The Flag of Freedom – part 1
Thursday 19th November
10 am CET
George V Hotel, Paris
“I had not realised what an event this is,” Tony said as he sat with Abby, “only twenty five of you get invited?”
“That’s right – both Angel and I privileged in that respect. We have to be here on Friday at 9 am, so we will celebrate Thanksgiving and then catch the evening flight over next Thursday.”
“Well, at least Judy and her family are celebrating with you next Thursday – makes things a little easier,” Tony said with a smile. “So why are we here this week?”
“A little pre-event shoot – given neither Angel nor I are using one of the French fashion houses, we’re doing them a favour by allowing them to film all of us visiting them.”
“In other words, to keep the people who want to dress you happy...”
“Got it in one, good morning Mamma.”
“Good morning,” Diana said as she and Mandy Carrow joined her, “Angelica will join us shortly, and then we shall do what needs to be...”
“Well, such a pleasure to see such a vision of beauty this morning!”
“Nikolai – it is a real pleasure to see you as well,” Diana said as she stood and kissed him on both cheeks. “How are you?”
“I am well – as I can see you all are. So you are been presented next week, Abigail?”
“I am, Uncle Nikolai,” Abby said with a smile.
“Good – well, I must go. Do say hello to the delightful Jeanne for me when you see her, and tell her I hope to see her again soon.”
“But have you not...”
“We will be delighted to pass on your greetings,” Diana said over Abby as she hugged and kissed Nikolai again, as April came in.
“Ready to go?”
“We are, darling,” Mandy said as she stood up.
11.30 am CET
“Ladies – welcome to the headquarters of Yves Saint Laurent, and thank you all for gracing us with your presence today...”
"So these are the
select 25 eh?" Will whispered to Tony.
beautiful girls in this year’s debutante grouping reduced to just these
"La creme de la
their families, as well as their beauty."
"All this press and publicity though. I think even professional models like Abby are a bit overwhelmed by all this interest."
“Momma, I know this is necessary, but seriously – this is worse than a Memories event!”
“Just swing with it dear.” Diana looked round.
“I understand how you feel Darling,” Mandy said as she stood next to Diana, “it almost makes the Italians look civilised.”
“Abby has a point, Mum,” Angel said, “this is almost intrusive... “
“Oh my goodness,” Angel said as she turned round, “I did not know you were coming here as well Samantha.”
“Surprise – will you introduce me?”
“Of course – Abigail, meet Sam, or if you want to be formal Lady Samantha Gordon. Her father owns the estate next to ours in Scotland. Sam, this is Abby de Ros, technically for all this Abigail, Countess de Ros.”
“Pleasure,” the tall brunette said as they kissed each other on the cheek. “I’ve seen you in the magazines, but in the flesh you easily beat all of us.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well,” Abby said with a smile. “So how do you feel about all this?”
“Scared – how do you cope?”
“Samantha, darling who are you... Good morning Amanda, I was hoping you would be here today.”
Abby looked at the tall brunette, with grey flecks in her hair, and then at her mother as she wondered why Diana looked so perplexed.
“Hello Victoria darling,” Mandy said as she kissed the newcomer on both cheeks. “I must say young Samantha looks fabulous. I do not know if you remember Diana?”
“Of course I do,” Lady Victoria Gordon said as she looked at Diana. “It has been a long time, Diana.”
“Indeed,” Diana said in a cold voice, “a very long time. My daughter Abigail – Abigail, this is Lady Victoria Gordon.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Victoria said as she looked at Abby, but as she and Samantha walked away, both she and Angel looked at their mothers.
“Later, please Abigail,” Diana said quietly, “later...”
3 pm CET
The debutantes and mothers were sitting in the reception room, talking as they shared stories and got to know each other better.
“I sometimes wish I’d paid more attention when my family talked about friends and relatives.” Abby looked down at her cup of coffee and smiled. “So many of these inter-family relationships and rivalries always seem to be surprises.”
“You mean the looks between Diana and Victoria?”
Abby nodded as she looked at Angel. “There’s a story there, you know.”
“Isn’t that what Ingrid and Cari said last year?”
Abby looked at Angel for a second, and then burst out laughing. “True, Angel, very true...”
“Do you know Trina Culver the other American deb?” Angel asked.
“No, she’s old money from San Francisco. Her ancestor was one of the discoverers of the Comstock Lode.”
“The mountain of precious metals in Nevada?” asked Tony.
“That’s the one…anyway our paths have never crossed until now.”
“Well she seems rather nice.” Angel noted.
“If you like redheads with figures to die for.” Abby sighed. “Nature wasn’t exactly dividing things up fairly you know.” She glanced down at her own bust.
“She probably wishes she had legs as long as yours.” Angel laughed.
“True.” Abby laughed also.
“Well, I love you just the way you are,” Tony said as he patted Abby’s hand. “So what of some of the others, do you know many of them?”
“A few Tony.” Angel said as she sipped from her cup.
“I know a couple of the French girls.” Abby smiled. “Louise de Melcourt has done some modelling, and I’ve done a couple of the same shows she has. Brigitte Karonsky is a distant cousin of mine on Mama’s side of the family.”
“I know Samantha of course,” Angel said as she looked round, “but I also know Fi from school.”
“Fi?” asked Tony.
“Fiona Treharran, her family owns half of Cornwall.”
“She’s the rather striking blonde who keeps walking into things?” Tony enquired.
“Yes,” Angel giggled, “she’s far too vain to wear her glasses at times, this used to happen in things like school plays, we’d walk on stage and she’d just walk into the scenery.”
“Oh dear.” Abby laughed.
“Isn’t her brother Mick Harran?” asked Tony.
“The lead singer with Lemachine?” Abby asked.
“That he is, and yes Fi is his baby sister.” Angel answered.
“I once had such a crush on him.” Abby sighed. “Lemachine were the greatest boy band ever.”
“Not exactly my taste, but each to their own,” Angel said with a smile.
“Oh – and who do you go for, Lady Angelica?”
“With parents like mine? Who do you think?”
Abby stood up and embraced her cousin as Angel and Tony watched.
“I am sorry I missed Tante Tasha’s wedding last year. How long has it been?”
“Far too long – let me introduce you to Angelica Fitzstuart and Tony McNally.”
“Pleasure,” Brigitte said. “May I introduce someone?”
“Abby this is Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Ruritania,” Brigitte Karonsky made the introduction.
“Your Royal Highness.” Abby went down into a bow.
“I wish people wouldn’t do that,” the vivacious young girl with the chestnut coloured hair smiled. “Please just call me Charly,” she continued in heavily French accented English.
“Alright Charly it is, and I’m Abby.”
“So how do you know Brigitte?”
“We are fairly distant cousins…”
“Oh that is right, you are both descended from Romanov’s”
“That we are.” Brigitte smiled.
“Can you believe all this fuss?” Charly looked round. “Anyone would think that my Papa is a real king, and not just the descendant of one forced to abdicate by the communists.”
“You need to meet a good friend of mine, Cari Huntingdown,” Abby said.
“She’s a model like you isn’t she?”
“Yes she is – but she discovered last year who her father was, and now she grimaces every time her full title is given.”
“And that is?”
“Her Serene Highness Princess Carina Diana Huntingdown von Furstenheim.”
“Oh my,” Charly said with a smile, “I can understand her pain now.... Will she be here?”
“No – she was a debutante last year, and came out at the Opernball as well. But if you are coming to New York in January, you might meet her there.”
“I think that is on the calendar – I’ll look forward to that,” Charly said with a smile.
As Abby turned round, she saw two very familiar faces in the crowd of people going round and talking to the other guests.
“Mama what is Missy doing here?” Abby said as she joined Diana, and pointed to a face in the crowd.
“What half of the model agents in the western world are doing Cherie…scouting the girls here at Le Bal for models.”
“Didn’t you know that it was after this event I was offered a modelling contract?”
“Ah so that is how it happened?”
“Yes, I can guarantee you that any girl here who isn’t currently signed to an agency very soon will be.”
“Should we go over and chat with Missy?”
“We probably should.” Diana smiled. “Mandy,” she whispered in her friends ear, “Missy is out front, we had better go chat.”
“I’d seen her darling. Juliette is also out there as well.”
“I wonder how she got on in Munich?” Diana said as the four women wandered over.
“Ah, four people I always like to meet,” Missy said as she saw them come over.
“We’re off the clock here Missy darling,” Mandy said as she greeted her old friend, “and probably the four safest people here from both of you.”
“Apart from Louise,” Juliette said with a smile. “How’s the trip so far?”
“Not bad, with a cloud on the horizon,” Diana said as she looked across the room.
“Samantha Gordon is one of the twenty five,” Diana said quietly.
“Oh my,” Missy said quietly, “which means Victoria is here, correct?”
Diana simply nodded as Angel and Abby looked at each other.
“Victoria Gordon,” Juliette said quietly, “was Victoria James when Diana and I first met her.”
“I’ve heard Jeannie talk about Victoria James,” Abby said. “She was a model at the same time as you and Mamma, Aunt Ju, and then she retired suddenly. What happened?”
“A little bit of a scandal,” Mandy said, “but this is the first time we’ve seen her in years. She looks well, all things considered.”
“So any possibilities, Missy?”
“Always possibilities,” Missy said with a smile, “but we will see later..,”
"So who interests
you among the debutantes Missy darling?" Mandy drawled.
"Other than these
two lovely young ladies?"
"Oh,” Missy said
as she looked round, “there might be a couple with potential."
didn't come all the way from New York just for potential." Mandy rolled
"Am I that
and Angel answered in sync. “Especially
with Ju coming here from Munich!”
darling,” Mandy said, “who is your target?"
"I was hoping the
Princess,” Missy said, “but I heard IMG may have beaten me to her."
"Do you want me to
ask Charly?" Abby asked.
interested in the Californian girl and your cousin Abby."
"I'll have a quiet word with Brigitte's mother if you wish." Diana spoke.
“The others? We shall see...”
7 pm CET
“So who is doing what balls on the circuit?” Fiona Treharran asked as the select 25 were ushered backstage to change.
“I’m doing most of the big New York ones and Vienna.” Abby answered as she brought out her diary. “Otherwise I’m tied up with school and work.”
“What about you Ange?” Fi asked her old school friend.
“Most of what Abs is doing, plus some London events, unlike her I don’t have schooling to worry about.”
“No just your modelling gigs.” Abby spoke again.
“What about you Trina?” Louise de Melcourt asked.
“I’m doing a couple of New York things, but my big ones are back home in California.”
“I haven’t been invited.”
“I’ll have a word with Mama,” Charly nodded, “We can’t have you missing that.”
“Thank you,” the American redhead smiled.
“So did you see the model agents out among the press?” Abby asked the other girls.
“Were there any?” Brigitte asked.
“Hey I thought I was the one who most needed her glasses.” Fi giggled as she retrieved her eyewear from her handbag.” Even I could see them…Hmmm…” she paused as she looked at the other debs. “Alright now I can see you all clearly, I know I rank 25th in looks.”
“Nonsense,” Abby said, “we each have our own talents and ways of looking. Now let’s get this done – I’d love to be on the plane to get home tomorrow.”
“These look good,” Angel said as she selected the hanger with her name on it, “and at least it will be quick.”
“Who has steadies they are being escorted by?” Diane de Malois asked as she slipped into a pair of jeans.
“Well I do.” Abby smiled as she zipped up her boots.
“And I sort of do.” Angel also replied.
“Didn’t I read in Hello about you and Prince Alfonso of Bourbon Charly?” Fi asked.
“Strictly gossip,” the princess laughed, “I do know him, but he has bad breath and cannot dance.”
“Well scratch him then.”
“What about you Fiona?” Sophia Verrigno asked.
“No…I’m sort of not available…”
“Are you married?” Louise de Melcourt asked. “Do the organizers know?”
“No it’s worse then that…”
“She’s a lesbian girls.” Angel laughed aloud.
“Hey Ange, NOT FAIR! You spoiled my fun.” Fiona joined in the laughter. “No my brother will be my escort.”
“Ooooh!” a couple of girls exhaled.
“Can someone honestly explain to me what they see in him?” Fiona shook her head.
“You’re family – no way you’re ever going to see it Fi,” Angel said with a laugh.
“Can we agree on something else? We’re from all over the place here – do we have to speak French here?”
“Not unless you want to?”
“I don’t mind,” Louise said, Brigitte nodding in agreement.
“So do we keep using English girls?”
“Diane if you knew how bad my French sounds you’d not ask me that question.” Trina looked skyward.
“My French is pretty grotty as well.” Samantha smiled as she pulled on a pair of jeans.
“Well that settles it, English it is.” Louise smiled.
“Mesdames, s’il vous plait?”
“Showtime, ladies,” Abby said as she and Louise led the girls out, to a huge round of applause.
Friday 20th November
The Refectory, St Angela’s
"So do you think
Abby is enjoying her extra days off school?" Pepsi asked as the girls
lined up for lunch.
"I can tell you
she won't be enjoying the travel." Jeannie looked upwards. "Flying to
and from Europe just for a couple of days is a bitch."
"Even in first
"Even in first
class Nikki. All that gets you is leg
room, somewhere to crash before the flight and decent food."
"Well I just think
it's amazing that of the twenty five most outstanding debutantes of the year I
just happen to know two of them." Doc spoke up.
"I know, that's
pretty cool isn't it?" Jeannie wheeled herself forward as the line began
Pepsi took a tray. "It's nice for a few moments to imagine being a
jet-setting international debutante, because as sure as hell I won't ever be
one for real."
"No,” Doc said as
she selected a wrap, “the only two of us who will probably be debs are Nikki
one I won't be Jeans." Nikki shook her head. "I might get invited to
a couple of New York balls, but no more."
"And even having a
father who's a congressman,” Becca said, “I'm pretty sure that like Bobbi I'll
only be doing New York as well."
"Well I might be a
famous model, but with my family background, I won't get invited even to a ball
here." Jeannie took a salad from the counter.
"Well you have
more chance Jeans then Peps and I do." Doc took some juice. "Anyway
changing the subject how are you doing with your Shakespeare essays?"
Jeannie looked up and smiled as she paid for her lunch. "I'm not enjoying
trying to pull Macbeth apart."
"Other then Doc...Who
is?" asked Becca.
"Hey just for once
I'm with you guys, even I'll admit this is tough."
"Damn I never thought
I'd hear that." Pepsi shook her head as she too paid for her lunch.
"She is human after all." Ama laughed.
“I heard about that girl on the news,” Jess said as she sat with the others, “the same age as us, and to die like that.”
“She wasn’t always that way,” Erica said quietly, “she just seemed to change overnight.”
“So you’re definitely moving out?”
“Yeah – we’re going to stay with a friend downtown until the New Year, and then move into a place near you Dawn?”
“Oh yeah – I’ve seen the workmen in the apartment building,” Dawn said. “Means we can pool more easily for homework.”
“A lot closer for the rest of us as well,” Pippa said. “So who fancies hitting the sales next Friday?”
“Unsupervised? You got a death wish girl?”
“Nah – mob rule.”
Bishop Walden School
"The root of the
problem is that I have seen a pair of boots in Saks that I really want, the
only solution though is fighting the crowds on Friday to get them."
Shawnee complained as they found a table in the cafeteria.
"You can't afford
to pay full price?"
said as she sat down, “unlike you, most of us don't quite have the financial
resources to just buy what we want, when we want."
"I'm in an even
worse position then you are Shawnee, remember I'm the one who gets financial
aid even to come to this school." Katy spoke. "My Mom though has a
definite NO BLACK FRIDAY rule. She's determined we are going to hole up in our
apartment and just watch other people fight the crowds on TV."
"I might venture
out." Liz said as she looked up from her meal. "I have had my
eye on a coat in Macy's for weeks. If it's still there on Friday and it's
discounted a decent amount then it's mine."
"What about you
two?" Sandy asked Laura and Cassie.
"I have more
sense." Laura laughed, "I've done Black Friday sales with Mom and
Helga before...NEVER AGAIN!"
"Where is your
bravery girl?" Cassie questioned her bestie. "Come out with me and
Maria on Friday."
"Uh Uh NO
WAY!" Laura shook her head.
"So where is
everyone actually eating their turkey on Thursday?" Sandy spoke with half
her food in her mouth.
"Oooh that looked GROSS!" Katy complained.
“Sorry – so with families?”
“I certainly am,” Katy said, “Mom’s big day for cooking. Even Grandma gets kicked out of the kitchen that day.”
“I think we’re all with our families – why don’t we all meet up on the Saturday anyway, whatever happens?”
“Agreed,” Sands said with a smile.
The Richmond Mansion
“That’s appalling,” Emma Carlton said as she looked at Denice, “gunned down in the street?”
“Yeah,” Denice said as she held her mug, “so I guess we’re making the right move, getting out.”
“Did Erica know her?”
“Yes – they were in junior high together, but when Erica got the scholarship something changed. She’s given both me and Erica trouble since then, but – well, after the party...”
“Hey everyone,” April said as she came in, “how are you Denice?”
“Better now than the other day,” Denice said with a smile, “Caroline has cleared everything and found a secure storage for our books and furniture for a few weeks, and I signed the lease just now on the new apartment come January. So until then, we live downtown with Mary Thomas.”
“Where does Mary live anyway,” Heather said. “I’ve never asked.”
“Downtown – she has two floors of a brownstone near Lafayette Street,” Caroline said. “Nice place – even if, in her own words, up until now it’s been mainly a place to crash out between work times.”
“Not any more – I think she’s going to have fun next weekend,” Sandy said with a smile. “We all are – Jo and Curt joining us on Wednesday.”
“Can we make a pact this year, in that case,” Barbara said quietly.
“And that is?”
“None of us – NONE OF US – goes shopping on Friday next week. Are we agreed?”
“We are agreed,” the table said as one as they looked at each other.
“We can’t anyway,” Caroline said, “my grandfather is visiting, as is Ama’s friend and her parents from the west coast.”
“What’s Annie doing?”
“Joining Juliette and Klaus – who flew back in at lunchtime, and called me to tell you all to reserve the weekend of 2nd April next year in your diaries. Big wedding you’ll all be invited to.”
“Sounds like a way to end the Easter vacation,” Emma said with a smile, “where?”
“Munich – get your passports ready ladies, and those of the girls as well.”
“Ah Bavaria in the spring...”
“NO – don’t go there,” Caroline said as she looked at April, “it is a silly place.”
“Anyway, ignoring that for the moment,” Heather said, “what are everyone’s plans for next week?”
“We gather again with the local shop owners – so a big meal all round.”
“We’re visiting my in-laws this week – first year with only Nikki as well, now that her sister is on the west coast.”
“Judy is joining Diana with the families next week – that I know, because the have to fly to the ball that night.”
“So it will be a fun time all round,” Sandy said as she sat down. “Are the girls looking forward to it?”
“I think so – an interesting time to be sure...”
“Another week over with,” Harriet said as she put the last of the dinner dishes away. “I think the Jazz Orchestra are going to be good for the Christmas party.”
“I saw the calendars today as well, Grace – that picture of you in the blue dress for October is amazing.”
“I agree – Luke did a fantastic job,” Harriet said as Grace smiled.
"I overheard some
of the girls moaning about Macbeth over lunch Sarah, seems you are stretching
the intellectual resources of even Anna Carlton."
"I know Grace. I’m pleased she’s finding it tough as well –
do her some good."
"Well I know my
chemistry class isn't stretching her." Harriet said as she sat down.
"That girl leaps ahead quicker then I can think up things for her to
"I got a phone
call from her mother about her options for next year," Grace said as she passed
around coffees, "I told her that it would be pretty straight AP classes in
everything other then maybe English Lit."
"That sounds about
right to me." Sarah nodded. "Anna is really a mathematician/science
type, Literature is slightly outside her comfort zone."
"She will probably
be an amazing doctor one day."
Harriet." Grace nodded.
"So tell me all about Thanksgiving Grace." Sarah sat down.
“Ah Thanksgiving – you have to understand that for our American cousins, there are three big big holidays – Christmas, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving. So, last Thursday of November, they give thanks by having a big Turkey dinner, meet as families and have fun.”
Harriet and Sarah looked at each other, and then at Grace.
“Okay, family bit doesn’t count here,” Grace said with a smile, “but friends count. We’re invited to join Juliette and the others for Thanksgiving dinner this year. In New York, that also means the Macys Parade, and watching the big game on the television if you’re interested.”
“So basically cook out, drink and make merry?”
“Yeah – Christmas without the presents,” Grace said with a smile. “I said we’d bring the pies as well.”
“I’ve got some recipes – we can try them this weekend. I like the idea of pecan and pumpkin myself...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Oh it is so good to be home,” Juliette said as she put her keys in the bowl by the door, and put her case down.
“Indeed,” Klaus said, “so do you have any plans for the weekend?”
“I need to pop into the office tomorrow, but apart from that... Coffee?”
“Oh yes please,” Klaus said, “in fact, why don’t you let me make it while you see how Carina is?”
“Sounds wonderful,” Juliette said as she opened her laptop and logged in. A few minutes later, she smiled as she saw Carina and Judith on the screen.
“Hey Mom – how was the trip?”
“Very good – both of you are going to be bridesmaids at the wedding, but I’ll tell you all about it when you come on Sunday. I’m looking forward to hugging both of you.”
“Judith wants to hug you Mom.”
“That’s good – so what else did I miss?”
“You spoken to Sandy yet?”
“No – why?”
“You probably should – there have been a few things happen this week you may have a view on.”
“Hang on,” Juliette said as there was the sound of the apartment doorbell. Walking over, she opened the door and smiled as she said “Sandy – we were just talking about you.”
“I’ll bet – Hi Cari.”
“Hey Sandy – I’ll leave you two to chat. See you Sunday Mom.”
“Hello Sandy,” Klaus said as he came in, “I’m making coffee if you want some.”
“Thanks – have Diana and Abby got back safely?”
“They did indeed – we came in on the same flight as them and Missy. Some interesting names for the belles of the ball – including a real blast from the past.”
“Oh – who?”
Sandy placed her coat slowly on the stand, and then looked at Juliette. “You’re kidding?”
“I’m not – Lady Victoria Gordon’s daughter Samantha is one of the chosen few.”
“Was the epitome of icy cool.”
“Want to drop round for coffee tomorrow?”
“Sounds good – all ready for Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah – Mom’s invited George and Jennifer to join us, as well as Mo and Tony Gardiner.”
“We’ll have Annie, as well as Grace and her housemates.”
“Should be a good day then,” Sandy said with a smile.
“So what else has happened? Cari hinted a few things I need to be aware of.”
“Nothing that can’t wait - tell me about Munich...”
Saturday 21st November
"So what are the
best of the best like Abs?" Carina asked as she, Joanne, and Ingrid held a
"Not too bad.” Abby smiled as she said “I think we will have
a lot of fun next weekend."
"So anyone we
might know?" Ingrid asked.
"I don't know
Ingy,” Abby said as she sat back, “do you know Charly Elphberg?"
"The Princess of
"Only via the
gossip columns then."
"What is she like
Abs?" Jo asked.
"Gorgeous, hair just
like Shirley's, great figure, very, very friendly."
nice." Jo nodded.
"She's coming to
town in the new year, so you'll all get the chance to meet her."
else?" Ingy asked.
"Trina Culver from
San Francisco, she's a killer redhead. A couple of British girls that Angel
knows, Samantha Gordon and Fiona Treharran. Fi by the way is les Cari."
say there had to be at least one in the 25."
"You've all met
Louise de Melcourt,” Abby said, “and Cari didn't you once meet my cousin Brig
Brigitte," Ingy interrupted, "I never knew she was your cousin though
"My mother is her
fathers third cousin."
"Okay now I get
it." Ingrid smiled.
is the cousin of your friend Giovanna Cari."
"Gio said she had a cousin coming out this year."
“So like I said, a good bunch of girls.”
“Well, you’re all back next week anyway. Wednesday for you Jo?”
“Yeah – on the plus side Curt comes, on the minus we can’t set off until Wednesday morning.”
“But we will see you Tuesday night,” Ingrid said.
“As will the twins – and we are going to eat pizza and talk. Just have something ready for us Abby?”
“Oh – what?”
“Calendars girl – we have pre-orders for a hundred or so...”
The Richmond Mansion
“I have to say,” Diana said as she put her coffee cup down, “I would have supported Susan had she consulted me. And young Anna did come up with a good plan, to use the current unrest to cover our tracks.”
“I have to agree,” Juliette said, “so this was one I cannot blame Susan for. Using Katy however...”
“Well, it proves she is one of us,” Sandy said, “but still...”
“I wonder if Mary knows what she is letting herself in for,” Juliette said as she shook her head, “but at least we know Denice and Erica will be safe. Good move on your part Sandy.”
“I’m only supplying the final destination – Caroline has a secure store in place for their furniture, and... Actually, we realised none of us had ever been to Mary’s place, Ju.”
“Haven’t you? Caroline and I have.”
“She lives simply – and well. I think they will be genuinely surprised.”
“So come on – what are the plans?”
“Definitely April 2nd, Munich Cathedral – we spoke with the Cardinal, who agreed to Cari and Judith as well as all the other bridesmaids and the initial plans.”
“For which we are truly thankful,” Sandy said with a smile. “So now the crux question – who gets to design the gowns?”
“Ah,” Juliette said, “I need to decide that one over the next couple of days. I’ve narrowed it down to three people.”
“She’s one of them,” Juliette said. “So, you heard about who we met?”
“I did – have you told Abby yet Diana?”
“No – I do not wish to spoil her week. I have however informed Father and Valeria – they needed to be told.”
“Well, that should be an interesting meeting. How do you feel?”
“I was surprised to see her, but it passed. I had to remember Mandy is not aware of what happened.”
Mary Thomas, the supreme power all models bow to when she produces a show, was showing the same skills as she took charge of a very different operation...
“Is that the last?” Mary shouted towards the movers, as they finished loading their truck.
“It is Ma’am.”
“You know that it is all going into storage?”
“That we do.”
“Okay that is the keys dropped off with the Super.” Denice came walking out in her jeans, jumper and jacket. “Going to be strange living somewhere else after all these years.”
“Well after all those girls got killed out here last week I’d have thought you would have been glad to see the back of it?” Doc asked as she helped Mary load the last cases in her car.
“Yeah,” Denice said as she looked round, “I must admit - that definitely made me realize I was making the right decision in taking up Mary’s offer.”
“Rochelle was a victim of this place as much as she was of the bullets.” Erica walked over from saying her byes to a couple of people. “She really thought the gang was her future, her ticket out.”
“Murder and drug dealing aren’t solutions Erica, just symptoms of the disease.” Mary looked grave.
“Yeah, I know,” Erica said as she looked round and pulled her coat around her, “but it doesn’t make it any easier leaving.”
“So all your goodbyes said?”
“Other than Tracy,” Erica said to her mother, “and I can’t find her anywhere.”
“Perhaps you’ll see her later sometime.” Doc said, turning as she smiled from her extra knowledge.
“I guess so,” Erica said, “but it would still have been nice to say goodbye...”
“Lady we need to go, else youse’ll be payin’ overtime.” The truck driver climbed in his cab.
“Alright.” Denice looked round one last time before climbing into Mary’s car.
“Goodbye.” Erica whispered to herself as she climbed in behind Doc in the back seat.
“Okay downtown here we come.” Mary smiled as she turned the engine on.
As the car drove off, Tracy watched from the coffee shop as she sat with Susan.
“I wish I’d had the chance to say goodbye,” she said as she sipped her coffee.
“I know – but I’ve their address so you can send a good luck card. Tonight Madame wishes to see you – she gets back in a couple of hours. Then back to London tomorrow. You did a fantastic job, Tracy, and they owe you a lot...”
Joe’s Diner, Times Square
"So how has Katy's
training been going Jan?" Heather asked as they both found a booth in the
cafe. The two women were in jeans and
bomber jackets, looking round as they sat down.
"Not badly at all.
I took home some actual robbery reports from work and we sat and looked at them
while Mom was out at her Daughters of Erin meeting."
"What did she make
of them?" Heather said as she tried to attract a server’s attention.
"Actually quite a lot. Besides what we do, she actually has the instincts to make a first rate cop."
"Yes,” Jan whispered, “she diagnosed very quickly what the thieves did wrong and what they did right. She actually made me think quite hard in places."
"So does she want
to be a cop?"
"No,” Jan said as
she shook her head, “she has her sights set a bit higher, she wants to be the
lawyer I never got the chance to be."
"Hey good for that
girl." Heather smiled as the guy came to take their order.
"As I was saying
she has excellent forensic instincts, I'm just trying to build upon that."
skills?" Heather whispered after the waiter walked away.
"They are coming
quickly. I took her over to Diana's to use her range a couple of times, weapon
handling is coming easy to her."
"So when is she
doing the farm?"
"First Saturday in
"I hope there is no snow on the ground." Heather giggled, "Wouldn't want it to be even tougher for her would we?"
“Bad enough she’ll be the youngest,” Jan said with a smile. “She’s doing it with Susan’s assistant and a couple of other newer recruits.”
Downtown – Lafayette Street
“Well, be it ever so humble…” Mary said as she unlocked and swung open the door to her apartment.
“Oh dear God!” Denice spoke as she looked inside. “Mary this looks amazing.”
“It’s not really amazing, but it suits me.” Mary looked round after she closed the door with everyone inside. “Gives me a place to relax and be myself.”
“I have to agree with Mom.” Erica shook her head. “Just look at all those books Mom,” she said as she pointed to the one entire long wall covered from floor to ceiling with bookshelves.
“I could spend a week just looking at these books alone.” Doc said as she looked at some of the titles.
“Well you all browse around and I’ll go make coffee, then we will start on bringing your suitcases up.”
“Sounds like a plan to me Mary.” Denice slipped herself into one of Mary’s plush armchairs while Mary disappeared into the kitchen area.
“Is this where you get your ideas from Miss Thomas?” Doc yelled out as she pulled an Imperial Russian Coronation Album out to look at. “These illustrations are marvellous.”
“Fashion is like history, it has a way of repeating itself,” the shout came from the kitchen.
“I can totally get that. I mean, look at what was in fashion for the older woman this summer – no offence Mrs Burton.”
“Doc come look at these.” Erica waved her friend over to the opposite wall.
“Are all these pictures of you Miss Thomas, with all these rock stars?”
“They are Anna.”
“Wow, so many famous faces.”
“I like the one with Mick Jagger.” Erica called out.
“Mick is an old and dear friend.” Mary smiled as she brought a tray in from the kitchen. “All those boys are – even Keith.”
“Thank you for letting us stay here Mary.” Denice smiled.
“Well it’s my pleasure to help out while your new place is being got ready.”
“I knew apartments like this existed, but well I never expected to see inside one.” Erica looked round as she took a cup of coffee. “So much style and taste, and as the girls said, all those books.”
“Well it’s not huge really. I have about 1,800 square feet, wait till you see Pussy van Roon’s place overlooking Central Park, now that is huge.”
“Well I’m impressed by this,” Denice sipped her cup. “I’ve been in Sandy’s place and that is a huge mansion, but she inherited it. You earned your way up to this.”
“Yeah I haven’t done too badly for a girl from Steelbridge.” Mary glanced round as she sat down. “So most importantly though do you think you can be happy here for a few weeks?”
“Do you need ask?” Erica glanced round from reading the inscriptions on photos.
“Well come and drink some coffee girls and then we will start unpacking.”
“Looks like you’ve got some messages Miss Thomas,” Erica said as she looked at the flashing light on the phone.
“Hmm – let’s see,” Mary said as she pressed the button.
“Mary, it’s Juliette – can you let Denice and Erica know Caroline will still pick Erica up in the mornings? Talk to you Monday.”
“I guess you heard that,” Mary said with a smile as she deleted that message.
“Miss Thomas, I am ringing to confirm you will be expected at the British Embassy at 11 am on Tuesday for the investiture. Formal dress required.”
“What’s that about,” Erica said as she looked at Doc.
“Just something I need to attend,” Mary said as she went to the last message.
“Mary my darling! I will be in town Tuesday – come and see me at the Waldorf, and we’ll drink a toast in your honour!”
“Ai,” Mary said as she looked at Denice, “Tom just wants a drink and a chinwag...”
The two girls looked at each other as Mary sat down. “What – can’t a boy from the valleys offer to buy a friend a drink?”
“So who was calling,” Sarah said as she came into the apartment, seeing Grace replace the telephone.
“That was Mary,” Grace said as she sat down, “she was just saying she needs to fly down to Washington first thing Tuesday to collect her gong, and asking if I’d like to accompany her.”
“Why ask you Grace?” Harriet replied.
“I guess,” Grace said as she rubbed her eyes, “because the ambassador is my uncle and she thinks it’s time I made my peace with my family.”
“She has a point you know.”
“I know…I cut them off as badly as I did the modelling world when I disappeared. I suppose it’s time we made up.”
“Well no school Tuesday,” Harriet said, “so you can easily do it.”
“I know, that is why I agreed.”
“So who exactly is the ambassador?”
“Sir Charles Gresham-Fox, he’s my father’s youngest brother. Eton, Oxford, the Grenadier Guards, then into the Foreign Office.”
“He sounds rather grand.” Sarah said as she emerged from her bedroom.
“Her entire family is rather grand Sarah. Our Grace kept an awful lot from us all those years.”
“I’m sorry.” Grace looked round and said “As I keep saying, when I disappeared, I DISAPPEARED!”
“By the way it just occurred to me - is that why you always weaselled out of supervising school trips to Momford Place?”
“Yes, far too strong a chance of being recognized by someone.”
“Momford Place?” Sara looked a little puzzled.
“Grace’s ancestral home near Saffron Walden, her grandfather was Lord Standerton.”
“As my Uncle Stephen is today.”
“Damn you are fancy.” Sarah laughed.
“Well I think the fact that you played football for England would impress more people today back home then my family title Sarah.”
“Okay – enough family drama,” Grace said, “let’s head out for the night – someone check what’s on at the cinema please...”
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“Erica is just finishing her unpacking,” Mary said as she came into the main room.
“I hope you don’t mind me looking Mary?” Denice asked as she sat at Mary’s work area. “I saw these lying here...”
“Not at all…but disregard my little scribbles please.”
“Why?” Denice looked at them and said “they are very good.”
“Not really,” Mary shook her head. “Susan’s young cousin Kylie has far more talent than I ever had.”
“I haven’t met her yet have I?”
“No, she’s at school in Hong Kong, but she spends her holidays with Susan so you will one day. That young lady will one day be a real top designer.”
“She sounds something.”
“Very much so,” Mary said as she picked up a sheet of paper. “Just look at this drawing she sent me a few days ago.”
“Wow! You are right she does have talent.” Denice paused, and then picked up a sheet with a drawing of a skirt and jacket. “But really you know I’d adore wearing this,” she said as she waved the drawing in front of Mary.
“Well maybe for you I’ll get someone to make it up.”
“No,” Denice said as she shook her head, “that is too much to ask.”
“Nonsense, look on it as a birthday present.”
“My birthday is in May.”
“Well an early birthday present then. Now, let me make a call, and we can see about dinner.”
“At least let me cook...”
“Tomorrow – tonight is kick back night. Let me make one call, and then we can decide.”
“All right – I need to sort a few things out, and thanks again Mary.”
The older Welsh woman smiled as Denice walked off, and then went to her phone.
"Hey hi Mary, how
has settling in gone?"
good. Anyway what can I do for
"Just a heads up,
put plenty of bookshelves in the new apartment. Both Denice and Erica are
bibliophiles I think."
"Right tip duly noted." Sandy scribbled a note to remind herself.
“Ah – it is good to be back,” Shirley said as Clint put her cases into her room, Maisha removing her coat and hanging it up.
“So we are here for two weeks, Aunt Shirley?”
“Indeed – and then we will spend Christmas and New Year in London this year. But for now, let us enjoy the holiday here.”
“I have put the bags in your rooms, Shirley, Maisha. Susan and Tracy will drop in at eight to see you.”
“Excellent – thank you Clint,” Shirley said as he walked off. “Well, John does not arrive back from Mexico City until tomorrow, so why don’t we have some food delivered for when our visitors arrive.”
“I’ll find the menus,” Maisha said with a smile as she went into the drawing room, Shirley smiling as she opened her laptop.
“Good evening, Juliette.”
“Welcome back Shirley. I trust you had a good flight?”
“Very pleasant, thank you. I wanted to let you know the payments have cleared, and your accounts have been adjusted accordingly. Now, this new trust fund for payment?”
“Ah – yes,” Juliette said, “we have a new junior member.”
Shirley raised an eyebrow as she said, “So I have been led to believe. I see we have much to discuss. Care to join me tomorrow night?”
“I have the girls for lunch tomorrow, but I’ll come round with Diana after that. We’ll bring you up to speed then.”
“I look forward to it,” Shirley said as Maisha came in, “until then.” Looking at her ward, she said “I trust to your judgement, Maisha – place the order while I unpack.”
“Thank you, both for the food and for the kind words Madame,” Tracy said as she sat back at the table.
“Well, from what both Susan and Dominique have told me you provided invaluable assistance in ensuring the Burtons were kept safe,” Shirley said as she wiped her mouth and stood up. “Maisha, would you bring coffee into the drawing room for all of us please?”
“Of course, Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said as she went to switch the coffee maker on, the others heading through and sitting in the leather armchairs.
“My jet will take you home in the morning, with my gratitude and thanks, and there will be a bonus in your wage packet this month Tracy.”
“Thank you Madame – my one regret is I did not get to say goodbye properly.”
“I understand – Susan?”
“Their temporary address,” Susan said as she passed Tracy a card. “I leave it to you to contact them.”
“Thanks – so they will be safe now?”
“As safe as anyone is in this city – perhaps more so, given who is watching over them,” Shirley said as Maisha brought the coffee in. “I hope you and your team will come into London for the company Christmas party, Tracy?”
“So long as we have no guests, I think that will be possible Madame.”
“Excellent – I wonder if you would accompany Maisha for a few minutes Tracy. She will show you some of the rest of the apartment, while Susan and I discuss confidential business.”
“Of course, Madame,” Tracy said as she and Maisha left the room, the young girl closing the door as they went out.
“I see a bright future for her,” Shirley said. “So, young Katy Carter?”
“We tried to avoid using her, but she uncovered her mother’s involvement, and in the end the ladies decided it would be easier to bring her in.”
Nodding, Shirley said
"so if I asked you for an instant analysis on Katy what would it be
Madame lifted her eyebrow as she removed her glasses, looked at them and cleaned
"She has little or
no conscience about what she's already done. She might still be a little over
eager, but those rough edges will soon be knocked off, and I have to say she
will be a formidable Pussycat. It’s also
worth remembering she accidentally allowed a scenario to be created that helped
remove the problem for Erica and Denice."
Shirley put her glasses back on. "I take it that she's booked into the
Saturday in December."
"I might ask Diana
if I can be one of the instructors so I can assess her for myself."
"I'm sure Diana would welcome your participation Madame." Susan smiled.
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“Well darling are you happy?” Denice asked as she sat on the edge of Erica’s bed.
“Yes…” Erica put her book down and removed her glasses, before saying “I’m going to miss our old place, but it’s like entering St Angela’s, this is exploring a whole new world.”
“It certainly is.” Denice smiled at her daughter as she brushed her hair away from her face. “We are so very lucky to have such good friends as Mary looking out for us.”
“Yes we are.” Erica looked round.
“What did you make of her little library darling?”
“Oh Mom, just so many wonderful books. I’m going to try and read as many as I can before we move to our own place.”
“I must admit,” Denice said, “there were a few titles that caught my eye as well.”
“And it was so nice of Doc to help us with moving.”
“That it was.” Denice smiled again.
“We are going to have so much to give thanks for this year.”
“I know Erica darling, we have been showered with blessings. But sleep now – and dream pleasant dreams.”
“I think I will Mom,” Erica said as she lay down, “for the first time in a while.”
Denice nodded as she kissed her daughter’s forehead, and then walked out of the room, turning the light off.
Sunday 22nd November
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Gramma,” Judith said as she toddled across the floor, grinning as Juliette lifted her up and kissed her cheek.
“I swear you get bigger every time I see you,” she said as Carina came in with her bag.
“Well, a couple more days and she’ll get all the cuddles she wants all day,” Carina said as she sat down. “Come and let me take your coat off Judith.”
“Yes mamma,” Judith said as Juliette put her down and she toddled over, Carina taking off her coat to reveal her grey dress and leggings.
“So it’s April? And no problems with the proposed wedding party?”
“Well the Archbishop was fairly amused by the idea of my having a priest give me away.”
“I bet he was.” Carina giggled.
“And he agreed on all of us as bridesmaids?”
“He did…oh and before I forget Ingy your Aunt Sigi is preparing the documents for your formal adoption by me.”
“She very much liked the idea.” Klaus said as she looked up from reading the newspaper.
“I guessed she might, she adores Moms.”
“Well by Christmas you should be my legal daughter darling.”
“So how is university?” Klaus said to change the subject.
“Challenging Pops.” Cari replied. “The work is harder this year, but I’m enjoying it thoroughly.”
“I must admit that I’m needing to study hard as well Father. Princeton stretches your mind in so many ways.”
“Well you both have A averages so you must be doing something right.” Juliette put Judith down on the floor.
“Well it requires effort.” Carina smiled.
“What is hardest darling?”
“Oh that is easy my German Language course, by far the most difficult thing.”
“Well you aren’t doing badly,” Ingrid looked at Judith playing happily.
“It helps having you to talk to in German most days dear sister.”
“You two sound like twins now.” Juliette smiled happily.
“So a family Thanksgiving?”
“With guests – I invited Grace, Sarah and Harriet to join us this year.”
“Sounds good – doesn’t it little one?”
“Yes,” Judith giggled as Carina tickled her.
Central park west
"So what are the
girls’ plans for Black Friday?" Pepsi asked her sister as they sat in
"Your Super Six."
"Oh is that what
you call us," Katy giggled. "We are pretty mixed, three might venture
out, three of us know better. What about you Peps?"
"I got some
amazing bargains last year,” Pepsi said as she stood up, “but there is nothing
I particularly want or need, so I might just skip it this time."
"Well it will
prevent a few bruises."
"That is so
true." Pepsi laughed at a memory, "you should have seen Jeannie's
mother last year, she really was like a woman possessed as she fought her way
into the crowds."
"That I might have
paid to see," Katy said as she lay back.
"Yeah it was a
sight." Pepsi paused, "no unless one of the girls wants cover as she
fights for something I might just curl up with my Shakespeare and do some
"I was thinking of
the same with my elementary calculus."
"Damn aren't you
two being conscientious." Adam said as he spoke from the doorway.
"The coffee is
fresh Adam,” Katy replied, "and yes we are turning DULL!"
are." Pepsi looked up. "What
about you Uncle Adam?"
"Now if she can say it why can't you Katy?" Adam laughed as Katy stuck her tongue out. "No I'm doing some family business...a few things need clearing up."
“Nothing serious I hope?”
“Nothing for you to worry about,” Adam said as Jan appeared behind him. “All right you two – I need to talk to Adam.”
As they went through to the drawing room, Jan said “I’m glad you know about Pepsi now.”
“I was surprised,” Adam said, “but I see the resemblance now, and it was a long time ago.”
“Listen – this family business. Can I be of any help?”
“Maybe – I’ll let you know,” Adam said, “it could be something or nothing.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Juliette dear,” Klaus called up the stairs, “you have a visitor.”
“And who would that be,” Juliette said as she came down, and saw Alice McKinnon standing in the drawing room.
“I think I will leave you ladies to talk,” Klaus said as he slipped out, leaving Juliette to say, “Hello Alice – what can I do for you?”
“Oh it’s what I can do for you,” Alice said with a smile, “and I think you know what that is.”
“Now Alice, I have a number of offers to consider...”
“Oh I know you have,”
Alice said with a smile, "but before you go making snap judgments,
remember dear Juliette I know a secret about you..."
Would you Bats?" Juliette looked panicked as she sat down.
"Hey all's fair in
love, war, and the fight to design the most highly visible wedding dress of
Alice smiled – a wide,
contented smile. "Just think what
Carina and Ingrid might say if they knew? Oh and what would Klaus say if he
knew about your...little weakness?"
"You swore you'd
take that secret to your grave Bats."
"Hey let me design the dresses for your wedding and I will darling."
“Dammit – all right, you have the deal,” Juliette said, “but this has to be your masterpiece.”
“Now have I ever let you down Ju?”
Juliette shook her head and smiled. “No – but I swear Alice if that ever, EVER becomes public knowledge...”
“Ama, would you see who is at the door,” Heather called out as the doorbell rang.
“Of course,” Ama said as she walked down the stairs and looked through the security hole. The smile on her face broadened as she opened the door and said “hello grandfather – welcome back to New York.”
“My goodness – you have grown,” Dan Jameson said as he hugged Ama, the young girl returning the embrace before they walked up the stairs.
“Caroline,” Annie said as they came into the main room, “visitor.”
“Hello,” Caroline said as she came out and hugged her grandfather, “how was the flight?”
“Tiring – at my age I have to take it easy you know.”
“You’re not that old,” Caroline said with a smile, “can I offer you some coffee?”
“Thank you – so how are you doing at school Ama?”
“I am doing well,” Ama said as she sat down, “although I am struggling a little with English Literature at the moment.”
“Their teacher has them studying Macbeth,” Annie said as she sat down.
“Oh my – have you seen any versions on stage or film?”
“Miss Nightingale suggested a couple of ideas – I have not been able to find them.”
“Hmm – perhaps seeing versions based on the original may help. We’ll go shopping tomorrow.”
“What have you got in mind,” Caroline said as Annie brought the coffee through.
“Throne of Blood and Joe Macbeth, if we can find them. Especially Throne of Blood.”
“Hmm – good thinking. Let’s see what that does for your understanding...”
“Welcome back,” Juliette said as she and Diana hugged and kissed Shirley, “recovered from the jet lag?”
“I have learned to cope with it,” Shirley said as they sat down, “but it would appear I missed more than just a pair of robberies during my absence.”
“Indeed,” Diana said quietly, “much of which was rather forced on us by circumstance, but which has turned out well in the end.”
“So I gather – I spoke with Susan and Tracy yesterday before Tracy returned to the UK. But let us start at the beginning – how did Katy work it out?”
“Observation mostly,” Juliette said as she accepted a drink. “Jan has been extremely careful to hide things from Katherine and Adam, but hadn’t realised how much her own daughter had seen.”
Shirley nodded as she handed Diana a drink, and sat down. “So when did she tell Jan?”
“Of all times, while she was talking to Sandy on the link. She went to talk to Katy, Sandy called me, and we decided that afternoon basically that it may be time to bring Katy in.”
“If we could have avoided using her, we would have – but after the liquor store test, the situation changed dramatically.”
“So Susan told me – that must have come to a shock to Jan as well.”
“I’m not sure what was the bigger shock to her – that Katy killed that girl, or the young adult porn star that flew to Montreal with her on Thursday night.”
“I see young Katy is one to watch,” Shirley said quietly. “Diana, I wish to offer my services for the first weekend in December.”
“You want to see her at work for yourself?”
Shirley nodded as Diana said “very well – it will be yourself, me and Jo on this occasion.”
“So this gang war worked to solve other issues as well?”
“It did – there were was an incident at a party that convinced Doc that the girl threatening Erica Burton had to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. So she asked Susan for some help, Susan roped in JD, and Anna Katy. So Katy is a killer twice over now, and officially one of us.”
“Agreed,” Shirley said, “does she know about me?”
“She knows about Susan, Penny and Caroline, and she’s a bright kid. I’d talk to her and gauge her.”
“I’ll invite her and Jan to call in one day this week,” Shirley said, “for a little chat.”
Monday 23rd November
“So your grandfather arrived safely,” Jeannie said as Ama walked alongside, the two girls making their way to the English Literature room.
“Indeed – I am meeting him later to see if we can find some more information to help with the Shakespeare assignment.”
“Well, any help that can be given, I’ll take it,” Doc said as she joined them, “I think I may have finally found my Achilles’ heel.”
“All right class, settle down,” Sarah said as she came in, “now, we had reached Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy in the hallway. Let’s have your thoughts...”
“Miss Nightingale, may I ask a question first?”
“Of course, Ama.”
“My grandfather is visiting, and he suggested watching something called Throne of Blood. Will that help?”
“It might – Throne of Blood is a Japanese film, directed by Kurosawa, which used the story of Macbeth as the basis. So in the sense of seeing one artist’s view, it will help, but it must not be the only one. If you can, go onto YouTube and look for the BBC Shakespeare version – Nicol Williamson was a fine actor and a most enigmatic Macbeth. For now, however, Lady Macbeth – Nikki, will you begin?”
“Mary – how are the houseguests,” Juliette said as Mary Thomas came into her office.
“Settled in – we dined on fine food yesterday, and then discussed the merits of the World Cup.”
“Ah, the joys of the locals,” Juliette said with a smile. “So are you ready for tomorrow?”
“Oh lord no – but I have the flights for both of us booked, and I’ve been invited out for a drink when I get back tomorrow night.”
“Oh yes – I heard he was in town. So how is Grace feeling?”
“More nervous than I am, I would imagine. It’ll be the first time she’s seen her uncle for over two decades.”
“OH she’ll be fine, I’m sure.”
“So - I heard a rumour that Mrs McKinnon has the bridal order?”
“She made a most persuasive argument,” Juliette said with a sigh. “So now that that is settled, and the bridesmaids are settled, it’s Klaus who needs to make a few phone calls.
“I was wondering – given he is royalty, who else will be at the wedding?”
“I do not even wish to think about that yet,” Juliette said with a sigh, “the people who run his estate are going to take care of the logistics for us.”
“Great – one less thing for you to worry about. Look – will you take an old friend’s advice?”
Juliette nodded as Mary said “You’ve had a hell of a fortnight – enjoy the break, and relax. Now, you need this.”
She put the tribute issue of Complete Style on Juliette’s desk. “Available now – let’s see what the pundits say?”
“Klaus,” John Hammond said as Maisha showed the prince into the drawing room, “what brings you over here today?”
“Well...” For the first time he could remember, John could see that Klaus was nervous.
“Care for a drink? It’s a little early, but...”
“Thank you,” Klaus said as he sat down, waiting until John poured him a drink and handed it over. Taking a sip, he said “John I have something I would like to ask you.”
“And what might that be Klaus dear chap?”
Taking another drink, Klaus said “would you…?”
“I’d be delighted to take your wedding photos,” John said, “I was rather hoping you might ask.”
“Well,” Klaus said with slight embarrassment, “actually I’ve asked Jack to do it.”
“Oh?” John looked perplexed.
“Look John we have known each other less than a year, but in that time I think we have become the best of friends.”
“Well it helps that our ladies are such good friends. Klaus, what are you trying to say?”
“I’m making a worse mess of this then I did proposing to Juliette…” Rubbing his head, Klaus said “look, John - would you stand up with me at the wedding?”
“Be your best man you mean?”
“Oh Klaus old chap I’d be delighted to.” John smiled broadly.
“Not too disappointed at missing out on doing the photographs?”
“No!” John smiled, “but I will have to tell Jack what is my best side.”
“Will he listen?”
“I have no idea,” John said as he burst out laughing.
Tuesday 24th November
Ronald Reagan Airport, Washington DC
“Well, first stage over,” Mary said as she and Grace came through the arrival doors.
“Not the worst flight I have ever had,” Grace said as she looked nervously round. The tall blonde was wearing a white jacket and skirt with a black camisole underneath the jacket, a black hat and gloves, and black leather stilettos.
Mary looked even more comfortable – she was wearing a grey jacket over a dark blue jersey dress, dark hose and grey heels, with a blue hat perched on her greying hair. As she looked round, clutching her purse, she said “so what do we do now – take the Metro or a cab.”
“Let’s see if we can find a halfway house,” Grace said as they walked over to a desk to one side. Mary watched as Grace talked to the smartly dressed girl behind the counter, before she said “Five minutes outside.”
“What on earth am I doing here, Grace?”
“Receiving a well earned award,” Grace said quietly, “and I’m more nervous than you are. I have no idea how Uncle Charles is going to react when he discovers I am in the building.”
“Maybe he won’t be in residence?”
“With Charles doing this today? Oh he’ll be there – protocol demands it,” Grace said as they stepped outside, and a black car drew up.
“Good morning ladies – where are we going to today,” the smartly dressed man said as he opened the door for them.
“3100 Massachusetts Avenue North,” Grace said as she got in.
“The British Embassy? Settle back and enjoy the ride ladies,” he said as he closed the door.
“Easy for him to say,” Mary said as he drove off, leaving the airport and heading north on the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
“Penny for them,” Grace said as they went along the tree-lined road.
“My stomach is doing more turns than a roller coaster,” Mary said quietly as she looked out of the window.
“You and me both,” Grace said as she watched the road and the greenery go by. Eventually, to the right she saw the Potomac start to appear, “Have you ever been here before, Mary?”
“Back when Mister Clinton was in charge, I had to come and supervise a shoot here. Didn’t like it much then, not really now. You?”
“No – my experience of this city is limited to watching West Wing.”
The road turned slowly to the left and then to the right as they started to cross the river on the Rochambeau Memorial Bridge on the I-395. To the left, both women could see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as the car turned right, and past the US Internal Department and National Central Region offices before the car turned onto Buckeye drive, then left after the tennis centre onto Ohio Drive.
“There’s the White House in the distance,” the driver said as Mary and Grace looked ahead. “Planning on going there today?”
“I’m not sure if we’ll have time,” Mary said as she fiddled with the cuff of her sleeve.
The road then turned left and went through the park, Grace looking at the Smithsonian on the right before the car moved past the John Paul Jones Memorial, and then along the river on the left.
“To those who gave so we may live,” Grace said quietly as they passed the war memorials, Mary nodding as they them went round the Lincoln Memorial.
“Is it too late to run away?”
“Yes it is,” Mary said as she looked at Grace, the car now heading north until they passed the John F Kennedy Centre.
“Watergate – you’re too young to remember that story Grace.”
“I vaguely remember it – and I’ve seen All The President’s Men,” Grace said with a smile as the car headed past the complex.
“Embassy Row,” the driver said as he looked in the mirror. “Where did you ladies fly in from anyway?”
“New York,” Mary said quietly as she looked out of the window.
Eventually, the driver swung round and pulled up outside a large redbrick mansion, surrounded by a fence. A guard in full dress uniform was standing by the main entrance gate, alongside a man in a dark suit, who was checking a list as people approached.
Mary looked up to see the Royal Standard flying as Grace thanked the driver.
“Well, this must be the place,” she said quietly as she stood by the smaller Welsh woman. “Shall we?”
“Ai, best to be getting on with it,” Mary said as they approached the two gentlemen.
“Good morning ladies,” he said in a clipped accent, “may I be of help today?”
“I’m here for an investiture.” Mary said as she fiddled nervously with her collar.
“And your name is?” the guard asked as he looked at his clipboard.
“Oh yes Miss Thomas,” the man smiled, “welcome to the British Embassy…and your guest is?”
“Grace Gresham-Fox,” Grace replied for herself.
“Oh?” the guard lifted an eyebrow. Any…”
“I’m his niece.”
“Well, if you will wait a moment?” The man turned and whispered into his radio.
“Don’t you always hate it when they keep you waiting,” Grace whispered, making Mary laugh as the guard signalled to the officer, watching as he turned smartly and the gate opened.
“If you will go through, ladies, someone will come and direct you to the waiting area.”
“Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower came,” Mary whispered as she and Grace walked into the courtyard.
“This way please ladies,” a young woman came out of a door. “I will escort you to the reception area.”
The smartly dressed woman led them through the door, and down a panelled corridor, before she opened a pair of large oak doors.
“If you will wait in here,” she said as Grace and Mary saw various people inside, “someone will come and collect you when it is time Miss Thomas. Miss Gresham-Fox, the guests will be taken to their seats before the start of the ceremony.”
“Thank you,” Grace said with a smile as various people turned and looked at them.
“Are they looking at you or at me Grace?”
“Don’t worry,” Grace said as she guided Mary over to a table, “let’s both see what passes for coffee here and try to drink it quietly.”
Mary nodded as she accepted the cup, and then looked round. “I recognise one or two – mostly from the West coast,” she said as she sipped her coffee, and then grimaced slightly.
“I do apologise Miss Thomas – somehow we British seem to think everything we do is always perfect.”
Mary noticed Grace stiffen slightly at the sound of the voice, before she said “it is a fault true, Mister?”
“Actually, it’s Sir Charles Gresham-Fox – Ambassador of the Court of St James. It is an honour to meet you, Miss Thomas.”
“Likewise,” Mary said as she shook his hand, and then looked at her friend. Grace looked at her – the same look she had at the O2 arena – before she slowly turned around and said “Hello Uncle Charlie – long time no see.”
“Hello Grace,” he said with a smile, a warm, welcoming smile, “I am so glad we finally had a chance to get together. I admit, an invitation to dinner when I was in New York would not have gone amiss.”
“I know, and I am sorry, but – well, baby steps Uncle Charlie.”
“I agree – look, have you made arrangements for lunch today?”
“Not yet, no.”
“Good – I know a perfectly acceptable trattoria a short distance from here. Let’s get the formal stuff out of the way first, and then we can eat. I’ll even arrange a car to the airport for you.”
“Well, I am merely here as Mary’s friend, Uncle Charlie...”
“I would be honoured,” Mary said quietly. “As would my slightly shy friend here?”
“Shy? You have changed Grace,” Sir Charles said as the woman appeared in the doorway. “Forgive me – I have a visitor I have to show due reverence to. Enjoy the ceremony.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a man in morning dress said as he went out, “will all who receiving nonours please follow me?”
“See you later,” Mary said as she put her cup down, Grace smiling as she went out.
“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” Grace said to herself as she walked to the window and looked out.
A few minutes later, the smartly dressed woman came back in, and said “May I ask you to follow me to the Grand Ballroom, where you may take your seats for the ceremony?”
Grace followed the other guests as they walked into a large high ceilinged room, taking her seat in the two rows of high backed seats as a smartly dressed young man sat beside here.
“Forgive me,” he asked quietly, “but are you Grace Gresham?”
“Busted,” Grace said with a smile. “And you are?”
“Thomas Ford – Annabelle Ford is my mother.”
“The costume designer? I thought I saw her leave with my friend Mary. You must be very proud of her.”
“I am,” Thomas said as he looked round the room.
“Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen.”
Mary and the other guests looked at the man in the dress uniform of an RAF Wing Commander.
“If I may have your attention for a moment,” he said quietly, “I am Wing Commander Dunkirk, and it is my honour to be the Sergeant at Arms for today’s ceremony. What will happen is, in a moment, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will be entering the room, and the ceremony will begin with the National Anthem.
“Each of you will then be called forward, in the order you are now in, and asked to wait by my colleague while His Excellency the Ambassador reads the citation. When he is done, you walk forward and turn to face His Royal Highness. Men may make a small bow, women a curtsey.
“You then step forward while His Highness presents the award, unless you are receiving a knighthood. If you are, you will kneel on the stool as he taps you on the shoulder, and then stand to receive the award. He will say a few words, and then you step back, bow or curtsey again, and turn to your right before leaving the room on the other side. As you leave, you have our permission to breathe again.”
There was a small round of laughter as he said “Just relax, and enjoy the ceremony,” as the clock struck eleven.
“My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the master of arms said in the ballroom, “please be upstanding for his Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.”
Grace and the other guests stood as the side door opened and Prince Charles walked in, accompanied by two Gurkhas, and took up his position at the centre of the stage as the soldiers stood behind him.
A small military band started to play as the National Anthem was sung, and then the guests sat down.
“Please be seated,” Sir Charles said as Grace took her place, noting the two Yeomen of the Guard who stood with the Gurkhas and other officials.
“Your Royal Highness, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Honoured Guests,” Sir Charles said, “attend as I ask our honoured guests to step forward in turn and receive their award.”
As Grace watched, a small velvet footstool was placed in front of the stage, as Sir Charles said “Elaine Forman, for her services to the film industry, is awarded the honour of Knighthood.”
The tall dark haired woman walked forward and knelt, as Prince Charles took a sword and tapped her on both shoulders, waiting as she stood and had a ribbon hung round her neck while Charles shook her hand and said a few words.
As she stood in the line, Mary took several deep breaths, controlling her nerves as one by one they group went in.
“Annabelle Ford, for her services to the film industry, is awarded the honour of Member of the British Empire.”
“You’re next Miss Thomas,” Wing Commander Dunkirk, “ready?”
“No,” Mary whispered as Annabelle walked forward, and she took several steps forward, waiting until her name was called.
“Mary Annabeth Thomas, for services to the fashion industry, is awarded the honour of Member of the British Empire.”
Grace watched, beaming as Mary walked forward, turned and made a small curtsey, before she stepped forward.
“Miss Thomas,” Prince Charles said as he pinned the award to her jacket, “I always find a particular honour to give these to someone from Wales. My daughter in law is a reader of your magazine, and she asked me to give you a message.”
“Thank you, Your Highness,” Mary said as they shook hands, “and the message is?”
“To wish Fiona McKenzie God speed and healing.”
“I will pass on those kind words,” Mary said as she stepped back, curtseyed again and turned, walking out of the room as Grace watched her.
“And breathe, Miss Thomas,” the young woman said as Mary went out. “We have your certificate of presentation and a case for your award here, to be collected when all have left.”
“Any chance of a strong drink?”
“You will find a selection over there,” she said with a smile as she indicated a small bar.
Eventually, as the last award was presented, Sir Charles waited until the last person left before he turned and bowed to Prince Charles. He bowed in return, before joining him and leaving the room, the Gurkhas and Yeomen following them as the guests stood.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we invite you to rejoin those granted awards through these doors,” the woman said a few minutes later, Grace making her way in and finding Mary with two scotches in her hand.
“I figure you may need this as much as I do,” Mary said as she handed Grace a glass.
“I think so yes,” Grace said with a smile. “So how do you feel?”
“He’s really nice you know,” Mary said with a smile as she looked round. “But I still feel really out of place here.”
“Well, let’s see what happens next,” Grace said as a photographer approached. “Miss Thomas, Miss Gresham, may I take a photo for the press corps?”
“Oh why not – but how will you manage the height difference?”
“Oh Jack, Antonio and a few others told me what to do,” he said with a smile as Mary stood with Grace.
“I smell a stitch up,” Mary said.
“No, I really am press,” the young man said as he showed them his pass, “but – well, they heard, and...”
“I will have words with them,” Mary said quietly as Grace started laughing.
506 8th Street, Washington DC
“Interesting place, Uncle Charlie,” Grace said as she looked around, and then took a forkful of Linguine alla Vongole into her mouth.
“It has that old world charm that makes me feel at home,” Sir Charles said as he wiped his chin. “So, if I may be so bold...”
“Where was I?”
As he nodded, Grace looked at Mary, before she said “I was a teacher – Cornwall, then Harlow. Turns out one of my pupils was one Jeannie Brewster – and thanks to her, Mary outed me at a fashion show in London.”
“Not exactly outed,” Mary said as she wiped her chin. “We literally passed in a corridor, and Fiona recognised her. Fiona recognises everyone she meets.”
“Were you happy though?”
“I was,” Grace said quietly, “and I wasn’t. Something always was missing – and there, I found it.”
“Good – and now?”
“I’m the Dean of Students at a school in New York – ironically, the one Jeannie attends. I split my time between that and modelling now.”
“Well I have to say, it seems to be agreeing with you,” her uncle said with a smile.
“So how is Aunt Roberta?”
“She is well – she’s visiting your uncle at the moment, but I will pass on your good wishes when I talk to her tomorrow.” Taking another piece of his chicken, he then said “have you spoken to him yet?”
“You’re the first,” Grace said, “I guess I need to face Uncle Stephen and the rest of the family at some point.”
“Well,” Sir Charles said, “his seventieth birthday is coming up in January. Join us in going over for that.”
“Last weekend – the two of us are visiting New York next weekend. We can talk then if that is all right?”
“Business or Pleasure?”
“Pleasure – Roberta wishes to attend the evening gala at the Metropolitan.”
“Well then, name the place and time.”
Jan nodded to the doorman as she and Katy walked into the apartment block. While Jan was wearing her long coat and boots, Katy was wearing a black dress with a V-necked front showing some of her impressive cleavage, and knee length black boots with five-inch heels, a leather jacket over the top. Both of them were wearing full make-up, Katy looking round as the lift doors opened.
“In we go,” Jan said as they stepped inside.
“Okay you’d normally have a fit at me going out dressed like this mom.” Katy looked at the reflection in the mirror. “You’d say this dress is too tight, or that my heels are far too high, or I have too much makeup on…What gives?”
“You need to meet someone tonight,” Jan said as she looked at Katy, “and I want you looking at your very best.”
“Another one of…us?” Katy whispered.
“Not precisely. This lady is rather special.”
“Any clues Mom?”
“Not until you meet her.”
As the elevator doors opened, Jan led her daughter down the corridor to an apartment door and knocked.
“Once this door opens,” Jan said as she looked at Katy, “you will begin to discover everything we are involved in, to a greater or lesser degree. There is still time to turn round.”
“No, there isn’t,” Katy said as she heard the door unlock and saw the handle turn.
“I was expecting you,” the auburn haired woman smiled as she opened the door.
“Aunt Shirley?” Katy stared at Shirley as she stood there, wearing a cowl necked sweater and pants.
“Not for today Katy,” she said as they came in, and closed the door behind them, “today you address me as Madame only.”
“Katy darling,” Jan said as she removed her coat, “can I introduce the legendary Madame X.”
“As with so much of what you now know,” Shirley said as Jan took Katy’s coat, “that name goes no further Katy.”
“Yes aunt…I mean Yes Madame.”
“Good!” Shirley ushered her visitors into the drawing room. “I wanted the opportunity to meet with you and Jan privately, given everything that has happened over the last few weeks.”
As Katy sat down on the leather couch, Shirley sat on the other end while Jan sat in an armchair.
“Forgive me Madame,” Katy said eventually, “this has just come as one of the biggest shocks in a line of big shocks.”
“That is understandable,” Shirley said. “Katy, you have to understand by joining your mother, you have joined a bigger thing than just the Pussycats. My organisation and Juliette’s work very closely together, and as such it is important I talk with you as well.”
“So Susan and Penny, when they work for you...”
“They really do work for me in every way, as does Caroline when she is on business for Xavier International. It helps if you think of my company as one that has many different operations – some of which are less public facing than others.”
“I see,” Katy said quietly, “I think.”
“Janice, I wonder if I could have a word with Katy on her own? You can wait in the den for a few minutes.”
“Of course,” Jan said as she left the room, stopping in shock as she saw who else was in the den, sitting and reading a magazine.
“Now Katy,” Shirley said as she looked at the young girl, “I would like to ask you some questions, and I would appreciate honest answers.”
Katy nodded slowly as Shirley took her glasses off, folded the legs and placed them on the coffee table.
“Does murdering people worry you Katy?”
“Honest answer Madame?”
“Then the answer is no. Why should it?”
“Because,” Shirley said quietly, “it is the ultimate moral taboo. I am sure Caroline told you that it is never an easy decision to take a life.”
“She did, and I know I did it those times to protect someone, Madame. I guess if that is the case, then I don’t have any morals - just a warm feeling inside knowing that I have over 10 and a half million dollars sitting in a bank account in my name.”
Looking at the young girl, Shirley said “Would you say you are greedy Katy?”
“Madame, if you mean are there things I want in life, then the answer is yes, and if your next question is what am I prepared to do to get them, well then the answer is anything I have to.”
“Well, I can understand that feeling.” Standing up, Shirley turned and said “while your mother is out of the room Katy, can I ask - are you still a virgin?”
“Yes Madame, I promised Mom that I wouldn’t fuck a boy yet, and I keep my promises.”
“And do you want to…as you put it…fuck boys?”
“I’d rather fuck a man,” Katy said with a grin, “but yeah, as you can tell I’m one horny little bitch.”
“Oh.” Shirley sat for a few moments and contemplated the young girl.
“I’ve made George cum stroking his cock with my hand, and I’ve let him cum in my mouth, but no I’ll stay a virgin until Mom releases me from my promise.”
“I see,” Shirley said as she sat down. “Does crime give you a sexual feeling Katy?”
“I might ask the same of you Madame, but yes,” the young girl smiled, “crime so far has given me some incredible sexual highs.”
“I have a little secret Katy.” Shirley smiled, “it does the same for me as well, and it never goes away or gets old.”
“Oh good.” Katy laughed.
“Well, I see you have the same drive that brought your mother into our group.” Looking at Katy, Shirley said “now you know who I am, do you have any idea of the other operations that I run?”
“The illegal ones?”
“Yes.” Shirley nodded.
“I’m only guessing, but robbery, fencing stolen goods, extortion, protection rackets, brothels…”
“No I don’t deal in sex or drugs Katy.”
“But yes we are involved in all the others.”
“Very little shocks you does it Katy?” Madame asked.
“Not really Madame.”
“Well, then I have other things to tell you that will surprise you,” Shirley said as she stood up, “come with me Katy.”
Katy stood up and walked through to the den with Shirley, stopping as she saw Cassandra Stone sitting with her mother.
“Hello Katy,” Cassie said as she held out a bottle of coke, “I see your world view was blown wide open tonight as well.”
“To say the least,” Katy said as she sat down, “May I ask a question Madame?”
“How did your two groups come together?”
“Ah,” Shirley said as she say down, “thereby hangs a long and interesting tale, but for now, let us say we had a mutual target. We helped each other out on another occasion, and then last summer, there was a mutual problem we worked on together. One that led to many – interesting changes.”
“Me joining them for one,” Jan said, “then there was the public appearance of Shirley, the arrival of Annie in the group, Caroline meeting Ama, Maisha – want me to go on?”
“What... You mean you were responsible for bringing down that slave ring mom?”
“In part – but as a late addition,” Jan said as she looked at Cassie Stone. “That is why I know so much about the Pussycats – they pulled me in as well.”
“Pulled in is a good way to put it.” Cassie smiled. “In my case I’d not have got in other then recognising that ring of Ju’s even through a glove.”
“Well I was told I’d have been invited in months before if I hadn’t been an FBI agent.”
“They said that Mom?” Katy shook her head.
“Well if nothing else their group is built on strong and binding friendships Katy.” Madame sipped her drink as she spoke.
“So just how many people are in the gang, Mom?”
“Depends on the job at hand, but you’ve met most of us,” Jan said. “There are, however, one or two things you also need to know.”
“Firstly,” Shirley said, “neither Ama nor Maisha are Pussycats, but they know who they are. Ama, as you know, is very protective of her adoptive mother and the others, and keeps our secrets.”
“And as for Maisha,” Jan said, “Shirley is her guardian and mentor. She is a strong, capable young woman and just as protective as Ama is of Caroline.”
Katy nodded as she held her bottle. “I guess I really am in now,” she said quietly. “What else do I have to learn?”
“Pace yourself, darling,” Jan said, “pace yourself...”
They looked like an ordinary family as they came through the arrival doors – the teenage girl looking round appeared to be a little nervous, but as her mother squeezed her hand she looked round and smiled.
“Never been here,” the tall man said.
“Then I hope you enjoy the stay.”
They turned and looked at the tall blonde woman who was standing beside them.
“Welcome to New York – I’m Caroline Jameson, Ama’s mother.”
“Dave West,” the man said as he shook Caroline’s hand, “my wife Sonia, and this is Nyala.”
“I’m very pleased to meet all of you,” Caroline said with a smile. “Did you have a pleasant flight?”
“Time difference is tough,” Sonia said, “are you all right Nyala?”
“I will be – it is just...”
“The last time you were here, it was very different, at least from what Ama has told me,” Caroline said. “This time, it will be different. If you will come with me, I have a car waiting to take you to your hotel, and then I hope you will join me tomorrow for brunch, Ama and Maisha will both be there.”
“It is incredibly generous of you to invite us, and to pay for us,” Sonia said as Dave pushed the luggage along.
“It’s not a burden,” Caroline said, “when I heard what had happened, I wanted them to have a chance to re-connect, and this is the best way of doing that. Thanksgiving is a time to do just that – give thanks, or so I’m told.”
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No – English I’m afraid. You’ll meet my grandfather on Thursday – but for now, let’s get to my car.”
Wednesday 25th November
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Come in Shirley,” Juliette said as she held the door open, “I understand John has gone somewhere with Klaus.”
“Gone to lay schemes and stratagems,” Shirley said with a smile as she took her coat off, “it’s very quiet here all things considered.”
“Carina has taken Judith to a young mum’s coffee morning at Natasha’s place. I believe young Jennifer and other assorted babies will be there. Coffee?”
“Please,” Shirley said as she followed Juliette to the kitchen. “I spoke with Cassandra last night – a most impressive woman.”
“Indeed - so what did
you make of Katy Shirley?" Juliette asked as she passed a mug to Shirley.
"I have to say I
was rather stunned."
"Most of us have
had that same impression."
to pursue this life is pretty incredible, and her maturity as she answered some
of my questions made it hard for me to remember she is only just 13."
"She has matured
so quickly in so many ways."
"And she is so
cool about it all,” Shirley said as she sat down. “She was initially I think a trifle shocked
that I was Madame X, but she very quickly got over it."
"Diana told me
that you want to supervise her weekend at the farm?"
"I do...if you
have no objections?"
"None at all, I
think you'll find it interesting, we have refined the process quite a
"So I have read in the reports."
“So how are you intending to spend tomorrow?”
“I’m playing host to Penny as well as Susan and her family, while George is going to join Caroline. I understand she was concerned at the lack of men around, so he will provide some company for her grandfather and Nyala’s father.”
“We’re hosting Grace and her friends, and Diana has Judy and her family, before they head back to Paris for the ball.”
“Very good question... Let me see who that is,” Juliette said as she heard the knock on the door. Shirley watched as she walked off, and then heard a familiar voice say “Hello Juliette – is Shirley here?”
“Good morning Janice.” Shirley smiled as Juliette brought the FBI agent into the drawing room. “How are you today?”
“Eager to hear your opinion on my daughter Madame.” Jan sat down, her skirt splitting as she crossed her legs.
“I thought you might be,” Shirley said as Juliette gave the new arrival a coffee, “I was honestly expecting an early morning phone call.”
“I considered it,” Jan said, “but then I decided that you wouldn’t be able to speak freely with John besides you in bed.”
“Nor you with Adam there.”
“No.” Janice smiled as well. “So what were your impressions Madame?”
“I was exceedingly impressed, Katy is a formidable young woman, very much like her mother.”
“She’s tough, ruthless, and adaptable. We will see how she copes with the farm before I have a final opinion, but at the moment I can safely say I think she will be of value to both organisations.”
“Well that is wonderful.” Janice looked proud.
“I’d make just one recommendation to you though.” Putting her cup down, Shirley looked straight at Jan and said “release Katy from her vow of virginity so she can get it out of the way before it becomes an issue.”
“She told me last night she has given George, both hand jobs, and a blow job…”
“SHE HAS WHAT?”
“Don’t get over stressed Jan.” Juliette returned with more coffee.
“Look speaking as your friend Shirley, not as Madame, Janice. She is driving herself crazy. Katy has the body of a young goddess, and if I read between the lines right then the thoughts of sex are driving her crazy.”
“She’s told me that, and I know she spoke to Barbara, but really she’s barely 13, and she’s my little girl.”
“She’s not so little Jan.”
“Juliette is right Janice.” Shirley nodded in agreement.
“Karen is in town, take Katy to see her tonight, I’ll make the appointment if needs be, and once she is on birth control, then let her get this out of the way, make it a non issue any more.”
“I agree.” Shirley nodded again. “Let her get sex out of the way, and then she can concentrate on all the other things she has in her life.”
“And what will Sandy say?”
“Well, best ask her as well,” Juliette said, “and George senior. But do it quickly Jan – for both their sakes.”
Jan shook her head. “I suppose there is one thing – this will be her choice.”
“This is the place,” the cabbie said as he pulled up, Dave paying him as the three of them got out of the car. As Nyala looked round, the door opened and a young blonde came out, Ama following in a pair of jeans and an Angel’s hoodie.
“I will see you on Friday Pepsi,” she said as she saw the visitors standing there. “Welcome,” she said with a broad smile, “please, come in.”
“Thank you,” Nyala said as they came in. She was wearing a long brown jersey dress, while Dave and Sonia wore jeans and leather jackets. As they came up the stairs, they saw Caroline in a white jumper and black leggings, smiling as she said “welcome to my little home. Please, make yourselves comfortable.”
“You have a nice place,” Nyala said as she looked round, “small, but comfortable.”
“Well, living here, space is at a premium,” Caroline said, “but it meets our needs. My roommate, Annie Kelly.”
“Pleasure,” Annie said as she shook Dave and Sonia’s hands. “Hello Nyala – Maisha, your friend is here.”
“Welcome sister,” Maisha said as she came in, wearing a brown jumper, jeans and knee length leather boots, “would you help Ama and I to prepare the meal for serving while the others talk?”
“Of course,” Nyala said as Ama took her arm, and returned with a pot of coffee.
“Please, sit,” Caroline said, “the food will not be long in coming.”
“Thank you,” Sonia said, “so may I ask how you met Ama?”
“Well,” Caroline said as she poured, “as the scandal broke last year, I had just left the world of security I occupied and, if you like, embraced my own history as the daughter of a model. So I knew a bit of tragedy at a young age – my own mother died when I was barely their age.
“I had the good pleasure to meet Jane Molloy, the journalist, through mutual friends, and through her I met Ama. You might say there was an instant connection, and I offered to become her mother and help her have the life I missed out on.”
“Still, to take on a teenager...”
“So how did you come to adopt Nyala?”
“A similar story, I’m afraid,” Dave said, “I lost my parents as a teenager, and – well, we couldn’t have children. Then we heard what had happened, and our priest offered to put us in touch with the centre here...”
“So your mother adopted you after you were rescued?”
“That is right,” Ama said, “the people who rescued both Maisha and I asked Jane Molloy to interview us, and then when the story became public we aided as much as we could given we were also like you.”
“And the she-devil who owned you?”
“It was a cruel time,” Ama said quietly as she placed some sliced bread on a plate, “but I was freed and rescued, and now I am my own woman.”
“What of you Maisha?”
“I was more fortunate than both of you – I too was sold, but the person who bought me did so to free me, and now Aunt Shirley looks after me and teaches me.”
“So was she the one who freed you?”
“You have spoken the oath?”
Nodding, Nyala said “I will always be grateful to you – both of you – for ending the horror. I pray you continue to do so and we can work together.”
“As do we all,” Ama said quietly. “So, shall we eat?”
The Richmond Mansion
“We had an early start and a good run,” Jo said as she put her coat in the wardrobe, “and a clear road. For once.”
“Well, you made it, and that’s the main thing,” Heather said as she stood in the doorway. “So how is training going for the big event Little Sis?”
“Which big event?” Jo looked round from checking herself in the mirror. “I’m not running anything I’d call big before Christmas.”
“I wasn’t talking cross country, I was thinking of your match with Annie.”
“Oh THAT match.” Jo laughed, “I’ve slipped out a few times, and done some houses.”
“Susan said she’d been sending one of her girls up to see you.”
“Yeah,” Jo said, “it’s nice knowing a friendly neighbourhood fence who gives me top dollar on my take.”
“You’ve got the virgin break-ins out of your system?”
“I have, and I should be ready to go on the big night…any clues on how Annie is doing?”
“Oh let’s just say the Black Cat has been out a few times as well.”
“Good, we should both be in top form then…Okay I’m ready for brunch Big Sis.” Joanne checked herself one last time in the mirror.
“Let’s go,” Heather said as they walked down, finding Curt talking to Sandy in the dining room.
“Hey you two,” Jo said as she hugged the children, “have you both grown in the last couple of weeks?”
“Maybe,” George said in a slightly deeper voice.
“Oh-ho – someone’s voice has started to break, I think. You are growing up, young man.”
“Yes he is,” Curt said with a smile, “he’ll be starting to shave next.”
George blushed and shook his head as they sat down.
“Okay,” Harriet said as she took the pie cases out of the oven, “I think these are ready.”
“Looks like it,” Sarah said as she looked them over, “so now we need to consider fillings.”
“Okay – let’s draw lots,” Grace said as she wrote on three pieces of paper, folded them up and put them in her hand, shaking them round before holding them out.
Harriet took one, opened it out and said “Lemon meringue.”
Sarah took the second one, looking in it as she said “Pumpkin.”
“So I get the pecan? Well, so long as we can get the ingredients today.”
The sound of someone at the front door made Grace put her paper down and leave them for a moment, returning with April Broadhurst.
“Hey,” she said as she came in, “I wanted to ask if you would take something to Juliette for me tomorrow?”
“Of course – what is it?”
“She asked for some quotes on decorating a room for a bridal party,” April said as she held out an envelope. “If you could let her have them?”
“Oh – her bridal party?”
“I think so – not that I know it is scheduled for January or anything...”
“I think not,” Grace said with a smile. “I’ll get them to her. So how was Washington Grace?”
“Interesting – very formal, but I got to meet my uncle for lunch.”
“Uncle Charlie – nice guy, and he was pleased to see me.”
“Good,” Harriet said, “so, where do I get pumpkin around here?”
“Come on, I’ll show you,” April said as she waited for Harriet to get her coat, and the two women walked out.
"So Ama do you have a boyfriend?" Nyala asked as they ate their food.
"I do, his name is Nick." the black girl both smiled and blushed.
"Like her he is a soccer player, and he is also white." Maisha added.
“So you still play?”
“Ama is the captain of the school team,” Caroline said with real pride. “What sports do you play, Nyala?”
“I play volleyball at my school,” Nyala said, “we are currently top of our league.”
“So you teach math Annie,” Dave said as he refilled his coffee mug.
“That’s right – Ama is one of the girls I teach, along with her friends.”
“And what about you Maisha?”
“I believe the term is home schooled,” Maisha said, “my guardian Aunt Shirley has tutors visit to teach me what I need.”
“That sounds fascinating,” Sonia said, “why are your favourite subjects?”
“Well,” Maisha said as she wiped her chin, “I enjoy history and business studies. Aunt Shirley has been most helpful in both.”
“You were very lucky to have someone like Shirley Xavier to support you,” Dave said, Maisha nodding in agreement.
“If you will come in here,” the nurse said as she showed Jan and Katy into the surgery, Katy still in her school uniform.
“Hello Karen, thank you for seeing us at such short notice.” Jan kissed the doctor on both cheeks.
“Hi Dr. Boyd,” Katy waved as she stood still looking round.
“Alright,” Karen said as she looked over, “even in that unflattering school uniform I can see that your body has matured fast Katy.”
“Thank you Doctor.” Katy blushed.
“As I said on the phone Karen, Katy is starting to be more then just aware of boys, and boys are certainly aware of her.”
“I can see why.”
“Well, I’ve had her promise me she’d stay a virgin, but I hear that she is going as damn close to the line as she can without giving it up…”
“Aunt Shirley has a BIG mouth!” Katy interrupted.
“Be that as it may,” Jan continued, “I’d rather that if sex is going to be such a big issue, then I want her to at least be safe when she does lose her virginity.”
“I’m supposed now to get all moral and warn you of the dangers of sin now Katy,” Karen turned to the younger girl, “but I can say from experience I know what you are going through and that the chemicals in your body have your mind twisted in knots.”
“Pretty much doctor.”
“Well I lost my virginity when I was 13, and like you I was an early maturer physically. I’ve also seen the psychological damage that can happen to girls like us if they repress their sex drive…”
“It can cause damage Karen?”
“It can if it becomes a phobia Janice.”
“So while legally I know I am aiding and abetting a crime, for your own sake Katy I will proscribe birth control for you. Just don’t go hog wild and let every man in New York have that amazing body.”
“I won’t doctor.”
“And that’s another thing, if you are mature enough for sex, then you are mature enough to call me Karen.”
“Yes Karen,” Katy said with a smile.
“So who is the lucky boy likely to be?”
“That’s next on the agenda – after the holidays. Thanks Karen –how’s John?”
“Growing bigger every day,” Karen said with a smile. “There – enjoy the holiday, both of you.”
“Alright Katy darling,” Jan said as they got into the car, “you are safely on birth control, now what are your plans, and please - be honest with me.”
“Well I could seduce
Adam…get him to…”
“Alright,” Katy giggled, “how about we offer him a threesome?”
“You are too easy Mom,” Katy kept on giggling.
“Well I don’t find the subject very funny.”
“But your face is…”
“Katy darling,” Jan fought for self-control, “be serious…please!”
“I am, I’d like my first time to be with someone who knows what he is doing, and isn’t going to cum immediately and leave me disappointed.”
“As yet has very little control. Don’t get me wrong Mom I am going to have sex with George, the only way he will get better is with practice, but really and truly, I’d like my first to be with a real man.”
“Oh my Goddess, you’ve really thought this out haven’t you?”
“Everything but the face of the guy who is going to commit the crime of having sex with jailbait.”
“Exactly mom…so any ideas if I can’t do Adam?”
Jan rolled her eyes and said “Katy, you are going to be the death of me,” before they drove off...
Thursday 26th November
Central park west
“Good morning, Jan,” Katherine said as she heard her daughter walk in, “Coffee?”
"Mom we need to talk."
Jan sighed as she slumped into a chair at the breakfast table.
"Oh and about what
darling?" Katherine looked over her shoulder.
"I got Katy put on
birth control pills yesterday."
Smiling, Katherine said
"I see. Well it doesn't surprise
"It doesn't? I
know I damn well surprised myself Mom."
“Here,” her mother said as she handed Jan a mug of coffee. "Katy has the body of a very sexy young woman, I guessed you'd take a safety first approach. I just wish my mother had been able to get me on the pill back in 60's Ireland." Katherine smiled.
“I know, I know, but...” Jan looked at her mother as what she had said sank in.
"Didn't I ever
tell you that the reason we came to America was that I was 14 and pregnant.
Your grandparents ran from Waterford because of the shame I'd brought on the
"Oh my Goddess
Mother...Oh FUCK! Ummm...Uh...what happened to the baby?"
"I lost it."
"Oh crap, why
didn't you tell me all this when I got..."
"Raped darling? Your father never knew about my sordid little past, can you imagine he'd have ever married me if he'd known I got knocked up aged just 13?"
“Dad? I guess not.”
“Don’t get me wrong – he was a good man, but very traditional. So I never told him.”
“Goddess Mom – you’ve carried that around all these years...”
“You had your own cross to bear Jan, so did I,” Katherine said. “Now, bacon and eggs before we get started?”
“Yeah – let’s forget about this for today, agreed?”
“Agreed,” Katherine said with a smile.
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“And what do you think you are doing,” Mary said with a smile as she came into the kitchen, to see Denice with her hands in a large bucket.
“I told you Mary,” Denice said as she looked up, “I am cooking today, so the turkey needs to be soaked. It’s a big one too.”
“Well, I hope you don’t mind, but I invited Pippa and Poppy to join us today as well.”
“No problem,” Erica said as she looked over from the kitchen sink, “we’re cooking for six anyway.”
“We always do – ask Mom,” Erica said. “Now, would you like some coffee?”
The Richmond Mansion
“Now that was a parade,” George said as he came into the mansion, holding Jennifer’s hand, “and I cannot thank you enough for inviting us to spend the day with you Sandy. It means a lot.”
“Well, after the year you have had, it makes sense for you to join us,” Sandy said with a smile.
“Orlanda, you are off duty today,” Heather said, “but I could use your help with the soup.”
“George my boy,” Alex said as he came in, “Ready for the game?”
“Can I watch too Uncle Alex,” Little George said as he came down.
“Of course you can – but soft drinks only, all right?”
“Yes Dad,” George said with a smile as they went into the front room.
“Let me grab some beers and I’ll come in as well,” Curt said as he came in with Jo.
“Hey – you’re not abandoning me are you?”
“You could join us, you know...”
“Maybe later – I need time with my sis,” Jo said as she followed Heather into the kitchen.
The de Ros Mansion
“Welcome Rachel, George,” Diana said as the McNally’s came in. “I’m so glad you could join us today.”
“Well, it means we see you off later – it was good of Shirley to offer the use of her jet for the journey over.”
“She insisted,” Diana said as Tony left his case in the corner, and accompanied Judy in with David, “to save us hassling through security and get us there quicker.”
“Come – we will have drinks in the drawing room,” Diana said as they walked through.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Where would you like these,” Grace said as she carried the pie plates in, Harriet and Sarah following them in.
“Head to the sound of the mother cursing,” Carina said as Judith waved at the new arrivals. “Stick around if you want a job.”
“Sounds fair,” Harriet said as they headed to the kitchen, to find Juliette and Ingrid working on the food.
“Hey – put them over there,” Juliette said as she looked up, “and then join the others. I’ll bring some coffee through in a few minutes.”
“You sure, Juliette?”
“Trust me,” Annie said as she looked over, “she’s sure...”
“Happy Tanksgiving!” Judith said as she toddled over to the guests.
“And Happy Tanksgiving to you little one.” Grace lifted her up. “I swear you get bigger every time I see you.”
“She does.” Carina smiled.
Central park west
“Hey,” Adam said as he came into the apartment, “I did a bit more than potato salad this year.”
“You did,” Katy said as she looked out of her room. “What have you got there?”
“Pecan pie – and the potato salad,” Adam said as he held the two dishes up. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Not bad – can I get you some coffee Uncle Adam?”
“Oh – we’re back to Uncle Adam? Did your mom have a talk to you?”
“Yeah – I’ve been a bit of a bitch recently, and I’m really sorry.”
“Apology accepted,” Adam said with a smile, “so do I get a hug now?”
“Yes you do,” Katy said as she hugged him round the waist, Jan and Katherine watching from the door to the front room.
“Come on Adam – I’ll get you a drink,” Katherine said as she took his arm, Janice smiling as she nodded at Katy.
“You are turning into a very fine young lady, yes you are,” John said as April sat on his knee, gurgling happily away as she bounced up and down.
“She certainly is,” Penny said as she stood with Susan. “I love visiting this place, but forgive me for saying I can’t wait to get back to my pad.”
“I can understand that feeling,” Shirley said as she sat with a brandy, “but more and more I am realising I have two homes – here and in London. So I spend this holiday here, and then Christmas in the Chelsea house.”
“Which is fine by me as well,” John said with a smile. “Are you sure Clint doesn’t want our help?”
“Trust me – he demanded he did this,” Susan said. “It’s a bit like Juliette at this time of year – enter at your own peril.”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Thanks,” Grace said as she accepted the mug of coffee, “are you sure you don’t want help with anything?”
“No it’s all in hand,” Juliette said as she sat down. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Yet,” Carina whispered to Ingrid as she played with Judith.
“I hear Alice won the right to do the bridal party outfits,” Grace said as she sipped her drink.
“Yeah – she made a very persuasive case,” Juliette said quietly. “I think she’s relishing the challenge.”
“So whilst we look gorgeous in Bats finest creations, what do you get to wear for the wedding Pops?”
“Military uniform my darling Carina,” Klaus said quietly.
“What military uniform? I didn’t know you had service connections?”
“He doesn’t…he has his own private army.” Ingrid said as she brought in a tray of drinks.
“Private army? Now I am totally confused.”
“Along with the Duke of Athol in Scotland Cari, I’m one of only two aristocrats in Europe who may maintain their own troops.”
“Whoa I never knew that.”
“So as he maintains the Athol Highlanders, I maintain the Furstenheim Jaegers.”
“Your ancestor raised the regiment originally to fight Napoleon alongside the Austrians. They and he fought so extremely bravely that the Emperor granted the von Furstenheim's in perpetuity the right to keep and maintain a small independent body of troops. Our overlord the King of Bavaria wasn’t originally too happy, but we have always maintained the tradition, and today the regiment has about 50 men and women recruited from the estates.”
“So Papa will wear his uniform as Colonel for the wedding.” Ingrid smiled.
“And I have no doubt he will look extremely handsome.” Juliette came in with Judith.
“Well I live and learn.” Carina shook her head.
“We are both nominally members of the regiment Cari?”
“Yes,” Klaus smiled, “and that reminds me. I need to get uniforms made for you, Annie, and of course Dearest darling Juliette.”
“Thank you…I think,” Juliette laughed, “and don’t forget this little one,” she added as she picked up Judith.
“How could I ever forget her?”
“Did you tell John he will need dust off his old Irish Guards dress uniform?”
“I did my love.”
“Shirley will be so proud as well...”
The Richmond Mansion
"It's lovely of
you to have us over Sandy." Barbara kissed her friend.
Thanksgiving in America." Jeannie called out as her grandfather took her
"It's starting to
get cold out there." John remarked as he hung it up.
"I'm thinking we
might be in for an early winter." Sandy led her guests into the drawing
room. "Can I get drinks?"
"I'd kill a
beer." Barbara laughed.
"Okay beer for
Barb, same for you John?"
"Can I beg a glass
of chardonnay, I'm not really the worlds greatest beer drinker."
"Two beers, one glass of wine coming up."
“Ah good – welcome,” Nessa said as they came in, “how was the park?”
“Quiet and peaceful for once,” Barbara said as she went to join Jo and Curt
"So how is project
wheels coming along?" Heather asked Jeannie and John.
"Well it looks
feasible that I can have built a car for myself with just hand controls."
Jeannie smiled. "The idea of not being dependent on anyone else for rides
means a lot to me."
"I have a few
friends in the trade who are assessing just what Jeannie needs, but I am
hopeful." John smiled.
"What does Barb
"I think the thought of me driving scares her stiff, she keeps murmuring about me hiring a full-time driver instead, But I want the independence of having my own car if I can."
“She’ll come round – and the calendar?”
“Second printing already – it’s amazing...”
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“Something smells amazing,” Pippa said as she and Poppy handed their coats to Mary.
“Not my doing – Denice has taken over the kitchen,” Mary said as they went through. “Can I get you both a drink?”
“Wine if you have it, and yes Poppy you can have some as well.”
“So what is on the menu,” Mary said as Denice came through.
"Well since most
of us are not pure-bred Americans, I thought we'd have Thanksgiving with a few
British twists." Denice smiled at Mary. "So I've prepared leek soup
as a starter."
soup?" Mary asked.
"Well that sounds
good to me." Pippa smiled contentedly.
"Now leeks are
sort of like onions…right?” Asked Poppy.
"They are Pops,
and my Mom's leek soup is amazing." Erica encouraged her friend.
"Well I'll at least try it then."
“Hello Grandfather,” Ama said as she opened the door, “come on up.”
“Thank you,” Dan said as he came up, to find Ama entertaining other visitors.
“Grandfather, this is Nyala West, and her father Dave, as well as Uncle George.”
“George Sanders,” the grey haired man with the neat beard said as he shook Dan’s hand. “I’m Caroline’s chief assistant in Jameson Security – she took pity on me and invited me to join her today.”
“Good to meet you George,” Dan said as he turned to Dave and shook his hand. “So where do you know Ama and Caroline from, Dave.”
“Ama and I come from the same village originally, Mr Jameson,” Nyala said. “We met again when Ama visited my new home recently.”
“That’s right Grandfather,” Ama said as she hugged Nyala.
“Well then, I am very pleased to meet you young lady.”
“Oh hi Granddad,” Caroline said as she looked in from the kitchen. “George, can you get Dan a drink please? Sonia and I just about have things under control.”
“So what part of the UK are you from George,” Dan said as he accepted a can of beer.
“North West – but I moved around a lot,” George said as he opened a second can. “You girls mind if the menfolk watch the game?”
“Of course not,” Ama said as she and Nyala sat at the table, “do you need any help Mom?”
“No,” Caroline and Sonia said in unison as the girls laughed.
“So what game are they showing?”
“Watford against Man United from last weekend – do you like soccer Dave?”
“I don’t mind it – I go to the games with Nyala sometimes...”
“I will be honest,” Sonia said as she chopped some carrots, “Soccer is not really Dave’s game, but we want to do anything and everything for our daughter.”
“Oh trust me, I know that feeling,” Caroline said. “Do you mind if I ask a question Sonia?”
“How bad was it when you met Nyala?”
“We knew she had suffered a great deal – when we spoke to the FBI officials, they told us she was about to be killed when they rescued her and arrested her – well, her owners. When we first met her, she was a bundle of nerves. How bad was Ama?”
“She still has nightmares from time to time,” Caroline said as she looked to the main room. “But she is a remarkable young woman, and she is coming through it. As she grows older, the memories get less painful.”
“I can see you care for her a great deal. It’s almost as if you rescued her yourself.”
Caroline nodded as she said “Yeah – it can feel like that. Now, let’s get that turkey on...”
Central park west
“There you go Katy,” her grandmother said as she passed her a drink of coke.
“Thanks Gran.” She took a sip from her glass, and then said “Gran...”
"Gran, did Mom
tell you that she took me to see Karen Boyd yesterday?"
"That she did Katy
"Not really, I could see it coming...” Sipping her own coffee, Katherine sighed and said “now, did your mother tell you about me?"
"Nope," Katy tilted her head.
said quietly, “when I was only a few months older then you, and we still lived
back in Ireland, I fell in love with a boy called Jacko Kelly. He was 17, tall,
he was on the county hurling team already, and every girl in Waterford town
wanted him so bad."
"I sort of get the picture. The local Justin Beaver, if you like."
“Except he could not
sing to save his life,” Katherine said with a smile. “But he was a hunk, the David Beckham of his
day.” Taking another drink, she said “well,
I was like you, a very big girl for my age, and to get him I used everything I
had to offer, including my virginity."
"Okay. So what happened Gran?"
"Well it was the
usual sad story of back then, no birth control, no condoms, and I soon found I
"Well HE was soon
forgiven and he ended up with Mary O'Shea the local beauty queen. I was
labelled as a whore and my family was practically ran out of town."
"Oh dear God
"Eventually, Dad decided we'd emigrate to America to escape the shame I'd brought on the family, but on the boat over I miscarried and lost my baby.” She stopped for a moment, Katy watching with a stunned expression as she wiped away a tear.
“Anyway, when we
arrived in America we started with a clean slate, and until I told your mother
earlier I had no one about what happened,"
"Oh Gran!" Katy said as she walked over and hugged Katherine.
“So Katy darling,” Katherine said, “I know what your mom did, and we’re there for you – but all I can ask is you take care, and do not rush into something. Will you do that for both of us?”
“Of course I will Gran,” Kate said as she looked into Katherine’s eyes.
“So what are they talking about in there,” Adam said as he stirred the soup.
“Not sure,” Jan said as she basted the turkey, and then closed the oven door. Putting the oven gloves to one side, Jan picked up her glass of wine and took a drink.
“Do you know of any nice, decent, paedophiles Adam?”
“Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” Adam laughed.
“Yeah I know it is,” Jan sighed.
“Can I ask what is at the root of all this darling Janice?” Adam said as he put the spoon down and kissed his lover, “I get the feeling that while I was attending to family business, I missed something important.”
“Yeah you sort of did,” Jan kissed him back, “I’ve given into the inevitable and got Katy on the pill.”
“Oh come on Adam,” Jan said, “she’s as hot as a smoking gun, and she wants it so bad I guess its hurting her.”
“Well I’ve never heard a mother quite say that about her daughter, but I guess it means George gets lucky.”
“If only it was that simple!”
“Anything I can help with.”
“Okay,” Adam said as he rubbed his chin, “why so vehement?”
“Adam,” Jan said, “how long did you last the first time, you well…well use your imagination?”
“About 30 seconds…Why?”
“Did the girl?”
“Nope…Look Jan what is this leading to?”
“Katy wants her first time to be memorable, she wants to do it with a man who knows what he is doing, so she gets to enjoy it as well…”
“Oh my God,” Adam interrupted in shock.
“That was why you asked did I know a nice paedophile?”
“Well,” Jan said quietly, “I’d rather it was someone I know could be trusted, and not just some guy she picks up at random.”
“Oh dear God,” Adam said as he shook his head, “that young lady and I must have serious words.”
“Well at least I talked her out of her original idea?”
“Which was what?”
“She asked if she could seduce you…”
“SHE FUCKIN” WHAT!” Janice clasped a hand over Adam’s mouth to silence his scream.
“And her idea about she and I doing you together”
“Keep quiet and calm down,” Janice clamped her hand harder over his mouth.
Adam stared at her and then nodded, before she said “Look, I don’t like this any more than you do. But I am literally out of ideas.”
“Okay,” Adam said as he looked at Jan. “The answer is no, I don’t. But I will help you find a way to help her, all right?”
“Thanks Adam,” Jan said quietly.
“Besides, I’ve got a problem of my own I need your help with.”
“You’ve met Harry and Eve haven’t you?”
“Yeah – Is that where you’ve been these last couple of weeks?”
“In a way – they had a problem and asked my help, and now I need yours. But I want it to wait until tomorrow, if that’s all right...”
“Of course it is,” Jan said, “now stir that soup – it’s starting to burn...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Lord save me from Diet Coke,” Annie said as she sipped her drink, and looked round the room.
“Endure, lover,” Cari said as she put her arms round Annie’s neck, “the time will come.”
“So how is the baby,” Ingrid said as she looked at the young blonde.
“Looking good – we have the scan next week, so we may know more then,” Annie said with a smile.
“So no word yet on whether it is a boy or a girl?”
“Not yet – we’ll find out soon enough though.”
In the kitchen, Grace watched from the breakfast bar as Juliette checked the turkey.
“So Bats got the commission? How did she manage to beat everyone else out?”
“She made a very persuasive offer,” Juliette said as she closed the oven door, “and I’m not saying anything over than that. Mary told me you had an interesting time with her in Washington?”
“I did? Oh – you mean the family reunion. Yeah – that was the easy bit. Uncle Stephen is the fun one.”
“Oh I’m sure you’ll cope.”
“Maybe,” Grace said with a smile.
The de Ros Mansion
“so you really have to be there from nine tomorrow morning – their time?”
“I’m afraid so,” Abby said as she sat with Judy, “at least the chairs in Shirley’s jet make good beds as well.”
“So what time are you heading off?”
“At about seven – we take off at eight, and arrive at about six tomorrow morning.”
“So we eat in a short while,” Natasha said as she came in, Willy carrying Alain in his bib shorts and shirt.
“Hello little one,” Judy said as she looked at the young man, “you are getting bigger as well, aren’t you?”
“Not as big as young John Boyd,” Willy said as he handed Alain to Abby, “but there is time, there is time...”
“Telephone call for you.”
“Thank you,” Diana said as she went outside, the guests looking at Alain as he waved his arms round.
The Richmond Mansion
“So Winston has just one regular season game left to play this season Jeannie?” Alex asked as he fetched himself another beer.
“Yes - Notre Dame at home on Saturday.”
“Did you consider going?”
“I did,” Jeannie said as she sipped her wine, “but mom pointed out I’m in LA next weekend, and that maybe two trips west and back in just over a week might be one too many. So I just need to wait three more weeks.”
“She has a point.” Alex popped his can.
“Strange seeing you drink beer and not wine Father.”
“Well it’s Thanksgiving, and it’s football, the two sort of go together.”
“That’s what Winston says as well.”
“Well, we have time to eat before the Panthers and Cowboys game starts at 4.30 and then we have the Bears and the Packers at 8.30 for a nightcap.”
“If we are all still here.” Barbara joined the conversation. “You know I still don’t get American Football.”
“Well get Father Richmond to explain it Mum.” Jeannie chuckled, “he knows far more about it then I do.”
“Ten minutes people – get washed up if you haven’t already,” Sandy called out from the dining room.
Mary Thomas’ Apartment
“Alright, why have I never had Leek soup before?” Poppy asked.
“Because it’s very rare here.” Mary ventured as she put her spoon in the empty plate, “but I must admit that it is a taste of home Denice. Really creamy.”
“Well I’m glad you all liked it.” Denice wiped her chin before she said “Let it get down for a few seconds and then if the girls help me I’ll bring in the turkey.”
“You have to give me that recipe Denice.” Pippa sat back and sipped her wine, “I will have to try making it.”
“Be careful Pippa, we will have you speaking Welsh next,” Mary chuckled.
“A bit too difficult for me.” Pippa smiled and said “I think I’ll stick with the 5 languages I do speak.”
“You speak 5 languages Aunt Pippa?” Erica asked.
“In the fashion world you sort of have to, darling. I used to model in Paris and Milan, but I also worked in Germany and Spain, so you sort of have to learn or sink.”
“I so envy you having been all those places.” Erica looked at Mary, “Do you speak all those Aunt Mary?”
“No, just Italian and French…”
“Plus English and Welsh.” Denice interrupted. “Okay girls time to bring in the main course.”
“I struggle enough with Spanish and German,” Poppy said as she shook her head,”and as for English, well you’ve met my gran and aunt...”
The Huntingdown Apartment
“Here is yours Judith.” Carina said as she cut up her dinner for her daughter, and then gave her the plate.
“Fank you Mommy.” The little one smiled as she picked up a piece of turkey and started to eat it.
“So how does she sleep Carina?” Harriet asked.
Carina looked over at the teacher, and said with a smile “on her back.”
“Alright I walked into that one,” Harriet smiled as everyone else laughed or groaned at the pun.
“Seriously though, she sleeps well most nights. I get the odd bad night with her, but they are rare.”
“Well that’s good.”
“So what is it like seeing yourself as a pinup Sarah?” Klaus asked the English Lit teacher.
“A bit strange,” Sarah said as she swallowed some potato, “we considered doing one when I was with the England team, you know a girls of football calendar, but it never got done because too many of us said it was sexist. I think I’ve changed my mind though.”
“Well Luke has done an amazing job with the pictures and blurred the line for them between being photos and being traditional pinup drawings.” Juliette spoke. “I was more then impressed by his concept.”
“Talking of concepts, I have to congratulate you Juliette, and all the models on the Tribute Issue,” Harriet cut herself some turkey. “Just so many, many, wonderful pictures.”
“I agree.” Sarah nodded. “I know it’s probably hard but do you have a favourite?”
“I think that one with all the girls dressed in the styles of 1959 taken out on the street.” Juliette smiled.
“I loved that as well.” Carina looked up from feeding Judith, “being right in the middle, and being shorter then everyone I’m easy to spot.”
“I think I look great in that as well.” Ingrid sipped her wine.
“The truth is you all do.” Klaus smiled happily.
“May I say something,” Dave said as Caroline brought the turkey in.
“I just wanted to say Sonia and I are so glad you invited us here, and that Nyala and Ama have met again. For that, we give thanks.”
“As do we,” Ama said as she looked at Nyala. “Grandfather, will you carve please?”
“Of course,” Dan said as he put turkey on the plates, George passing them round.
“If it is all right with you,” Nyala said as she looked at her adoptive parents, “I would like to go with Ama and Maisha to meet some of their friends here.”
“Will it involve shopping?”
“No,” Ama said with a laugh, “we will meet in Central Park as opposed to the shopping areas.”
“I may have a look,” Sonia said as she looked at her husband. “If I have a brave protector.”
“Rather you than me,” Caroline said, “I learned my lesson last year.”
“That’s right, Dan – an experience to be enjoyed once. Once...”
The de Ros Mansion
“Well,” Diana said as she stood in the doorway, “I think we need to be on our way. We will call you when we return on Sunday, Rachel.”
“Enjoy the trip, and have fun,” Rachel said as the driver took their cases and bags to the car, Jack and Abby heading down as Diana looked at Edith.
“The mansion will be safe in your absence, Madame,” Edith said with a smile, “as it always is.”
“I have complete faith in you Edith,” Diana said with a smile. “Please, feel free to stay as long as you like.”
“Thanks Diana, but we said we’d drop in on the Morse’s. Have a safe trip.”
Diana smiled as she got into the cart, Judy, Dave and her parents waving them off before they went back inside.
“We must be on our way Edith – may we have our coats please?”
“Of course Madame,” Edith said as she fetched their coats, and showed them out. Locking the front door, she returned to the kitchen and made sure the dishes were put away, before she went out into the back garden, smiling as she entered the firing range.
Putting on a pair of ear protectors, she selected a Magnum and aimed it at the target, firing six rounds off before she brought the target to her, looking at the neat placement on the head and heart.
“I give thanks again for you, Madame de Ros,” she said quietly before she left, turning off the light and locking the door behind herself.
Central park west
“Hey,” Adam said as he stood in the doorway of Katy’s room, “have you got a few minutes?”
“Sure Uncle Adam,” Katy said with a smile as she looked over, “what’s wrong?”
“Listen,” Adam said as he came and sat on the bed, “your mum told me she’s put you on the pill.”
“Does that bother you, Uncle Adam?”
“Given everything I’m dealing with at the moment, Katy, probably not half as much as it should do,” Adam said with a weak smile, “except for the bit where you say you want me to be your first.”
“Oh – Mom told you did she?”
“Yeah, she did – Katy, you’re still only 13. Every rule in the book says it’s wrong, no matter who the person is, and...”
“Uncle Adam,” Katy said quietly, “I know, and I’m sorry I even suggested the idea. It’s just that I’m being driven half crazy by these feelings...”
“Well, I can kinda understand that,” Adam said as he rubbed the back of his head, “but...”
“I know it’s wrong, Uncle Adam,” Katy said quietly, “but this isn’t about love or laws to me right now. Right or wrong, it’s about pleasure, about my own lust been sated. I know that is hard to understand, but it really is me being unable to cope unless it happens.”
“I see,” Adam said quietly. “Well, if you need to talk, I’m there, but that’s about as far as it can go where I’m concerned, all right?”
“All right – and I’m sorry if I upset you Uncle Adam. Thanks.”
He was taken by surprise by the strength in her hug, as he slowly patted her back, Jan watching from the doorway.
“Bed Katy,” she said as she came in, tucking Katy in and kissing her on the forehead before turning the light off, and closing the door. “Thanks,” she then said as she kissed Adam.
“She is in some torment, isn’t she?”
“Look – let me make a phone call, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. We can see if we can at least make her feel like a lady, all right?”
Friday 27th November
8.30 am CET
Hotel Raphael, 17 Avenue Kleiber, Paris
“Feeling better now Abigail,” Diana said as Abby came out of the bathroom, towelling her hair.
“Much – at least I got some sleep on the plane,” she said with a smile as she picked up a pastry and bit into it. “What time am I expected downstairs?”
“At nine, you have time for coffee and food before you dress,” Diana said as she looked out of the window of the suite. “Mandy arrived last night, so Guy and I will dine with her and Will while you and Tony are otherwise occupied.”
“And we meet with Valeria and the others tonight?”
“Indeed – now, go and dress. This is a special day for you as well.”
10 am CET
“Honestly, an hour just of deep cleansing,” Brigitte said as she sat next to Abby, “they really mean business on this, don’t they?”
“Please ladies,” the make-up artists from Mac Cosmetics said, “it is time to make you beautiful, non?”
“We are in your hands,” Abby said as she put a smock over her, “hi Charly.”
“I got a note from your agent Abby asking me to have lunch with her before she returns to New York next week.” Charly sat in the chair next to Abby before taking her shoes off to rest her feet.
“She thinks you have a future modelling Charly.”
“Well,” Charly said as she sat back, “from all the invitations and notes I’ve received it seems a lot of agents believe so.”
“They are all intrigued in case you haven’t signed with IMG yet.”
“I haven’t. I promised my father I wouldn’t consider offers till after this ball.”
“Oh?” Abby lifted an eyebrow.
“He wanted me to get this out of the way first.”
“Without being rude, have you made up your mind Charly?”
“Being honest,” Charly said as the artist started to add the foundation, “I’m still not even sure I do want to model, and as to deciding on an agency…well?”
“With your title, height and looks, you know you can have your pick. You are guaranteed to be a star.”
“So the gentleman from IMG told me.” Charly smiled.
“But I will say this – Missy will only do the very best for you...”
1 pm CET
“Good afternoon Ladies,” Stephane Bern said as he stood in front of the line of debutantes, their make up and hair done, “and welcome to the day from hell before the day of beauty. In a few minutes, we will ask you to go and prepare in your dresses for the official photographs, but first we invite you to have some food, some drink, and I will have a quick word with each of you.”
“So how was Thanksgiving,” Angel said as she stood next to Abby.
“Great fun, even if we had to fly over and arrive at five this morning,” Abby said as the girls started to make their way off the low stage.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can imagiiiiiiiwhoaaaaaaa!”
The other girls looked as Angel fell sideways onto the floor, Fiona Treharran staring ahead as she said “what happened?”
“Fi put your damn glasses on before you hurt someone seriously.” Angel picked herself up from the floor and dusted herself off.
“I’m sorry Ange,” the Cornishwoman said as she pulled her spectacles from her clutch and put them on.
“You walked straight into me,” Angel complained as she rubbed her arm. “I swear your eyes are getting worse. Either get contacts…”
“You know they irritate my eyes.”
“…Or be like Abby and don’t be over-sensitive that you have to wear glasses.”
“I know, I know.” Fiona shook her head.
“To quote from Ecclesiastes ‘vanity of vanities! All is vanity’.”
“You’ve told me that quote before Ange.”
“Well I wish you’d remember it, I’m going to have a bruise I’ll need to cover with makeup.”
“Don’t worry,” Abby said as she looked at it, “it’s not too bad, and the elbow gloves will hide most of it.”
1 pm CET
“Will, Mandy, how good it is to see you again,” Valeria said as she kissed Angel’s parents. “Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you Darling,” Mandy said as she sat at the table, “how was the flight Diana?”
“Not as bad as it can be, thanks to Shirley, and I managed to get some sleep. An early night tonight and I should be fine.”
“You still manage to look fabulous without the help of sleep,” Guy said as the waiter came over, “but I am, of course, biased.”
“So I take it all went well for the holiday yesterday?”
“Indeed – but this promises to be a memorable weekend as well – which reminds me,” Diana said as she looked over, “one of the young ladies is Samantha Gordon.”
Valeria looked at Diana, before she said “is her mother here?”
“Yes – I felt you should be forewarned.”
“Thank you, Diana,” Valeria said, “but it was a long time ago, and I have learned the hard way to put the past behind me.”
“Good – this is the time for Abigail and the other young ladies, not for the past to rear its ugly head.”
“So when are the dancing lessons?”
“Seven until nine – perhaps a little late supper after?”
“In the hotel, if that is all right papa,” Diana said as she yawned, “so that I do not have to travel too far.”
“Of course – I will make a reservation later,” Guy said with a smile.
3 pm CET
“Gotta say, we look hot,” Angel said as the girls stood for a group shot.
“Oh yes we do,” Abby said with a smile, “I wonder what our cavaliers are going to say when they see us.”
“They will be proud and wondrous,” Alice said from the side of the room.
“Did I hear a rumour you had the Furstenheim order Bats,” Angel called out.
“It is the truth,” Alice said with a contented smile. “And I have an idea already in mind that is going to astound everyone.”
Central Park West
“Hi Mom,” Pepsi said as she came in, “I’m on my way to meet the girls in the park, with Ama and her friend as well as Maisha, but Katy asked me to bring her something.”
“She’s in her room,” Jan said as she closed the door, “go on in.”
“Hey sis,” Pepsi said as she came in, what’s... Katy is that what I think it is?”
“Yeah, it is,” Katy said as she put the small pill in her mouth, had a drink of water and then locked the strip in a drawer. “Mum agreed on Wednesday I could start.”
“So has she removed the embargo?”
“Yeah – now the question is who,” Katy said as she sat on the bed.
“Still dreaming of that real man?”
“Pepsi,” Katy said, “what was your first time like?”
“Different,” the older teenager laughed. “Making love with Doc, as well as Jack was pretty unforgettable.”
“She’d already had hadn’t she?”
“Yes she wasn’t a virgin…nor for that matter was Jack.”
“Did he make you orgasm?”
“Oh Goddess Yes!” Pepsi closed her eyes at the thought.
“Now THAT is the sort of memory that I want from my first time.”
“Well I’m not lending you Jack sister mine…That hunk of English lord is MINE ALONE!”
“Oh,” Katy said as she folded her arms, “this from the girl who a few days ago said he was history?”
“I forgave him…as you knew damn well I would.”
“I love George,” Katy said, “but Peps I want this first time to be as memorable for me as yours was for you. George getting inside and cumming immediately, where is the fun in that for me?”
“I know,” Pepsi put an arm round her sister. “The problem is whoever you chose you know he’s breaking every law if he has sex with you.”
“Your problem is finding someone who won’t tell, but you know for sure will give you the experience you are looking for.”
“Sorry to disturb, girls,” Jan said as she looked in. “Come on Katy we are going out to hit the stores?”
“What happened to your no Black Friday rule Mom?”
“Abandoned due to necessity,” Jan said. “We both need sensational evening gowns because we have a date for tomorrow night. I rang some of the girls they can help with the extras, but we do need find gowns.”
“Well I’m up for it.” Katy grinned.
“My cue to get going – see you later Katy.”
“Adam called – he and his nephew Harry are going to take us to a very special restaurant.”
“All right,” Doc said as she clapped her hands together and blew into them, “I know we said we weren’t hitting the stores, so what are we going to do?”
“All Ama said was she would meet us here with Maisha and her friend,” Pepsi said, “and we wouldn’t be cold for too long.” Both girls were wearing thick padded coats over their jumpers, boots pulled up over the legs of their jeans.
“Where’s Jeannie today anyway?”
“Meeting with Missy,” Becca said as she arrived with Nikki. Their long duffle coats were fastened up, the Ugg boots visible under the hem.
“Hello,” Ama said as she, Maisha and Nayla came over. While Maisha, like Becca and Nikki, had on a long duffle coat and boots, Ama was wearing a black leather bomber jacket over an Angels hoodie, jeans and sneakers. Nyala was wearing a green jerkin over a hooded top, a scarf wrapped round her neck, and grey pants. “Nyala, these are my friends Anna, Nikki and Becca, and you know Pepsi already.”
“Very pleased to meet you,” Nyala said with a smile, “even in so cold a place.”
“Perhaps we can find somewhere warm to sit and have a drink?”
“I know just the place,” Doc said, “follow me.”
Twenty minutes later, the girls were sitting round a table in the Park Cafe, steaming mugs of hot chocolate in front of each of them.
“So tell me,” Nyala said, “apart from football, what else is Ama good at in school?”
“Well, she’s a good person to talk to, and she has some very good insights in history and English Lit,” Nikki said with a smile.
“But like us all, she bows down before the power that is Doc Carlton,” Becca said as they all made a small bow in Doc’s direction.
“Oh cut it out,” Doc said with a smile, “you know there are things I struggle with.”
“This is true,” Pepsi said, “a very few things. Talking of which, your grandfather’s suggestion really paid off Ama.”
“Oh? You mean the adaptations?”
“Yeah – I found that BBC production Miss Nightingale talked about, and it really made the play come alive for me.”
“How was the party yesterday anyway Pepsi?”
“Oh it was great fun – Dawn and I ended up leading the post-meal Karaoke off with a version of Way On Down...”
“You? Pepsi, you hate singing!”
“Yes, yes she does.”
Nyala looked at the young girl in the wheelchair who joined them, her mouth open as Doc said “hey Jeans - glad you could make it. This is Ama’s friend Nyala from the West Coast.”
“Hi – I’m Jeannie,” she said as she held her hand out, Nyala slowly shaking it as she said “you’re...”
“Yes, Nyala, this is Jeannie Brewster,” Ama said. “Please forgive her Jeannie, she always could be a little slow to react.”
“It’s all right,” Jeannie said as the waitress brought over another mug of hot chocolate. “So, what were we talking about?”
“School,” Ama said quietly. “Sorry Maisha.”
“Not a problem, I may be home schooled, but I do enjoy hearing of how others approach this,” Maisha said with a smile.
"So you are going
to have a custom made car Jeans?" Becca asked.
"I most assuredly
am,” Jeannie said with a smile. “Granddad
has found a place out in Nassau County that specialize in doing it. We are
going to go out there after school one day this week."
"So any thoughts
on what make of car?"
"I was thinking
about a Ferrari..."
Becca's jaw dropped.
"No, but it's a
lovely thought," Jeannie smiled. "A minivan is the most practical
type of vehicle, with lift access so I can get myself in and lock my chair into
the drivers position. My birthdays not till spring though, so I'll not be able
to legally drive till then."
"Who's going to
teach you to drive it Jeans?"
"My Granddad Peps,
can you imagine him trusting anyone else to?"
really." Pepsi shook her head.
"Well my birthday
is soon, and I hope I'll get my license quickly." Doc looked up. "And
yours is approaching as well Ama."
"I know, Mom has
talked to me about getting a car.”
"You are so lucky," Nyala smiled. “I have another six months until my birthday, and I still need to convince my parents to allow me to drive.”
“Have you started Driver’s Ed at your school yet Nyala?”
“In the New Year – and I hope I can persuade Dad to give me some lessons.”
“So what do your parents do to earn a honest crust Nyala?”
“My mother helps run a cafe, and my father drives a delivery truck locally. What about the rest of you? I know what Caroline and Shirley do...”
“Mum’s a medical administrator at Temple Hill,” Jeannie said as she sipped her drink.
“Mine runs the florists near where Ama lives,” Pepsi said, “while Doc’s is a receptionist. Dad works for the Transit Authority.”
“When he’s not worrying over the horse,” Doc said with a laugh.
“I will explain later,” Ama said with a smile.
“And you Becca?”
“Well, Mom does charity work and other things, but Dad’s a congressman. Nikki?”
“Dad’s a stockbroker, and Mom sells real estate.”
“We’re a real mixed crew,” Pepsi said, “but what are we more than anything?”
“ANGELS,” the others said, Maisha and Nyala looking at each other and shaking their heads.
APCO 5th Avenue
“It’s Black Friday, but you would not know it around here,” Jan said as she stripped off in the changing area.
“You should have been here earlier,” Betsey said from outside, “but we tend not to cut our prices as much as the rest of the stores. Alice never really liked the idea of doing that. Something about quality does not come cheap.”
“I can understand her saying that,” Jan said with a smile as she came out, “so what do you think?”
“Well, as a friend, not a store manager who has to maximise sales? You make the dress, Jan.”
Jan smiled as she looked at herself in the full-length mirror. The strapless dress was made of dark purple silk with a black lace overlay, the waist gathered by a black sash around the stomach, the skirt flowing out from her knees to the floor.
“Oh yeah – teamed with the gloves and the right look, and Adam will be putty in my hands.”
“What about me?”
“Oh,” Betsey said quietly as Katy came out in her black silk gown. The strapless model hugged her like the gloves on her arms, while the skirt had material falling in soft waves from her thighs to the floor.
"We are going to
look like walking cliché’s in these Mom," Katy said as she stood next to
Jan and looked at herself.
"We know it’s a cliché dressing like this darling,” Jan said quietly, “but thank the Goddess men still think it’s the highest form of sex appeal."
"Beautiful women can lead them around by their..."
"Yes WE can."
"You think I'm
"Well if she
doesn't, then I do,” Betsy said quietly as she watched them. "Katy you
look incredible in that gown."
"Thank you" Katy blushed.
“We’ll take them,” Jan said. “Thanks Betsey. Katy, get changed and we’ll go grab a coffee somewhere.”
8 pm CET
“And... One two three One two three One two three...”
“Do you think my father would have done this with me Grandfather?” Abigail asked as she and Guy spun round the floor practicing their waltz.
“Without being too cruel,” Guy said, “I think I can safely say your father would have been more interested in charming the other debutantes Mon Cherie.”
“So Mama told me. Was he really that bad?”
“He was, probably the only decent thing he ever did in his life was to father you.”
“Mama said Grand’Mere over indulged him.”
“Yes Valeria did. Trapped in a passionless marriage, she put all her hopes and emotions into that boy.”
“Is it true she hired a fille de joie to initiate him when he was only 12?”
“I think that might just be a myth,” Guy chuckled, “and I’ve never had the courage to ask Valeria if there is any truth in it. But it is certainly true that from a very early age your Papa was charming and abusing women in equal measure.”
“I’m glad I never knew him then.”
“Alright swap partners,” one of the dance teachers called out.
“I thank you for this dance,” Guy said as he bowed, and Tony took over while he joined Will and the other fathers at the side of the room.
“Good evening, your grace.”
“Victoria,” Guy said with a small bow, “it has been a long time.”
“Indeed – Will, how are the pigs?”
“They keep well – how is Archibald?”
“As well as can be expected,” Victoria said as she watched Samantha. “Abigail is a true beauty.”
“As is Samantha,” Guy said. “You should know that Valeria will accompany me tomorrow.”
“The past is the past, Guy – shall we keep it that way?”
“I would prefer it to be that way,” Guy said quietly.
Eventually, the instructors said “thank you, ladies and gentlemen – rest and we will see you tomorrow.”
"So are you having
fun?" Tony smiled.
"My feet hurt
worse then doing catwalk." Abby shook her head as she sat down, "and
this is just the practice."
"Just think of all
the other balls you are doing that require practices."
"Oh don't remind me." Abby groaned. “The stories Cari and Ingy tell of the Opernball...”
"Still think this year is going to be fun Abs?"
glared at Angel.
Angel said with a grin, “everyone says we will look back fondly at this one
year as the happiest of our lives."
"Ask Pussy her
memories of her deb year some time Angel." Abby smiled as she sipped her
"You doing okay
Trina" Angel asked the other American.
"If my father can stop
treading on my toes."
"I noticed he's
not a great dancer." Abby remarked.
"He's not, but
Clint sort of makes up for it."
Angel glanced across the room at Trina's partner. "How did you score a
date for the weekend with the hottest young hunk in Hollywood?"
"I know his
sister, she set it up."
"You have great
friends." Abby looked over at the actor.
"Well I hear you
do as well Abs. Doesn't your friend Jeannie date Winston Brewster?"
"She does...do you
been out with his roommate a couple of times."
"So you are at
Stanford as well?"
"Yeah, for my sins. I wanted to go to school back east, but well you know what family tradition can be like."
“Oh yes – that’s why I’m here,” Abby said as Guy stood up. “Now, shall we join the ladies for supper?”
Macy’s Coffee House
“Mom, why are you doing this?”
“Adam is inviting his nephew, I think to try and distract you – but, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I think you’re right Katy. Until you get this out of your system, nothing else is going to matter.”
“What are you saying Mom?”
"If we are going
to get Adam to pop your cherry tomorrow night darling, then we are both going
to have to seduce him."
"I know Mom."
"Well it might not
be as easy as you think darling."
"Thank you for
being so cool about this Mom."
"Well I can't believe I'm doing it, but I'd rather you did it with Adam then some unknown stranger. Drink up – you need an early night."
Saturday 28th November
10.30 am CET
“All right, ladies, chevaliers and fathers – we start rehearsals in thirty minutes. Please enjoy the refreshments while you can.”
“Sleep well last night,” Angel said as Abby walked over. Both girls were wearing blouses and knee length skirts, with heels, as the other girls, partners and parents milled round.
“Like a log – is that proper coffee?”
“Turkish,” Angel said as she poured Abby a cup, and they started talking to Brigitte. On the other side of the room, Guy and Valeria entered, Guy in a suit and open necked shirt and Valeria in a grey jersey dress with dark tights and heels.
“Certainly more relaxed than the balls I remember,” she said with a smile as Will approached, bringing with him a tall, fair haired man in a Saville Row suit.
“Guy can I introduce Sir Charles Treharran of Penhaddow,” Will said as he introduced Fiona’s father. “Charles and I were at Harrow together.”
“You’ve known each other a long while then.” Guy smiled.
“We have indeed,” he replied, his soft Cornish accent clearly heard.
“Sir Charles, may I introduce my partner Valeria Countess de Ros.”
“Enchanted,” Charles kissed Valeria’s glove. “Your vinery continues to prosper I trust?”
“It does, and thank you for the compliment. Treharran of Penhaddow is an ancient title isn’t it Sir Charles?”
“We were created baronets in the early 17th century, and please call me Charlie. Charles makes me feel old, or like my late father.”
“Charlie it is.” Valeria smiled.
“Valeria is a genealogy specialist Charlie.” Will said as he accepted a drink, “she probably knows more about your family history then you do.”
“Oh I would not say that.” Valeria smiled.
“Can I beg an introduction Charlie?” a tall bespectacled blonde asked as she came over.
“Of course my love, Olivia, this is the Duc de Grechy and the Countess de Ros, Valeria and Guy this is my wife Olivia.”
“Enchante.” Guy kissed her.
“So you would be Abigail’s grandparents? I thought I saw her earlier, but could not be certain. Is Diana here as well?”
“Olivia? It is so good to see you again!”
“Diana darling,” Olivia said as the two women embraced, “how long has it been?”
“Far too many years – Charlie, Fi is a true beauty.”
“That’s Olivia’s genes, not mine,” Charlie said as Abby stared across the room at them.
“No one told me your mother was Olivia Savage Fiona.” Abigail said more then slightly in awe.
“Didn’t we darling.” Mandy interrupted before laughing…”I wonder why?”
“Now how the hell do you know the name Olivia Savage?” Fi asked.
“Abby is another fashion history buff darling,” Mandy said, “and I’ve seen her bedroom…”
“I have two HUGE pictures of your Mom on my wall.”
“You have? My Mother only modelled a short while.”
“But in that time she was SENSATIONAL!”
“Abby can be something of a fan girl.” Angel said as she brought over drinks for her mother and friends.
“I am NOT!”
“Not what Lily says.” Angel giggled.
“I’m not as bad as Jeans.”
“True – I don’t think anyone knows as much about history as Jeannie Brewster,” Angel said as she sipped her drink.
“Your Mom was the face of so much sophisticated fashion in the early nineties Fi. Why did she quit?”
“She met my father, and her eyes got bad. I inherit this almost total short-sightedness from her.”
“The truth is that Olivia is legally blind darling.” Mandy said quietly. “She can see just about with those thick glasses of hers, but she was beginning to be unable to function as a model, that’s why she packed the biz in.”
“That is so tragic.”
“Talking of tragic,” Fi said as she looked closely at her watch,” he has exactly ten seconds before I...”
The doors flew open as two very good looking men walked in, the sounds of screaming girls suddenly cut off as the doors closed.
“Alright brother dear, you finally made it.” Fiona stood hands on hips and glared at her brother.
“Autograph hunters,” the smaller of the two men said as he stood in his tweed jacket, t-shirt and jeans. “Clint Webster and I were both trapped outside signing.”
“Well it’s an excuse, not a great one, but still an excuse Michael.” Fiona stared through her glasses. “You know you missed practice last night.”
“And you know very well we had a gig in Oslo.”
“Well I better introduce you to everyone.” Fiona sighed.
“Hey,” he said as he looked round the room, “I’m...”
“Not that way,” Fi said as she grabbed her brother and dragged him over, “Abigail de Ros, may I introduce my charming brother Michael Treharran.”
“Mike Harran,” Abby whispered, “you look much more handsome in real life.”
“I like this one,” Mike said with a smile. “Angel darling – you look as cute as ever.”
“Flatterer,” Angel said as he kissed her on both cheeks. “So who else is here today?”
“Sam Gordon for one.”
“Come on Fi, introduce us,” Brigitte and Charly said as they came over.
“Mike, this is Brigitte Karonsky and Princess Charlotte of Ruritania.”
“Charly,” she said as Mike bowed and kissed her hand.
“Ladies, Chevaliers, to the ante room please.”
“Showtime,” Abby said as Tony took her hand, the parents and other family members entering the rehearsal room as they went with the organiser.
“If you will line up in alphabetical order, we will walk you in and then you can practice the main waltz,” the organizer said. “So shall we begin?”
1 pm CET
“Well, I know at least two men who have their dance cards for tonight already filled,” Abby said as she sat with Diana, eating the salad while watching Mike and Clint.
“Do not seek to judge,” Diana said, “you have already put your name on it, oui?”
“Oui,” Abby said dreamily as Fi came over with her mother.
"Mummy since she
spotted who you are, Abigail has been dying to be introduced."
Olivia said as they shook hands, “I very much admire your work."
"And I'm a huge
fan of yours Lady Treharran."
"Call me Bandit
please." Olivia Treharran smiled.
"Oh is that your
"Well really it is
Love Bandit, but it always got shortened."
"I understand?" Abby grinned again. “You and your husband must be very proud of Fiona.”
“Oh we are – almost as proud as Diana must be of you.”
“I am,” Diana said with genuine pride.
“Well, if you will forgive me, I must circulate,” Olivia said as she walked off with Fiona.
“Mama,” Abby asked, “did you know Fiona’s mother when she was modelling?”
“I did, Olivia was probably the best catwalk model I ever saw work. Even Mary could find nothing to fault in her walk”
“Until her eyes went?”
“As you say until then. It got to the stage where Olivia couldn’t even see where the runway went, let alone the end. She fell off more than a couple of times, and it was then that Mary talked her into quitting.”
“Aunt Mary did?”
“Yes,” Diana said quietly, “she was one of Mary’s favourite girls, and it broke Mary’s heart, but she couldn’t continue.”
“Not even doing photographic?”
“Similar problems, without her glasses on she couldn’t see the photographer.”
“Well she retired to Charlie’s family home in Cornwall, and she had 4 children. She doesn’t go to London often, but I think most of us old-timers remember her with total affection.”
“Angel was telling me that Fiona has the same disease.”
“It’s called Leber hereditary optic neuropathy,” Diana nodded.
“Her vision will go almost totally as well?”
“True, but Olivia copes magnificently, and I am sure she will as well. So, what happens to you now?”
“We go and get ready, and do more interviews, while the rest of you get to relax,” Abby said as she nodded to the organiser. “I will see you later mama – look fabulous.”
“Not as fabulous as you, Abigail,” Diana said with a smile as she watched her daughter leave with the others.
The Huntingdown Apartment
“What are you reading Mom?” Carina said as she put Judith in her chair and sat at the breakfast counter.
“Oh,” Juliette said without looking up, “some outraged letters about our forthcoming spread featuring your Aunt Cin’s daughter.”
Looking up from handing Judith her cup, Carina said “why are they worried about Kaia?”
“Because she’s still only 13.”
“Do you get the same reaction when you use Jeans?”
“Less,” Juliette said as she put the laptop lid down, “people focus on her being disabled, not that she’s 15.”
“I was going to say, under 16 or not, even Vogue worldwide has used her, despite the official policy, and I don’t think Lerrabella have got much bad publicity.”
“No darling, while models like myself stretch the upper age limits of what is ‘acceptable’, people still get outraged that we use younger girls.”
“Didn’t I read something saying that in the Times back in the summer?”
“You did,” Juliette shook her head, “and if you remember they published an op-ed from me a few days later trying to explain why we still call models girls, and not women.”
“Have you been in touch with Missy and Mary regarding all this?”
“I have, and Missy’s attitude is simple, that while advertisers still want fresh young faces, she’s going to sign them, and make sure they aren’t exploited.”
“What did Mary say?”
“Other then a lot of words in Welsh that I’m sure I do not want to know the meaning of?”
“Yes – although you could always ask Denise for the clean version if she heard her...”
“Well, that CS and its overseas editions will continue to use the models it thinks suit the layout, regardless of their age.”
“Good for her.”
“The two Anna’s though,” Juliette said quietly, “I hear are under pressure from corporate about models ages…”
“Yes, well anyway I think we just ride out the storm.”
“As usual.” Cari nodded.
“So did you hear from Abigail?”
“Only a text that said something like ‘I hate you Princess Carina – you could have warned me!’ I transcribe because of young ears.”
Judith looked up and smiled as her grandmother shook her head. “Still, she must be looking forward to it.”
“Well,” Carina said as she took out her phone, “Tony sent me this.”
“Oh – oh my,” Juliette said as she looked at the picture, “she looks stunning.”
“Yup – Alice the dressmaker strikes again.”
“So what plans for today?”
“Not much – what about you?”
“Well, we could take a family day out if you wanted – start Christmas shopping now the panic is over.”
“Sounds good to me, want to go shopping Judith.”
“Yes mamma,” Judith said as she picked up a biscuit and started eating.
3 pm CET
"So any idea where
we are going to end up tonight?" Angel asked as the stylist from Alexandre
de Paris worked on her hair.”
"Not a clue.
Charly says she knows this marvellous club in Montmartre where we can all maybe
escape the press."
"You have to be
joking Abs, these people are like bloodhounds."
“You have never dealt with the Italians, have you?”
“Not yet – Missy wants me to do a shoot in Florence in the New Year...”
"What are you
"Where we are going to go clubbing Louise?" Angel answered.
“Is there a place we can avoid the media?”
“Sounds like my cue to help.”
“Hello Aunt Jeanne,” Abby said as she saw Jeanne Beckman standing by the tables. “Got any ideas?”
“I’ll call a friend, get you girls some breathing space after the ball,” she said with a smile, “in return for ten minutes with any top girls here.”
“We got me, Angel, Brigitte and Louise – and a couple of old friends as well?”
“Oh- like who?”
“Olivia Treharran and Victoria Gordon?”
“Really? Now there’s two women I haven’t seen in a while,” Jeanne said. “I’ll do that favour, then see you girls later.”
“I’ll spread the word,” Abby said as Jeanne left them to finish getting ready.
4.30 pm CET
“Ladies, may I introduce Payal Mehta, of Payal New York.”
“Good afternoon ladies,” the young dark haired woman said as she looked at the debutantes, “I have here the case containing the jewellery I have designed for each of you. I take great pride in presenting them to you today.”
Each of the girls came up and took the box, Abby opening hers and gasping as she looked at the diamond drop earrings and necklace.
“Now, media outlets await you.”
“Goddess I hate this part,” Abby said as she went to talk to French Television.
“Are we ready?”
The cameraman nodded as Jeanne started.
“This is Jeanne Beckman, reporting for the Beckman Report from the annual Crillion ball in Paris. This year the choice of debutantes is as sparkling as ever, but also graced by the mothers of the debutantes as well. I am very pleased to have with me now Diana de Ros, Mandy Carrow and a very dear old friend, Olivia Treharran. Ladies, thanks for spending a few minutes here with me today.”
“It’s our pleasure darling,” Mandy said in her soft drawl as Jeanne smiled.
“Diana, how does it feel to be back where you were first discovered?”
“It actually is a real privilege to return, Jeanne. Our family has a long tradition of supporting these events, and the fact that Abigail was invited to form part of this year’s set is a great honour.”
“I believe you and Abigail are following in the footsteps of Juliette and Carina Huntingdown, and are wearing dresses designed by Alice McKinnon. What can we look forward to seeing you wearing tonight?”
“With deepest apologies, Jeanne, I am not allowed to say. It is meant to be a total surprise, but I will say that Alice has not let us down.”
“Olivia, how does it feel to have your daughter here today?”
“I must say, Jeanne,” Olivia said with a smile, “I think my husband is prouder than I am, but I know she will be one of the stars off the night.”
“We’ve seen the likes of Alice, Juliette and others return to the world of modelling recently. Any regrets that you are not joining them?”
“Not really,” Olivia said with a sweet smile. “I’m happy being the proud mother, both of Fiona and of Michael tonight.”
“Indeed – the chevaliers at this year’s event have been drawn from the worlds of show business as well as royalty. Mandy, you have seen the lucky twenty five for this year – do you see any potential new stars.”
“As always, darling, you are asking the wrong person,” Mandy said as she leaned forward, “but I am enjoying the opportunity to catch up with old friends and see how they have not changed over the years.”
“And we cannot ask for more than that. Ladies, thank you all for sparing some time with us.”
“Countess, may I beg a favour of you?”
“Of course Rocket, what is it?”
“I understand you see Palomino on a regular basis?”
“Yes, that is true – she is the dean of students at Abigail’s school, and I am the chair of the board of governors.”
“Would you tell her I look forward to seeing her in January? I understand she may be coming over for her uncle’s birthday, and I will be attending as well.”
“Of course I will,” Diana said as they embraced.
“I think we need to get ready ladies,” Mandy said as she stood up, “we need to be on our way by seven thirty.
"You look incredible darling." Jan looked at her daughter as they left the beauty parlor. Both women had had a full treatment, and their hair had been cut and fashioned so it fell in soft waves down their heads.
"Will he want me though?" Katy for a second had a moment of doubt.
"Looking like that
and in your dress...don't be silly darling."
"Thank you so much
for your help Mom."
"Tomorrow I will regret this, but at the moment you feel like my sister and that we are getting ready for a special joint date."
“So what now?”
“Now, a light lunch, and home to get ready – for a night like this, we need time to prepare.”
“I suppose this is the first of a few for you Tony,” Mike Harran said as he stood in the waiting room with the other chevaliers. All were wearing black tails, with white waistcoats and shirts, their white ties perfectly symmetrical, their shoes highly polished.
“It is indeed – Abigail has New York and Vienna to come, and London has not been ruled out.”
“Indeed – I know Fiona is already invited to London, as is Samantha.”
“I just got word,” Clint said as he walked over with a glass of champagne, “that Trina has an invite to Vienna now as well.”
“At least this is close to home,” Harry Cameron said as he joined them, “I love New York, but a week there?”
“That’s a real fun one, or so I’m told,” Tony said as he sipped his glass.
They all looked to the double doors, where their dance tutor stood.
“You are called to escort your debutantes to their vehicles.”
“Here we go,” Mike said as they made their way through to the next room, Tony gasping as he saw Abigail.
“So,” Abby said with a smile, “what do you think?”
“What do I think,” Tony said as he looked at the tall blonde. Abby was wearing a Coral Pink strapless dress, the bodice covered in small jewels at the breast and around the waist, while the skirt flowed in soft ripples out in a three tiered skirt, each layer gathered and ruffed. Her blonde hair was arranged in soft ringlets, as the diamond earrings and necklace sparkled in the light.
“Good, then it worked,” Abby said as she took his arm. Angel followed, also wearing a strapless dress, hers in soft peach silk with a jewelled bodice, the soft skirt flowing in soft pleats to the floor. She smiled as she took Harry’s arm, while Fiona took her brother’s. She was wearing a cream silk dress with puffed shoulders, the bodice in a Victorian style while the skirt was slightly higher at the front than the back, revealing her gold shoes.
“Let me guess – so you don’t trip,” Abby whispered, Fi nodding as the couples made their way out to the waiting Twingo’s, the press taking photos as they got in and were driven off.
Palais de Chaillot
“My dear, you look amazing,” Guy said as he held Diana’s hand while she got out of the limousine. While Guy and Will were in formal wear, Diana was wearing a gold strapless dress, with a bolero jacket, the collar turned up as her hair fell over it.
“Thank you Papa,” Dana said with a smile as Mandy got out, wearing a black dress with a deep neckline and capped sleeves. Valeria wore a grey dress with a long silver coat over it.
“Well darlings,” Mandy said as she looked at the press-lined approach to the hall, “I guess this is the most difficult part of the evening?”
“Onwards and upwards?”
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” Will said as he took Mandy’s arm, and they started the approach.
As they entered the reception room, Diana looked round at the variety of costumes and people filling the room.
"It always amazes
me the cross section of girls from round the world get invited to this thing
Papa." Diana spoke.
"Well Abby is a rarity as yet,” Mandy said, “a second-generation Le Bal debutante."
"I know. I wish they would talk of Abigail as more than a debutante. I just hope Monsieur Bern has an appropriate introduction."
"At least you don't call them celebutantes Diana." Valeria huffed, "unlike a certain very rude reporter who just tried to interview me."
"Well it's a
horrid term, but with so many of the parents having famous parents...is it
Valeria raised an
eyebrow as she said "I believe it is."
"You believe what
Aunt Valeria?" a dark haired woman in a blur robe asked as she walked over.
is a nasty word."
"Oh, well I
suppose it is a trifle vulgar."
Katerina," Diana said as she kissed the newcomer.
"Hello yourself. I
heard from Brig you wanted a word?"
"Missy asked about
me having a word with you so that she can maybe talk to Brigitte."
"Well it would be fine with me, but its Alexander you need convince."
“And where is he,” Guy said, “I could try and convince him.”
“Good luck – but talk to him after the first dance.”
“So who is accompanying Brigitte tonight?”
“Nikolai’s great nephew?”
“Indeed – he should be here somewhere as well...”
In the small anteroom, fifty young men and women were standing nervously round, sipping on their cocktails.
“So do you have a girlfriend at the moment Fi?” Abigail asked as they stood to the side.
“Not really,” The Englishwoman adjusted her glasses. “I broke up with the girl I was seeing about a month ago.”
“Oh don’t be,” Fi said with a smile, “we were arguing far too much, and she was hitting me sometimes.”
“Ouch,” Abi said as she screwed her face up, “that’s not good.”
“I know,” Fiona sighed. “It was becoming a very abusive relationship, I’m better off without her.”
“Sounds that way to me.”
Looking over at the boys, Fi smiled and said “Tony seems really nice, I think he’s the type of boy my parents once had in mind for me, especially as he went to Harrow, my Dad would very much approve.”
“He’s wonderful, his cousin setting us up was the best blind date I ever had.”
“Does he know you are bi?”
“How the hell did you know that Fiona?” Abigail turned and stared.
“I heard it on the international lesbian winds…is it true?”
“Yes,” she whispered, “but Tony doesn’t know and never will.”
“Well,” Fi said as she turned and faced her, “you are more honest about it then most.”
“It happens rarely, and it’s never a real commitment. I love Tony, but…”
“Occasionally you like a bit of variety?”
“Yes.” Abby blushed.
“Well we are going to see a lot of each other this year.” Fiona moved in close.
“Oh I think you know what I’m getting at.” Fiona lightly kissed the American.
“Speed things up ladies,” someone shouted.
“I thought I was,” Fiona giggled.
“It is time for the presentation,” the organiser called out, “will Debutantes line up in alphabetical order, cavaliers on the left please.”