5. Spring: Jump (Part 2)

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Just a short snippet today--longer snippet next week! 

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The purple dress was scratchy.

It was the lace at my throat. It kept tickling. I tugged at it.

"You never look quite right in a dress," Cyril said, toying with a silver fork.

"Why not?"

"You just don't. You look like you want to run but you can't because your skirts are too heavy."

"They are too heavy. You should try wearing a dress sometime. I'm sure you'd look very pretty."

He gave me a rude hand gesture just as our parents entered.

"Cyril!" Mother said, holding a hand to her breast. "What did he do?" Father asked, his voice distant.

"Nothing, Stuart. Do not trouble yourself." They sat down. I scratched under my collar again.

"Iphigenia," Mother scolded. "Stop fidgeting." "Sorry, Mother," I mumbled. Cyril kicked me under the table, and we exchanged smiles.

Father was staring off in the general direction of the centrepiece. When the servants set the food on the table, he seemed to return to our world.

"So your mother is urging me to take you to court more often, Cyril," Father said. "What do you think of this?"

Cyril looked taken aback. "I would like that very much, Father," he said. I didn't know if he was lying or not. Cyril would probably be good at law, which was lucky, I supposed, because he did not have much choice in the matter. Just as I did not have a choice except to hope that Mother could foist me off on some young in- nocent noble too naïve to notice my disfigurement.

The first course was potato soup. The food we ate in the countryside was made with less exciting foodstuffs than came from the markets of Sicion, but with fresher ingredients. It was thick and creamy, and I was hungry from our afternoon in the woods.

"Perhaps we can go next week and measure Iphigenia for her debutante gown. There's a new boutique opening on Jade Street."

I scowled into my soup. The threat of the ball had been hovering over my head for the last few months. Mother would ambush me with dress designs, ribbons and beads and flowers to plait into my hair. I might have been the only sixteen-year-old girl of standing in Sicion

completely uninterested in the debutante ball in a few weeks' time.

No mention was made of my impending doctor's visit. It was never mentioned, except in private, where the servants could not hear. I took another sip of soup, keeping my head down.

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