TEN – OUT OF THE BAG
The clock radio ticked on, sending tinny echoes off the walls of Ivy Frost’s room at Frost Hall.
Ivy stretched and tried to push the remnants of a yummy dream out of her mind. The dream had been about Grant, of course, and Ivy hadn’t wanted it to end.
But she knew she’d see Grant in the flesh soon enough, so she hopped out of bed and into the shower.
After dressing, she made her way through the mansion’s winding corridors to the breakfast room downstairs. The chamber—far too big to be called a breakfast nook—lay next to the dining room and overlooked one of Frost Hall’s open-air courts. It was pleasant without being overly bright in the morning.
Of course, very few of Frost Hall’s rooms could be called “bright” at any time of the day or night. Ivy wondered sometimes whether the hall’s builders had an aversion to sunlight.
In any case, the breakfast room usually felt warm and pleasant during the morning hours, and today was no exception. It even had its own fireplace for particularly chilly mornings.
As Ivy entered, she found her Uncle Daniel, the head of the family, seated at the table, reading one of his morning papers. He looked dour and imposing as usual. None of her other relatives were at breakfast yet. This didn’t surprise Ivy; most of them were late risers.
Ivy, however, had a sense of duty and responsibility that many of her relations lacked. She prided herself on being at work on time—even if it was only the family business. She poured herself a glass of milk from a pitcher on the table and sat.
“Good morning, uncle,” she said pleasantly, reaching for a covered platter that she knew contained ham, pancakes, and eggs.
Daniel Frost lowered his paper, his face instantly betraying to Ivy that something was wrong. He wore a grim mien that he usually reserved for business meetings and corporate firings.
“I’m very disappointed in you, young lady,” he said, his usually booming voice barely more than a whisper.
That frightened Ivy. Usually, Daniel could be heard clearly across an auditorium without even raising his voice. She didn’t remember ever hearing this tone before.
“What’s wrong, Uncle?” she asked, arching her eyebrows, a cold knot growing in her stomach.
“What’s wrong, indeed? Do you think I’m blind? Do you think I never watch the news?”
“What news?” asked Ivy, genuinely confused, the knot in her stomach pulling tighter. “What are you talking about?”
“The news last night. Surely you heard? You were there, after all. Remember? The body being discovered at young Winslow’s construction site?”
A sinking feeling came over Ivy, and she slouched in her chair. She knew now what was coming. “Oh,” she said.
“Oh?” said Daniel, raising his iron grey eyebrows only slightly. “Is that all you have to say for yourself? Just how long have you been carrying on with that young Winslow roustabout, and when did you intend to tell the family about it?”
Ivy tried to summon up her courage, but not much came. She’d spent too many years in Daniel’s shadow not to fear his wrath. She took a deep breath.
“We’ve been going out for a couple of months now,” she replied, trying to remain calm. “Since right after my accident, in fact.”
“Ah, so that’s it, then. Because he saved your life, you feel you owe him a debt of gratitude? Let me tell you, young lady, no Frost has ever owed a Winslow anything.”
That broke the spell. Ivy remembered the lessons she’d learned about asserting herself over the past few months. She felt righteous anger welling up within her.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” she said, “I don’t feel like I owe Grant anything. I just like him, that’s all. He and I were friends—despite the efforts of both our families—before my parents moved east, and we’re friends again. I’m sorry if that bothers you.”
“From what I saw on the videotape last night, it looks like the two of you are more than friends. Shall I have the station manager send a copy of the tape along so you can see for yourself?”
Ivy knitted her brows and forced herself to remain calm. As always, Daniel knew just the words to say to get to her. She hadn’t been paying attention to the cameras yesterday. Like everyone else, she’d been caught up in the drama of the moment. This wasn’t the way she wanted her uncle to find out about her and Grant. Still, he had found out, so….
“Grant and I don’t have anything to hide,” she said, willing the quiver out of her voice. “We’re friends. We’re dating. We’re both adults and we can see who we like. I’m sorry you found out this way. I was going to tell you when I was sure how serious we are about each other.”
“Serious?!” Dan’s voice had resumed its normal, operatic tones. Somehow, Ivy found it more comforting to be yelled at than whispered to by him. “Is our family honor and reputation serious to you? Don’t you remember whom the land Winslow is building on truly belongs to?”
Ah! So that was it. The old feud.
“Uncle, it’s not Grant’s fault his uncle Abner bought Winslow Hills from Grandfather.”
“Frost Hills, you mean. And Winslow stole it more than bought it. He took advantage of Father’s weaknesses.”
“That’s hardly Grant’s fault.”
“Whether it is or not, you know our family has been trying to regain that property ever since. That fact is also well known in town. What will people think if a Frost is seen gallivanting about with the Winslows?”
Ivy crossed her arms in front of her chest and leaned back in her chair.
“They’ll probably think this silly feud is over—as it should have been years ago,” she said sternly.
“This will never be over. Not while the Winslows still hold that property.”
Ivy lifted the cover of the breakfast platter and speared a pancake with her fork.
“Uncle,” she said calmly, “would you please pass me the maple syrup?”