Missy looked in her mirror and thought she looked particularly pretty in her pink top and shorts. She pursed her lips, smirked at herself in the mirror, and flipped her long dark hair over her shoulder. She picked up her phone and typed a text to Carl, her fiancé. Has RE agent called? Are we clear to close on house? Meet me at train station at 11:15. Let’s do lunch in Portlandia & shop for furniture. Papa says new shipment in from Italy. Love and Hugs. M.
With her head full of settees, side tables and easy chairs, she shoved her phone in her pocket and ran downstairs for breakfast. She opened the door to the dining room. Her whole family sat silently around the breakfast table, not even looking up when she entered. She moved to the side board and glanced in the mirror behind the buffet where she slid cheese and fruit onto her plate. Even Uncle Leroy was home. She scowled trying to remember what the driver who picked her up from the train yesterday had said about Uncle Leroy. She’d tuned the driver out as she tried to decide what color to paint her new dining room. She gave up trying to remember and put some grapes on her plate. Really, people shouldn’t expect an engaged women to think about their worries when she had so many decisions to make, and her new in-laws would be just waiting to criticize any mistake.
She set her plate down beside her mama. “My finals were really exhausting. I think I had to sing for almost two hours for my oral exams. They just kept throwing more music at me and telling me to sing that. I think I did fine.” She ate a grape with her fingers then wiped them on her napkin. She expected someone to praise her for finishing university, but nobody spoke. She shrugged then remembered her errands for the day. “Mama, I hope you don’t have anything planned for me for today, because Carl wants to go shopping for furniture this afternoon.”
Papa growled and tossed his folded paper toward Missy. It landed in her plate. “Can you explain this?”
Missy scowled at her papa for messing up her breakfast, picked up the paper and began to read.
Mr. And Mrs. Jean Fortenac together with Mr. And Mrs. C Vanderholm, are pleased to announce the engagement of their children Miss Collette Fortenac to Mr Carl Vanderholm Jr. The couple plans…
Missy reread Mr. Carl Vanderholm Jr., let out a shriek, and left the table. Stumbling and bumping into furniture on her way, Missy ran for the privacy of her room. Taking the stairs two at a time made her heart pound enough that blood returned to her brain. She slammed her bedroom door and pulled out her cell phone. Her first impulse was to call Carl. What if he refuses to answer? She kicked at a footstool then threw herself on her bed. Her mind raced. Who can I call about this?
She scrolled through her contacts until she came to Henry Fortenac, Carl’s best friend and Collette’s older brother. She punched speed dial.
“Missy? What’s up?”
“Did you get home okay?” Missy remembered her Uncle Leroy telling her, if you get someone answering simple questions first, they’re more likely to answer when you ask the big question.
“Yeah. No problem.” Henry raised his eyebrows at Carl, who was sitting beside him.
“How did your finals go?”
“I was absolutely exhausted when I got out of mine. I came home and went straight to bed and just got up. Somebody said something about riots?”
“Uh. Not riots. President Morelli ordered a purge on the prosecutor’s offices.”
“Oh no. I didn’t hear the details. Was anybody we know injured? What about Derran? He’s doing his internship.”
Henry rolled his shoulders and grinned his lopsided grin, feeling pleased to know more about the latest news than Missy did. “Yeah. Morelli ordered the purge, but some traitor tipped off the army, so Morelli’s militia walked into a trap. I think Derran is okay. Nobody in the capital was killed except for a couple militia.”
Good. Henry had turned chatty. “Oh that sounds horrid. I better call Lucy right away and see how Derran is.” Missy’s heart pounded. “So, is Carl really going to marry your sister?”
“Um…yeah…listen, I can explain.”
Missy felt lightheaded and just wanted to get off the phone. “I really want to go and call Lucy to check on Derran, and then I should check in with Caroline to see if she got home okay.” Missy disconnected the call and hurled her phone across the room. It hit the wall and dropped to the floor with a cracked screen.
Henry disconnected and stood staring at his phone.
Carl watched him. “What did she say? Was she really angry?”
“Um, no. She was more concerned about the purge and …” Henry shrugged not wanting to tell his best friend that the woman he’d been screwing for the past three years was more concerned about another man than her fiancé…ex-fiance. He bent over to tie his shoe and hide his face from Carl. Missy had every right to be angry over the announcement in the paper, but she didn’t care. Was there something Carl hadn’t told him?
Missy lay on her bed too immobilized by fury to move or speak for at least an hour. She never ever wanted to see anybody ever again, never. How could she hold her head up in society? She could easily kill Carl. Maybe poison him. Yeah, poison in his whisky or maybe an uncut hit of heroin would look like an accident. Her papa had been angry this morning. He’d be even more angry if he knew she and Carl had been making love every chance they got. How could Carl break off their engagement? He hadn’t even had the decency to do it in person. She kicked the bed and thought about screaming into her pillow. Should she just get drunk for the next year ‘till this all blew over? How could she face her friends? What would Miss Perfect Lucy with her faithful fiancé say? Missy slitted her eyes and sat up. Lucy would say something kind and understanding. I’m so sorry for your hurt. Is there anything I can do? Missy’s lip curled. “Oh yes, Miss Lucy there is something you can do. I’m going to hide out at your mountain resort where I won’t have to face anybody, who is anybody.” Missy tossed her head and slid off her bed. She smiled. Not only was Lucy’s house a good place to hide out, Carl hated Lucy for being smarter than him. She’d have to make sure he knew where she went.
An hour later, Missy, dressed in jeans and a blouse layered over a tee, rapped on the door to her papa’s study.
She entered with an envelope in her hand and put it on his desk. “This is the engagement ring Carl gave me. Can you see that it is returned properly. And, this is the business card for the real estate agent. I put money down on that house. Can you see that I get it back?” She glanced sideways to see her Uncle Leroy, one of the most famous prosecutors in the country, watching her.
He leaned forward, “You entered into a purchase agreement to buy a house with Carl?”
Her uncle grinned. “This does constitute a legal contract, more than an engagement. Can I sue them?” He rubbed his hands together. “I love taking the Vanderholm's ill gotten money away from them in court.”
Missy scowled at Uncle Leroy. “I’d rather that people didn’t know I got dumped. I’m going to stay with Lucy McKinsey and help her plan her wedding.”
Leroy grinned broader. “Good choice.” He rubbed his hands together. “If you don’t want to sue, we can still do damage control. What about? You suspected Carl’s family had a role in the recent attempted purge on the prosecutor’s offices and refuse to align yourself with a bunch of crooks. For your safely, we aren’t making public statements about your whereabouts.”
For the first time in her life Missy looked at her famous uncle with something like admiration. “Um, can you do that?”
“Make people think you dumped Carl because his family is crooks?” Leroy chuckled. “Easiest thing in the world. Give Lucy’s family my love and tell them I’ll come visit as soon as things settle down here.”
Carl walked his new fiancé through the formal gardens at her home and half-listened as she rattled on about her finishing school in France. He didn’t understand half of what penetrated into his brain because her chatter was heavily laced with French words. He had enough problems of his own. I wonder how upset Missy is? I know her heart is broken. I really should explain to her what happened. Yeah, I’ll tell her that my parents insisted or they’d cut off my allowance, and that I still love her. She can live in the house in Littleton and we’ll…”
Missy stepped down from the train in Kun Village. For the first time since she left home she realized she had no idea how to find Lucy’s house. She looked around. The village had one street, a few buildings and a few more large trees.
The stationmaster bustled forward. “Let me help you with your bag. Is someone picking you up?”
“Um no. I’m friends with Lucy McKinsey and …”
“Oh, here’s Miss S’RA. She’ll take care of you.”
Missy held out her arms to Lucy’s older sister. “There you are. I’ve been so worried about Lucy and Derran with the purge in the prosecutor’s offices and all. I tried to reach Lucy and tell her I was coming, but she didn’t answer her phone.” She leaned closer to S’RA. “Uncle Leroy insisted I leave home immediately and said Lucy’s place is safe.” Missy had no idea that Lucy’s home had been a haven for refugees from the previous government.
S’RA nodded once. “Let me get these medicines shipped off then my assistant can run you up the mountain.” She bustled off to pass some boxes of natural medications to the train conductor, then returned to introduce Missy to the boy who could take her to Lucy.
Missy scowled at the ancient truck and the spotted young farmer.
S’RA said, “He’s a student at our school and interested in learning music and acting.”
Missy gingerly climbed into the ancient, rusted Chevy truck. It seemed clean enough inside—dusty, but no fast food wrappers.
The young driver started the engine, let off the brake and started talking. “I’m Hau. Mr. Kenny is teaching me to sing. I saw them do Fiddler on the Roof and decided right then and there that I wanted to be in plays. I have to learn to read, but Miss Ruth has been helping me. You should hear Miss Ruth sing. She took lessons from Johan Puloski…”
An hour and a half later, Hau stopped his truck in front of Lucy’s house. “…says we’ll start a new play this week. I don’t know what it is yet. Everybody was waiting for Lucy to get home before they decided.”
For the hundredth time since she’d left the village, Missy wanted to put her fingers in her ears to shut out the flow of words. She prepared to slide out of the truck.
Lucy’s front door flew open, and Lucy ran out to the side of the road. “Missy, what on earth? S’RA called and said you were on the way.”
Missy let Lucy give her a hug. “How’s Derran? Did you get home okay? Did you learn about the purge in time?”
Lucy nodded. “Barely.”
Missy squeezed Lucy’s arm. “Good. I was so worried. I went straight home. Uncle Leroy said I should come here because I might not be safe at home.” Missy tried to make her eyes look big and frightened.
“I called Uncle Leroy after S’RA called and told me you were on your way up.” Lucy looked away wondering for the ten thousandth time how much of life was a lie and if she could ever stop lying. “He explained about you breaking up with Carl. If you even suspect the Vanderholms were involved in the purge, I can’t blame you for wanting out, but the family can be savage if they think you embarrassed them.”
“Oh they quickly made up a story about him being engaged to Collette Fortenac.”
“I heard about that, but your friends will all know the truth. Where do you want to stay? I have a guest room. We have rooms at the lodge, and Grandpapa has rooms. At Grandpapa’s house you can have a suite. The Corbains are at the lodge.”
“I’ll stay with you.”
Lucy’s heart sank.
Carl hung over the toilet vomiting up last night’s whisky. I’ll call Missy today and tell her how drunk I was last night because I miss her. He rubbed at his crotch. No wonder I had to get so drunk last night, I haven’t gotten laid in days. I’ve got to see Missy.
Missy stood on a high hillside and looked out across the mountains, wondering if she’d go crazy trapped in such a desolate place. “That boy who gave me a ride up here said something about being in a play and seeing Fiddler. Who does plays?”
Lucy bent and picked up a piece of lichen off the rock, playing with it with her fingers. “Our school put on Fiddler. We have a director, Mr. Ellis, who is looking over more material. I keep suggesting something simple like silly melodramas, but I always get outvoted by my sisters who love musicals. We’ve talked about doing some operas, but really, the girls need more voice training before they can do something that challenging.”
Missy kicked at the scrubby grass. “Would you like me to evaluate where they’re at and suggest what they need next. Half of singing is doing exercises and the other half is breathing.”
Lucy smiled and started walking down the mountain. “If you’d like. Once you’ve toured the wind farm, high valley and the hot springs, there isn’t much to do here, so if you don’t want to go crazy with boredom, you’ll have to find something to keep you entertained.”
Missy immediately saw the wisdom of Lucy’s comment as boredom loomed over her at the very mention of touring a wind farm.
Carl called Missy’s number expecting her to answer immediately. He had no idea her phone lay on a bed in Lucy’s guest room while Missy wondered how long it would take to lose her mind from boredom as she trudged behind Lucy toward the wind farm.
Carl stared at the phone when it went to voicemail. Missy hadn’t answered. Maybe he’d dialed the wrong number. He called again, and again got sent to voicemail. “Missy, sweetheart, we have to talk. I know you’re upset. I was so upset when I got your ring back I drank most of a bottle of whisky until I passed out.” There, that should bring her around. I should do something nice for her before we go to bed. I know, I’ll take her to dinner in Portlandia then we can go out to our yacht and have sex. Carl rubbed his crotch in anticipation.
Missy dropped into bed that night without looking at her phone. She rubbed at her back and wondered what part of her body hurt the most from hiking up and down the mountain. Mrs. Millicent Corbain had found her after dinner and urged her to sit in the hot pools to relax her muscles. It’s good I brought my bathing suit. If I have to hike as much as I did today, I may spend half my time soaking in hot pools. I think I have a blister on my foot. She fell into a deep sleep.
Carl tossed and turned. He hadn’t lived this long without sex since he was fifteen and started banging his sister’s nanny. He’d tried relieving himself, but it wasn’t the same. Tomorrow, I’ll call Collette. If I can’t talk Missy around, Collette’s my fiancé and she should start delivering. Maybe Missy’ll answer her phone tomorrow. She must still be on her bed crying. He felt a twinge of compassion for the weeping Missy. She must be heartbroken. I’ll stroke her hair and say I love her and how I’ve been so angry with Papa. That will make things right with her, and we can move into our house in Littleton. She’ll be so happy with keeping house and being in bed with me that she won’t mind when I marry Colette.
The sound of boys laughing drifted in through Missy’s second floor window and woke her. She squinted at the clock in her room. Scaly. It isn’t even seven yet. She staggered into the hall and met two girls she’d seen last night but she couldn’t remember their names.
Before eight, Lucy led, the still sleepy, Missy across the road to the big house. “Come on. I promise there will be hot tea. It’s a little chilly outside, so we’ll eat inside this morning. Usually we cook and eat outside.”
“We all do. Grandpapa insists that we all must learn to cook. Don’t let him know you’ve never cooked, or he’ll have you chopping onions and grinding beans.”
Missy grimaced at Lucy and followed her to the big house and through the buffet line, then sat at a table with her back to the windows. She sipped her tea and poked at the berry cobbler in front of her. A door banged closed behind her. She jumped, startled by the noise.
A rich baritone began to sing, “To…dream.” He held the first full, perfect, round note longer than the music required.
Missy turned toward the door. Lucy’s brother, Kenny, stepped up on a chair. “…The impossible dream…”
Missy’s mouth dropped open.
Kenny lightly stepped up on the table, threw out his arms as if to embrace the whole world and belted out, “…to run, where the brave dare not go.”
The world disappeared around Missy as she hung on each perfect note of the song she knew was challenging to sing. How had she ever believed that she could live her life without being surrounded by such beauty and perfection? Here was life. Here was majesty. Here was everything that mattered.
Lucy glanced at her brother standing on the table and took another bite of her cobbler. She closed her eyes and savored the sweet-tart taste of the rare treat. She opened her eyes and smiled at Kenny’s command of his song. She glanced at Missy. After years of caring for younger children in the orphanage, her hand reflexively closed around her napkin folding it into a point to reach out and wipe the drool from the corner of Missy’s mouth. Lucy caught herself just in time.
Kenny finished his song and leapt to the floor with the grace of a dancer. Missy continued to stare.
Lucy brushed a strand of hair off her cheek and said, “I guess we’re doing Man of LaMancha next. I wonder who wants to play Dulcinea?”
“Me.” Missy stood. “I’ll play Dulcinea.”
Carl scratched his crotch as he went in search of breakfast. Surely today, Missy’ll forgive me for getting engaged to Collette. I know she’s heartbroken. I’ll tell her we need to close on our house in Littleton. That’ll make her happy. He went down to breakfast with visions of a naked Missy dancing through his head.