SUMMARY: The Ingenious Rival by Elaine Mitchell allows us a glimpse into the journals of several ”family members” all working towards the same goal; or are they? Perhaps the word “family” is a little counterintuitive. Perhaps the word “friend” is as well. Jealousy, greed, rage, all mixed with incorrigible behavior….


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Mistress Wimberley

There was a blood curdling scream. I ran into the dining room and fell to the floor to envelop my poor daughter in my arms. Broken bits of china formed splattered patterns across the hardwood floor. In the middle of it all sat my beautiful Laura, tea all across the skirt of the ball gown I had loaned her for the dress up tea party she was having with her friends. Her father stood over her and the body that lay between them. There lay Laura’s friend in the chaos of it all with her face smashed in. Warm thick liquid ran from the remaining eyelid and throughout the small remnant of face that was left. I wrapped my daughter in my arms even more tightly and carried her into the parlor. Had this not been her dear friend the horror would have been no less.

Lacy

I was happy when I moved into the Wimberley house. I knew in an instant I would fit in and as the family grew we were all sorts. Intelligent, funny, pretty, silly looking some of us. Some short, some tall, some young, some old but we were a family.

It was comforting to be the prettiest, and yes I say that without reserve, for I was not the kindest, nor the smartest. I did not have great social graces, the most adorned dress, nor was my hair of any abnormally brilliant color, only a drab sort of strawberry blonde. I have green eyes, not the color of emeralds, but more the color of jade. But, I was the prettiest, Mistress Laura always told me I was beautiful.

My name is Lacy. I came to the Wimberley house nearly three years ago and I felt welcome instantly. Though I was there to serve a purpose I was invited in as a friend and not just of the Wimberley woman, Mistress Laura refers to as “momma” herself, but as a friend and comrade to everyone who shared in the endeavor of cheering and aiding in young Laura Wimberley’s wellbeing. She was a fragile girl of six and she was so pleasant and wonderful to work for that we thought nothing of our labor and feel equally willing to serve today.

Often she has set out tea parties. Oh we love the tea parties. There are lace table clothes and round little tables and white washed iron chairs. We sit in the shade of the old Magnolia tree and play, eat and drink for hours on rose tea china, lukewarm tea and fruit. We laugh and sing and even when Mistress Laura has to go inside and be still for a while, we know she will come out and revisit us again before the evening commences. Most usually I go inside with her.

I have never felt anything but joy here. It is not a chore staying “in my place” in this place I call home, I never mind what happens or how I am put upon as long as it is for our dear Mistress Laura. She fills a void in our lives as we eagerly endeavor to fill any void in hers. …

Lacey

My name too is Lacey, though I spell it differently. I spell it with an “e” between the “c” and the “y”. I am not sure why actually. I have never been a fan of “pretty” though it would be nice to be considered so. I am not ugly, but I carry just a bit more weight than the others. I enjoy fun and love to eat. I love the berries Mistress Laura brings to the table of our wonderful tea parties but oh-my-goodness I would so rather eat the cakes. Strawberry cakes and chocolate filled with the most amazing yummy cream. The incredible flavors of some of those tea parties have caused me to let out the sides of more than one of my dresses.

I, too, have always felt welcome at the Wimberley house. Goodness knows I have much to be grateful for in living here. The life I lived before has distanced itself from my memory. I feel as though I have been closed off to the world on some distant shelf just waiting to live my life and at Wimberley House I have only begun to live to my full potential. If it is to be lived in the shadow of servitude then so be it for I am fulfilled here with my “sisters”. We enjoy each other’s company so much and it is a true family….

Amala

I am from India, or so I am told. I have very dark skin, and though I find myself fitting in well here in this place I call home, I do notice a difference when I look into the mirror or when Mistress requires me to accompany her to the water’s edge and I see my reflection in the smooth water.

I am told I speak with a thick Indian accent but I no longer hear it myself for it is all I have ever known. To me, my friends have the accent and I am speaking good English.

My welcoming did not come immediately from Mistress Laura. I remember when her father introduced us she looked at me as if I were some object her brain just couldn’t quite identify, but when her “Papa” explained to her that I was from a far off land called India her look softened and she at once set me at the table between Lacy and Lacey. Both girls moved away from me rather dramatically and something in my subconscious came back and caused me to feel alone and isolated as I had felt for years. I began to weep and Mistress Laura kissed me on the cheek and wiped my tears away. She then began lovingly scolding all of the girls seated around the table. No one said a word but then Lacey reached under the table and took my hand and squeezed it.

“Her name is Amala, her Papa told her. She has come a long way to be here. Please treat her as you treat all of the other young ladies who have served here for so long and love you so. Her name means clean and pure and she is a lovely soul, don’t you think?”Mistress Laura seemed to truly loved me, and from that day since I have been accepted in the Wimberley home as if I had always been here.

The tea parties are lovely, but I have as yet to be fond of the tea served here. I am sure as I continue to sip a cup eventually I will become accustom to it and enjoy it as the others do. But for some reason my tummy yearns for chicken curry with coconut mangorean, white rice, stuffed auberginas, tomato raita, and apple halva. For now I will enjoy some grapes and blackberries dreaming of the latter and perhaps one day I will taste the tastes of home again….

Lacy

I guess I like Amala. I am not really sure what there is to know of her other than she is definitely funny looking. I mean, well… she is a strange color. Not black like LaDonna, not yellow like Su Lee, and definitely not reddish black like Yellow Rose, just well, I don’t know. But I have thought about it a lot. She is so quiet and I think nice (since she doesn’t actually talk much but does smile a great deal). I heard young Laura say to her in confidence the other morning out by the fountain that she thought she might be beautiful if she could learn to talk more. I suppose it is something I will never understand, how a person could become beautiful by talking more. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, I am the beautiful one, of that I am confident. I do talk often but not so much that it is a nuisance, I would never want to be a nuisance. I have a lot of intellect in me that needs to be shared. I am a born leader, especially in style and fashion. I am not a person who lives in a world of Miss Manners, but I believe I have a voice that needs to be heard in the world of my peers at the very least. I may not come from the wealthiest of families but I know what I know. Maybe that’s why the girls all love me.

Lacey

I think Lacy, though she is my best friend and I love her dearly, often holds too high an opinion of herself. Sometimes I tire of her treating me like less than human because I have a little more weight on me than she has. I think some of her tongues in cheek insults towards the other girls aren’t funny either. Whenever I try and talk to her about it she just tells me I am being absurd. She tells me I wear my feelings on my sleeve.

Sometimes Lacy can be really fun though and at night in our bed chambers she tells the most wonderful stories of her life before Wimberley. I don’t know if they are factual or not, I don’t even care. I have been at Wimberley so long that it is the only home I remember so I love those stories with the fun places she has been and the beautiful shops she has gone into. I long to go on an adventure like that someday but most often Mistress takes Lacey with her and I am happy to wait until they return and hear of the adventure. All of us girls are. We are so thankful that we have Lacy sometimes that I feel guilty for speaking poorly of her. But this is just my journal, and so I guess it really hurts no one.

SuLee

I am so glad LaDonna sleeps next to me and Amala. I am so thankful to be at Wimberley but so worn from listening to Lacy. She is so pretty, she knows fashion, she always gets to go with Mistress and she had such a wonderful life before Wimberley. I am the youngest and the smallest and I am yellow, or at least that is what Lacy tells me. I very seldom get a chance to look in the mirror because Lacy is always looking at herself in it. I am too small, too weak, too slow, too yellow. My hair is too straight, too dark, too stringy. It hurts so much but I try to laugh not cry or show emotion.

LaDonna is my best friend in the world. But Amala is second, she is awesome. Last week we had our usual tea party out in the garden and the clouds got so scary and the wind started to blow. We had been waiting for Mistress Laura to come back to the party but found out later she had fallen in the hall and skinned her knee. Lacy and Lacey were with her and so we were just the three best friends out in the yard and suddenly it began to rain! LaDonna began to laugh her wonderful low and loud laugh and we all ran to the porch. Amala looked at me and we both looked at LaDonna. We were soaked! So, what would it matter if we just played hide and seek in the rain? So we did. We had so much fun!!

When the game was over and we went back to the table to pick up the dishes and gather the blown bits of fruit and treats we were stopped by the sound of Mistress Laura’s sweet voice.” Oh, my dear friends you are soaked! What have you been doing out in the rain for so long?” And just like that we were back in her service. But it was a wonderful time to remember.

As we were getting ready for bed last night Lacy walked past me and rather purposefully bumped into me and knocked me down. I cracked my elbow on the floor and it is now in a cast. When the other girls came to my aid she only slightly giggled and said, “Is it my fault she is so tiny you can’t even see her?” I really thought LaDonna and Amala would tackle her to the floor but then as Lacy turned to huff away she tripped and fell right over Yellow Rose’s leg. She fell onto the bed so she wasn’t really hurt, but all the girls began to laugh out loud. Yellow Rose just stood up and helped her to her feet. Then she looked around the room and asked, “Is it my fault that my legs are so long I couldn’t hold them in far enough for her royal’s presence?” Well, we all clamped our hands over our mouths to keep from laughing out loud. Lacy glared at Yellow Rose but she didn’t do anything more. Yellow Rose is lovely, but she is also strong, tall and wise. We all hold her in great respect, in more ways than one if you know what I mean.

So now, for a time, I am not able to go out in the rain, just until the cast comes off. The cast may be on for a long time Mistress says, but LaDonna promises me that she and Amala will not play in the rain again until I am able to play with them. It doesn’t often rain on tea party days anyway, and if it does, on most occasions we hurry and bring everything into the house, or never take them out in the first place. It was such a lovely day.

Yellow Rose

I have been here for several years now. I was never Mistress Laura’s favorite, but I always knew why. I am so very different from all of the other girls. I am taller, I am stronger and I am not going to dress in a way that isn’t part of my heritage which always makes me an oddity. I thought at first I would not be allowed to stay at Wimberley when I refused to take off the clothes that my mother had so lovingly made me. But there is a gentleness about Mistress Laura and in the end she just proposed that one only had to wear assigned clothing if one wanted. Most of us wanted to wear our own clothes if only out of habit but a few of my friends here wanted to wear their own clothes for the same reasons I. Their clothes were part of their culture and helped them feel not so very far from home after all. Alama, SuLee and I wear our native dress. But our dear LaDonna wears assigned clothing. She laughed when I cornered her and asked her to tell me why. She said, “Honey, this is my heritage.” I never asked her what she meant by that. Maybe someday she will tell me.

I feel like I am here mostly to take care of SuLee and Amala. They are more fragile than the others. I love LaDonna and wish we could be a closer friend, but she and SuLee are so close and SuLee needs a friend like that. So I just sort of watch from a distance and protect if I can because Lacy is a little…shall I say cruel at times and no one seems to see it or they are just afraid of her, I don’t know.

I’ve heard we are getting a new girl. I hope she’s tough. I think you have to be tough around here. I feel lonely a lot of the time, but then other times I feel like I belong. I would love it if I could get away from the house more often but Mistress Laura keeps close tabs on us. She needs us, I know, and I love her very much but long walks in the woods by myself are what I truly desire.

I do get to go out to the garden sometimes. I saw the zucchini and peppers and I got so hungry for Gazpacho, I wish we could have the use of the kitchen at least in the evenings. It would be so wonderful to have food from home again.

I look out the window at the moon from my sleeping quarters and I know I am very blessed to be at Wimberley. But I miss my people’s ways, I miss home.

SuLee

Oh, she is so attractive. I think she is the prettiest girl I have ever seen. Her dress has pastel blue roses and lace and she has a parasol and gloves and a wonderful accent. And her shoes are high-tops with the most beautiful black buttons and she is NICE. She is so nice. She has such pretty black wavy hair and blue eyes. I thought at first she would be a snob she is so pretty, but she isn’t at all. She is funny and beautiful and NICE. Her name is Marcella. I think we will be great friends.

Yellow Rose

Wow, our new girl is very pretty. I was prepared for her to be unkind but she is the opposite of that. She is soft spoken, funny, and very kind. I think she comes from money, but then what do I know? She has a strange accent. I think she will be able to take care of herself just because she’s so nice everyone likes her. She was even nice to me. She acted as if she didn’t even notice I was different.

LaDonna

Marcella is a very pretty name for a very pretty girl. I am so excited. For the first time since I came to Wimberley, I realize what I had been missing. It was the feeling of actually being looked at as an equal. I felt like the other’s loved me in their own way but Marcella doesn’t even notice I am black. She made no comment about my uniform and she put her arm around my shoulder as we walked down the hall together and we giggled together as she told all us girls about falling flat on her face at the train depot. She was leaning heavily on the arm of her escort when he suddenly just let go! She fell flat on her face and all she could remember was watching the ground rise up and whack her.

She talks really funny but I love it. She said she loved being here and she was so proud to sleep in the bed next to me! She said, “Honey, I’m so tired. But I’m also glad to finally be here and part of this family. Why I’m happier than a dead pig lyin’ in the sunshine!” I think I am going to really love Marcella!
Marcella

Oh, I am so glad I got here in one piece. I shouldn’t have. But I think me and the girls are gonna get along just fine, they seem to allow me to be myself. I don’t know how to be anyone else so that’s good. Like momma always said, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end.” I do miss my ole stomping grounds but I do declare it’s been in a coon’s age since I’ve had so much fun just shootin’ the breeze.

I thought me and the girls were doin’ just fine until a girl named Lacy got her feathers all ruffled because I sat my bag on her bed. She was so snooty to me. O my, my, my I just had to give down the country!! That’s all.

Oh well, all in all I reckon I will forget that fallin’ out and let Lacy know that I want to be friends. I guess tonight before I go to sleep I need to try and mend some fences.

Lacy

That rogue! She thinks she’s so extraordinary with those fine clothes and that fake southern accent! I hate her all ready. She had the audacity to come ask my forgiveness for messing up my bed with her enormous bag. Who does she think she is sitting her big bum on my bed? Like she couldn’t tell it was my bed. My space, my sleeping quarters! I am so angry.

I am so tired of hearing how pretty she is. Even Lacey. I thought we were friends. I thought she had my back. I’d expect that from the other girls. They have always been jealous of me. Never once have any of them acknowledged my fairness, my beauty. I know they see it. Lacey says they tell her all the time how jealous they are of me. I just can’t believe she will bring any good to this house. She is evil. She is evil and overbearing and unkind. I don’t know how I am supposed to have patience with this girl. I already hate her and she has only been here for one night.

Lacey

I think we have a problem at Wimberley. For the first time ever there is a girl who is prettier…well, maybe not prettier than Lacy but she has a great personality and that makes her seem prettier. Lacy is furious. I tried to calm her and tell her Marcella is nowhere close to her status. Trouble is Lacy is not blind and she can see that the other girls love Marcella in ways they really do not love her. I am in a precarious place here. I am loyal to Lacy. She has been a true friend to me. I must remember that. I think she will never allow me to forget. I owe her. I hope this goes better than I think it will go.

All Marcella did was lay her bag on Lacy’s bed. She was just resting it there so she could look around the room to find her bed. Lacy just went off on her. Marcella said, “Honey, I’ve got no axe to grind with you.” And she tried to pick her things up and walk away. But Lacy started yelling at her and got right in her face.

“You certainly don’t think this bed is yours, do you?” she yelled her face turning red and her veins popping out. “Well, everyone knows this is my bed. I have been here the longest and I am Mistress Laura’s favorite and NO ONE sleeps in this bed but me! Do you hear?!”

“Honey, you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree,” is all Marcella said at first. She turned away from Lacy but Lacy was right there in her face again yelling. That’s when Marcella gave her a piece of her mind and I have to confess I barely understood a word of it. That’s what’s so nice about Marcella, I think she is really telling Lacy off, but it sounds almost funny and not mean at all.

LaDonna

I was thinking I was going to have to intervene last night when Lacy started yelling at Marcella but that girl can take care of herself. I was amazed at how well, and all with her mouth. She never raised her voice. I am not really sure what she said, something like, “Well, bless your little pea pickin’ heart. I was never gonna take your bed honey, thought never crossed my mind. “ Then a bunch of other stuff. I heard her laughing later with Amala. Amala just came out and told her she didn’t understand a word Marcella was saying. Marcella just laughed and said I guess I do take a little getting used to. Then she swirled around laughing and said something like, “Honey, I can’t believe I am here. We are living in high cotton now!” Amala looked at me, I looked back at her and we just started laughing. SuLee came running over and asked what was so funny. “That’s just it,” I said. “I haven’t a clue!”

We made Marcella a bed up close to ours and Lacey seemed to want to join in the fun but Lacy kept an eye on her and would begin pouting if she tried to bond with us. I felt a little sorry for Lacey and Lacy. It is so much fun talking with Marcella and she has the best stories ever. She tried to talk the girls into joining us but it only took a glance in our direction from Lacy to cause Lacey to send out icy glares that literally caused shivers to run up and down my spine. She can be scary.

Marcella, on the other hand, thinks we should all just give it some time and Lacy will come around. She says it’s always difficult when a strange hen joins a hen party! So we all hugged and decided to do just that. Give it time.

Yellow Rose

I think sometimes it is a blessing not being noticed much. Oh…maybe blessing in too big an idea. Maybe it is only that I enjoy sitting back in the corners and observing and am so often there I am no longer noticed.

Today I watched Marcella and Amala as they sat at tea time listening to Mistress Laura give the day’s instructions. I love Mistress Laura more everyday because she tries so hard to give us instruction that we will enjoy not just have to do as a chore. Today she ordered us to “Eat all the cookies, do not leave even one!” she ordered. “And I don’t want a drop of that tea left in the teapot ladies!” she said.

I watched her walk back to the house. Her smile lingered only until she thought we no longer could see her expression. Then sorrow registered across her sweet face and her eyes searched the house until she found her mother waiting in the doorway for her. Her hand reached out and Mistress Wimberley ran to her and put her arm around her leading her to the house. I wish I truly knew what is wrong with Mistress Laura. I want so much for her to gain her strength and become healthy. Lacy said if she dies we will all be sent away. I wonder if that is true. I suppose we are really only here for Mistress Laura.

When all this happened I was saddened that none of the other girls noticed. Though, it was to Mistress Laura’s credit that no one save me did notice. She keeps her problem hidden very well. I can’t understand why. Poor sweet girl, I must mention to some of the girls that we need pay closer attention to our Mistress.

Marcella

Today as I dressed I couldn’t find my shoe. It was the blue satin shoe and though I have little use it for it here at Wimberley I felt I could use the pair as slippers to go to breakfast. I bent down to peek under my bed and found my parasol open and closed all wrong. I pulled it out and found it was ruined. It was too horrible to be an accident. I wanted to cry but I did not. I decided to hold my emotions in and use them for revenge. That Lacy thinks the sun comes up just to hear her crow!!!! I am so angry.

I keep telling myself, I did not see it happen and therefore I do not know for sure it was Lacy. But she refuses to even try to be my friend. I do declare, it appears that compassion from our Miss Lacy is scarce as a hen’s teeth and she’s really starting to ruffle my feathers!

Just as I was about to march down the stairs and give Lacy a piece of my mind SuLee came running in with my shoe. “Marcella, I found it! It was under the dresser in the next room!”

“Well, now, ain’t that the berries SuLee!” I said and slid the parasol back under the bed. I am glad SuLee stopped me from going off half-cocked.
She’s a sweet little thing.

Lacey

I heard Mistress saying some pretty disturbing things this afternoon. I think she was talking about Mistress Laura. I had no idea Mistress Laura had a sister who died right here in Wimberley house. I always thought Mistress Laura had some disease making her sickly. It sounded like maybe it’s mostly a mental thing. I never knew I had been brought here to fill that sort of a void. I have had a sick feeling since hearing it and I can’t tell anyone because I shouldn’t have heard in the first place.

I had followed Marcella down the long hall to the great stairway. I waited at the bottom beneath the secretary waiting for her to ascend the stairs. Then I noticed that she was actually tip-toeing and so I waited until she was at the top of the stairs and watched where she hid up there. I followed in stocking feet and just before I reached her stooped in the shadows where I could see her, but I didn’t think she could see me. Then I saw her lift her hand to her mouth as if to quiet me without saying anything. I nodded. She had heard footsteps and I had not so I was glad she quieted me. It was the Mistress and the Master as they left the nursery. The Mistress’ eyes were swollen and she was leaning real close to the Master.

“She’s not better Robert. You keep saying she’s better but she’s not!” Mistress’ voice edged near to hysteria.

“Shhh…” He said gently.

“She’s seeing things, hearing things, talking to someone who isn’t there. I am so frightened. I thought this plan of yours would help. I thought her ‘friends’ would be able to help but it has only made it worse.”

“Deborah, calm down and give it time. She is a little girl. She has an imagination, that’s all.”
“Robert, I heard two voices in that room and she was the only person in there.”

“Maybe, just maybe you should drink a little wine and lie down sweetheart. I didn’t hear any other voice, only that of a little girl playing and pretending. Laura just misses her sister, that’s all.”

“Robert, when Lacy died we should have closed off the nursery, we should have, “Mistress wept.

And that is all we could hear. I looked at Marcella and she at me. There were tears running down Marcella’s pretty face. We descended the stairs and went quietly to our sleeping quarters. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone. I am sure Marcella hasn’t either.

Marcella

A dress up party. I was looking in my chest and staring at so many dresses and shoes and wigs and I will never, ever need these things again, at least as long as I am at Wimberley. Who knows how long that will be and I got the grandest idea. I pulled out my jewelry, my dresses and my shoes and asked the girls to gather ‘round. I told them to pick what they wanted, we were gonna surprise Mistress Laura with a dress up party. “I don’t need these things any longer,“ I told them, “So take your pick and don’t piddle.”

Lacy

Why a dress up party? So we can all feel inferior to her royal highness? She has such pretty clothes, such pretty shoes, beautiful jewelry and wigs!! I am sick to death of her attitude of superiority. We are all suppose to dress up and meet in the nursery to surprise Mistress Laura. The buzz makes me sick.

SuLee

A dress up party! I am so excited. Yes, we need to help Mistress Laura and this is a grand idea. I can’t wait to try on some of those pretty things!

LaDonna

I have never tried on anything like these clothes. Marcella is so busy trying to raise excitement amongst us that she hasn’t noticed a certain someone in the corner just watching and pouting. I was just watching for a little while when Marcella picked up a beautiful red lace dress and put it up in front of me and said, “This will look absolutely perfect on you.” And the look in her eye made me think that just maybe it would. So I put it on.

“Well, shut my mouth!” Marcella said when she looked at me. “Honey, now don’t you take the cake! You look absolutely beautiful.” And then she was off helping the other girls get ready.

I saw her walk over to Lacy and encourage her to join in but Lacy would have no part in it. In the end Lacy got angry and screamed and pushed Marcella away from her. Marcella looked hurt but turned away and smiled at us. “Well, that caught me with my pants down,” she tried to joke.

I reached out and patted her arm. She turned and hugged me. Then she immediately turned to
Amala and showed her an exquisite satin dress. “Amala, I have saved this dress for you. It will look beautiful with your lovely skin tone!”

Lacey

I feel Marcella and I now share a secret that bonds us. The party went well and Mistress Laura was indeed surprised. As soon as we all rushed into the nursery she looked around for Lacy. Lacy didn’t come and Mistress looked saddened by that.

“We shall have to do this again next week my dear friends and I will have cook make us up the most wonderful tea party ever and we shall have it in the dining room.”

We danced and sang and laughed but I did notice Mistress Laura look to the door often and I knew she was hoping for Lacy to come in at any moment. I was so angry at Lacy for not coming. But as Marcella often says, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” And today Lacy was a sow’s ear if ever there was one.

Yellow Rose

That was strange. There I stood in a ruffled pastel yellow gown with silk yellow shoes and a white parasol with tiny yellow ribbons. I was the most awkward girl in the room and yet I was having fun. I would do this for no one else. Marcella definitely has a way about her. I can’t believe I was standing there, or should I say, trying to stand there in those crazy shoes let alone dancing and laughing but better yet, belonging.

Lacy

I may have been wrong to not go to the party. I know Mistress Laura has been different since then. She is not angry exactly, but our relationship has changed if only a little. I should have thought of something like that myself. Maybe not a dress up party but some sort of special something that would let Mistress Laura know I care. I just feel so…so… Oh, I don’t even know how I feel.

I went over to the chest after all the girls went up to the nursery and I looked through the left over dresses and shoes. There wasn’t much left actually, but what was left was so pretty. I held a necklace up to my throat and gazed into the mirror. I started to put a burgundy dress on and then stopped myself.

All I have in this world is the love and respect of Mistress Laura and my looks. I have no fancy clothes, no jewelry, no family to go back to. Now I may have lost that one person all because some stupid, rich southern bell moved in and everyone loves her more than me.
But I should have gone to the party.

SuLee

There’s going to be another dress up party and it will be a tea party combined. It will be in the dining room with servants waiting on us!! I can’t believe it. I am going to wear a pink taffeta with rose earrings and pastel green shoes. I will have a tiara and I have never even dreamed of wearing a tiara before. Just for fun I am going to wear a long, wavy white wig to the party too. All of us girls are going to wear wigs or hats. Mistress Laura is going to wear one of her momma’s wigs. She is borrowing her momma’s ball gown and her daddy is even coming. (I mean Master Robert.)

Amala

Another tea party. It will be fun, but I wish we could not have it in the dining area with servants. I was too long a servant and had to watched as others enjoyed things like this. I suppose it will be okay. I know Marcella will make it fun. Her eyes shimmer with excitement when she is scheming things like this. We will have cakes and fruit, and different types of tea with honey. Mistress Laura has promised some tea from India that her Papa has brought back. I do enjoy the tea parties but the excitement each time seems somewhat extreme. I am sure I just have not learned the culture yet.
The thought crossed my mind to ask for apple halva but I didn’t want to be greedy.

Lacy

Well, the tea party was a strange one. Everything has changed at Wimberley House. We all sat around the table dressed up in party clothes. I, of course, sat next to Laura. My chair is an exact replica of Laura’s and as she came into the room her eyes shone brightly as she looked directly at me. I could tell she was very happy I had come. Her red hair and stunning green eyes darted around the room then, and as she looked at each of us she welcomed us to the tea party.

It started out as very fun if a little tense for we had never had a tea party with a man present before. I watched Mistress Laura very closely and tried to do the things she did. She sipped her tea with her little pinky sticking out but I gave up on that. I couldn’t hold the tiny cup just so. I think we were all feeling a bit nervous for suddenly SuLee began to giggle lightly to herself. Master Robert’s head jerked up and he glared at SuLee.

Mistress Laura just said, “Papa, it IS a tea party.”

That was when I began humming a tune Mistress Laura had taught me long ago. It was a tune her sister Lacy had taught her, the sister Mistress Laura says I so very much look like.

Mistress Laura

I hate father. He took the jar of honey in his big grizzly hand and he just smashed her face in. I will never forgive him for that. He looked at Marcella like she had done something wrong. Like she shouldn’t have been excited to be at the tea party and then when Lacy started humming that beautiful song, I felt a far away happiness just well up inside me. My sister, Lacy, used to sing that song to me when I was very small, before she died. Now I could hear Marcella join in and sing along and then all the girls began singing. “White coral bells, upon a slender star, lilies of the valley deck my garden wall.” The room was so bright and cheery and then Marcella rose to dance and reached for my Lacy’s hand. Lacy took her hand and I was so happy that Lacy and Marcella were getting along. That was when my father’s face contorted into some sort of rage. Lacy accidentally kicked the warm honey pot into father’s lap and was wise enough to quickly run over to me. Father seized the honey pot and smashed my poor Marcella’s face to pieces. She lay on the floor broken and dead. All the girls screamed and I picked up my plate and threw it at father! I will never forgive him for what he did. I will never forgive him.

Mistress Deborah

I busied myself as well as I could after I called the doctor. He came to the house and gave Robert a sedative and checked Laura for cuts or wounds of any kind. I cannot for the life of me figure out what happened. Laura will not speak and Robert too, is in some sort of trance. The doctor told me to clean up the glass and then he helped me as I placed each doll back into their cabinet. It is strange how they all seem to have lost their luster today, as if they could possibly know what has happened and are saddened by it. All but the one Laura named after her sister Lacy. She does look so much like our Lacy. I think I’ll take her up to Laura; she was always Laura’s favorite.

LaDonna

We have not been removed from this cabinet since the tea party. All we need is provided. We can see the entire great hall from our sleeping quarters and a great deal of the grounds from the window in the great room. But I so miss our Mistress Laura and the tea parties we used to have under the old Magnolia tree.
Yellow Rose has the worst time of it. She cannot tolerate being trapped inside for so long. She sleeps most of the time as we all do, but it is hardest on Yellow Rose I think. If only Marcella were here to make us laugh again. SuLee, Amala and Lacey busy themselves with games of I Spy and Guess What I’m Thinking and I Went to the Party and I Brought. I keep a keen eye out for moths and ants and hope someday we will be played with again.

There are times when Mistress Laura passes our way and we begin feeling our hearts race with excitement only to have our hopes dashed as she wiggles the lock on our cabinet and stares at us with her sad green eyes. Lacy looks happy though. She always smiles at us as she leaves. Perhaps it is my imagination, or just my jealousy, but I sometimes think I see a bit of malice in that smile.

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