The mural for the hospital took six long days, and when it was complete, Maya felt both happy with the result and humbled she had been chosen. Putting her painting equipment away, she walked out into the mid afternoon sun and looked across the sky to the mountain in the distance. The view drew her onto the sidewalk and she began the walk up the steep hill, heading towards the secluded area by the waterfall. The place Eddy had talked about buying and building a vacation home for her.
But once she reached the top of the hill she saw a structure had been built onto the property on the far side. She wasn’t quite sure what it was, all she knew was that her dream of a vacation home was no longer an option and she greatly felt the loss. She spent some time on the edge of the water listening to the thunder of the waterfall on the rocks, all the while wondering why Eddy hadn’t followed through with his promise.
It was almost time for afternoon tea and as it was Leisure Day she knew that everyone would be home to sit together for a meal. Which was rare in this very busy family. Time to change my clothes, again, she thought a little sarcastically as she rose from the ground to begin the walk home. What a pain all this formality was! Especially since she hadn’t brought that many clothes with her for the seventeen day trip. At least not enough to support three to five clothing changes in a day. Perhaps she should use a bit of her free time for the next few days to do some shopping.
When she arrived back at the house, she found Nancy in the front yard inspecting the plants. She decided to broach the subject of the mysterious property to her.
“Up by the waterfall? Why yes. That’s a tea room. Just opened up a month ago I believe. It’s quite the lovely place.”
“I see,” replied Maya.
“I just had the best idea! We should plan an afternoon tea party at the Mill! You could meet some more of the townsfolk. How does Saturday sound? Are you free that day?”
“I don’t believe I have any prior commitments. Yes that sounds lovely!”
“That’s wonderful!” replied Nancy. “I’m going to get on that right away after dinner. Perhaps you will grow to love our town and decide to stay. I’m so going to miss you when you go!”
“And I you, Nancy.”
True to her word Nancy put together a small get together of local residents to attend a tea party at the mill. Maya was a little nervous because she had never attended such an event and didn’t know the proper etiquette. She did not want to embarrass Nancy or somehow let her down. Nancy was the most prominent figure in the town and she didn’t want her actions to tarnish Nancy’s reputation. When she conveyed those concerns to Nancy all she could say was,
“You’ll do fine dear. Just be your lovely charming self and everyone will love you!”
The party was set to begin at two. Nancy left early to make sure everything was properly in place, which meant that Maya was going to have to enter the party alone. She couldn’t stop her hands from shaking at the thought. She thought back to Eddy’s words to her on occasions when she felt insecure about a situation. “Think of it as fun”. But she didn’t think that applied in this case. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon with little to no breeze next to the waterfall. She imagined that it would have been like that most of the time, sheltered from the wind. Most of the guests had arrived by the time she got there and she was mad at herself for not arriving earlier than she had. She saw Nancy across the yard mingling with the new Meirs family who had just moved to town. Nicole Meirs, the girls aunt had recently died and the nieces had been bequeathed the manor house. Lady Michele Meirs would now serve as head of the family and would have many of the same duties about the town as did Nancy. Maya was already quite fond of the four sisters, Maria, Michele, Charlotte, Brenda Lee and hoped to form a lasting relationship with them all.
Maya decided to mingle with the guests at the gate and slowly make her way over to Nancy and the girls. Everyone seemed to be quite gracious and genuine in their greetings and she was indeed enjoying herself immensely. Her only hope was that she remembered everyone’s name for the next time she spoke to them. Joining a small group of guests off to the side of the front gate, Maya was met with a glare from a very severe looking woman and a man in a top hat.
“Good afternoon. My name is Maya. How do you do?”
The woman looked to the man, who appeared to be slightly stunned, lifted her nose and proceeded to push past Maya.
“Excuse me!” said Maya incredibly annoyed.
“You should excuse yourself, you harlot. If I had known you were going to be here I wouldn’t have come,” said the woman. The man agreed with a nod of his head.
“I don’t understand. I’m Miss Maya Wang. You must have me confused with some one else.”
“Oh no. There is no confusion here. You’re that girl that keeps ending up in the papers in all kinds of degrading situations. I have no desire to have any connection to you.”
At this point the crowd had begun to quietly murmur among themselves behind Maya’s back. The more the woman talked, the louder her words had gotten, reaching Nancy on the other side of the yard. She quickly made her way over to the two guests keeping an eye on Maya who had walked away in obvious distress.
“What is going on Vita?’ Nancy asked.
“If I had known you were going to invite that girl to this tea, I never would have come. I can’t believe you of all people would be consorting with such a whore!”
Nancy was shocked at Vita’s words like a slap in the face. Maya a whore? She worked hard to keep her temper in check as to not make a bigger scene than had already occurred.
“I’m sorry you feel that way. We obviously have differing opinions about that wonderful girl you are trying to malign.”
“You have to understand,” began the man. “We have a reputation to uphold and we wouldn’t want our good names to be tarnished by her past indiscretions. I apologize for Vita’s outburst. Perhaps it would be best if we just left.”
“Yes definitely. Please enjoy the rest of your afternoon” said Nancy. Enjoy it well because I will be over to give you a piece of my mind in private later!
Maya had left the party to stand on the bridge over the creek at the edge of the property. She worked hard to hold back the tears that forcefully threatened to flow.
Did people actually see her that way? At least there were no paparazzi around to catch that moment! This whole thing was almost their fault anyway. It was their pictures that portrayed a view of her she supposedly was. But she wasn’t that person. She wasn’t any different than anyone else. She hadn’t actually done anything wrong! She turned to see Lady Brenda Lee coming up the bridge.
“All clear, they’re gone. I wouldn’t worry about it,” she said seeing the tears in Maya’s eyes. “You wouldn’t find one person in that group who actually likes Vita. She is a horrid horrid person!”
“Thank you. That’s very kind of you” replied Maya.
“Come, have a pot of tea with me. Cheer you right up and give you time to gather yourself. Come.” Taking Maya by the arm, they walked back to The Old Mill and shared a pot of tea on the balcony. Maya was grateful for this hand of friendship she had been offered. As etiquette goes, the guests couldn’t leave without speaking to the Meirs family in deference to their rank in society. One by one the guests made their way to the table to greet her and say a few words. Every guest had kind words for Maya which basically reinforced how the town really felt about Vita and her family. Maya felt extremely better by the time the tea party was over and was very grateful to Lady Brenda Lee for having the insight to do that for her!
The day after the unfortunate incident at the Old Mill, Nancy went to visit Ian to give him an update on how things were going.
“She’s absolutely lovely Ian! Everything you said she was. We’ve become the best of friends!”
“I’m so glad. How did the tea go?”
“Oh well. It went fine. Except there was a little incident with Vita Alto.”
Nancy took the time to explain exactly what had happened, not leaving out a single detail.
“Oh that’s great! Just great!” said Ian throwing up his hands in disgust.
“It was handled Ian, and quite expertly thanks to the Meir sisters. Everyone walked away with the impression of Maya as a beautiful, charming young lady. No harm done.”
“That’s all well and good Nancy. But it’s not really the town that I am worried about. It’s how Maya sees herself. That is the issue here.”
Ian began to pace the floor.
“I don’t want Maya to come home a broken woman. She needs to come home a confident woman who loves her husband and has no doubts about where she wants to be or the life she wants to live. Coming home has to be for the right reason and not because she has no where else to go.”
“I see. Well you are definitely right. How do we go about accomplishing that?” Nancy asked.
“It all starts with a plan.” Ian replied. “We need to boost her confidence so much so that when she returns to university she won’t need to cling on to anyone. Especially Eddy. Who do you know at the local paper?”
Nancy smiled a co-conspirator smile. “Why? What do you have in mind?”
Ian flipped open his phone and started dialing numbers. It was all going to start with a little favor….
CC Used in This Chapter