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TEN – HOMECOMING
The rest of the family had already begun eating when Ivy skidded into the dining room.
Her uncle, Daniel, had seated himself at the head of the table, as usual. To his left sat Aunt Brittany; to his right, his son Colin. Next to Colin, Ivy’s cousins Dexter and Lydia picked at their food. Tony’s sister Morgan had perched herself at the far end of the table. She watched the rest of the family carefully from under her red hair.
Plotting how to become mistress of the house, thought Ivy.
Beside Aunt Annie sat Uncle Webster and his wife Maria.
“Ivy Silver,” said Daniel as Ivy entered the room, “good of you to grace us with your presence. I trust you’ve had a pleasant day, whatever mischief you may have been up to.”
Annie rose as her brother spoke. “Darling,” she said, “it’s so good to see you. We were worried.”
“You needn’t have,” said Ivy. “I’m a big girl now. I can take care of myself.”
“So I’ve heard,” said Colin.
Dexter and Lydia snickered.
Ivy ignored them and took a seat next to Maria. Webster’s wife was a pleasant woman with black hair and dark eyes that betrayed the Spanish side of her heritage. It had taken years for the family to get used to her.
“Where’s Justin?” Ivy asked, looking around the table. She didn’t need to ask about Tony or Grandpa. Tony didn’t live in the house and seldom ate with the family. And Grandpa always took dinner in his room.
“My son had work to do at the museum,” answered Webster, wiping some food from his grey mustache. “I expect we’ll see him for breakfast, though.”
Maria nodded, “He said we should wish you a happy birthday for him.”
“Thank you,” said Ivy.
“How could I have forgotten,” said Colin in mock horror, slapping his forehead with his palm. “I suppose a toast is in order.” He raised his wine glass. “To Ivy Silver Frost, who next year will be old enough to drink with us.”
“Hear hear!” echoed the others, doing the same.
Daniel turned to a nearby steward. “Oh, do pour her a glass, Selby. It is her birthday, after all.”
“I’m shocked, father,” said Colin. “Imagine you breaking the law!”
Daniel merely glowered at his eldest son.
“Thank you, Selby,” said Ivy, accepting her glass and taking a sip. The goblet held an excellent, amber-colored vintage that tasted sweet and burned with a gentle fire going down. “Thank you all.”
As she spoke, several other servants set her place and served her food.
“My brother said you should stop by his studio when you could,” said Morgan. “He has something for you there.”
“Alas,” moaned Colin. “I’ve once again forgotten to buy a birthday present.” He smiled at Ivy. “I’m sure I could find something for you later, though. If you’d care to come up to my room.”
Daniel cleared his throat. “I think that will be quite enough, Colin. We are a family, after all, and not a zoo exhibit.”
Ivy smiled courteously to her uncle and worked on her fish. The menu, as always, proved excellent. But even good cuisine could become pedestrian after a while. Between the food and the jibes, it was just another typical Frost family meal.
Ivy found herself longing for a picnic basket in the park.
After dinner they served a small cake in her honor. Ivy blew out the single candle to another round of toasts. When the cake had gone, the family members drifted off to their separate chambers. Colin gave a final bawdy toast and threw his glass into the fireplace before leaving.
Before he left, Daniel said to Ivy, “I hope you’ll soon feel well enough to come back to work. Don’t worry about the bandage and sling.”
“When I feel up to it,” Ivy replied. “Maybe in a couple of days.”
Her uncle nodded and exited the room. Dexter and Lydia, Daniel’s younger children from his first marriage, lingered behind.
“We’ve something for you,” said Dexter, taking two small packages wrapped in white crepe paper from one of the side tables.
“This is from me,” he said, handing Ivy one of the presents. “It’s a family coat of arms with your name in it.”
“Don’t tell her, you idiot!” Lydia said affectionately. “It’s supposed to be a surprise.”
The way the two of them acted sometimes, Ivy had trouble believing that the siblings were almost eight years older than she.
“I just thought Ivy might want to open it later in her room,” said Dexter, “and I wanted her to know what I’d given her.”
“Well, my brother is a boob,” said Lydia, “but his heart’s in the right place.
“I’ve gotten you something more practical,” she continued, handing Ivy the other package.
Ivy opened it. “A subscription to National Geographic?” she asked.
“For those times when you want to get away from all this,” said Lydia, indicating the mansion with a flourish of her hand.
Ivy smiled. “Thank you both. Thank you for remembering.” She tucked the presents under her arm and headed for her room. Colin’s brother and sister turned and walked toward the parlor.
After she’d locked her door, Ivy called Cassandra Peters on the phone. Cassie had been Ivy’s best friend ever since the youngest Frost returned from New York. The two hooked up during high school and stayed together through thick and thin ever since. Aside from Tony, Cassie had visited Ivy the most while she’d been in the hospital.
Cassie picked up the phone on the second ring. “Peters’ Playmates, girl of your dreams now available, only a phone call away. Are you young, male, and single?”
“Hi, Cassie, it’s me.”
“Ivy. How are you? I called the hospital, but they said you’d made a break for it. The docs caught you yet?”
“Nope. I had a good man on the outside who helped with the getaway.”
On the other end of the line, Cassie stopped typing on her computer, and Ivy could imagine her best friend shaking her black hair off her shoulders, and settling into her chair for a long chat. “Do tell. Who’s the lucky hunk?”
“Ivy, you cat! I knew you had eyes for him! But be careful. I hear that most women fall for guys who save their lives—but it’s only temporary. They use you; you lose them. Does your uncle know?”
“That Grant picked me up?” asked Ivy. “Not unless the company’s spies at the hospital told him.”
“I’m sure they have by now,” Cassie noted. Ivy heard her take a sip of something, probably a Diet Pepsi. “So, go on, what are the juicy details?”
“Cassie,” Ivy replied, just a bit peeved, “nothing happened. We just talked. Renewed our old friendship.”
“So you say,” said Cassie. “When do I meet him?”
Ivy chuckled. “You’re such a guy-magnet I’m surprised you haven’t met him yet.”
Cassie’s voice assumed the tone of a jaded movie star. “Perhaps I have, dah-ling. I’ve known so many men, you know.” She resumed her normal voice. “Got any plans to get him in the sack?”
“Jesus, Cassie! We haven’t seen each other for years. It’s not like the first thing I thought about was jumping his bones.” She kicked off her shoes and lay down on her bed. “Besides, I don’t think I’ve recovered enough for any serious recreation.”
“You always were a slow starter.”
Ivy switched off the light and shadows engulfed her room. “And you always were a loose woman, Cassie Peters.”
“The kind men like,” added Cassie.
“Not the men I date,” said Ivy.
“Your loss,” said Cassie. “But let me know if you need a pinch-hitter with Grant. I can’t wait to meet him.”
TO BE CONTINUED…