Word Count 1,265
The copper-haired young woman looked around her distastefully, and turned her little retrousee nose up slightly.
“How boring it must be to live in this God-forsaken place, I don’t know how you can stand it!”
“Oh really Clara……don’t mind her Teresa, you know how these city folks are.”
Teresa smiled politely at Miss Ellen and looked a little enviously at her bored but soignée niece, suddenly aware of her own pretty, but hardly fashion-plate clothes, as she offered the girl a plate of cakes.
“Please have one Clara, they’re all home made of course.”
“At home in Philadelphia, we have our own pastry chef.” Clara’s hand hovered over the plate as she wrinkled her forehead slightly. “He’s from Europe of course, Vienna actually. They make the best gateaux, oh, that’s French for cake by the way, in the world.”
“Really?” Teresa took a deep breath. “I thought Vienna was in Austria.”
Miss Ellen cleared her throat hurriedly. “Well Clara, I daresay you’ll enjoy Teresa’s chocolate cake just as much, she’s famous for it round these parts.”
“Really,” said Clara flatly, “You do all your own baking? But then, I don’t suppose there’s much else for you to do.”
Teresa choked and was just about to answer, when the door to the Meeting-Hall opened, and a tall fair-haired young man came in with an apologetic smile, as he removed his hat.
“Sorry to interrupt your meeting ladies, Miss Ellen, but I just came by to give Teresa a message.”
Miss Clara dropped her cake onto her plate, and straightened unconsciously in her chair, tilting her head prettily, and extending a neatly delicate ankle, as the young man approached.
Smiling warmly, he helped Teresa with the plates she was carrying, and caught Miss Clara’s eye. “I’m sorry, Miss…?”
“Clara Godrich, Miss Clara Godrich of the Philadelphian Godrich’s.”
Clara held out a slender hand, and as Scott took it and nodded at her, Teresa noticed with a twinge of unaccustomed darkness in her heart, that it was as smooth and milk-white as marble.
“And you Sir, are?”
Clara’s eyes were only for Scott now, as she effectively shouldered Teresa out of the conversation by turning slightly sideways so that she faced away from her, forcing Scott to do so as well. Sighing a little disconsolately, Teresa moved on round the room, talking to the members of the Ladies Guild, cooing over the babies, and marvelling over the quilts.
“There you are.”
It was Scott’s hand on her arm, a hint of mischief in his sparkling grey-blue eyes. “That was a mean trick Teresa, leaving me alone with that awful woman.”
She smiled and her heart lifted. “She likes you.”
He shuddered. “I thought I’d left her kind behind when I left Boston. What a dreadful snob she is!”
Her smile widened. “Shhh…she’ll hear you. What did you want me for anyway?”
“Only to tell you that Johnny and I will wait in town and pick you up in an hour or so. There’s no need to wait for Mrs Lansing’s husband. I know he’s always late.”
He pinched her chin and headed for the door, nodding politely to all the ladies as he left, and avoiding Miss Godrich’s disappointed moue.
Beckoning Teresa to her side, Miss Clara was carefully nonchalant. “So Tessa dear, do tell me. Mr Lancer is some sort of relative?”
“No.” Teresa smiled blandly. “Actually he’s my Guardian’s eldest son. And it’s Teresa by the way.”
Clara nodded abstractedly. “Aunt Ellen tells me that Lancer is quite the largest property for miles. That the house is really beautiful, in a rustic kind of way.”
“Oh it is,” said Teresa wide-eyed, “in a rustic kind of way!”
Clara looked at her a little more sharply, but Teresa’s face was innocently vapid, as she stared back openly in apparent admiration. Clara relaxed, and began to preen herself slightly as she tried again. “Of course, one can tell that Mr Lancer comes from Boston, he has that East coast polish that’s so refined. He must seem like a creature from another planet to you, my dear Tessa.”
Teresa sighed theatrically.
“Well, it was awful tryin’ at first…especially when he insisted on taking tea everyday at four. It quite upset the ranch routine, but the hands have all got used to it now, and in-fact, they’ve taken quite a liking to Earl Grey tea.”
Before Miss Clara could respond, the door swung open with a crash, and another young man entered the room. Sweeping it quickly with his vivid blue eyes, he spied Teresa and grinned widely, crossing over to her side and lifting her up off the ground. “Thought you’d get away with it did you, querida?”
She laughed as he set her down, and bussed him lightly on the arm.
“Scott told you, the wretch!”
“Yup, he sure did. So come on then, where is it?”
Miss Clara cleared her throat self-consciously, and Teresa remembered her manners.
“Um Johnny, I’d like to introduce you to Miss Ellen’s niece Clara….”
“Miss Clara Godrich, of the Phila……”
“……delphian Godrich’s,” finished Teresa innocently, shooting her a sweet smile.
Johnny looked at her appraisingly, and unaccountably, Miss Clara blushed and dropped her eyes.
“I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting your elder brother Mr Lancer, dear Tessa tells me that you’re not from Boston yourself?”
Something sparked in Johnny’s eye as he kept his arm firmly round Teresa’s waist. “That’s just about the long and short of it, Cloris. I don’t hold with all those fancy Boston manners like Scott does. Kinda makes you wonder don’t it?”
“Er, yes quite. And it’s Clara, Mr Lancer, not er…….Cloris.”
He smiled lazily back at her, and for a disconcerting moment, she was suddenly reminded of a tiger she’d once seen in the zoo with his beautiful long-lashed eyes, and deadly razor-sharp claws.
“So querida…….” Johnny turned back to Teresa with his best and brightest grin. “Just one piece, un poco poco…….please?”
At that moment, she would have gladly given him the whole cake, but she didn’t tell him that, pretending to frown as she cocked her head, and smacked his hand instead.
“One piece only Johnny.”
She offered him the chocolate cake, and pointed innocently to the biggest slice on the plate, watching as his long brown fingers closed around it, and he gave her an outrageous wink.
“Gracias……… Tessa.” And then strolling over to the door, he paused and tipped his hat to the ladies, before turning to Miss Clara with a nod. “See ya Cloris.”
Teresa nearly choked on her tea, as she watched him leave with a roll of his hips, and the cake in his hand. She could only imagine the wicked look in his eye, but she’d seen it often enough before, to know that it would be there now. She turned apprehensively to Miss Clara, the apologies already trembling on her tongue, but the woman sat as if hypnotised, her rapt eyes locked on the silent door. Teresa cleared her throat and gently touched her arm.
“Oh, er……sorry, I was a million miles away there for a moment.”
She took a hurried bite of her chocolate cake, and a peculiar look of wonderment came over her face.
“But my dear Tessa, this is really good…….”
“I’ve been told so once or twice,” Teresa grinned, and shook her head slightly. “But then I have plenty of time to practise, living in this God-forsaken place,” and her eyes twitched merrily back over to the door. “Plenty of time to have my cake and eat it !”
Lisa Paris 2002.
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