We're hosting a tea party this afternoon.
I came home from dinner with Arthur to find out we're hosting a tea party. I had 15 hours notice. Jennifer had picked out dresses for the both of us.
Arthur and Caleb apologized for forgetting about the annual tea. Belle didn’t say anything. I knew that it was Delilah’s fault though. I don't understand this girl. What's with the secrets?
Anyway, it's in 30 minutes. My dress is on the bed. And just like the ball gown, I wish I didn't know the price tag. It could pay for a month of school.
"Lizzie do you need help getting dressed?" Jenn asks coming up.
"Yes." I say, standing up and changing.
Jenn zips me up.
"We're hosting a tea. How cool is that?"
"Lizzie, are you alright?"
"I'm just a little overwhelmed."
"I'm sorry. You're so natural around people I forget that you don't actually feel comfortable talking to new people. And the boys won't be at tea."
"I'll be okay. I've had time to think about it. I've researched all the people coming and have questions prepared."
"Alright, but if you need a break come find me."
"How are you girls doing?" Delilah asks, knocking.
"We're good." Jenn says smiling.
"Great. The flowers and arrangements are arriving. Belle said you wanted to see them, Jenn."
"Ok. I'll go downstairs. Just let me know, Lizzie." Jenn winks at me.
I look in the mirror and admire the dress. I have always wanted to attend a tea party. Raising awareness for the ocean is the best time for it.
"You look very pretty, Lizzie." Delilah says.
I had forgot she was in the room.
"Thank you." I say turning around. "You look beautiful."
It's silent again as I pack my purse. And by pack, I mean put my phone, wallet, and keys inside. I just take a while because it is awkward.
"Arthur said…" Delilah trails off.
"Go ahead." I say.
"Arthur said you had something to ask me."
I wish he hadn't told her. I was starting to change my mind.
"Yes. Would you like to hang out Tuesday or Wednesday? Whichever works best for you."
"You want to hang out with me?" Delilah asks, staring at me.
"Yes." I say confused.
"Oh, ok. Tuesday then. Should I call and make some plans?"
"No." I say, quickly.
She pauses and looks surprised.
"I mean, I'll take care of the plans."
"Ok. Well, I should be getting ready to go downstairs."
"Lizzie, you should relax. You’re a pleasant person to be around. There won't be any reporters or anything."
That takes me by surprise. She hasn't seemed to take that much of an interest in me except to keep things from me.
"Thanks, I will. And you should relax as well. I won't say anything embarrassing." I say, following Delilah out the room.
"I'm not afraid of you saying anything embarrassing."
"But this is my first role in my new position as the ward. I have to make a good impression."
"Your talents speak for you."
What are these talents everyone's been talking about?
"And anyway, I'm not nervous. I've been hosting this tea since I was a newborn."
She seems really nervous to me.
"There were the 12 years we didn't host it here." Belle says, coming down the hall.
"Yes, but we still hosted it." Delilah replies, staring at her. "Lizzie, could you walk Michelle Campbell over?"
I think I make her nervous. I wonder why, I think walking to the back door.
Is Finn at home? We did homework Friday with Allison, Chloe, and other seniors. But I haven't seen him since. I wish he had come with Arthur and I yesterday.
We're talking again but it's not smooth. At least one of us is awkward, if not both at the same time I'm really worried about what Allison said. What if we ruin our friendship?
I look up. There he is. The door is open and he's wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
"Yes. Hi. I came to walk your mom to the tea."
"Oh, right. That's today. I haven't been home for it in years."
I nod while he stares at me.
"Do you want…?" I start to ask.
"Eliza, you look great. Tea dresses suit you. Well, you look amazing all the time. But this is nice." He says, all at once.
"I can't go to the tea. It's ladies only. Even though I would like to protect the ocean as well."
What is happening? It's like he's a sentence behind the conversation.
"I wasn't inviting you." That sounds mean. "I mean, it's a girls' only tea. And you're wearing casual clothes. You look good. I haven't seen you in casual clothes in a while, like a week. But I mean, you're not dressed for tea. And like I said it's girls' only. Speaking of which do you want to call your mom down?"
Finn smiles and I wince. I want to disappear.
"Hi, Lizzie." Michelle says.
She looks at both of us and steps out of the house.
"Finish your conversation. I'll wait here."
I look at Finn and he smiles again.
"Well, there's my mom. But she won't be happy if we don't talk about something. So what's your plans for the week?"
"Um, I'm doing homework tonight and Monday. I'm hanging out with Delilah Tuesday. Homework again Wednesday and Thursday. I want to go out Friday night but everyone has plans that I don't want to join. Saturday is the garden party. You're still working that night, right?"
"Yes." And I smile. "Do you need me to chaffuer Tuesday?"
"I was wondering if you could ask Stephan. I want one on one time with Delilah. And you know how Stephan is."
"I do indeed. I'll ask him."
He stares at me again.
"I don't have plans Friday. Do you want to hang out?" He asks, looking down.
Yes, yes! Yes!
"Sure." I say. "We should go. Don’t want to be late, especially when it's so close."
Finn nods and waves.
"Bye." He says and closes the door.
Michelle takes my arm.
"It's good to have you near the house again."
"What?" I ask.
She's speaking Latin again.
"All couples fight."
"We're not..." I say in English.
"Finn gave me that already." She whispers in Latin as we sit down.
"Elizabeth Gent." The woman to my left says. "Nice to meet you."
"Hello, Mrs. Jergens. Do you mind calling me Lizzie? I'm not used to the full name thing."
"Oh, ok. And you can call me Diane."
"Thank you. What's your favorite ocean animal?"
That was question number 9. But it's okay because she proceeds to tell me about jellyfish for 20 minutes.
"And I simply love the way they move. So tell me about yourself." She says, without pausing.
"Oh, um. I'm seventeen. I've lived in Colorado since I was 11."
"Where did you live before?" Mrs. Nichols asks.
"I was born and raised in Plymouth."
That's not exactly true but I don't remember where we moved when I was 4.
"When did your parents die?" Ms. Callahan asks.
My entire table stops moving. Half of them look at me and the other half stare at her.
"My dad died when I was almost 3. My mom died when I was 8."
"So it's been a long time." Mrs. Jergens says sadly.
"Yeah. Fifteen years for my dad and almost 10 for my mom."
"You poor thing." Ms. Callahan replies.
"It's a fact of life. I know people with worse stories. Wait, Jo? Is that you?"
"She was a junior when I was a lost freshman. So she knows how bad our stories can be." I tell the table. "You look so different. I hardly recognized you."
She smiles and sips her tea.
"Oh, yes. Millicent talks about you all the time." Mrs. Musgroves says.
She's been quiet this whole time. But what she says shocks me more than the fact that she spoke.
"Milly talks about me?"
"Of course. Her dad was hoping she'd have some competition in school. When she came in 3rd freshman year, we were all shocked. But she told us about you and is it, Lindsay?" I nod. "Lindsay sounds like a genius. Do you know what she wants to do for a living?"
"No. Neither of us have decided." I say, finding my voice.
"Well, I'd love to see the three of you working for my husband. And I know Millicent and Marcella would love it."
Now it's just too impossible to believe.
"Marcella may not like it because she's not inheriting."
"But aren't they twin heiresses?" I ask.
"Yes. Marcella will be taken care of but her talents don't lie with managing people."
That sounds like the mother way of saying she's not good with people.
"No, Marcella will have to find her passion."
Macey is as lost as I am?
"What do you think of them now?" Michelle asks, leaning in.
"These women speak Latin too." I whisper back.
"Please. I went to school with them. They passed and then stopped using it."
"Fine. Do you know them?"
"I don't. Finn told me you weren't happy about him dating Millicent."
I stare at her.
"You two seem close." Mrs. Nichols observes.
"Michelle is probably happy to have a student around. She has someone to converse with in Latin." Mrs. Musgroves says.
"You ladies know me too well." She says, smiling.
"He knew I was upset? He told you?" I ask.
"All couples fight. Moms are a listening ear. No details. We're neutral."
Oh, sure. But you'll tell me that he told you.
I sigh and stand up.
"Excuse me. I'm going for more tea."
I pour my water. And think about how many finger sandwiches to get. I want to be polite but I'm feeling uneasy and want to stuff myself.
"Jo Callahan." I reply.
"It's Josephine now."
"I'm sorry. I'm having a hard time processing that because I'm having a lot of flashbacks. And in those flashbacks, you're Jo."
"You know, at first I was going to forgive you because you're the Peyton ward. But when I heard you rejected Charles Engel, I remember how annoying you were."
"You were going to forgive me?" I ask, amazed. "Forgive me for what? Letting you bully Lindsay, Mikalya and Bianca?"
"I did not bully the four of you."
"No, you bullied them but you tormented me. I'm not sure what made me worse but I'm glad I got the blunt of it. Good for you. You learned how to condescend to the point of forgiving someone for being a victim."
"Don't think that developing the socialite communication makes you one of us. You still snubbed Charles Engel."
I take my tea bag out.
"What connection do you have to Charles that makes him so precious?"
"We're going to get married."
"You are? Then why did he want to dance with me?"
"Because I wasn't there. Because his mother told him to. We're not engaged or anything but my father decided with his father."
"Ok. I hope you have fun spending your money on superficial things. Too bad you can't use your influence for good."
I stir my tea. I don't need sandwiches.
"Just be careful. We won't let you into our society with ease."
"You make the mistake of thinking I want to be in your society."
----- ----- -----
"Thanks, Stephan." I say, getting in the car.
"Of course, Liz." He says closing the door.
"Hi. Lizzie how are you?" Delilah asks.
"I'm good. How was your day?"
"It was fine. It was odd leaving the office while it's still light outside."
"You usually get home so late."
"Yeah, but it's okay. I enjoy being at work for all the different shifts and talking to everyone."
"You sound like a cool boss."
"Thanks. Where are we going?"
"For ice cream. I love ice cream after school and Caleb insisted I take myself once a week."
She nods and stares out the window.
Stephan parks and opens the door.
What am I supposed to talk about?
Spirant Iustum: You'll be fine. Just be nice.
"Who is it? If you don't mind me asking."
"It's fine. It's Finn Campbell." I say looking at ice cream flavors. "What are you getting?"
"Chocolate. What about you?"
"Cookie dough and peanut butter. It's like a Reese Cup in a cookie."
"You're getting two flavors?"
"Yeah. My mom always got me two flavors. I never finished it. But now I like mixing it."
"My mom would get us ice cream all the time after school."
"Caleb told me. She would pick you up and take you out, right?"
"Yeah. We'd have a day set aside for each of us."
"Did you all go on Fridays?"
"You don't have to answer." I add.
Oops. I've made it awkward.
"No it's fine. The weekend was always really social. She stayed home."
I nod, feeling bad.
"So you've known Finn for a long time."
"Not as long as you guys have known him."
"That's true. Belle and Caleb kind of adopted him as another sibling. He's a great kid."
I smile and tell her about Arthur and my conversation about the word kid.
"But yeah. He is a good guy." I say, vaguely.
"What do you think of him?"
I try not to physically express my reaction.
"You want to know how I feel about him."
"Why did you and Michelle scheme to have us match for the benefit?" I ask, instead.
"I wanted to see you two together."
"So we were right in saying you were a supporter."
"Jenn, the girls here and at home. It's a whole big organization." I say, smirking.
"But how do you feel about him?"
"I like him. I'm not sure what's going on. But I think it's going to come to a head soon."
"I'm sure it will be okay."
"You're sure he likes me. I'm not sure. But if he does that's not our main issue."
"He is still your date Saturday, right?"
"Yes. And we already have our couples item for our team."
"Good. You'll have some time to find out what's wrong then. You don't have to fix it. But I think you guys should just be honest with each other."
I nod. I'm not good at being honest about my feelings and circumstances but I'll try.
"I wanted to ask you. Can we arrange an interview Saturday before the scavenger hunt?"
"With me?" I ask.
"Yes. We'll have the previewed questions for you tomorrow night. You'll have all morning to prepare. The first interview is the most important. People will get most of their curiosty addressed. And then you'll have more privacy."
Or less, depending on how you look at it.
"Sure, I'll do an interview." I stand up. "Next stop?"
"Yes. What's next?"
"The grocery store. We need substance for a movie marathon."
----- ----- -----
I hear a noise at my window. I step onto the balcony and look down.
"Finn?" I ask surprised.
"Come down. I have food." He says, holding up a bag.
"You want me to come down the terrace?"
"No. I want you to go to the family room and come down the stairs."
I look my left and see the stairs leading to the yard.
"That works too."
I go back into my room and grab my purse. Then, down the hall to the family room and out to that balcony.
"Will you catch me if I fall?"
"Do you regularly fall when using stairs?"
I narrow my eyes at him.
"Plus I have food. Would you rather I keep hold of it or catch you?"
"Don't you dare drop the best burger ever." I say, taking the bag he offers me. "So if you brought me food, where are we hanging out?"
"I thought we'd hang out here. I mean, it's quiet with the three Simms', my dad, and Jenn gone."
"Why did I come to the yard if we're hanging at the house?"
"Sorry, I meant hanging out in the yard."
"What about your mom? Isn't she lonely?"
"No." He says, firmly.
I look at him surprised.
"Yesterday she mentioned this girl I wanted to marry and won't stop talking about her."
"A girl you wanted to marry? Do tell." I say as we sit on the swinging bench.
"When we moved out here, I met a little girl. I played with her every day for two weeks and according to my mom fell in love."
"Was she your age?"
"Yeah. She was eight too."
"What was her name?"
"I don't remember. I can't even remember her face. But she was nice and spoke Latin."
"Latin?" I ask, amazed. "There's actually another parent that teaches their child Latin?"
"You mean, other than ours? I know it's crazy."
"Doesn't your mom know who it is?"
"No. She was helping my grandfather with the company. She moved after my dad and I. My dad was getting to know the Simms. So I was with the girl and her nanny."
"It sounds like she would be at the academy."
"I've asked but none of the girls had the memory. She could have gone to any academy like me or a different school all together. I had forgotten until my mom randomly mentioned it. I guess I told my mom I found the girl I wanted to marry but she moved for now. I was a theatrical kid so I wouldn't tell my mom her name."
"That's too bad."
"Not really. But my mom thinks it's the cutest thing. And keeps mentioning it. That's why I didn't want to hang out at my house. Plus, I think she's visiting Belle at some point."
I nod and attempt to swing. Finn laughs when it doesn't move.
"Am I too heavy?"
"Could you please just assist me?"
"Yes." He kicks off.
We swing in silence for a moment.
"How was hanging out with Delilah?"
"It was fun. Awkward but fun."
"She's not as easy going as the others."
"What happened to not talking about your employers?"
"I don't talk badly about them or circurlate gossip. That was an observation."
"Okay. Am I imagining things or is she more uneasy with me?"
"No. She seems to be keeping her distance from you. But hanging out helped, right?"
"Yeah, she talks to me more now."
Mainly she says hi and talks to me about Finn. As if that's all my life involves.
'I'm glad. And how was the tea party?"
"It was good. I learned a lot about jellyfish."
"You asked Mrs. Jergens about her favorite animal."
"Yes. How did you know?"
"My mom went to Alden Academy with a lot of the moms. Diane Jergens is quiet but talks a lot about passions."
"Well, that's good to know if there's ever a pause in the conversation. Do you want to go inside the ballroom?" I ask.
"Is it open?" He asks, stopping the swing.
"Yeah. It's never locked."
He turns the handle and looks at me surprised.
"Nicole said you were the explorer. How did you not know this about your backyard?"
"Technically, it's my front yard. And I've always explored the beaches and attractions."
I nod and set my purse down. I've been in here many a sleepless night. But I still love studying the design.
Music starts playing and Finn takes my hand.
"You have classical music on your phone?" I ask, laughing.
"Of course. My fiancé introduced me to Ravel and I've loved it ever since."
"Is that what we call random kids we've forgot until recently?"
"I like the idea of a girl living her life and not knowing we're bethrothed."
I laugh. And Finn stares at me.
"What else happened at the tea?"
"I met Milly's mom. And saw Josephina Callahan for the first time in years."
"What did you think of Mrs. Musgroves?" He asks, glancing at me.
"She's my favorite Musgroves."
"You dated Milly even though she wasn't your favorite?" I ask confused.
"She's my second favorite." He shrugs. "But being able to understand social queues is important."
"So you acknowledge that she's a mean person?"
"I acknowledge that she doesn't get how what she says comes off. But at heart she's a nice girl."
"Let's agree to disagree."
"That sounds beneficial. What happened with Josephina?"
"She told me, I may be the Peyton ward but I'm not a socialite."
"Good old Josephina. That's why she had to go the southwest academy."
"What do you mean?"
"I didn't tell you?" I shake my head. "She made every girl and some boys in town cry by the time she went got to 8th grade. Her parents decided it would be better for her to go to school across country."
"Yay for me." I say, sarcastically.
"At least it prepared you for this world. How are you doing being the ward? We didn't really get to talk about it that night." He says, looking down.
I think about the night of the benefit again. And force myself to stop.
"I haven't had to do much yet. I have an interview tomorrow afternoon."
"Before the scavenger hunt?"
"Like always, be yourself and be nice."
"Spirant Iustum?" I ask.
"Just breathe is good. But do remember to answer questions."
"Will do. I can't believe I'm going to be in a magazine. It's hard enough seeing myself on TV, being treated differently, and getting used to extra security."
"Sorry about that."
"Finn, we talked about it. It's alright." I say, looking him in the eye. "What did your dad say about tonight?"
"He said not to let you out of my sight. Which I wouldn't do anyway."
Another one of those comments I don't understand.
"He was with the Simms. Caleb said to have more guards. Delilah made a reservation. I cancelled it."
"So that's why Belle gave me her credit card. You know what I like about Arthur?"
"That he doesn't force his opinion and respects other people's lives."
"I can't believe we're dancing in an empty ballroom to classical music on your phone."
"What's wrong with it?" He asks, defensively.
"Nothing. It's just. You were throwing rocks at my window earlier, right?"
"Yes." He says, looking to the side.
"It's just so cliché. But I like clichés."