Chapter 21: Let the Games Begin

“White or fuchsia?” asked Chantal as she held two evening dresses on hangers near her face, while she stood in front of a full length mirror in Sierra’s room.

“The white halter dress, and it’s almost six o’clock already. You only have a few minutes to get dressed,” said Sierra.

“I’ll hurry. By the way, you look beautiful in your royal blue maxi dress with your hair swept up. Who are you trying to impress?” asked Chantal.

“Well, Leslie Brent, if you must know.”

“I figured as much. You won’t have any problems there.”

“Since I’m dressed, I will go downstairs and check in with Ella to see if she needs any help.”

“OK,” said Chantal. “Miles has a proclivity for being early. I will join you as soon as I put my dress on.”

“Dearest, are you nervous?”

“Just a little,” said Chantal.

“That’s to be expected,” said Sierra.

“I know,” said Chantal and she went back to her bedroom.

Meanwhile, Ella used the servant’s quarters near the kitchen to change out of her usual old-fashioned maid’s uniform and black opaque stockings. She put on a formal long-sleeved ankle length, grey taffeta maid’s uniform dress and a white apron. She took one last stroll through the parlor room, and tidied it up before going into the dining room to make sure everything was in order.

Sierra came downstairs and followed her into the dining room. For the first time she noticed that Ella walked with a slight limp in her right leg.

“Don’t you look nice,” said Sierra.

“Oh,” said Ella. She turned around and faced Sierra. This old dress belonged to my mother. I still remember her wearing it for special occasions when I was a small child.

“Did you recently hurt yourself?” asked Sierra. “I just noticed that you’re walking with a limp.”

“No, I’ve walked this way ever since I was a little girl of six years old. It’s from an old childhood injury.”

“Huh, I never noticed it before,” said Sierra. The grey color is very becoming on you, and it compliments your silvery colored hair.

“Thank you,” said Ella. “I need to get back to the kitchen to take the rack of lamb out of the oven, but first I will put the place cards on the table so everyone will know where they’re sitting.”

“I can help you with that,” said Chantal who came downstairs unnoticed, and overheard the two of them talking as she entered the dining room.

Ella looked at Chantal with a surprised look on her face. The place cards fell out of her hand to the floor.

“I’m sorry for being so clumsy,” she said.

“It’s OK, I’ll pick them up,” said Sierra bending down to get them.

After noticing the expression on Ellas face, Chantal asked her, “Is everything alright? Did I frighten you?”

“No.”

“Are you sure? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”

“You look like someone I used to know a long time ago, that’s all,” said Ella.

“Chantal, here are the cards,” said Sierra placing them in Chantal’s opened hand.

Ella went back into the kitchen.

Chantal set the place cards on the dining table and described the seating arrangement to Sierra. “I will sit at the foot of the table. Miles will sit to my right. You will sit to my left and Devlin will sit next to you. If Miles brings a guest, she will sit next to Devlin.”

“Let’s wait in the parlor room until the guests arrive,” said Sierra.

“OK,” said Chantal.

Then, there was a sharp knock at the front door.

Leslie opened the door.

It was Devlin. Dressed to the nines, he wore a vintage 1938 dinner jacket, white scarf, and black cuffed trousers with his coal colored hair slicked back.

“Good evening Devlin. Please come in.”

Devlin chuckled and said, “I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“I’m helping my mother, Ella.”

Time stood still for Devlin as the two sisters walked into the foyer where he stood motionless, as if he was in a trance.

This is too eerie, he thought. “Chantal resembles Christa who wore a white gown at my graduation dinner in 1937. Chantal’s taste in clothing and that thing she does with her hair, the wavy peek a boo bang over her right eye, is more than a mere coincidence,” he said to himself.

Chantal walked over and took his hand.

“Oh Devlin,  I’m so glad it’s you. I was so hoping you would arrive before Miles did.”

“Chantal, you look gorgeous. These are for you.” He gave her a fresh bouquet of white roses that he held in his hand, which was hidden behind his back.

“Very nice,” said Sierra looking on.

“They’re lovely,” said Chantal. “I am pleasantly surprised.” Then, she held the roses to her nose and smelled them.

“They symbolize purity, spirituality, and new beginnings,” said Devlin. “They’re all the attributes that you embody.”

“Thank you,” she said as she leaned in towards him and kissed him on the cheek.

“I’ll take these to Ella and ask her to put them in a vase,” said Sierra.

“Thank you,” said Chantal.

“They will look lovely as the centerpiece on the dining table. I’ll be right back,” said Sierra. She walked away towards the kitchen.

Suddenly, Leslie let out a loud wolf whistle as he stood in front of the stained glass bay windows overlooking the front entrance near the front door.

Devlin and Chantal heard Leslie’s whistle. They went to look out the window to see what the reaction was about.

“Wow, that’s a nice limousine,” said Chantal.

“I think it’s a little over the top if you ask me,” said Sierra, who returned from the kitchen.

Then, the chauffeur got out of the car. He opened a passenger door and extended his hand to help a woman dressed in classic couture get out of the luxury sedan. She wore a black evening dress. Miles got out behind her. He wore a grey flannel suit.

Sierra turned around and faced Chantal to gauge her inner compass. The nerve of Miles to bring a date to my sister’s dinner party. Besides that, she looks several years older than him, she thought.

Well-trained in service etiquette, Leslie had by now opened the door to greet the new arrivals.

“What’s your name please?” asked Leslie of the pair who, from a distance, appeared to be a couple.

“Have we met before?” asked Miles. “You look familiar.”

“Not now,” said the woman standing next to him. “Let the gentleman announce us.”

As she continued looking out of the window, Chantal noticed that Miles was twirling his hair. She asked herself, “Why is he nervous?’

Sierra looked at Chantal and Miles. “Let’s take our places along the wall of the foyer, to greet Miles and his guest when they enter through the front door,” she said.

“OK,” said Chantal with Devlin standing next to her.

Leslie proceeded, and announced the couple’s arrival.

“Introducing Mrs. Ava Banks and Mr. Miles Banks,” he said.

A stoic look washed over Chantel’s face. Her discomfort was undeniable.

Sierra placed her hand in Chantal’s hand to support her sister emotionally.

“Let the games begin,” she said.

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