Upper East Side, Manhattan
I stood nervously in my bedroom, awaiting the summons from the foyer that would initiate my courtship. I’d had a crush on Gordon Rivington for so long I couldn’t contain my excitement that he had actually consented to be my escort for the International Debutante Ball.
“Cassie,” my mother said absently as she smoothed my ivory dress. “I know you know this, but I just want to make it clear that it is very important that you impress Gordon this evening.”
It was no problem to agree.
I wanted to impress him.
I wanted to marry him, in three years, once I turned eighteen, just like my father and Gordon’s father had tentatively agreed.
I was thrilled.
“Oh, Gordon,” I sighed under my breath two hours later, in the ladies lounge of the Waldorf Astoria, adjusting my crinolines. He was everything a girl could want: cute, attentive, with a solid pedigree. If everything went well tonight, and he acquiesced to our fathers’ hopes, I’d be set.
Happily ever after, here I come.
Now, if he would only kiss me …
“You’re only fifteen, Cassie,” he said with patient amusement as he hugged me to him. He turned me out and around then, to escort me inside my house. “We’ll get there.” I shivered at the light touch of his hand on my back and couldn’t wait for my wedding, because there would be one.
“Stop fidgeting!” my mother hissed at me three years later as she smoothed my wedding dress, all white and princessy.
I knew she was stressed out, but I couldn’t help my excitement.
By the end of the day, I’d be Mrs. Gordon Rivington, and if all went well (and I had no reason to think it wouldn’t), in nine months, I’d have a baby. Ten at the latest. I was a good girl. I did what I was told and thus far, what I’d been told to do was right up my alley.
My bridesmaids were as fluttery as I was, and when they squealed, I squealed. When I squealed, they squealed. It was exciting!
I looked down at the peach and slate blue bouquet in my hands, thinking I’d never seen anything prettier, but then my mother turned me to face the glass, and I thought I saw a glimmer of a tear in her eye.
“Oh, Cassie,” she said, sounding a little sad.
That confused me.
“You and I will need to have a little chat in a couple of years,” she murmured, refusing to meet my eyes in the mirror, while she busied herself picking nonexistent lint off my dress.
“Mm, well … Just something old married women talk about.” She laughed, but it sounded a little hollow. “Must wait until you’re an old married woman to talk about it.”
I looked at her a little longer, wondering why she was being such a downer all of a sudden, but one of my bridesmaids squealed again, and opened the door of the dressing room to admit my father, all decked out in a morning coat.
“Ready?” he asked, his face really no cheerier than my mother’s and I wondered …
“Are you okay, Daddy?” I asked.
He smiled then.
“Just a bit sad to see my little girl all grown up now, getting married, starting her own life.”
“Just like a fairy tale, huh?” I wanted to shimmy and shake and shout with glee.
“Yeah,” he said. “Just like a fairy tale.”
“Oh, Daddy!” I said and swept to him, threw myself in his arms. “Thank you thank you thank you so much!”
He hugged me. Barely.
What was up with my parents today? Couldn’t they at least pretend to be happy for me, even though I was leaving them?
My mother herded my bridesmaids out of the dressing room and closed the door behind her. My father looked over his shoulder then dropped to his knees in front of me. “Cassie,” he whispered. “You don’t have to do this.”
I stared down at his face, pleading, his eyes, too, shimmering with tears. “What’s going on? You know I love Gordon. I’ve always loved Gordon.”
He opened his mouth as if to speak. Closed it. Opened it. Then sighed and looked away.
“Daddy,” I said. “It’s okay. I’m not moving over to the West Side or anything, just a couple of blocks away.”
“Um, right. Of course. How silly of me. Let’s go get you married off.”
By the time I realized why my father had had cold feet on my behalf, I had four children, all girls: a five-year-old, a three-year-old, and a set of 18-month-old twins.
And my mother still hadn’t found a time to have that talk with me.