THE BEAUX CAME THAT SAME DAY BEFORE DUSK. JOSEPH PHONED Mr. Harris and the latter informed him of the imminent arrival. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have waited in the castle. They’d have returned to the village to spend the night and then they would’ve come back in the morning – it wasn’t that far by car.
But they actually came. And in a much more elegant way than Roxanne had expected.
Four neat and smiling grooms, anxious to take their brides to the wedding. They more than passed the first impression test. But scratching the surface…
Blanche’s fiancé was unabashedly old. Clearly a friend or partner in business of their father’s, for whom he’d reserved her almost immediately after her birth. Probably with children older than Blanche herself. Abhorrent. The girl would become another of his women.
Violet’s had come straight with his wife, who was waiting for him in the small aircraft. It appeared that he’d grown tired of waiting and had married someone else. And, now, he and his wife had agreed to adopt her as a maid or lady in waiting.
Fate had been a bit more lenient on Griselda – or not. Her man seemed more interested in taking his constant phone calls than in meeting her.
But Dora… Dora had found her Prince Charming! Young, handsome, apparently single and looking eager to have her before his eyes.
The four of them took – rightly, on the other hand – Celeste, Roxanne, Alan and Joseph for the welcoming committee. It was only logical. They were there, waiting to receive them… And the damsels, after a while, had still not come down.
“They must be nervous,” excused Roxanne.
“Or expecting us to go bring them,” hinted the one in blue scornfully.
It wasn’t a crazy thought.
Roxanne patiently climbed up the stairs, deliberately slowly to give herself time to chew the presentation offered by the four lads. She couldn’t help feeling relief mainly, at not finding themselves, her and Celeste, in the same situation as the other girls.
Dora had gathered the flock in her room.
“Is now the time?” she asked her when she saw her poke her head through the door, taking the lead once more.
“Now’s the time,” answered Roxanne with sarcasm. “However,” she told the rest, “you can still change your minds. Don’t do this only out of obligation. Joseph and Alan are willing to take us all to the city and help us in every way they can.”
“No, thank you. And do not corrupt us with your wild behavior.”
The other three didn’t even seem to mind Dora’s perpetual role as spokesperson. Maybe their passivity would turn out to be an asset in the life that awaited them.
The rainbow of dresses descended the stairs. The gentlemen couldn’t have hoped for a more glamorous entrance. Slowly, one by one, in order of age, they came down and placed themselves exquisitely in front of them. Celeste, distraught but also enjoying the moment, did the introductions.
Shock was the prevailing emotion on the young girls’ faces. Their expectations – despite the fact that they’d only ever seen four other men in their entire life – were not fulfilled at all. Not even Dora’s, who immediately detected in her impeccable partner something that had escaped the welcoming committee.
“He doesn’t like me,” she whispered to Roxanne, opening up with her in an unprecedented manner.
“Why do you think that?” asked Roxanne, ignoring the fact that she’d called her wild just moments before.
“I don’t know. But he doesn’t look at me the way Mr. Harris looked at Celeste.”
“You can give thanks for that,” thought Roxanne.
The four men intended to pick the girls up and leave right away, but Joseph, introducing himself as the elder brother, categorically refused to let that happen: they’d stay until the following evening, to give everybody time to reassert their decision.
There was widespread confusion in view of the change of plans and the news of Joseph’s kinship – which the girls took as something figurative he’d said in order to help them. However, the fiancés eventually agreed and they spent the evening, as was Joseph’s wish, getting to know each other. Violet’s fiancé’s wife had no choice but to leave the vehicle. It was augured to be the hardest initial contact of the four. Joseph, Alan, Roxanne and Celeste stayed outside, at the entrance, next to the vehicles to make sure nobody bypassed the agreement.
Alan smiled as he followed Dora and her husband-to-be with his eyes.
“What?” asked Joseph, leaning against one of the small aircrafts while he bit a carrot.
“Doesn’t he look familiar to you?”
“That guy. He was at one of the medical meetings we went to shortly after arriving here.”
Joseph took a good look at the aforementioned individual.
“Na, I don’t remember him.”
“He dined at our table once. He was with a friend. A boyfriend.”
Joseph raised his eyebrows.
“Absolutely. He might be a man of… diverse tendencies.”
“He might. Or maybe this is just a paternal business marriage doomed to make this poor girl in yellow suffer.”
Roxanne was standing in front of them with her arms folded.
“Some people,” explained Joseph, “feel attracted to others of the same sex. Alan thinks this may be the case of Dora’s fiancé.”