Stella was beside herself. I needed to buy some time.
“Don’t worry, Stella,” I said. “It appears Mother has decided to do another one of her disappearing acts. She mentions a health spa. Apparently she hired a driver to take her there.”
“What health spa? Why would she go away the day before the dinner party she wanted to host so badly?”
So far, Stella wasn’t buying my explanation. “She doesn’t mention the name of the spa and she doesn’t want us to cancel the dinner party. We’re just going to have to accept things as they are. Now…how are you set for an elegant evening dress? Would you like to come shopping with me? My treat.”
Stella’s concern evaporated and within an hour, we were on our way.
We tried on everything we thought would be appropriate and some just for fun. In the end, we bought several things. We would, of course, wear the more formal dresses tomorrow.
When we got home, Stella went to prepare dinner and I went to my room to go over the letter of instructions Mother had left for me. I had to figure out what exactly was going on and why she was involving me.
The letter continued.
My dear Kathleen,
I know there is much for us to discuss, but that must wait for now.
I was hoping to remain here until after the dinner party, but my health was fading quickly, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to be an adequate host. The sea air only exacerbates my condition. Our guests must not be told how ill I am. They must think I’m able to carry on as usual. Don’t worry about Stella. They’re all used to her exaggerations.
Now for the matter at hand.
Wait for all five guests to arrive before making your appearance. Stella can greet them and the staff I hired can offer them refreshments.
When you enter the room, go to each guest and introduce yourself. You must play the part of my loving daughter and only child. Find a way to make them aware that you know things about them. Leave each of them curious about exactly how much you actually do know. This is a big gamble.
They must accept and trust you. If they allow you to replace me in our covert operation, you will be rewarded beyond belief. I’m begging you to accept this challenge, but Kathleen, ruby red slippers or not, you will never be back in Kansas again.
I’ll be on touch sometime tomorrow.
I had to learn more before I would commit to something that for now was elusive at best.
Mother said it was important for them to trust me. I had an idea.
If I was going to be any part of this, I was going to do it my way. I went to find Stella.
“Stella…please contact each of our guests. Appologize for the last minute change of plans. Tell them that in the spirit of Thanksgiving we would love to include their children. They shouldn’t be away from them on Thanksgiving Day, anyway. I believe one couple is raising a grandson. Tell them the dress will be holiday casual. The outfits you and I purchased today that better reflect our personalities, will be perfect.”