"AnnMarie how was your lunch yesterday. I saw you just as you stepped into the hotel and had I not been across the road I would have called out. I understand that Sorenson has hired a Chinese cook. I wondered if the food was, well, oriental at all?"
AnnMarie looked at Helen Merar while she tried to think back to what she'd had for lunch the previous day. It certainly hadn't seemed any different from any other lunch at the Cattleman's, but the place didn't offer much variety.
"Really, Chinese, my how exotic," from Edith before AnnMarie had had a chance to reply. "So, what was the occasion?"
AnnMarie smiled at Edith, "Audra and her brother were in town to visit with Cecilia and it was just too hot to cook."
"Nick? My it's not often he gets into town in the middle of the day. But I suppose after that awful thing at Preston's she would want her brother with her." Helen said, nearly salivating AnnMarie thought, at the prospect of a good piece of gossip about the Barkleys. She wondered how someone as quiet and self-effacing as Howard Merar had ended up married to someone as talkative and small minded as Helen?
"No, not Nick, the youngest Barkley boy, Heath, lovely young man, quiet but very nice manners and so pleasant to look at. I feel that good looks in a young man are so important, shows a good character, don't you think?" AnnMarie directed this last to Edith whose own son was handsome, so she felt sure Edith would have to agree with her about the value of a good appearance.
"Yes, I'm sure you must be right," Edith said, after a moment's hesitation and then continued more uncertainly. "You had lunch at the hotel with Audra and the new Barkley boy?"
"And Cecilia, of course, I think he's easily one of the most charming boys I've met. I imagine we'll be seeing quite a bit of him in the future." AnnMarie smiled at the company and took a small sip of her tea.
"Heath?" Helen Merar asked, putting her cup in the saucer so suddenly that the tea splashed out onto her hand and skirt.
"Oh dear," AnnMarie said and passed her a second napkin. "I hope that didn't burn?"
"No, no, it's fine. I was just surprised, Heath you said?"
"Oh, oh, did you hear the news." Margaret Dwyer's loud explanation as she came into the parlor brought the conversation to a stop.
"Hear what?" Edith asked, rising to take Margaret's wrap and help direct her to a chair.
"The Watkin's house has been sold. Stanley says its been purchased by a wealthy miner, a widow, and he's moving in the beginning of next month with his daughter. It has that lovely big room where we used to have those wonderful assemblies when the Watkins were there, remember." Margaret's face was flushed with excitement.
"A wealthy miner, what's their name?" Helen asked.
"I believe its Fields, but I'm really not sure, it could be Meadows, oh, dear. Now I'm not sure at all…" Margaret paused and took the cup of tea Edith offered her and drank some of it. "Maybe it was Green. Well at any rate I'm sure they'll open the room for assemblies again." Margaret smiled triumphantly.
"It will certainly be nice to have some new company." Edith observed and the conversation moved on to a discussion of the upcoming spring assembly at the hotel.
AnnMarie smiled and drank her tea.