Twenty-One (3)

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 It was past midnight when Izzy crept up the staircase of the Mayfair house. The servants were already in bed, and her parents were out, Lady Rhodes at the opera with friends and Lord Rhodes at his club. No one saw her tiptoe up to her room, with her wet shoes in her hand and her cheeks flushed with happiness.

She closed her door behind her and let out a sigh of relief at not being caught. Light shone under Vita's bedroom door, and Izzy walked in to find her reading in bed. The smell of hot chocolate still lingered in the air, and Vita looked up from her book when Izzy plopped down on her satin bedspread.

"I sent your maid to bed," Vita said. "Poor girl was dead on her feet."

Izzy waved away her remark. She didn't care about the maid.

"Aren't you going to ask me where I've been?" she replied.

Excitement filled her with an energy she didn't know she possessed. There was no way she would sleep tonight.

"Where have you been?" Vita asked, mimicking her tone, but feigning boredom.

Izzy ripped her book from her hands and sent it flying on the floor to force her to pay attention. Vita rolled her eyes at her and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Well?" she said. "It's past midnight. Your story better be good."

Izzy sat up on the bed, ready to burst.

"I was with Robert. He asked me to marry him!"

She let out a squeal of delight. Vita gaped at her.

"What did you say?"

"Well, I said yes, of course!"

She beamed, reliving the proposal in the rain, and the trip to the jeweller and the romantic dinner that had followed. She showed her friend the diamond ring on her left hand. Vita arched an eyebrow at the size of the precious stone. It was twice as big as hers, Izzy silently noted with pride.

Vita let out a little laugh, between astonishment and amusement.

"Congratulations, I suppose."

"Thank you!" Izzy hugged her, revelling in this perfect evening. She'd been burning to tell Vita about this all night, and to hear her approval at last. Now they were truly equals, both with fiancés and a wonderful life ahead of them.

Vita pulled away from her embrace, and made room next to her on the bed so that Izzy could sit at her side.

"Tell me all about it, then," she said.

So Izzy did. She recounted going to the pictures with Robert, their conversation afterwards, which had led to his proposal, and the rest of the evening they had spent making plans for the future.

"But... what about your father?" Vita asked.

"Well, he doesn't have a choice, now, does he?" Izzy replied, her voice confident. "Robert and I are engaged, there's nothing he can do about it. We'll announce the engagement at the Weatherly party, and once everyone knows, he won't be able to do a thing about it."

She smiled, proud of her pluck and independence. Vita wasn't the only one who could take on the world and bring it to her feet.

But her friend frowned, concerned. "He can refuse to give his blessing."

"Who cares about my father's blessing?" Izzy pushed the thought away with a flick of her hand. "He's a ruined man. Robert is my future. He is respectable. He has money. He's a great businessman. He's planning on expanding his family business in America, no less."

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