a Luxe fanfic

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

A bold and uncharacteristic wind chorused through the streets of New York, ruffling the leaves of Central Park's sturdy elms and tousling the hems of many a shop-girl's skirt. Children pranced about delightedly while their harried mothers struggled to keep both their hats and their wards in check.

It was evident to everyone from the business moguls, perched high above their beloved city in the confines of their stately offices, to the factory workers, trudging their usual path to the grim establishments that were their locations of employ, that today was highly and sensationally unusual. The air was charged with a certain electricity, an energy far exceeding that of the the everyday hustle and bustle of the city.

A certain former socialite, reclining listlessly in her phaeton, pursed her lips--normally a vicious shade of red--in annoyance at the breeze threatening to dishevel her perfect coiffure. She narrowed her dazzling aquamarine eyes in the direction of an automobile that was startling the horses on Lexington Avenue. Something was amiss on this otherwise glorious spring day.

Streets away, amid the rambling greenery, a golden-tressed woman in charming blue seersucker rumpled her son's hair with her long, graceful fingers. A serene smile played at her lips as the park's numerous birds sung their private symphony. From the branches dense with foliage sailed a lone white dove, emitting a solitary chirp as it traveled out into the vast expanse of Manhattan. She followed its path with her eyes until the bird had completely disappeared on the horizon.

The unruly wind continued its journey, sweeping between the grimy alleyways and the sparkling exteriors of Fifth Avenue's formidably sized department stores. It wafted through the window of a handsome, if ostentatious, building, rifling through the many ink-blotted papers spread across the gilded cherrywood desk that served as the room's centerpiece.

The girl sitting within, deeply absorbed in her writing, raised her green eyes just in time to see the flurry of documents being carried away. Still robed in a lace-trimmed nightgown, she leapt up to prematurely end the papers' flight, taking no notice of what a scene she was making before her window. There was a time when the mere thought of such an undignified display would have horrified her, but her life was no longer dictated by shame and needless pretense.

The wind, with a violent whoosh, slammed shut the heavy oak door to a Madison Avenue brownstone, catching in its path the edge of man's coat. Distinguished brows furrowed, the man yanked the material free with a considerable amount of exertion. He resumed his course down the nearly empty street, noticeably free of his usual retinue of staff, servants, and admirers, who, despite his married status, tended to follow at a distance and giggle amongst themselves. The man smiled wistfully; a wave of sadness crossing his face as he contemplated his bittersweet freedom.

These were the winds of change, shuttling through the city uncontrollably. They would heed no master and spare no reputation as they upset the natural order of the day. Though they scandalized the proper among New York's ever-growing population, they invigorated the young, the reckless, and the progressive, who merely rejoiced at the fortunate chance for a refreshing reprieve during an otherwise stuffy day.

Today would mark the return of New York's most notorious debutante, its audacious chestnut-haired darling. Yes, indeed, Diana Holland, swathed in magnificent spring-green satin beneath her wool traveling suit, was once again staring ahead at the city she had called home for seventeen years. The mass of buildings, illuminated by the late morning sun, had at a time seemed intimidating. Now New York seemed laughably small, impossibly self-absorbed. And yet. And yet, she thought, how lovely to soon be walking those familiar streets and seeing those familiar faces.

Her sister, Elizabeth, now possessed a new and fitting last name--Cutting--and a brood of children with whom Diana had become acquainted in Liz's numerous letters. There was a boy, Keller, rambunctious and prone to mischief, and a girl, Clara, who, despite her young age, seemed to have inherited her mother's sweet and patient temperament. Diana could hardly wait to call upon them and shower her niece and nephew with the exotic gifts she had gathered during her travels.

Her Aunt Edith, too, would be thrilled to hear the stories of her escapades throughout Europe--how she dined with artists and danced with royalty--and the two would sit laughing over tea in their comfortably worn parlor.

Mrs. Holland, her mother and the unyieldingly austere matriarch of their clan, would be less pleased with Diana's tales. In fact, the two had hardly exchanged so much as a correspondence in the three years she had spent abroad. Diana braced herself for the disapproving glares and pointed remarks she was bound to receive upon returning home.

Her mother was not the only person whose gaze she dreaded; she knew with utmost certainty that facing her family would prove less difficult than facing the man she had loved all those years ago. Loved, she told herself, was the proper term. It had to be, for things had changed since the days when she was a naive and carefree girl. She had changed enormously, and she could only assume that the same could be said of Henry.

The moment had been rehearsed in her mind, near a thousand times. Forceful as her prepared speech was meant to be, her words could never hope to overpower the image of his face that was blazed into her mind. Would he still be gorgeously debonair, with the chiseled jaw and laughing eyes she had known so well? The question, as it rose to the forefront of her thoughts, caused her heart to race.

Diana gripped the iron railing of the gently rocking ship, suddenly unsteady despite all her firm resolve. She reminded herself that she was returning home a lady, a worldly, exotic, thoroughly independent woman, to a society that would be hanging on her every word, as it always had done. A trademark coy smile turned up the corners of her rosebud lips--this, if nothing else, was going to be immensely fun.