Sarah plastered a smile on her face as she entered the drawing room where drinks and hors d’oeuvres had been laid out and the guests were helping themselves. Sarah spotted her father rubbing elbows (almost literally) with Mayor Jansen, and despite feeling sick at the thought, she knew she needed to join them.
She concentrated on maintaining her fake smile as she crossed the room, but was stopped about half way by Mrs. Harris.
“Sarah, dear, I just wanted to say how much we admired your performance the other night. I knew you were talented, but I had no idea you could be so … well, I just thought you should know how much we enjoyed it.”
Her husband stood behind her, nodding and smiling to everything she said, but without adding any comments of his own.
Sarah glanced at her father. His attention appeared to be fully focused on Mayor Jansen, but one ear faced Sarah’s direction and she wouldn’t put it past him to be listening in on their conversation, even as he carried on his own conversation with the mayor.
“Thank you, very much, Mrs. Harris,” Sarah said quietly, keeping her head bowed and her eyes to the ground. It was safer that way, no matter how much she wanted to stay and revel in the praise. “I really do appreciate it. If you’ll excuse me.”
She kept her head bowed and her eyes down as she crossed the rest of the room. When she reached her father’s side he gave her an almost-imperceptible nudge with one elbow and she perked up as though someone had pulled invisible strings attached to her – she raised her head and put her smile back on her face as she extended a hand. “Hello, Mayor Jansen. How good it is to see you again.”
Mayor and Mrs. Jansen responded in kind and the rest of the conversation continued without a hitch. Sarah had just begun to relax, thinking her father hadn’t noticed Mrs. Harris’s comment, when he took her by the elbow and pulled her into a corner as everyone else was moving into the dining room.
“Don’t think I didn’t hear your little chat with Mrs. Harris.”
Sarah kept her eyes on the floor and stood perfectly still, like a rabbit hoping to avoid being seen by the wolf. Her only chance of escaping her father’s ire was to refrain from doing anything that might provoke him.
“I may tolerate your little hobbies, but you know they have no place here. Not when I’m so close to accomplishing something of real significance.”
Sarah waited until he released her, then followed him into the dining room. As everyone took their seats, she remembered the happy front she was supposed to put on and smiled graciously at all her guests as she bid them take their seats.
To be continued…