At the cafe, I stretched out my knee on a spare chair again. It was a lot better than it was yesterday, but I was going to elevate it again today when I had a chance. We placed our orders, and I let our drinks arrive before I bit my lip and forced myself to say what I wanted to say. “I thought… Well, Nikki talks about her family all the time, and I thought we could talk about ours a little?” It went unsaid that it would be a lot easier for me to do it in one-on-one conversations than in a group because of my shyness. And I opened the front cover of this book and pulled out the handful of photos I kept there. I went first and splayed them out for her to pick up and look at as she wished.
This previous year’s Christmas photo was in there. Daddy was seated in a chair in front of the parlor’s fireplace, in his charcoal suit with a white shirt and blue tie. His hair was combed back, the grey at his temples more obvious than last year. He wasn’t smiling again, but I think his eyes were brighter. Mummy stood behind him with her hands on her shoulders, her hair not showing any gray thanks to her hair stylist and up on the back of her head, showing off her long neck. I really did like her outfit this last year, a blue silk dress with a white cashmere jumper over it and her white pearls.
And then I stood on Daddy’s side. I remember that Mummy had been so put out that my school uniform was the wrong shade of purple to go with her theme, so I’d gotten to wear a blue dress over a white shirt with a Peter Pan collar. I’d also snuck some snowflake barrettes in to hold my hair back instead of the headband she’d wanted. In my opinion, I already looked like a duck among chickens since my hair was bright red instead of muted auburn and their eyes were both blue and mine sort of aren’t. I might as well be the only person very obviously celebrating the holiday we were taking the photos for. (I am considerably more festive than Mummy, I just have to be subtle about it.)
Of course, the wedding picture of Daddy and Mother was in there, the one Lawrence found and gave me so I would know what she looked like. It was also the only picture I had of Daddy smiling. They both looked so happy, even if you could tell that Mother was a little underweight for her frame. And Mother’s carrot-top orange-red hair mixing with Daddy’s auburn certainly made more sense to end up with my hair, the same for my eyes being a perfect mix of his blue and her green. Daddy had worn a white suit with a purple tie, and Mother’s wedding dress had been simply perfect, a white satin A-line with an off-the-shoulder ruffle. She’d done a full wreath of flowers instead of a veil, with a purple ribbon woven through it and another around her throat in a choker. The bouquet was a teardrop type of white-veined ivy, lavender roses, and calla lilies.
Savvy gave me a strange look so I had to explain. Yes, I had two mothers, sort of. Mother and Daddy had met while in school from what I could figure out, one crazy competition with each other that he took far more seriously than she did later, and they became friends. He eventually courted her through letters, it had been very romantic. I wasn’t sure what else had happened, since it hurt him to talk about her and Lawrence had been hired just after I had been born, so he hadn’t known much either. Just that Mother was very sick when I was a baby and had died before I was a year old. Daddy, Lawrence, and Mrs. Kettle had tried to raise me, but Daddy had wanted me to have a mother, so he made a marriage of convenience with Mummy when I was four, so she was the only mother I’d known. (And I was still raised more by Lawrence and Mrs. Kettle, so I saw no point to this whole endeavor. But that’s my opinion, and I love my parents.)
And since I brought up Lawrence, I pointed his picture out. Mrs. Kettle had taken that one. I was twelve and gawky, throwing myself at him and expecting to be caught, and he was the overly patient butler, always there to make sure I didn’t fall. I was in my white sailor dress, back when it had been my favorite to wear on weekends free from school. Lawrence was his usual self–thin and almost fragile under his uniform-suit, his hair wavy and cut fairly short to fall across his forehead, a full mustache his one indulgence. If I was honest with myself, he looked far more like my father than Daddy did in the other picture, at least in terms of affection.
I missed Lawrence. But he’d been fired a few years ago for reasons I didn’t know, and driving the other butlers away hadn’t been working to get him brought back. And now Charles was being stubborn, making me pout a little. Savvy handed me back my pictures, and opened up too, telling me a little bit more about her childhood.
Apparently she was the only child to fairly successful parents. At least she knew more about what they did than I did about mine. They were closer when she was younger, but things have been changing lately. At first, she was just sent to relatives that she obviously loved, but it has been getting worse lately. She was being cut off from them too, and being forced into…well, my social set, the American version. Even I could tell that Savvy wasn’t meant for that kind of life. I wasn’t either, but at least I could be polite enough to survive. She was too bold, too free-spirited. It would make her miserable, and it obviously wasn’t what she wanted. And she’d been sent here without being told what was going on. I felt a bit incensed on her behalf.
We both turned to our food for a little bit, needing a chance to let the air clear. I had to adjust my leg, wincing. The sports tape wasn’t doing as good of a job as the brace had done. Maybe I was a bit hasty… As if reading my mind, Savvy expressed some concern, hoping my leg would heal soon. And then adding that maybe Josh would stop fussing over it, if we ever talked to each other again.
I felt my face grow warm, and I was at a loss for words. I tried to turn it around to her and Derek, but Savvy wasn’t having any of it. And well, I was out of my depth here, I didn’t want to wake up like this morning ever again! I admitted that I had a crush on Josh, but he… He was with Loretta, and I didn’t want to get in that way! I almost cried. Savvy tried to cheer me up, telling me that if Josh was willing to walk into that sort of relationship, then he wasn’t the guy for me. And besides, Loretta seemed to be interested in Justin Moorland.
Well, that just made me feel even worse and I told her so. I didn’t want Josh to get hurt either! But Savvy suggested we find out what was going on around Moorland that wasn’t about the end of the world as the locals knew it. Someone had to have the latest gossip, such as Tan or May. And then Jenna could give us the real version of events after. I hiccuped, embarrassingly, and giggled, relieved that she at least had a solution.
But I wasn’t about to be the only one doing some confessing of feelings! I pressed her about Derek, and she finally started…sort of. She was pretty back and forth. She thought he was handsome, but he was such a boy and she was fretting about his age. Honestly, Josh being older than me hadn’t even crossed my mind, so I suppose she was being more responsible than I was. I pointed out that he seemed to worry about her, which made her burst out that she definitely worried about him!
But she was having a bit of the same problem I was. She couldn’t tell if he was trying to be a friend or something more. I wasn’t much help there. I thought there was something there, but what did I know? I did point out that she didn’t have anyone else to compete with, at least. But she argued that she had the rest of Jorvik and the other campers, so I bit my lip to keep from pointing out that she was the one who he saw everyday. I couldn’t keep from rolling my eyes, though.
Savvy saved the carrot sticks from lunch for Heart, I saved half of my apple for Evening. He woke up enough to take it from me, but he shook his head and went right back to his doze as soon as it was gone. Poor gent. I needed to consider getting a racing horse or taking Bright around to more races or something, so he wouldn’t have to go all over the place and race a good deal. It was wearing him out.
Savvy did not have the same luck with Heart, who was determined to join us in the next leg of shopping. I giggled and followed along, letting Evening continue his doze alone. He didn’t seem too upset about it. I didn’t see anything particularly catching at the gear shop, and quickly moved on with Savvy to the booth selling shirts designed by campers. I had bought the one that looked like a sailor’s shirt, including scarf, there and none of the others caught my eye.
But Savvy’s Heart did. I watched, flabbergasted, as Savvy tried to handle her horse, who was quite enamored with a set of gear. One that looked purple with pink hearts. I clapped my hand over my mouth, trying not to burst into giggles. I was more frilly-girly than Savvy, and even I wouldn’t get that set. I quickly turned and let Savvy handle the situation with her horse and the shop keeper. I didn’t want to get involved, or I might have started laughing and made it worse.
I poked around in a few of the other stalls. I ended up buying my own lilac, collared shirt like Savvy had bought to wear in our first meeting with the baroness. It was just too cute and well-priced for me to ignore it. Nothing else really caught my eye, so I sat on the edge of the stone planters and watched Heart follow Savvy along, constantly looking back to the gear stall.
When Savvy finished and walked back to me, I couldn’t help it. I giggled. I fetched Evening from the stall (he was not particularly happy to be out and about), and we went to talk to James about the mall. Or, well, Shopping Plaza I suppose. Savvy and I both agreed that it sounded like a mall, and if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck… But after the debate, he admitted he needed to go himself, but he couldn’t get away.
And because Savvy and I are gluttons for punishment, we agreed to help.