Reluctant Wife(6)

By: Lindsay Armstrong

Like Adam and Angelo—Angelo was the fifth of Flavia’s children and, Nicky’s immediate elder, a dashing young blade of twenty-three—Nicky had inherited her mother’s dark good looks, although some of the Milroys were fair and Lucia was a striking Titian-haired goddess with a magnificent figure, although the proud mother of three. But Nicky had a bright, sunny personality, and although there had been some recent drama associated with her it had been more Flavia’s drama. Nicky had wanted to go flatting with two university friends, which seemed quite a normal aspiration for a nineteen-year-old——as Adam had pointed out to his mother. Also that Nicky would still be in the Same city, not on the other side of the moon.

But Flavia had found the decision hard to make, and Roz had pointed out to Adam that it couldn’t be easy losing the last of your children from home.‘ He had replied with a slight smile that his mother was a very resilient person, she must be to have been torn from her own family so young, survived the Milroys, coped with being widowed fairly young and rendered nearly destitute for a time. And that she would make the necessary adjustments, he had no doubt.

On the night of her twenty-first birthday, after dinner had been successfully concluded to Milly’s patent relief and Roz was sitting with Flavia and Lucia as the band struck up, she glanced at her mother-in-law, and couldn’t help admiring her because she had made the necessary adjustments as Adam had predicted, just as she’d coped rather marvellously with being ousted from Little Werrington two years ago by a complete stranger, something Roz had always felt guilty about-but then Flavia had taken that step, herself.

Then, as more dancers drifted on to the floor, Nicky looking bewitching in pink taffeta and talking nineteen to the dozen to Richard as they danced, and Angelo with a gorgeous young blonde in his arms, Flavia said out of the blue, ‘I so hope those two babies don’t get any ideas about anything. It would not be suitable.’

‘Angelo’s not a baby, Mamma,’ Lucia said languidly. ‘Ideas about what?’

‘Nothing. Nothing,’ Flavia said hastily, and turned to Roz with a smile. ‘Now see what you have started, Rozalinda!’

‘I have?’

‘Why, yes! A vogue in twenty-first birthday parties. Let’s see, there is Richard to come and pretty soon, then Amy, then Nicky, not to mention my dear sister-in-law’s eldest grandchild Julian—I’m quite sure Elspeth would have her nose severely broken if Adam did not… ’

‘Not broken, Mamma,’ Lucia interrupted. ‘How many times do I have to tell you? Out of joint is the correct term, and anyway…’

‘Lucia,’ Flavia, who was petite and plump now but must have been a raving beauty as a girl, Roz had decided, because even now she had perfect skin, flashing eyes, long dark, hair and exquisite hands as well as exquisite taste in clothes, drew herself a up in her chair and continued, ‘ever since I have spoken this peculiar language I have referred to broken noses and everyone has known exactly what I have meant, so I will not change this late in life. Please bear with me and refrain from correcting me in public or in private or anywhere else!’

Lucia raised her eyes heavenwards, and Roz turned away to hide her smile, for it had occurred to her before that although Flavia and Lucia spent a lot of time in each other’s company, even Lucia’s mamma found her rather a cross to bear,

But Lucia remained unperturbed. ‘And anyway—’ she went on—but Adam approached before them and took his mother away for a dance, to her delight.

And hard on his heels came Angelo to Roz’s rescue, having discarded his gorgeous blonde for the time being.

‘Thought I just had to rescue you from Lucia and Mamma,’ he said with a grin. ‘But in reality I’ve, been dying to dance with you, Roz. You always look beautiful, but tonight it’s gone beyond words, and I’m so sorry Adam met you first. I suppose you know I’m hiding a broken heart beneath this false air of gaiety?’ He twirled her round to the music and her skirt belled out and she found herself laughing up at him.

‘So I’d noticed!’ she teased him.

‘Because I dance with others …’

‘She’s lovely!’

‘Only for consolation …’ Angelo broke of and stared at her. Then he said eagerly, ‘Do you really think so, Roz?’

‘Yes, I do. And I spoke to her earlier. and thought she was nice as well as lovely.’

‘If only I could get the rest of the family to agree with you! But I know them well enough to know they don’t.’

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