The invitation was penned in elegant calligraphy on fine, handmade cotton rag paper, and sealed with a dark crimson, wax stamp embossed with an intricate Cappas family crest. It was hand-delivered on a sunny, Monday morning, by the family retainer.
“Who was that?” Belinda Danner called out to her daughter.
Gillian turned the envelope over in her hands, charmed by the ceremony of it. “It’s from the new neighbors at the end of the cut de sac.”
“Well, open it,” Belinda’s curiosity was matched only by her penchant for disseminating gossip.
“We’ve been asked to take afternoon tea with the Cappas at their home this Thursday,” Gillian gently pried open the seal and read the courtly request. “Do you want to go?”
Belinda was ensconced in her favorite Barcalounger, Its faded brocade embellish with Irish crocheted antimacassar back and arm covers. Belinda fashioned herself as an expert on etiquette and proper English customs. She did watch Downton Abbey and old episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs.
“Of course,” Belinda said, holding out her hand for the invitation “I’ll instruct you on how to behave. I can’t have you commit a cultural faux pas.”
“Your didactic lectures will not be necessary,” Gillian said under her breath. “That would be lovely, mother, but I have already met the Cappas or at least their son, Iamus. The invitation comes from him. I’m sure it won’t be formal.”
Belinda peered over her mauve and pink madras reading glasses, fanning herself with the invitation.
“Oh, you have?” Belinda’s question dripped with innuendo. “When were you going to tell me?”
“I wasn’t,” Gillian attempted to retrieve the invitation from her mother. “I knew you’d make too much of it, and I had hoped to have one friendship you didn’t ruin.”
“You must tell me now so that I don’t say anything to sound ridiculous,” Belinda stuck out her hand with the invitation, waving it like a dueling epee before her daughter finally grabbed it.
“It was a casual, chance meeting,” Gillian said. (I saw him swimming at Tucker’s Lake late one evening when I was on a run.) “We bumped into each other, he recognized me from our Medieval History class. (He was out in the middle of the lake and giving off this iridescent glow.)
“Did you meet at the quad? The library?” Belinda pried.
“I don’t remember exactly where,” Gillian lied. (He saw me on the shore and swam over to me.) “We struck up a conversation and he asked me to lunch.” (When he emerged from the water, he was still transforming from a water dragon back into a man.)
“What did he say, what did you say?” Belinda scooted to the edge of her chair.
“We mainly talked about class,” Gillian said. (I didn’t say anything at first, I was too astounded.) “Somehow the conversation turned to how he and his family just moved to town from England and we realized we were neighbors. (He was as startled seeing me as I was seeing him.)
“And just like that, he invites us both to tea?” Belinda slumped back into the chair cushions.
“Yes, he said his mother especially would enjoy meeting someone since they were new to the area.” Gillian tucked the invitation back into its envelope. (If I’m lucky, maybe she’s a mother-eating dragon.) “It would do you some good too, to get out more.” (He really is magnificent in dragon form.)
“It all seems a little fishy to me,” Belinda said, sounding like a petulant child.
“Not at all, mother,” Gillian said. (If you only knew how ‘fishy’ it was.) “It’ll be nice, very casual. We can bring them a housewarming gift.” (Housewarming! Good thing they are water dragons and not fire-breathing ones.)
“I guess so,” Belinda finally acquiesced.
“I’ll see Iamus in class tomorrow, I’ll tell him we accept the invitation,” Gillian said on her way out of the room. (I’ll actually tell him when I see him tonight.)
“Keep it platonic,” Belinda said. “We don’t know anything about these people.”
“Sure, mother,” Gillian called over her shoulder. (Too late, I know all I need to. I wonder how you’ll feel about having a dragon for a son-in-law.)