Iolana had been watching the post eagerly for five days. She wasn’t sure how long it would take for a response to her letter. She wasn’t even sure how long it would take for her letter to reach its intended recipient. But no answer arrived. So she was waiting eagerly when Kayden brought the morning post in on a silver tray and set it on the occasional table in the foyer. Among the twenty-three pieces of mail was a large rose-colored envelope addressed to Mr. and Governor Staff and Miss Iolana Staff. There was a similar one addressed to Mrs. Yuah Dechantagne, Master Augustus Dechantagne, and Miss Terra Dechantagne.
Picking up the silver letter opener from beside the tray, she sliced open the envelope with her name on it. She pulled out a beautifully engrave invitation. “You are invited for tea at the home of Miss Senta Bly, 2:00 PM, Octuary 7, 1907.” This was interesting. She hadn’t even realized that the Drache Girl had returned to Port Dechantagne. Only yesterday she had been reading in the Birmisia Gazette that Senta had been shot in Mallontah. She slipped the invitation back into the enveloped and placed it with the rest of the mail.
Making her way back to the library, she took Curse of the Cloud Women, the Rikkard Banks Tatum book that she had both started and finished that morning, and returned it to its crate. She had just picked up the morning Gazette, when Kayden stepped silently into the room, carrying a silver tray with another piece of mail upon it.
“Was this in the morning post?” asked Iolana. “I’ve already gone through it.”
“Special delivery.” Kayden still had problems with his Ps and his Vs, but by deemphasizing them, he almost was able to match human speech.
Taking the gold envelope and the opener from the tray, she had sliced it open before remembering to see to whom it was addressed. Miss Iolana L.D. Staff.”
“Hmm,” she said, opening what turned out to be another invitation. “I apologize profusely for the lateness of this request, but I would greatly appreciate if you could join our luncheon today at 11:30. Due to time restrictions, no R.S.V.P. is required. Your dearest friend, Sherree Glieberman.”
“My dearest friend?” thought Iolana aloud. “If I were in hell.”
“What’s that, dear?” Auntie Yuah walked into the room as the eleven-year-old waved the lizzie major-domo out.
“I have to get ready for a luncheon date,” said Iolana. “I’ve been invited to the Glieberman’s.”
“Didn’t you say the girl was a twat?”
“I’m sure I didn’t use that term.”
Her aunt shrugged.
“There’s an invitation for you with the mail,” said Iolana. “Tea with the Drache Girl it seems.”
“Really?” exclaimed Yuah, turning and heading for the foyer.
Iolana took the back hallway and the narrow back stairs up to the second floor and stepped into her room to change. She expected to find Esther lying on the floor, but the lizzie was not present. Stepping back out, she walked up past the balcony to the nursery where she found her playing the Birmisia block game with Terra.
“I need Esther for a minute,” she told her cousin. “You can have her back after I get dressed.”
“Don’t bother,” said Terra. “I don’t want to play anymore. She keeps beating me.”
Back in her room, Iolana chose a pink skirt and a white blouse, which she paired with a pink bowtie. She wasn’t sure who else would be there—she couldn’t imagine Sherree inviting only her—but it would be a sure thing that there would no Zaeri. She wouldn’t need to worry about outshining anyone. This reminded her that she should have Willa over to visit some time. Placing her red boater on her head, she started off.
“You can stay in here if you’re done playing with Terra,” she told Esther as she went out the door.
She found Walworth downstairs in the kitchen, not unexpectedly eating a sandwich.
“What is it my father pays you for, Wally?”
“Huh? He, um… for driving.”
“Well then, fancy driving me to the Glieberman House?”
“That’s what they pay me… oh, yeah.”
It took Wally almost fifteen minutes to get the steam carriage warmed up enough to set out, and took less than ten minutes to reach Iolana’s destination. The Gliebermans had recently moved into the same affluent neighborhood that the Staffs had always lived in. Their new house was several blocks south on Imperial Avenue. Iolana could have probably walked there in five minutes, but that would have meant crossing several vacant lots in between. Though the mud had dried up in the summer, the untamed areas within the city were filled with sticker bushes, and sometimes velociraptors.
The Gliebermans’ home was very much in the Freedonian style with square columns and square porches on both levels of the two-story home. The upper porch was enclosed with wire screening and porch swings, along with some iron chairs were featured in both locations. To Iolana’s mind it looked pretentious and grandiose. She sent Wally on home and walked up the steps.
The lizzie butler showed her in to the parlor which the Gliebermans insisted on calling the drawing room. Five girls waited sitting in chairs that had been arranged into a half circle. Sherree was in the center, with her perpetual shadow Talli Archer to her right. The others were all girls from their group: Najwa Melroy, Mona Stephenson, and Tildy Wolfsohn. Talli and Najwa were both patting Sherree on the shoulder while she cried into a handkerchief.
“What’s going on?” asked Iolana, taking an empty chair.
“Walter has thrown Sherree over,” said Talli.
“Oh, well maybe he’s just upset about his brother and all.”
“No, he’s already taken up with that horrible Wenda Lanier.”
“I would have thought she was out of his league,” said Iolana.
“What do you mean?” demanded Sherree, her giant eyes glaring. “She’s not nearly good enough for him.”
“Oh, well, um… what I mean…” Iolana’s voice just sort of trailed off. She really had no idea what to say.