The glass vases of table flowers had belonged to someone else, left in disarray on trays in the empty Tap Room at the New York city club where Craig’s wife Nina was a member--remnants of a wedding Craig hadn’t attended the night before. He was returning from a solitary breakfast, having stayed the night in one of the club’s sleeping rooms after an architectural project that ran late. The flowers appeared to have been randomly discarded, as if their original circumstances had since been lost. Anyone could take a vase, he thought, why not? It certainly wasn’t stealing. Someone else may already have. Rather like telling a very small white lie, the thrill of such a rare indiscretion going unnoticed. So unlike like him and simply because he could.
There were four cardboard trays stuffed with arrangements in glass vases, yellow budding roses, deep purple chrysanthemums, round tufted green and lacey blooms anchored by smaller, airy salmon colored ones, each vase a slightly different array of a common theme. Craig did not know all their names, though they were familiar to him as blooms Nina liked. He selected an unobtrusive bouquet in the middle of one of the trays, one that would not be missed.
The glass bowl was wet, something sticky on the bottom. He grasped it, then looked about, thought better of it for a moment, but then moved instinctively on to the elevator bank, imagining a quiet car ride to the club’s eighteenth floor. Rising between floors, Craig rode pleasantly alone, the wood-paneled elevator car humming and creaking, pulling itself upward. He was nearly there when the car stopped on fourteen and a young woman rushed in, as though planning to travel further than the back side of the old car would allow.
“You look just like you belong right here,” she said. “No offense of course.”
“Like I belong here?” He looked at his khakis and button down shirt, the casual version of his studied look. To her, Craig was probably like one of the members in the old photos lining the walls of the club hallways, multi-generational members who seemed to have been born into the place. He did belong there now, having spent his breakfast reading a history of the architecture of the club, the kind of thing Nina always said made him seem bookish and removed.
“Yes, the kind of person who’d naturally belong to a club like this. I’m just crashing the place. The bride’s sister, Sydney Taylor, Syd to you.” She stuck out her hand.
Syd looked down at the flowers cradled in his palm. A few familiar brown party curls remained from her night before. She wore workout clothes, leggings and running shoes. She had friendly green eyes set above soft round cheeks; her gaze rose now to his face.
“Those are from the reception,” she said. It was an observation, not the accusation he might have anticipated. But then, “Caught you, eh?” she laughed.
“I think they are,” Craig said. He had seen her last night in evening wear banging on the door next to his as he returned from a late dinner alone on the rooftop.
“Quite a party it was. Were you there? I didn’t see you.”
“Ah, no I wasn’t.”
“Well, you missed a helluva party. Everything went off just the way it was planned. The ceremony. Then a great band. You must have heard them.” She looked down again at the vase of flowers. “Funny thing, no one won the prize. No one found the purple dot under a vase. Nice prize too, given by the groom. A really good case of vintage red wine.”
Craig felt the bottom of the still damp vase, then held it aloft. The purple dot, somewhat moist and faded, was fixed to the center.
“Well, will you look at that?” she said, eyes brighter now with surprise. “Someone wasn’t paying attention or worse, didn’t care.”
The car stopped on eighteen.
“Come on then,” she said. “Emily’s on this floor, the bride. I was her