M’s grandmother had, indeed, invited Christopher’s parents; but no, Christopher would not be attending, nor would any children of M.’s age.
“But why?” M. protested to Genevieve.
She was watching her older cousin pick out her dress for that evening. Genevieve was standing in front of her tall mirror holding a dress in front of her—a green silk dress with white frills and a pink sash.
She replied coolly, “Oh, M., you know Grandmama has her annual dinner parties with just grown-ups. There are times she invites your little friends”—M. scrunched up her face. She had only Lucy in mind, but she continued to listen—“but tonight she has only invited her mature neighbors to dinner.”
“Lucy is mature…” M. murmured.
“No she isn’t,” Genevieve contradicted. “You are both still little girls.” She finally put the green dress on the bed and pulled out her deep purple gown.
M. scowled. “Why do you get to join them?”
“Because Grandmama says I may be counted as a full grown woman.”
“You’re not even eighteen yet!” M. pointed out.
“Not yet, but I will be next month,” she said, throwing the dress aside and pulling out the blue one instead.
“I’ll bet it will be perfectly boring,” M remarked.
“Not especially,” Genevieve answered, rummaging through her closet again. “I think I will find it perfectly radiant.”
M. knew why she was so excited. She had heard her grandmother tell Thompson, the butler, that there would be a special guest of honor that evening. And this “guest of honor” was Alexander Bolton—yes, Bolton. He was Christopher’s older brother. He was also Genevieve’s new beau. M. was not exactly ecstatic about them being together, but she could do nothing about it. Alexander was a friendly and genteel suitor, as far as she could tell. And her grandmother seemed to like him too.
M. would have been glad to tease Genevieve at that moment, but she was sure the news of it would somehow make its way to her grandmother.
“But what will I be doing the whole time?” M questioned. Genevieve was now looking through her necklaces in her vanity drawer.
She answered, “You will be in bed while the guests are over.”
M. gaped. “I can’t even say ‘hello’ to anyone?”
“Of course not! This is a formal dinner party, and you will take no part of it.”
And that was exactly what happened. M.’s grandmother sent her to bed at 7:30. (She had told Britta, of all people, to see her promptly to her room). Minutes after she had been in bed, M. could hear people chatting and laughing together. Pretty soon, she heard a piano being played along with a musical violin and cello along with it.
The talking was even louder than the music. Though M.’s bedroom was on the upper level of the house, she could still hear the laughter and conversation, the clanking of plates and dishes, and hustle in the kitchen and dining room—as if they were right next door! She heard Alexander’s deep, charming voice along with Genevieve’s girly laugh. M. rolled her eyes.
As far as she knew, Alexander was a gentleman and a charmer. Yet he was quite arrogant and proud, like Genevieve. They were perfect for each other. The reason M. had not taken a fondness to him yet was because she was bias against Christopher. Annoying as he was, was she meant to actually get along with him one day? If Genevieve and Alexander were to marry…no, she wouldn’t think about it. It was too insufferable.
“Well, they’ll go away soon, she thought. Then it will be peaceful and quiet, and then maybe I’ll get some sleep.”
A long, eternal hour passed, (in our time, five minutes). Suddenly, she sat up straight in bed. Her room was completely dark, save the light that shown below the door. “What if they never leave?” M thought, horrified. “What if they stay here forever and ever and I never get any sleep as long as I live!? What if the night keeps going on and on and I never have another peaceful moment! I’ll be stuck up here listening to them talk and laugh and make a terrible racket for the rest of my life!”
This troubled M. immensely, for though she was not tired, she figured she would have to go to sleep sooner or later. As quickly as the thought came, it left. Now she became curious about what was going on downstairs. What were they talking about, she thought? Who all was downstairs? What were they eating?
She couldn’t wait another instant. She threw off her covers and snuck outside of her room. She didn’t see Britta in any of the upstairs’ halls. They must have been all downstairs helping with dinner. Well, if she couldn’t sleep, she could at least go and see what fun and excitement she was missing out on.
M. tiptoed down the long hallway to the wooden banister above the right stairway. The soft rug felt good under her bare feet. Her nightgown was silent as she took her steps. She looked down: no one was in the parlor, so she, as usual when her grandmother was not watching, slid down the stair rail on her stomach. Slowing to a stop, she felt for the bottom step, let go of the rail, and fell on the stairs with a thud.
Thankfully no one had seen it. It was quite shocking to suddenly end up on your bottom on a hard wood floor.
Scrambling to her feet, M. passed through the fancy parlor and arrived at the dining room door. She peered in from the glass windows of the doors. All of the housing staff rushed in and out of the kitchen door, except for Mrs. Anntrove of course. Some came with platters and left with empty pitchers. Thompson stood with appetizers near the head of the table.
“Appetizers?!” M. discovered. “They haven’t even begun to eat? This will be a long night.”
Seated at the dining table, M. saw her grandmother, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, Mr. and Mrs. Terrance, (an elderly couple of which the Patients had known for a while), Mrs. Bolton with Alexander, and Genevieve. Genevieve and Alexander were sitting quite close to one another, as they spoke to each other the most often.
Alexander had his brown hair slicked back in the latest style of that day. And he had an annoying start of a mustache right above his lip. His tan suit and orange tie looked freshly clean. He was a couple years older than Genevieve, and they conversed with each other quite enthusiastically. She seemed to blush every time he smiled at her.
Mrs. Bolton was seated beside him. A stubborn widow with her two sons, Mrs. Bolton had a straight, dominant nose and a humorously irritating smile. Her haughty expression and revealing dress was all too familiar. M.’s grandmother seemed quite uncomfortable as Mrs. Bolton fanned all of her perfume into her face.
M.’s grandmother sat at the head of the table, then Mr. and Mrs. Perkins on the other side. Mrs. Perkins was awfully pretty. Her dark smooth hair and gorgeous and sociable blue eyes shined, as she her musical laugh came from her stunning smile. Her husband, Lucy’s father, was tall and handsome. He had dashing blonde hair with a perfectly curved nose. His deep, booming voice was quite good-natured and intriguing. Lastly, Mr. and Mrs. Terrance were at the end of the table. Mr. Terrance was a bigger man with thinning gray hair. He had a lumpy nose with sunken in eyes, but he was quite the gentleman, as M. knew well. Mrs. Terrance was pretty, though old. Her hair was in a beautiful braided bun, and she had an elaborate dress of scarlet with gold paisley. Her gold necklace shined in the light of the chandelier.
Near the dining table, a wonderful pianist, violinist, and cellist were on an elevated platform playing a melodic tune. They all had marvelous suits on, and they had calmed, passionate expressions as they played.
No one seemed to notice M. in the glass of the dining room door windows, peeking in. The kitchen door was on the other side, and that was where all the hustle was. Yet M.’s presence was unknown, and she liked it very much. M. put her ear to the door rather than look through the glass.
Suddenly something pushed on the door.