Needless to say, Charles was apprehensive about Ellen’s entertaining, but was reassured to know Geneva would be there to help out. Cora would be serving with Birdie’s assistance. Cora assured him everything was perfect on his way out to visit the girls at Geneva’s house as he did every morning. Geneva promised she’d be there way early in case Ellen needed anything. Ellen had hosted dozens of teas over the years, so Charles felt this would go well. He had no idea she’d invited twelve instead of just her syncophant friend, Sarah. Sarah had loyally endured Ellen’s barbs and snide behavior for the dubious benefit of her company for years.
Cora had laid a lovely tea with Ellen’s wedding service. Dainty cucumber sandwiches and chicken salad sandwich fingers rested on a bed of lettuce on the bottom tier of a serving dish, scones on the middle, and luscious petit fours on the top tier. More waited in the kitchen.
The parlor and dining room was full of ladies in their finest. Anticipation was high as no one had seen Ellen for months or really knew the nature of her illness. At two ten, conversation was buzzing when Cora rang a little silver bell and announced, “The new Mrs. Charles Evans.” Ellen swept confidently down the stairs into the room. Her short flaming red hair clashed with the bright yellow of the silk dress, her brows and lips heavily made up. She easily weighed twenty pounds more than when they’d last seen her. A titter was heard, then nervous laughter. Sarah quickly glanced around, and sensing disaster, starting clapping as if in congratulation.
Geneva joined in gratefully, then took her daughter’s arm. Sarah rushed to embrace Ellen, “Oh, Ellen! You look stunning! I hardly knew you.” Truer words were never spoken. Ellen’s garish red hair and clashing yellow dress were a shocking combination. Conversation resumed, and Ellen was gratified to be the center of attention. To hear her tell it, she’d barely been snatched from the jaws of death, and was just now making a brave recovery. The group was fascinated to hear the tale of little Ginny’s unexpected arrival, and to learn of Ellen’s recent bereavement and the vast inheritance she was soon to receive.
Ellen had little idea of the impression she’d made and felt her return to society was a great success. Geneva felt sick, knowing her daughter had set tongues to wagging.