“Come, my darling, we are late,” said a tall, graceful, brown haired woman as she hurried out her door.
“I’m coming, Mother,” her fair haired, blue eyed daughter replied, trotting after her mother.
“Your father had better not be late either,” the woman said, mostly to herself.
“Mother,” the girl said, clutching her mother’s embroidered skirts. “Mother, where are we going?”
The woman smiled down at her daughter, straitening a red bow in her blond hair. “Did you not hear anything at all when you had your pretty little nose buried in your books?” she said, touching her nose. “We are going to your grandfather’s house.”
“Oh,” she replied. “And father is going to be there?”
The woman smiled once more. “Yes Felicia, my dear. And Uncle Mark, Auntie Mei, and Uncle Jeff.”
Felicia wrinkled her little nose. “Uncle Jeff is crazy,” she complained.
Laughing, her mother answered, “Yes, his is a bit odd. But we’ve something important to discuss and he must be there.” She paused. “And you need to behave yourself while we are talking,” she added.
“Yes mother,” Felicia said gravely, as if she wouldn’t dream of misbehaving. “Will we be there long?” she asked.
A frown touched the beautiful woman’s face. “I don’t know Felicia, darling.” The little girl looked up to her mother’s face her eyes holding a silent plea. Smiling again, she added, “But the moment we’re done, you can go explore with your little friends.”
Felicia’s face lit up with excitement at that, and she hugged her mother as best she could while walking.
They had reached the drive to the old manor house. The woman smiled at the familiarity of it then hurried to the door, her daughter trailing behind her. The door opened and a tall man with short graying hair emerged. “Ah, Mrs. Tallond, we’ve been expecting you. And here is the lovely Felicia.” He bowed to them and Felicia stifled a giggle. “Right this way,” he continued, pretending he didn’t hear and standing aside to let them pass. “Down the hall then up the stairs to your—“
“I know, Raymond, I grew up here,” the woman answered with an air of annoyance.
“Of course you did, Mrs. Tallond,” he said, bowing again. She rolled her eyes then started down the hall, taking her daughter’s hand in hers.
At the top of the stairs, a figure was waiting for them. “Alex,” he called when he saw them, spreading his arms wide.
“Mark,” replied Alexia, embracing her brother. Mark smiled down at Felicia. “Hello there. How’s my favorite niece?”
Felicia grinned back. “Hello, Uncle Mark.”
Still smiling, Mark put his arm around his sister’s shoulder and took his niece’s hand. “Let’s go see your father, shall we?”
They walked like this down the hall and to the right into the study. Alexia remembered how so long ago, she and Mark had raced down this very hall to be told of the school they were to go to…
“Alexia,” boomed a voice, breaking here out of her thoughts. “We were beginning to think you weren’t coming!” Felicia grimaced, recognizing the voice of Uncle Jeff. She allowed herself to be pulled in the room by her Uncle Mark then immediately walked pass Mark’s new wife Mei to her father.
Unfortunately, she didn’t escape the notice of Jeff. “Felicia,” he said fondly. He scrutinized her face. “You look so much like your mother. Except for your hair. Where on Earth did that blond hair come from? Your father’s hair is nothing like it either. Though you do have your father’s nose. Leonard, do you know where she gets that beautiful blond hair from?”
Leonard smiled down at his daughter whose chagrin was plainly visible on her face. “My hair was precisely that color when I was her age. Alexia wouldn’t remember, it darkened a few years before we met,” he said, squeezing Felicia’s arm. Just then, Lord Stavis walked out of the shadows. He gazed at his granddaughter affectionately before clearing his throat. “Now that Alexia has arrived, we may begin.”
Alexia rolled her eyes. She knew from experience that her father enjoyed speaking, so she walked over to her husband and daughter and made herself comfortable.
“As you know,” he continued, “Josaphine has just passed away.”
Mark looked surprised. “She was still alive?” Mei slapped his shoulder and he grinned. “I was just kidding,” he said, “Please continue, father.”