"Who is this bracelet for?" I asked my sister.
"It is Sybil van Allen's fortieth birthday at the end of the week. Were you invited?"
"Are you going?"
I certainly would be going. Sybil van Allen was in the midst of a very ugly court case with her stepfather over her deceased mother's art collection. The party was sure to offer up fodder for Silk, Satin and Scandals.
"What are you bringing as a gift?"
"To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about it at all."
"Well, you can give her this with me."
"Thank you, Letty."
"To repay me, I want you to come with me after lunch to Cartier's. Jack is having earrings made for me for our anniversary. I'm not sure about the design, and you're better at that than I am."
"Visiting a jewelry store is anything but a chore for me," I said, and we both laughed.
As we ate our perfectly cooked and browned Welsh rarebit, we talked about other upcoming parties that we'd both been invited to and gossiped about their hosts and hostesses.
Once the plates were removed and we were having coffee, she leaned across the table and took my hand.
"Jack said he'll be by on Saturday morning to help you clear Father's things out of the apartment," she said in an even softer version of her usually dulcet tone.
Our family home was in Riverdale in the Bronx. Most days, my father commuted via train to the store on Fifth Avenue and back. But some nights, he stayed in the city proper in the penthouse apartment he'd had built at the top of Garland's Emporium. It saved him from traveling when he worked too late or there was inclement weather.
When he died, the Riverdale estate was transferred to my mother. The store and the land it sat on were left to my sister and me equally, with the stipulation that her husband run the emporium and that I be allowed to live in the penthouse indefinitely.
Almost nothing about it had changed in the months since. I'd moved into the second bedroom while Father was alive and remained there still. I'd left all his things in his room and hadn't touched his desk in the library.
Father had a housekeeper, Margery Tuttle, who came in each day to clean and keep the kitchen stocked. He'd never liked having the help around when he was there, so Margery would arrive in the morning after my father went down to his office and was always out by lunchtime. I'd kept her on, but I didn't need as much looking after and so had reduced her to twice a week while keeping her pay the same, as I knew my father would have wanted.
"You'll see," Letty was saying. "With Jack helping you empty the closets and drawers, it will be easier living there without it looking as if he's about to walk in the door any minute." At the thought, my sister's eyes filled, and the violet color for which she was named became more intense.
My father had been gone for almost ten months, but we both still missed him so much. I bit the inside of my mouth to keep my own eyes dry. "Jack is a godsend," I said. "It's so good of him to help."
"I am lucky," she said, and sighed. "Most men are difficult and quite full of themselves and must be endured. But Jack makes it easier than most."
I smiled at her. "You chose well."
She seemed about to say something, and I guessed it was about my unmarried state, but she must have thought twice, because she returned to the subject at hand.
"Do you think you'll come across anything special, hidden away? Any surprises?" she asked.
I examined her face. Did she know something? Sometimes she was more observant than I gave her credit for. Or was she just being her usual inquisitive self? Or was she a bit greedy? As much as I hated to admit it, she could be. Somehow, for all the money our family and her husband's family had and how well the store was doing, my sister never acted as if she had enough. My father had sometimes apologized for her, saying it was because she was the second child and all second children think they've missed out.
This excerpt ends on page 11 of the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West.