The promised box was sitting atop my dinner plate just as if it had been waiting for me to arrive. It was tied with a very slender deep purple iridescent ribbon. Glancing at Delilah I noticed she sat in stony silence. The tight set of her mouth told me she wasn’t very happy. She even looked a bit pale underneath her golden tan. Something was definitely wrong. Good.
I quickly took my place, picking up the square package and acting disinterested I dropped it into my handbag. I snapped it closed and the sound seemed loud. My half-sister’s disapproval was clearly written on her face, yet she said nothing. Nary a scathing remark to let me know she had after all, delivered the goods. Oh well I thought, I will ignore her and order my food.
There were six of us at table and everyone appeared to be deeply engrossed in their perusal of the menu, and then took their time telling the waiter what their choices were.
As for me, I ordered African Lobster Tail with drawn butter, roasted potatoes and peas in their pods, along with a glass of champagne garnished with a slice of naval orange. The wait staff brought fresh dinner rolls and a tiny bowl of iced butter cubes. The yeasty aroma of the bread actually made my mouth water. Surprised by this reaction, I recalled that I hadn’t eaten all day. No wonder I was so hungry.
The two empty places at our dinner table were awaiting Stan and our mother’s arrival. I saw them approaching from a few yards away. Once seated, everyone began chatting in order to avoid the uncomfortable situation. I noticed that Geoffrey hadn’t made an appearance tonight, and I caught Stan casting furtive glances my way a number of times. I started to wonder if he wanted to say something but stopped himself. There might even have been a reluctant, apologetic look in his eyes. I didn’t want to read anything into this. I was fast concluding that I had best stay out of their battle, in order to save my own sanity.
I reached into my bag and felt the box. Within it sat our grandmother’s favorite brooch. I had always loved it. The shape was of a bumblebee in flight. Diamonds encrusted the wings, the body was a pure green jade and for eyes … tiny rubies sparkled. She had always promised to leave it to me, but recently, Delilah had hidden it away to secure my silence. Making me promise to keep her dirty little secret.
Now there was no reason to demand my loyalties because she had broken the engagement. Stan must now know the truth for he would not even glance in her direction. I had to be glad for this small victory. Even Delilah looked as though her regular self-assured poise was waning.
My gaze settled on mother. She was so frail now. Her health had been failing her for months and she no longer had any sparkle left. There was some pity I felt, but no love. We had never been close. Her love and attention had been lavished on her first born, fathered by the love of her life. I could never forgive her for pushing me aside, so instead I had become my father’s sweet darling girl. Being his only blood relative and the youngest member of the family, it was natural for him to shower affection on me. Mother had married him for his money and he knew it. She had reeled him into her net by getting pregnant with me. He did the correct thing by marrying her, but there was never any love between them.
My father had been the rock of my world. That was before he suffered a massive stroke, which left him in a vegetative state. He no longer recognized me and this was the most hurtful thing of all. It seemed I was the only one left who cared about him. Mother and Delilah were waiting for him to leave this world, so they could inherit his estates. Smiling inwardly I read their faces and wished the two women to perdition. I vowed to protect my father’s belongings and keep them from ruining everything that he had worked to build.
I suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched. Excusing myself I rose and walked to the ladies room. On my way back I stopped by the fish tank. I could have sworn I heard young children calling my name, “Constance … Constance … over here, over here!” Turning I saw no one. Happening to look down I noticed the cutest fish looking up at me. They had such happy little faces. Swimming toward me they almost pressed their lips against the glass of the aquarium. Reaching down I trailed my fingers across the exterior as if to touch them. If it was even possible, I believe they leaned in even more.
Looking into their eyes I greeted them, “Hello there. Do not worry you’re safe here at the club, you’re not going to be someone’s dinner.” I could have sworn the largest one actually winked at me! His little down-turned mouth opened releasing a lone bubble to travel upward. As I watched it float gently to the surface it popped open and I clearly heard, “Constance …”
I fainted dead away!