To Have Your Cake
and Eat It!
The copper-haired young woman
looked around her distastefully, and turned her little retrousee nose up
“How boring it must be to live
in this God-forsaken place, I don’t know how you can stand it!”
“Oh really Clara……don’t mind her
Teresa, you know how these city folks are.”
Teresa smiled politely at Miss
Ellen and looked a little enviously at her bored but soignée niece,
suddenly aware of her own pretty, but hardly fashion-plate clothes, as she
offered the girl a plate of cakes.
“Please have one Clara, they’re
all home made of course.”
“At home in Philadelphia, we have
our own pastry chef.” Clara’s hand hovered over the plate
as she wrinkled her forehead slightly. “He’s from Europe of course, Vienna
actually. They make the best gateaux, oh, that’s French for cake by the way,
in the world.”
“Really?” Teresa took a deep breath. “I thought Vienna was in Austria.”
Miss Ellen cleared her throat hurriedly. “Well Clara, I daresay you’ll enjoy
Teresa’s Chocolate cake just as much, she’s famous for it round these parts.”
“Really,” said Clara flatly, “You
do all your own baking? But then, I don’t suppose there’s
much else for you to do.”
Teresa choked and was just about
to answer, when the door to the Meeting-Hall opened, and a tall fair-haired
young man came in with an apologetic smile, as he removed his hat.
“Sorry to interrupt your meeting
ladies, Miss Ellen, but I just came by to give Teresa a message.”
Miss Clara dropped her cake onto
her plate, and straightened unconsciously in her chair, tilting her head
prettily, and extending a neatly delicate ankle, as the young man approached.
Smiling warmly, he helped Teresa
with the plates she was carrying, and caught Miss Clara’s eye. “I’m sorry, Miss…?”
“Clara Godrich, Miss Clara Godrich
of the Philadelphian Godrich’s.”
Clara held out a slender hand,
and as Scott took it and nodded at her, Teresa noticed with a twinge of unaccustomed
darkness in her heart, that it was as smooth and milk-white as marble.
“And you Sir, are?”
Clara’s eyes were only for Scott
now, as she effectively shouldered Teresa out of the conversation by turning
slightly sideways so that she faced away from her, forcing Scott to do so
as well. Sighing a little disconsolately,
Teresa moved on round the room, talking to the members of the Ladies Guild,
cooing over the babies, and marvelling over the quilts.
“There you are.”
It was Scott’s hand on her arm,
a hint of mischief in his sparkling grey-blue eyes. “That was a mean trick Teresa,
leaving me alone with that awful woman.”
She smiled and her heart lifted. “She likes you.”
He shuddered. “I thought I’d left her kind behind
when I left Boston. What a dreadful snob she is!”
Her smile widened. “Shhh…she’ll hear you. What did
you want me for anyway?”
“Only to tell you that Johnny and
I will wait in town and pick you up in an hour or so. There’s no need to
wait for Mrs Lansing’s husband. I know he’s always late.”
He pinched her chin and headed
for the door, nodding politely to all the ladies as he left, and avoiding
Miss Godrich’s disappointed moue.
Beckoning Teresa to her side, Miss
Clara was carefully nonchalant. “So Tessa dear, do tell me. Mr
Lancer is some sort of relative?”
“No.” Teresa smiled blandly. “Actually
he’s my Guardian’s eldest son. And it’s Teresa by the way.”
Clara nodded abstractedly. “Aunt Ellen tells me that Lancer
is quite the largest property for miles. That the house is really beautiful,
in a rustic kind of way.”
“Oh it is,” said Teresa wide-eyed,
“in a rustic kind of way!”
Clara looked at her a little more
sharply, but Teresa’s face was innocently vapid, as she stared back openly
in apparent admiration. Clara relaxed, and began to preen
herself slightly as she tried again. “Of course, one can tell that Mr
Lancer comes from Boston, he has that East coast polish that’s so refined.
He must seem like a creature from another planet to you my dear Tessa.”
Teresa sighed theatrically.
“Well, it was awful tryin’ at first……especially
when he insisted on taking tea everyday at four. It quite upset the ranch
routine, but the hands have all got used to it now, and in-fact, they’ve
taken quite a liking to Earl Grey tea.”
Before Miss Clara could respond,
the door swung open with a crash, and another young man entered the room. Sweeping it quickly with his vivid
blue eyes, he spied Teresa and grinned widely, crossing over to her side
and lifting her up off the ground. “Thought you’d get away with it
did you querida?”
She laughed as he set her down,
and bussed him lightly on the arm.
“Scott told you, the wretch!”
“Yup, he sure did. So come on then,
where is it?”
Miss Clara cleared her throat self-consciously,
and Teresa remembered her manners.
“Um Johnny, I’d like to introduce
you to Miss Ellen’s niece Clara….”
“Miss Clara Godrich, of the Phila……”
“……delphian Godrich’s,” finished
Teresa innocently, shooting her a sweet smile.
Johnny looked at her appraisingly,
and unaccountably, Miss Clara blushed and dropped her eyes.
“I’ve already had the pleasure
of meeting your elder brother Mr Lancer, dear Tessa tells me that you’re
not from Boston yourself?”
Something sparked in Johnny’s eye
as he kept his arm firmly round Teresa’s waist. “That’s just about the long and
short of it Cloris, I don’t hold with all those fancy Boston manners like
Scott does. Kinda makes you wonder don’t it?”
“Er, yes quite. And it’s Clara,
Mr Lancer, not er…….Cloris.”
He smiled lazily back at her, and
for a disconcerting moment, she was suddenly reminded of a Tiger she’d once
seen in the zoo with his beautiful long-lashed eyes, and deadly razor-sharp
“So querida…….” Johnny turned back
to Teresa with his best and brightest grin. “Just one piece, un poco poco…….please?”
At that moment, she would have
gladly given him the whole cake, but she didn’t tell him that, pretending
to frown as she cocked her head, and smacked his hand instead.
“One piece only Johnny.”
She offered him the Chocolate cake,
and pointed innocently to the biggest slice on the plate, watching as his
long brown fingers closed around it, and he gave her an outrageous wink.
“Gracias……… Tessa.” And then strolling over to the
door, he paused and tipped his hat to the ladies, before turning to Miss
Clara with a nod. "See ya Cloris.”
Teresa nearly choked on her tea,
as she watched him leave with a roll of his hips, and the cake in his hand. She could only imagine the wicked
look in his eye, but she’d seen it often enough before, to know that it would
be there now. She turned apprehensively to Miss
Clara, the apologies already trembling on her tongue, but the woman sat as
if hypnotised, her rapt eyes locked on the silent door. Teresa cleared her throat and gently
touched her arm.
“Oh, er……sorry, I was a million
miles away there for a moment.”
She took a hurried bite of her
Chocolate cake, and a peculiar look of wonderment came over her face.
“But my dear Tessa, this is really
“I’ve been told so once or twice,”
Teresa grinned, and shook her head slightly. “But then I have plenty of time
to practise, living in this God-forsaken place,” and her eyes twitched merrily
back over to the door. “Plenty of time to have my cake
and eat it !”
Lisa Paris 2002.