He folded the paper and put it back into the envelope.
“I understand, however, that you and your brother had a good heart-to-heart talk about all this and about your future,” he said.
“They did?” Mother asked, looking from me to him.
I could see it coming. “Why wasn’t I told about that?”
“Carson volunteered the assignment. You’d have to speak to him,” Daddy replied.
I winced at hearing my talk with my brother referred to as an assignment. Didn’t anyone in this family do anything because they really felt like doing it? Was everything a responsibility, an obligation? Was it the same for all families or just mine?
“Well,” she said. “He didn’t mention it to me when I saw him today. I’m just surprised, that’s all.”
“To return to my point,” Daddy said clearly, showing he didn’t like to be interrupted, “you complained about the private school and apparently won over your brother’s support.”
“She did? He did?”
“Amanda, please. I don’t know if you realize the opportunities and advantages you have attending this school, Teal. Your classes are smaller, aren’t they?”
“Some are,” I said.
“As you can see from this report, your teachers give you more individualized attention,” he added, waving the envelope. “And more to the point, your behavior and achievement at public school have been deplorable. There is nothing I would like more than saving money. I would love you to be able to attend public school and be successful, but you haven’t been able to do that, and I can see you’ll be watched over more closely here. However,” he concluded, unfolding his napkin to indicate the conversation was ending and we were to concentrate on eating, “should you have a successful year and still wish to return to a public school, we’ll discuss it. And,” he added before I could protest, “you can thank your brother that you even have that. There are other places, not so pleasant, I was beginning to envision you in, Teal. Just continue to watch your step, young lady.”
He turned to the maid, and she began to serve dinner. Mother, still upset about being out of the news loop, pouted.
“I just don’t understand it,” she said, “I just don’t. Carson never keeps anything from me. We’ve always been so close. As close as any mother could be with any child,” she added.
I couldn’t help the tears that burned under my eyelids. We’ve never been close, I thought. And then it came. It just burst out of me, riding atop a magic carpet of pain and rage. I couldn’t help it.
“He told me he’s giving Ellery an engagement ring. Supposedly he gave it to her this past Wednesday,” I said, sounding nonchalant about it.
Mother’s mouth dropped open so wide, her yet to be chewed pieces of lettuce and tomatoes dripped over her lower lip. Daddy glanced at me, and I knew immediately that he had known. Carson had confided in him, and what he had told me was to be our special secret, our first brother-sister secret, was really not any such thing. It made me feel better about betraying him. I would have an answer when he learned about it.
“A formal engagement? A ring?” She turned to Daddy. “Did you know about this, Henderson?”
He shook his head and went back to bis salad.
“First I’ve heard,” he said, but anyone objective who heard him say it would know he was lying. Mother, of course, chose to believe him. She turned back to me.
“What did he say exactly?”
“I don’t remember his exact words,” I replied.
“Well, not exactly then. What?”
“He just said he was giving her a ring and would tell you at the end of this weekend. Oh,” I said, making it sound like a small added detail, “and they would be married in June.”
“June!” She threw down her fork. “There’s not enough time between now and June to do a decent wedding.”
“Maybe they’ll elope,” I offered, and she opened and closed her mouth.
“They will not. They most certainly will not. Henderson?”
“I don’t expect they would,” he said. I was sure he already knew every detail of Carson’s plans.
“This is… astounding,” she muttered. She had turned a bit white and looked like she was going to have a panic attack. “I’ve got to get right on the phone with Waverly Taylor.” She started to rise.