother’s bathroom.


Vix felt an almost anti-magnetic force push her back from the marble threshold. Sure, she’d been in her mother’s bathroom. She remembered it during construction and once as a sick toddler in the middle of the night. But had she stepped foot into that forbidden space in any recent memory? No. Would her mother flip the fuck out if she knew the “proper” dinner party had somehow migrated to her most adorned and revered room in the house? Yes, yes she would. Vix threw her arms out across the width of the hallway, stopping her sparkly gang from entering.


“We can’t go in there.”


Lavender Wig spoke up. She’d known Vix’s family for a decade and was well aware of the apartment’s forbidden feature. 


“Dial his phone again.” Vix did. There was no denying the source of the sound. 


How long did these nine girls debate rescuing their ginger accomplice? They don’t remember. Vix was too distracted by the gravity of the situation to look at her watch. But it was definitely a while. How do we know that? Because, while they were still huddled at the door, discussing all of their options in the most dramatic and booze-fueled way possible, Mr. and Mrs. Davenport arrived home. 


Now, Mrs. Davenport always had a sixth sense. Not necessarily when something was going on with her children, but when something was going on that would affect her. She raced towards her room like the Miss Clavel character in Madeline, dashing through the apartment in her floor-length black Mink coat. 

But before Vix could fully submerge her consciousness in her literary nostalgia, Mrs. Davenport was wailing, much like she had on the day she was born.


“Ahhhhh! Ahhhh! Ahhhh! VictoRIA! ExPLAIN what is HAPPENING!”


Vix was too drunk to form a cohesive thought in the midst of all of the chaos. She also was now realizing that she had missed toasting the New Year and hoped it didn’t infer bad luck. Lavender Wig took over.


“Mrs. Davenport, Jeremy is in there.”


Mrs. Davenport paused for half of a second, looking properly aghast, and then dashed like only a British woman of a certain age can dash, into her beloved bathroom. The gaggle of glittery girlies followed close behind. And it was not a sight any of them will ever forget.


Poor Jeremy was fine, don’t worry about him. The white and gilded tile? Well, not so much. We will spare you the details but the room looked like the aftermath of Sigourney Weaver’s Alien. And, again, we won’t go into it, but no one who witnessed that scene has eaten Cornish Game Hen since.


He pulled himself up, accepted a clean sweatshirt from Vix, and limped out of the room with his head down.


“You can’t leave?” Vix called, rather insincerely. She looked at her Fossil watch. She was pretty bummed to have missed midnight at Limelight, terrified of what was going to happen with Mrs. Davenport, and slightly scared that she was going to be the one responsible for cleaning up the mess.


“I have to,” Jeremy squeaked, “you should never be the last one to leave a party.”


Jeremy lost his standing as the favorite child in the Davenport house at 1:00 AM, that January 1st. Which is a good thing as you may remember, he was not a Davenport child. So, did Pippa, Emma, or Vix rise to fill that position? 


No. 


Mrs. Davenport got a Lasa Apsa puppy from a breeder upstate and now prefers Elizabeth over all of the other members of her household. Jeremy wasn’t banned from the apartment but staunchly barred from alcohol in the apartment. He’s a 40-year-old man now and when he comes over for a visit, even in the evening, Mrs. Davenport will graciously say,


“Jeremy, can I get you some WATER?”


Vix finished up her semester and then left Boston because she had more excitement in thirty minutes in her mother’s bathroom than she did during the entire spring semester. She realized that if a neurosurgeon didn’t make her mother proud and repeated projectile vomiting all over her most favorite of places didn’t bar you from the family, she really didn’t have anything to lose, as far as her relationship with Mrs. Davenport was concerned. It was freeing. So freeing that she moved downtown, all the way to The Financial District. And that’s where she is happily raising her young family. Mrs. Davenport has yet to visit. 



334 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Σχόλια


bottom of page