“I was simply curious as to what sort of person she was, Mrs. Morton.”
“Because I wished to see if she was similar to Laura Beeden, Mrs. Morton.”
Isabelle looked at the girl for a long time, her fingers tightening around her arm, digging into the girl’s flesh. She looked as though she wished to break the girl’s arm but then she seemed to register Rose’s presence. She immediately straightened flicking her hair off of her face as she did so. Her tone was now civil and aloof leaving Rose feeling confused.
The woman gulped ever so slightly, “Rita Gordan, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Department of Urban Development.”
At this Isabelle nodded before sweeping away from the group leaving Rose standing by Rita’s side. Glancing up at her Rose paid attention to her for the first time. She was young and freckled and pale. She had a rather bland appearance and seemed to be on the verge of tears. Rose felt flustered for a few seconds before clumsily patting the girl’s elbow “She’s always like that” Rose lied, “You shouldn’t worry about it.” Rita glanced at Rose quickly “Are you sure?”. Rose wasn’t entirely sure what prompted her to say that Isabelle liked to feel big by making others feel small but it ignited a flurry of reproaches which lost all of their weight due to Rita’s obvious relief.
Now entangled in a conversation Rose found herself being quizzed about the political opinions of her parents - most of which she simply made up. After a few minutes of this she spotted Claudia who, once she noticed Rose’s stare, smiled at her. Rose widened her eyes trying to convey her desire to escape from Rita, who was delivering a speech about the wonders of her job and her boss and her colleagues and the regime and her absolute agreement with every false belief Rose had placed in the mouths of her parents. Claudia gracefully managed to extract herself from the conversation she was having and meandered over to where Rose was. “I am so sorry to intrude, Roseanna, your father wishes to see you. My apologies Rita - it will only take a moment.” Rita nodded and after an elaborate goodbye during which she pretended that Claudia did not exist, left.
“You did want to be rescued didn’t you?” she enquired kindly as soon as Rita was out of earshot to which Rose replied that she did. Claudia nodded knowingly “I know Rita from school; she graduated last year. We never did get on.... I always found her inability to stop talking rather insufferable but I suppose she was nice enough.”
“She was rather chatty.” Rose agreed, Claudia giggled causing Rose to flush with pleasure. “I suppose you’ll have to go and talk to your father now, otherwise she’ll just come back and I’ll be shown up as the horrific liar that I am.” After standing on tiptoe to look over the heads of those around them Claudia began to lead Rose through the crowd until she could be safely deposited at her father’s side.