PARTY AT AUNT KATHRYN'S

A while back, while reviewing Dark Shadows episode 354 on our Drawing Room podcast, we commented on Uncle Roger's suggestion that Carolyn should go to Boston, where, surely Aunt Kathryn would arrange for her to go to dozens of parties. At the time, I suggested someone ought to write a fanfiction about the marvelous Aunt Kathryn and her propensity to know where the party is. Consequently, I've been rolling this idea around in my head for the last year and a half, and finally found the time to breath it into life.

Nothing supernatural here, just a slice of life- the life of the pre-Dark Shadows teenaged Carolyn.

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I can't believe Mother is making me do this!

How old fashioned to put women on the auction block! After all, this is 1963, not 1763! I know Mother "came out" at a debutante ball, the same as her mother before her, and her mother before her. But…really! I would have thought this whole barbaric notion of putting girls up for inspection, like they were…were horses…would have gone out with the Tango.

No, not the Tango. The Waltz. And yet I'm expected to waltz with snobby pimply-faced rich boys I don't care anything about, simply so they can decide if I would be good WIFE material.

Well, I tell you, I won't. I refuse to play this game!

Actually, I can't refuse. I mean, I would, except Aunt Kathryn is so excited about hosting this event for me, how could I possibly refuse? Aunt Kathryn is the best. Sometimes I think I love her more than my own mother. I certainly like her more than Mother. Aunt Kathryn is so much fun, always talking about movies, and all the faraway places she's visited, and her three dead husbands, each more intriguing than the last. Even though she's ancient, like…60-something, she's so lively and full of fun.

So when she comes bustling into the room now, chirping, "Oh, oh! Miss Carolyn Stoddard! Don't you look divine!" I have to nod as I look at myself in the mirror and admit, "Yes, I do, Aunt Kathryn. It's a lovely dress. The prettiest I've ever worn, I'm sure. Thank you so much for helping me pick it out. But I just have to ask…because I don't understand…"

"Don't understand what, dear?"

"Well…" I stammer, then, "How could you? I mean, really! How could you possibly go along with Mother on this horrific idea?!"

Aunt Kathryn laughs. Her laugh always reminds me of angels singing. Not that I've ever heard angels singing, but if I did, I think that's what they'd sound like.

"And don't tell me it's a time-honored tradition!" I pout. "You know I don't give two figs about tradition."

"I know you don't, Carrie," she says gently, coming to stand beside me at the mirror. "But it's going to be so much fun! Just look at you, so pretty, a dream in pink organdy! And there'll be music, and dancing, and the most delicious little sandwiches...and BOYS….you do like boys, don't you?"

I sigh, as Aunt Kathryn adjusts the ribbons in my hair. "Yes, of course, Aunt Kathryn. But sometimes-"

"Sometimes?" Aunt Kathryn interjects with a wicked smile. "Don't tell me you're one of those modern girls who prefers…other girls?"

I know she's joking, of course. Aunt Kathryn will joke with me about anything. She's one of the few people I know who doesn't still treat me like a baby.

"No, of course not," I say.

"Then I perceive what you mean is that sometimes you prefer MEN to boys."

"Well…yes…" I reply dreamily. Dreaming of one man in particular. A fisherman, who works at the cannery. Bill Malloy took me to the cannery a few times last summer, and I met him….Joe…Joe something…like Haskins, I think. It doesn't matter what his name is. All that matters is that he's gorgeous, and masculine, and so, so wonderful…

"Perhaps the boys your age are…too childish?"

"Yes! Exactly!" I exclaim, snapping back to reality. I'm so glad Aunt Kathryn understands. "And the boys at this party," I go on, "well, I know so many of them, from when I was little and would spend summers with you, and Uncle Frederick would have those business meetings, and the families came along, and all us children would play together…"

"I remember," Aunt Kathryn says with a wistful smile. "You used to like those boys then."

"Yes! When we were all running around the yard, catching fireflies. But now, now-well, I've seen their pictures in the Boston Globe, winning rugby games for Milton or Phillips, or accompanying their parents to the latest charity event-"

"And you have something against charity…or rugby?" asks Aunt Kathryn.

"No! Of course not! But…but….they all look…so smug! And self-righteous!"

"And that's something you never are, Carrie dear…isn't that right?"

Aunt Kathryn says this last bit with a sly smile; she's figured me out. I don't mind if she calls me smug and self-righteous. I know I can be that way at times. But there are not many people I'll let talk to me that way.

"Darling, you're sixteen," Aunt Kathryn says, giving me a fierce hug. "It's okay to be better than everyone else. It comes with the territory. But don't let that stop you from enjoying yourself. Tonight, you'll be the center of attention. And you do deserve it! You look so pretty. And you and I both know how smart you are! Dance a little, drink champagne! Eat a few of those delicious little sandwiches! Talk to the boys. Don't dismiss them. Some of them may surprise you."

"I don't want to be surprised," I say glumly. "And I certainly don't want to be married! Not yet, anyway."

"You don't have to get married tonight, dear. In fact, you don't even have to see any of these boys ever again! Tomorrow you'll return to Collinwood, back to that dreary old house on the top of that hill..."

"It's not that bad. Really."

Aunt Kathryn purses her lips, apparently holding back words. Then she speaks. "You don't have to stay there, you know. There's always a place for you here in my home."

"I know, I know," I lament. "But Mother needs me…" It's difficult not to sound sarcastic as I say this.

Again, Aunt Kathryn looks reluctant to speak. Then, suddenly, "What your mother needs is a swift kick in the-!"

"Don't I know it!" I concur. Aunt Kathryn and I have had this conversation before. Neither of us have any patience for Mother's…eccentricities.

"Her illness is no excuse to take a perfectly lovely girl like you and lock her away like in-"

"Oh, Aunt Kathryn! You can be quite the drama queen sometimes, can't you? Collinwood is not a dungeon! You've been there."

"Yes, I have, and it's so...dismal! Like a...a haunted house!"

"Funny you say that," I muse. "Sometimes I wonder... But thankfully, I don't have to spend all my time there."

"Then school is working out well for you?"

I nod, admiring myself in the mirror again. "Public school is just fine. I actually prefer it to Abbott. I've made some friends there. It's fun."

"Well! I am delighted to hear that!" Aunt Kathryn exclaims. "But still! Your mother should have been here for this. Her only daughter's coming out! She should have been here!"

I agree. If Mother is going to put me through this, she could at least make the effort to be present. What's worse, I'm afraid if I dwell on Mother any longer, I'll go past the point of being able to tolerate any of this debutante nonsense.

But suddenly, Aunt Kathryn hugs me again, and I can't be mad at anyone.

"It's fine, dear," she says. "I'm here. And your Uncle Roger is here. Thank goodness for Roger! The family is well-represented. It's almost time now. Are you ready?"

I look at myself one more time in the mirror. Yes, I have to admit, this is the most beautiful dress I've ever worn, and after Aunt Kathryn's hairdresser swept my hair up with so much baby's breath and silky pink ribbons, I feel more elegant than ever before in all my 16 years.

Still, I'm not sure I'm ready to be put on the auction block….

"I guess," I sigh, ruining my pretty complexion with a frown. "But make me one promise, Aunt Kathryn? If it's awful, can I come back upstairs?"

"You may," Aunt Kathryn says. "But you must make me one promise. You must not decide it's awful until you've had at least one of those little sandwiches, and one glass of champagne, and talked to at least three boys. And not necessarily in that order!"

Now I smile, and my complexion is improved. "Okay," I say. "I promise."

"And I promise that if it really is that godawful, I'll join you up here. We'll change into our pajamas and play gin rummy and listen to Frank Sinatra records, while all those snooty blue-bloods continue trying to impress each other in the drawing room!"

Aunt Kathryn fixes my hair ribbon one more time, and together we leave the room, and walk down the long winding staircase into the den of wolves below.

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I've made a promise, and the easiest part to keep is eating one of those little sandwiches. After my grand entrance, and introduction to about a thousand old geezers and their teenaged sons, I finally find a moment to steal away to the buffet table and find that Aunt Kathryn was not speaking in vain while praising these little sandwiches. The bread is white, the filling some kind of seasoned cream cheese, and I think there's meat and cheese in there as well. I'm standing in the corner, my mouth full of food, trying to distinguish the flavors, when who should walk up, but Uncle Roger!

"Well, well, Kitten," he fairly purrs. "Look at you, all grown up!"

"Oh, Uncle Roger!" I exclaim, practically jumping into his arms. "I'm so glad you're here!"

"I wouldn't miss this for the world, Kitten."

"But where are Aunt Laura and cousin David?"

"Young David's been cranky this evening, so Laura's upstairs, trying to calm him," Uncle Roger explains.

"Oh! I do hope I'll get the chance to see David! I get into Boston so infrequently, now that I'm back at Collinwood. Has he grown much?"

"Like a weed," says Uncle Roger, dryly. He always speaks dryly. But then he smiles. And pulls out from behind his back a flute of champagne.

"Oh! Uncle Roger!"

"Are you old enough to drink yet?" he teases.

"You know I'm not!" I feel like I'm blushing. Uncle Roger and I have a distinct and unusual relationship. With no father, he sometimes fills that role, offering Mother the advice she sorely needs about raising a child. Not that he knows much about raising children, as little David is not yet even in school. I think it's more that Uncle Roger understands WOMEN, of all ages, and has always understood me in particular. We've always had a strong bond, even though we don't actually get to see each other that often.

As he moves in closer, Uncle Roger extends the champagne, saying "Here. Compliments of Aunt Kathryn."

"Oh, she is a devil, that one!"

"She's a pistol, to be sure," Uncle Roger agrees.

"You know I'm only doing this because of her," I say, taking my first sip of champagne. It's bubbly, and bitter. I don't actually understand why anyone would want to drink this stuff.

"Only?" Uncle Roger intones in mock indignation. "I would hope you are doing this for me as well!"

"Is it that important to you that I 'come out'?"

"It's important to me that your mother's wishes are followed," says Uncle Roger.

"Oh…her…" I frown, taking another sip of champagne. This one is not as bitter. "Why should it matter what she thinks?"

"Kitten! You know she's ill!"

"Yes, I know! But really…she should be here."

"Let's not worry about your mother," says Uncle Roger, giving me a hug. "I'm here, and Kathryn is here. And by the way, have I told you how lovely you look tonight? And so grown up!"

Uncle Roger always has a way of making things better. He lives in Boston now, with Aunt Laura and little David, but I sometimes wish they would all move up to Collinwood. I would like to see David grow up, and I would also like to have Uncle Roger around, to always make me feel better.

"So!" he says. "Tell me how things have been at school. Are you still getting a decent education?"

"Oh yes, it's all fine," I tell Uncle Roger. "I'm getting mostly A's and B's."

"And have you made a lot of friends?"

"Enough," I muse.

"Are the others put off by your being a Collins?" he asks. There's something regal about the way he says "Collins."

"Maybe…some…" I have to admit.

"And the boys?"

"What about the boys?"

"Are there any interested parties?"

"Well….not so much," I have to admit. "I think perhaps they're put off by the Collins name. I mean, the whole idea of coming to call on me at Collinwood, coming up that long drive, knocking on that huge door, and then having to meet Mother, the town hermit. No doubt it's a daunting prospect."

"Oh, don't kid yourself, Kitten," says Uncle Roger with a smile. "If the boys are shy around you, it has nothing to do with your name, or Collinwood. And it has nothing to do with your mother. It's simply that you are way too lovely for a young lady your age. Like a fashion model! Like a movie star! You intimidate them with your beauty and charm."

"Oh, Uncle Roger!" Now I really am blushing.

"So," he continues, grinning, "I think your best course of action, after finishing your champagne, will be to head out into the crowd and show this gathering of adolescent yokels that Miss Carolyn Stoddard has arrived and is not afraid of them!"

"Oh! I'm not afraid!"

"But Kathryn told me you were reluctant…"

"Yes, but not AFRAID. Mostly, I think…just…appalled…and BORED."

"Oh dear…oh dear…" Uncle Roger shakes his head.

"I'd much rather stay here and talk with you all night," I say outright. I think the champagne is starting to go to my head.

"Now, now, Kitten…"

"I don't think I like boys," I explain. "In fact, I'm quite sure I don't like boys. I like MEN. Men like you, Uncle Roger…Or like…like Joe...the fisherman…"

At this point, Uncle Roger takes the champagne glass from my hand, and noting that it is empty, says, "Now you're talking nonsense! I think that is just about enough for you, young lady!"

"Can I go upstairs to see David?" I ask hopefully.

"No, no. You'll disturb him, and he'll never get to sleep tonight. You can see David in the morning. Right now, I think I should lead you over…over here…to young Foster Hornsby IV. You know his father? Foster Hornsby III. Banking. Very big… And young Hornsby all set to follow in his footsteps…"

Uncle Roger drags me over to the Hornsbys, and there's no problem telling they're father and son. Both are tall, angular, wearing starched shirts and horn- rimmed glasses. Hornsby the elder takes a moment to compliment me on my grown-up appearance, then immediately engages Uncle Roger in conversation about stocks or bonds or some such thing.

Which leaves me and Junior-excuse me, the IV- looking at each other.

When it becomes apparent I'm not going to say anything, young Hornsby begins, "Hello, Carolyn. You're looking well."

"Thank you," I say quietly.

"It's been a long time since I've seen you."

"Has it?"

"Yes. Don't you remember that party at the Grummingers? A couple of summers ago."

My mood brightened. "Oh yes! The Grummingers! I remember that party."

"You were there with your friend from school, Ellen."

"Oh! Ellen…" I mused. "Yes. I remember."

"How is Ellen these days?"

I sigh. "I wouldn't know. I'm not at Abbott anymore. We lost touch."

"Oh yes…that's right. I'd heard. So you're living…in Maine now?"

"I am."

"And what school?"

"Collinsport High School."

This takes him off guard. For a moment we can only hear his father and my uncle speculating about what might happen with interest rates. Then Foster says, "Public school?"

I look at him in disgust. There's no doubt in the way he uttered "public" that he is totally repulsed by the idea of public school. He is also probably repulsed by the notion of Maine, except in the summer, for vacation at the seashore.

I pull myself up and stick out my chest. "Yes, it's a public school, and a darn tootin' good one. I'm at the top of my class."

He snickers into his starched collar. "Well, that shouldn't be too difficult."

I gasp. The self-righteous prig! Well, I never!

"Excuse me," I say curtly. "I feel the need of some refreshment."

As I walk away, I hear Uncle Roger break away from his fascinating financial discussion long enough to call after me. "Carolyn!"

I look back at him only briefly. I'm mad at Uncle Roger just now. "It's okay," I say haughtily. "I'm just going over there to get a soda."

But I don't get a soda. I visit the refreshment table for another one of those little sandwiches, and grab a fresh flute of champagne from the tray of a passing servant.

I'm downing the sandwich, and sipping the champagne, only now beginning to fume down after my short but insulting conversation with Foster Hornsby IV, when I'm accosted from behind.

"Hey hey! Little Miss Carolyn Stoddard! So how the hell are ya?"

I spin around (musing that perhaps I should not have spun so quickly), and when my vision at last settles, I find myself looking into the grinning freckled face of Ethan Duane Adams III.

It's him. I remember him. From long ago. He was one of those kids that used to catch fireflies with me in Aunt Kathryn's expansive garden. Only this kid did not just catch the fireflies, he pulled them apart to discover which would die first: the upper body of the firefly, or its colorful bottom.

I never liked Ethan Duane Adams III. And I felt pretty sure I would find nothing about him changed.

Yes, he is larger, and in some ways more handsome, though really…could he do nothing about all those freckles? His hair is longer, and wavier, a brilliant shade of red. If Huck Finn had been born into money, this is what he would look like.

"Oh, Ethan," I intone, unenthusiastically. "It's you. Hello."

"So….Carolyn…Carolyn…my, my, you clean up nicely."

"What do you want, Ethan?" I say impatiently.

"Just to talk. To catch up on old times. To get to know you better."

I look him square in the eye and ask, "Why?"

He leers at me, up and down, and replies. "Why not?"

I sigh. Bored. "Why not indeed?"

"Hey, listen. You sound as bored as I am. Are you bored?"

I sign again. "Beyond belief."

"So whattaya say you and I cut out to the terrace? Wanna smoke?"

"Smoke what?" I ask, gulping down the last of my champagne.

Ethan snorts uproariously. "Haha! Good one! "Then he looks me over again, in the way that makes me think again of the auction block, and snorts, "You're the feisty one, aren't you?"

This is my third sigh in a row. That's entirely too many sighs. And I've had entirely too much champagne. From the corner of my dizzy eye I see the servant's tray passing again. By now I immediately recognize the champagne glass, and in less time than it takes to explain, I swipe one from the tray.

"Smoke, Ethan? No, thanks," I say. "I'd much rather drink."

Ethan roars.

"Will you join me?" I ask pleasantly.

"Har har! Oh boy, Carolyn! Now you're talkin'! That's my girl!"

"Actually, Ethan…" I say, swinging back my arm. "No, I'm not. Never will be."

Boom!

Glass empty. Champagne all over that startled freckled face.

"Damn!" Ethan explodes.

"Enjoy your champagne," I say with a big fake smile as I walk away.

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Just about now I'm ready to head upstairs, and hope Aunt Kathryn is already there in her pajamas, with a deck of cards and Frank Sinatra. I want to be done with all this! But I did promise her I would speak to three boys. So, good little girl that I am, I look around for my next victim.

And there he is. I see him on the other side of the room, talking to (of all people!) Aunt Kathryn. It's Pierce Childers IV. Oh, yes! How I remember! Nothing like Ethan, and far better than Foster. He's one of the good ones. All thoughts of seeking another "victim" are instantly put aside the moment I spy Pierce.

It's been…oh…probably ten years since I've seen Pierce, but he looks the same, with his sandy blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He appears comfortable in a blue blazer, his collar casually unstarched. He looks unaffected and decent, with no indication of inappropriate leering or suggestion. He's laughing at one of Aunt Kathryn's jokes.

Despite myself, I think…We may have a winner here…

Then Aunt Kathryn notices me, and waves, and Pierce turns, and sees me, and smiles. Strangely, I feel butterflies in my stomach. Though it may only be the effects of entirely too much champagne.

Pierce walks across the room, directly to me. We look at each other, smiling.

"Hey," he says.

"Hey," I say.

"Nice party," he says.

I shrug. "I guess."

"I mean, because it's all about you. It's good to see you again, Carolyn."

"It's good to see you, too, Pierce."

We look at each other a moment, then a moment too long, and we both get embarrassed, and turn red, and look away.

"Have you had any of those little sandwiches?" he asks.

"Oh yes! They're delicious!"

"Want more?"

"No, not just now," I say. "But how about…well, if you don't mind, would you come out to the terrace with me?"

"I…I…I don't smoke," he reveals, sounding embarrassed.

"No, not that! I don't smoke either."

"Then…"

And now he really does turn red.

And so do I.

"No!" I exclaim. "Let's just go out there to talk. I haven't seen you in so long."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Pierce says, "Oh. Okay. Yeah."

So the end of this party may not be as bad as the beginning. It's good to see Pierce again and catch up on old times. We remember how we used to play together when we were seven or eight. Aunt Kathryn used to visit his grandmother in the summers, and take me with her to their estate, and Pierce and I would walk together by the side of the stream, and catch frogs, and put them in a box, and watch them. But Pierce never wanted to pull off their legs, and neither did I.

Sometimes we would look for skinny tree branches, and tie a string, and try to fish. We never caught anything of course, because we didn't have any bait, but we spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up.

On the terrace now, in the moonlight, with a soft summer breeze blowing, I ask my old friend, "Do you remember what you used to say, Pierce? Do you remember what you said you wanted to be when you grow up?"

He chuckles. "Oh, I don't remember. It seems so long ago. I guess I wanted to do a lot of things when I was a kid. What did I tell you?"

"You said you wanted to be a fisherman."

Now he laughs again, but softly. "Yes. Yes. I do remember that."

"You wanted to live on a boat, and travel around the world, and it was important that you would have to work very hard to catch all those fish."

"Yes, I remember. But I wonder… why did I think it was it so important that I had to work very hard?"

"I don't know," I say. "But I guess it had something to do with your father."

"Probably. Because back then I had no idea what my father really does."

"What do you mean?" I ask. "What does your father really do?"

"He's an Attorney," Pierce says. "You know that. Childers Childers Geller and Worthington."

"Oh!" I exclaim, suddenly putting it all together. "Yes. Of course."

"When I was a kid, all I knew was that my dad dressed up in a suit every day and went to sit in an office. I didn't see that as being hard work."

"I don't imagine it is," I say. "I mean, at least not in comparison to how hard a fisherman works."

"I guess you're right," Pierce says. "In comparison to physical labor, I guess my dad's got it easy. But that's not to say he doesn't work hard."

"But not as hard as a fisherman," I insist.

"Okay," he allows. "Not as hard as a fisherman."

We are quiet for a moment longer. Then, I venture on with, "So…?"

"So…?" he repeats.

"So, do you still want to be a fisherman?"

And then I see it. His whole demeanor changes.

"Fisherman? NO!" he laughs. "Of course not. Why would I want to do that, get all dirty and smelly with fish?"

"But…but…"

"That was just a kid's dream, Carolyn. I'm not a kid anymore."

"But you're not exactly an old man, either. Don't you want to do something fun and adventurous?"

"Sure!" he answers instantly. "Of course I do! And I still love the ocean. That's why Dad's been teaching me to pilot the yacht. I'm too young yet, I know, but someday I'll be good at it, and have my own boat—"

"You mean your own yacht—"

"Yes, my own yacht. When I come into the Firm. After Law School, of course. I have a ways to go. But someday, I'll have my own boat."

I do not stop to remind him again that a yacht and a boat are not exactly the same thing. I don't stop to remind him because suddenly I'm not thinking about him anymore, I'm thinking again about Joe, the fisherman at the cannery.

Pierce is going on and on, telling me all about his dad's yacht, and I'm glad it's dark enough that he can't see me, can't see that I'm really not listening to him anymore. Can't see that I've changed my mind, he's not the one, we don't have a winner here.

And not only that, but it's sad…oh, so sad, that my old friend Pierce has somehow been tainted into thinking that having a yacht on the weekends can be just as big an adventure as being a real fisherman all week long.

Now Pierce is talking about "The Firm," and I'm still not really listening, just smiling now and then, and saying, "Uh huh…" and "Oh really?" and "You don't say?" so he thinks I'm still paying attention.

And I suddenly realize that I'm being as big of a phony as everyone else at this party. I'm doing the things that girls are supposed to do if they want to catch rich husbands. But I don't want a rich husband! I don't want a husband at all. I don't want to impress any boys, here, or anywhere else-but there is one man I'm thinking about, that I can't stop thinking about now.

The Fisherman.

"Carolyn?"

I come out of my daydream to see Pierce staring at me.

"Yes?" I ask with a big fake smile, annoyed with myself that I'm still doing it.

"I said…what are your plans?"

"For the summer?"

He laughs. "We were talking about our plans for our lives," he says, "but we can start with the summer, if you like."

"Yes, I do like," I say decisively. "I think this summer is the best place to start with the rest of my life."

"And how will you do that?" Pierce asks.

I put down my empty glass of champagne on the edge of the garden rail, and announce, "I'm going to get Mother to let me have a job at the cannery."

"What?" Pierce explodes.

I see I've really knocked him for a loop. I like that.

"I want to work for Bill Malloy, the manager of our cannery. He may need a girl to do office work, file papers, answer phones. I can do that."

"I'm sure you can," Pierce answers. "You've always been very capable of anything you put your mind to, Carolyn. But why in blazes would you want to?"

I pause for a moment. Am I going to tell him the real reason? Because I want to be nearer to Joe the fisherman, I want to see him every day, flirt with him, make him like me, and want to go out with me. Because I want to get to know him better-this man who's honest and simple and true, and does something more exciting than sit around an office all day.

Oh! And because wouldn't all this just make Mother so annoyed?

"Carolyn," Pierce says patiently, when I don't answer right away. "You're a Stoddard. And what's more: a Collins! And what's more...a girl! You don't have to...work!"

"I know," I answer defensively. "But why must I always do only what I have to do? Like this party! When do I get to do what I want to do? Well, how about right now? I'm all grown up, isn't that right? I mean, isn't that what this party is all about? My growing up and 'coming out'?"

"As a debutante...yes!" says Pierce. "As a...headstrong, rebellious lunatic...no!"

I look his square in the eye. A lunatic? Really? The boy I knew is gone.

"Pierce," I say suddenly, pleasantly, "it's been great seeing you again. But I really must be going. There's something I need to do."

I offer one final, sad smile. I walk away, through the drawing room full of fancy admirers, nodding and beaming at me as I pass. I glide up the stairs and into my bedroom.

First, I take my suitcase out of the closet. Tomorrow, it's back to Collinwood. I'm dreading my conversation with Mother, but only a little. I'll tell her what a bore this party has been, lay the guilt on quite heavy, and she'll realize she owes me one. I have very little doubt that in the end she'll cave, and I'll be spending my summer at the cannery, that much closer to the fabulous Joe Haskins...or is it Haskell?

You know. The Fisherman.

Next, I slip out of the dress, pull the ribbons and the baby's breath from my hair. I remove the pins, and my thick blonde curls fall around my face in a crazy array. Gazing into the mirror, I grin at myself and say, "Hello there, Miss Grown-Up Carolyn Stoddard! Now we're going to have some fun!"