“Josephine, you look dreadful!” said her Aunt Caroline.
Josephine paused as she entered her living room, frantically wondering if there was any mud or dirt on her attire to give away her whereabouts. Finding none, she frowned up at her aunt.
“What on Earth are you wearing? That is not how a lady dresses when she is going to have tea,” she simpered. “Go upstairs and change into a more suitable dress at once!”
“Oh, alright,” Josephine muttered, trudging back up the stairs. In her mind, her dress was perfect. She was having afternoon tea, not attending the Queen’s ball.
She changed into a baby blue dress with an elaborate neckline and laced sleeves, put some powder on her face, and went back downstairs. She reached for her coat and slipped into the ankle-twisting heels, before following her aunt into the carriage. She was going to have tea with other ladies, the wives and daughters of the rich men in town.
Josephine sighed as they pulled up to the lavish and elaborately decorated mansion. She always found these tea sessions rather boring, considering all they spoke of were trivial matters, like the next ball or the latest gossip. Nevertheless, it was the norm for ladies of her stature to attend them, and so she did.
“Josephine, Caroline!” said the hostess, trotting up to greet them. She kissed each of their cheeks before pulling back and smiling. “It is so nice to see you! Please, come in. My home is yours,”
“Thank you, dear,” her aunt smiled. Her pretentious tone made Josephine cringe.
“Hullo, ladies. I’m pleased to see you all here today. How are you?” started one lady.
“Did you hear about Scarlett James? My friend told me she had an affair with Lord Birkley!” said one with a loud whisper.
“Despicable! Such immodesty and scandal!” replied Caroline.
Josephine rolled her eyes at the meaningless jabs and quickly tuned out of the conversation.Needless to say, her mind wandered towards the events of the previous night. She was still trying to process all the information she had received, considering that a few nights ago, her biggest worry was if her attire was suitable for the ball. Her mind was reeling with questions; how did they intend to get it back to the Queen without arousing suspicion? What is they got caught trying to do so?
Most of all, where did she fit in? The times she spent with Felix and the rest of the group were some of the most scintillating and vibrant moments of her life. For the first time, she was treated as an independant woman and her will was respected. She had a choice, and for that she was grateful.
“...and it was simply marvelous! You will join us, won’t you dear Josephine?”
“What?” Josephine was snapped out of her reverie.
“The Queen’s ball. Would you like to accompany my brother?” said Margaret, one of the younger ladies at the tea.
“Um..” she furrowed her eyebrows, at a loss for words. Did she really want to attend another boring dance?
“Of course she would!” interrupted her aunt. “It would simply be an honour! And the two of them are well acquainted already, it would hardly be a problem!”
Josephine squirmed as all eyes rested on her. Slowly nodding her head, she smiled at Margaret and said, “Yes, of course. Forgive me, my mind was elsewhere. It would be a privilege to escort Jacob to the Queen’s ball,”
“Alright, then! I’ll tell him and make the arrangements,” Margaret looked visibly relieved and continued to simper about the room, forcing tea down unwilling throats.
Three grueling hours later, her aunt decided it was time to leave. After another half an hour of saying goodbyes, they got into the elaborately decorated carriage and drove home. All the while, Josephine could think nothing but of Felix, Katherine, and the package.