“Lord Gold is a fine man, Miss Ginger,” Molly said to me. “I think you’ll be very happy.”
I studied my faithful maid’s blue-grey eyes in the reflection of the mirror of my vanity table. Father had hired her immediately on our arrival to Boston back in 1901, and she’d been a surrogate mother-type ever since. Over the years I’d come to know when she was reciting to me what she thought I wanted to hear—even if she didn’t agree—or if she were sincere in her assessments. The shade of her eye color changed almost imperceptibly—a glint of a deeper shade of gray (appeasing) or a glint of light (agreeing).
Today her eyes glinted with light. You can’t imagine the relief I felt. Molly, robust in her pride of etiquette and virtue, is the best of maids. In a home where I was often found on the opposing side to Sally and Louisa, Molly always stood by me.
“He is, isn’t he?” My voice gurgled like a bright babbling creek, even as Molly tugged the tangles out of my hair with a massive horse-hair brush. Its silver embossed backing caught the light of the kerosine lamp which reflected like starbursts in the mirror. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it from the beginning. I was so predisposed to disagree with Father, you see. I wasn’t wrong about my position—arranged marriages are so archaic—but I was wrong about Daniel. He is a worthy gentleman. Kind, humorous and unbelievably patient with Louisa.”
Molly’s mouth pinched with amusement at my girlish exhortations of my fine young man. With anyone else I may have felt embarrassed, but in the privacy of my own room I was liberated. I could say whatever I wanted.
“Being in love is so exhilarating. I must repent for all the disparaging comments I’ve made—albeit, quietly to myself—about every romantic novel or song I’ve heard until now. Love is a real experience!”
“Of course it is, miss.” Molly piled my long red locks onto my head in a bun, and expertly pinned it in place.
“I so wish mother were here.” Thoughts of my mother so quickly altered my mood, it startled me. I was immediately awash with sadness. “She’d be so very happy for me.”
Molly agreed. “She surely would, miss.”
“How awful to be married without a mother to guide the way.” I suddenly felt on my own and so morose. “Who’s to help me with my dress? The decorations? The festivities?”
“Mrs. Hartigan is sure to be helpful.”
I let out a hearty huff. “Only in that it has the potential to raise her own social status. She doesn’t care about my happiness.”
Molly gently placed the brush on the vanity while holding my gaze. “I’m here, miss. I know I’m not your mother, but I do care about your happiness. I’ll help you in any way I can.”
Before I knew what I was doing, I bounded up from my chair and threw my arms around Molly’s neck. “Oh, Molly.”
Molly returned my embrace with maternal grace and for a moment I was lost in the comfort of her soft arms and bountiful bosom. She patted me on the back. “Now, now, miss.”
When I pulled away, I found my cheeks were wet with tears. “I honestly don’t know what’s the matter with me.”
“You are acting quite normally, miss,” Molly said. “You're about to become a wife, and soon after a mother. It's a big change. I'm sure it can feel overwhelming at times.” She helped me into my corset, and I held my breath as she tied the strings. Next came the long emerald silk skirt embellish with lace embroidery and a matching blouse which buttoned up clear to my chin. Molly added dark green silk sash securing it snuggly around my waist.
A wife and mother. The prospect fills me with joyous expectation. Oh, how I missed my beloved! It's been two weeks since Daniel left for London and the separation often felt unbearable. However was I to make it to the spring without him?
“I think I’d like to wear mother’s locket,” I said. Father had given me a locket that had belonged to my mother. I rarely wore it because I usually chose newer, more fashionable pieces, but now I wanted something of my mother’s close to me, even if I wore it next to my skin and unseen by the public.
“A very good idea,” Molly said. I waited as she combed through my jewellery box. Her expression slowly screwed into a look of confusion. “It’s not here, miss.”
“It’s not?” I asked, surprised. “That’s where I last saw it.”
“I as well.” Her chin jutted upward. “Perhaps it’s been misplaced.”
We spent the next hour scouring my room: every dresser drawer, every dress pocket, every handbag. Under the bed, in the laundry basket. Molly even turned over every shoe and boot!
I shook my head. “Molly. I think someone’s taken it.”
Molly’s eyes widened. “Not me, miss.”
“Of course not,” I said quickly. My mind hurried to pull up a list of possibilities. Mrs. Bakker, the cook; June, the scullery maid; Wendy the parlour maid, even Father’s new chauffeur Mr. James Cuthbert could’ve found his way to my room and picked through my jewelry box. Amongst my other pieces, the locket would appear the least likely to be noticed missing.
Though it pierced my heart to do so, it behooved me to add Molly to the list of suspects.