Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 34

The tea party continues

I apologize for being remiss in posting chapters. I didn’t get an episode up at all last week, and this week’s episode is late, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m also running out of chapters to post, since I haven’t been working on this lately. There’s some more adventure ahead, and then I have a huge gap, and then I have the first few chapters of Book 3. I may end up writing the rest of Book 2 on the fly … we’ll have to see what happens.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 34

“Now, Pierre,” Grace said, “you must tell us how you found this treasure, and how you managed to win her over.”

“Well, finding her was easy,” Pierre said. “Actually, she found me. Showed up at the docks one morning when I was getting ready to go out sailing and asked what sailing was like. I took her out on my boat with me, and next thing I knew, she had borrowed a boat just like mine and was asking for lessons.”

“Pierre was just a wonderful teacher,” I added. “Always willing to spend so much time with me …”

“You’re definitely worth spending time with,” Pierre said. “Anyway, we discovered that we had a lot in common. You wouldn’t think it, with our different ages and backgrounds and all, but we’re soul mates. At one point, I even thought she might be my daughter, Eliza, but she’s not – she’s my partner for life.”

“Well, I’m glad for you two,” Grace said. “It’s good to see life back in your face. I never thought I’d see you really happy again after Dora died.”

“I never thought I’d be happy again.”

“So, Sarah, dear,” Grace said, “where did you come from, and how did you end up at Pierre’s dock?”

“I had a less than happy childhood in the midwest, and then my parents were killed in a car crash when I was sixteen,” I replied. “And then, once I could move, I felt compelled to find someplace near the sea to go to college, and then I just had to go to the marina and look at what was going on. And there he was, and, well, you know the rest.” Well, actually not all the rest, I thought, but at least the rest of the public story.

“I don’t know about you,” Grace said, “but I definitely believe there is something – call it fate, or karma, or whatever you will – that leads two people together like that. I had that with my Edmund, too. He was a young flier in the RAF during the war, and one afternoon he quite literally fell from the sky into my life. He was coming back from Germany when he ran out of fuel, and he crash-landed on my father’s estate in Kent. It was love at first sight. My parents didn’t approve, but we kept seeing each other, in secret in the horse barn, until they had a choice of permitting our wedding or shipping me off in shame to a home for unwed mothers. Anyhow, Edmund and I had many very happy years together, and I’ve never regretted what I did for a minute.”

“Ah, Grace,” Hattie put in, “you’ve always had a way of getting your way, haven’t you? Way back when we were in boarding school together, Grace would face up to the headmistress herself, and win.”

“Well, not every time, you know,” Grace said. “There was the time she caught me with a too-revealing bathing suit in my dresser.”

“Ah,” Hattie replied, “but what about the incident with the orphan kitten? You turned Mistress Lurch into a cat lover on the spot.”

I laughed. “Mistress Lurch?”

“Oh, that wasn’t her real name,” Maude said. “We just called her that behind her back.”

Peter and Sally had been seated together on a love seat, with the obvious intention that they should take a liking to each other, a prospect about which they had clearly been nervous. Now that nervousness had been replaced by open-mouthed surprise, that these old ladies might once upon a time have been young and spirited. “Gran,” Peter said to Grace, “do you really mean to say that Uncle George was … was …”

“Conceived out of wedlock?” Grace completed the question. “Happened a lot back then, actually. Lots of girls never knew when their men might come back, or whether they’d come back at all.” Pierre and I exchanged glances; we’d both experienced similar feelings. He squeezed my hand.

“So did all five of you go to boarding school together?” I asked.

“Just Hattie, Maude, and myself,” Grace said. “Leticia’s and Estelle’s husbands were in the RAF with my Edmund.”

“How did you all end up in Paris together?” I asked.

“Well, after he left the RAF, Edmund went to work for an international banking house, which sent him here. When he died, I stayed on here. Then when each of the others’ husbands died, I invited them for a visit – to take their minds off things, you know, just for a short while. But they all ended up moving here.”

I realized that the teapot alone wouldn’t have been able to accomplish that major a feat, but with the clear friendship that already existed between these women, the teapot might have been just the catalyst to draw them all together. Instead of the loneliness of widowhood, these women were blessed to have each other. I reached out to rest a finger on the gracefully curved handle of the teapot, feeling its magic tingle again.

“How long did you know Dora?” Pierre asked.

“Are you sure you want to talk about her, dear?” Grace asked. “You haven’t wanted to even hear her name mentioned since she died. And you, Sarah, are you all right talking about your predecessor?”

“I’m fine,” I said.

“It’s because of Sarah that I need to know more about Dora,” Pierre said. “I can get over some of the pain now, and there’s also Eliza …”

“I see,” Grace said. “Maybe knowing more about Dora will help you find your daughter.” She paused. “Well … let me think … I had known Dora’s family since just after the war, and we socialized quite a bit. Then suddenly, the family disappeared, all but her. I heard all sorts of rumors, that one of them had gone insane and killed all the others off, or that some financial disaster had ruined the family – but that clearly wasn’t the case, since Dora still had tons of money, and she still did the high-society globetrotting thing. I asked her what had happened several times, but she just clammed up. Clearly it upset her.”

“When would that have been?” Pierre asked.

“Well, it was about five years before she married you,” Grace said. “That was so good for her, by the way; you brought back her old cheerful self. But she still wouldn’t talk about her family.”

“What were they like?” I asked. “You knew them before they … uh … disappeared.”

“Well, they were thoroughly and completely rich,” Grace said. “The family had made piles and piles of money investing in just about anything that could be invested in – stocks, commodities, inventions, startup businesses, you name it. Everything they touched turned to gold – and had done so since the 1880s, if not earlier. Funny thing is, you never hear the family name mentioned along with all of the other Gilded Age tycoons; they liked to lie low, I guess. And they kept making money hand over fist well into the 20th century, right up until they disappeared. There were multiple homes, yachts – Dora was always a hotshot at sailing, even as a small child – world travel, all of that.”

Pierre and I exchanged glances. Were Dora’s family ancestral Others? What Grace described certainly seemed to fit the selfish use of magic for personal gain. “What about the family members you knew?” I asked.

“There were two daughters, Dora and an older sister; I don’t remember her name. There was also a half-brother considerably older. I never did much trust him – if someone went insane and killed all the rest, that’s the one who would do it. There was something, well, not quite right about him. Dora’s father was all right, if a bit distant; her mother was an especially gentle soul, and awfully lonely at times. We spent many hours at tea together; when she died – cancer, the same as later killed Dora – I thought it was especially beautiful of Dora to give me her teapot.”

“It is quite a treasure,” I said, touching it again.

All of the other guests at the tea party had been listening in rapt attention. I noticed that Peter and Sally were leaning forward eagerly – and they were holding hands, apparently totally unaware of the fact. Pierre noticed me noticing them, and we exchanged glances. I remembered the first time I discovered I’d been holding hands with him unawares.

Back at the flat, Pierre and I discussed what we had learned. “I imagine Dora’s mother wasn’t magic, just her father,” Pierre said.

“So sad that she inherited magic from the Others, and cancer from her mother.”

“So could your mother be Dora’s older sister?”

“Better that than my father being the freaky half-brother. Ugh.” I shivered.

“Well, when we get back to the States, maybe now we have enough to go on that we can research the family.”


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