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He sat at my feet on the chaise longue. Then he looked around with scrutinizing eyes and nodded.

“I’d say the place is back up to snuff, wouldn’t you, Lucille?”

Lucille? He turned to me, anticipating that I would continue the make-believe.

“No,” I said. “I found a tissue on the East Lawn.”

He roared. “Well, we’ll have to see who was responsible for that area and have him whipped.”

“Boiled in oil.”

“Skinned alive. Shall we think about dinner?”

“Is it the proper time to think about dinner?”

He looked at his watch. “One minute past the proper time.”

“Then we’ll think about it,” I said.

He leaned forward. “I took the liberty of buying us Chinese take-out. Why don’t you go in and dress for dinner, and I’ll see to it that everything is warmed up properly?”

“I expected nothing less,” I told him, and rose. He stood and held out his arm. I put my hand on it, and the two of us walked in step toward the house, holding our bodies and our heads in an exaggeratedly perfect arrogant royal posture. I did the best I could holding back my laughter, but when we reached the house, it burst forth like water crashing through a dam.

“Now, now,” he said. “If you’re going to laugh, laugh like a lady.”


I pulled myself in again and headed for the stairway.

“I’ll be down shortly,” I said. “Please make sure everything is prepared perfectly and I’m not disappointed. Disappointment is forbidden in my presence.”

“Yes, Mrs. Heaven-stone,” he said. He smil

ed impishly.

I threw him a kiss and hurried up the stairs.

This was going to be fun after all, I thought, and felt a surge of new energy and excitement. I found a dress in my closet closest to one Lucille would wear and pinned my hair up the way she often pinned hers. The devil in me was romping. I went to her and Daddy’s bedroom and sorted through some of her jewelry to choose something appropriate, a necklace of pearls and matching pearl earrings in a gold setting. I even found a pearl pinkie ring that fit. Before I left, I thought a moment and then sprayed myself with one of her expensive perfumes. The scent was easy to recognize as hers.

Ethan had the table ready, placing his setting in front of Daddy’s chair and mine in front of Lucille’s. When he saw me, he stopped and looked worried for a moment. His eyes shifted as if he were afraid someone would catch us.

“You went whole hog,” he finally said.

“Excuse me, but I don’t tolerate comparisons to pigs. Angels, goddesses, or wives of powerful politicians, yes, but hogs, no.”

He laughed. “Looks like I really started something here.”

“Don’t play with fire if you’re afraid of being burned,” I warned. “Are you afraid?”

I had chipped his ego. His shoulders rose, and his posture straightened instantly.

“Absolutely not. Teddy Heaven-stone fears nothing and no one. Shall we dine, Mrs. Heaven-stone?”

“Of course,” I said, and took my seat. He brought out the reheated dishes. “It all smells quite good,” I said. “I hope you had the official taster check it out.”

“Oh, yes, yes, of course. She lived,” he added.

We both laughed. I realized I was really hungry, not having eaten much for breakfast and having forgotten about lunch. We ate. Ethan surprised me again by opening one of Daddy’s bottles of expensive French white wine, and then we continued our mimicking, reviewing the wedding just the way we imagined Daddy and Lucille reviewing it. We drank all of the wine and ate most of the food. When I rose and started to clear the table, he seized my left wrist.