Painting by Miranda Koerner
“No.” One by one, she flung the bright and crisp white gowns on the lush carpet thick enough to swallow any high heel. ”This is a summer party, Jules. Not a funeral.”
Her assistant bit her lip, gathering up the magentas and kelly green frocks and pressing them to her own dove-grey shift. While Estella dressed in nothing but neon, her staff was required to fade into the background. ”This is everything the designer sent over, ma’am.”
Estella stamped her foot. ”But the garden party is tomorrow!” she wailed. ”Henry Jones is going to be there. I haven’t seen him in ages. I can’t show up in something that dull.”
“Perhaps some accessories, ma’am.” Julia eyed the dragonfly sniffing the white hydrangeas on the balcony patio overlooking the lush grounds of the estate. ”A pin or necklace.”
One impeccably groomed eyebrow arched. ”Perhaps.” Her eyes traveled to the same dragonfly and her lips curved up. ”Call Herr Schmidt, Jules. Ask him for something in blue– peacock blue– with a hint of green. And call James to bring the car around.” Her green eyes glittered. ”I’m going shopping.”
Seven hours and seven bags later, and the empty grounds were humming with guests. Faint strands of a violin quartet wound through the trees and blooms of gowns swirled around the patio turned dance floor in the arms of linen-suit glad gentlemen in straw fedoras. Standing to the side of the kitchen door, Julia plucked at her own gown, chosen from a pile of Estelle’s rejects. The pale yellow was striking against her olive skin and her dark curls, free from her usual bun, tumbled around her shoulders. She glanced at her watch. Any moment and Estelle would be making her entrance.
She turned to the thick accent and thicker eyebrows. ”Herr Schmidt.” She smiled. ”It’s actually Julia.”
“But Estelle called you Jules.”
“A nickname,” she lied.
“It suits you. Your eyes are like golden topaz.” He extended a white thin box. ”For you.”
“Thank you. I’ll take this to Estelle right away.” Before she could turn, he placed his hand on her arm. ”It is not for Estelle, Jules. It is for you.”
She glanced down at the box and fingered the golden ribbon wrapped around the edge. ”Did Estelle order me a gift?”
“No. I saw you yesterday and thought it would be perfect.” His lips twitched under his mustache. ”Please open it.”
Slowly, with the same deliberation and patience as the setting sun, she undid the ribbon and opened the lid. She sucked in her breath. ”Herr Schmidt, it’s beautiful.”
“As are you. Allow me.” Before she could protest, he lifted the necklace from the box and gently placed it around her neck. It nestled into the crook of her collarbone, the tiny sapphire and emerald dragon fly glittering above the bodice of the dress. ”The perfect adornment for the perfect flower.”
“Will never know.” Herr Schmidt waved his hand. ”She is nothing but a peacock. You, however, are a hidden rose in a garden of weeds.”
Her lips twitched and a tiny giggle escaped. ”That’s a terrible metaphor.”
“I’m terribly distracted, I confess.” He extended his hand. ”Dance with me.”
“Of course.” How could she say no? But even as her fingers slid into his, she knew that the pounding in her heart had nothing to do with worry over Estelle. When his hand slid to the small of her back, heat flushed from her chest to her cheeks. She laid her head against his shoulder, letting the gentle lullaby of the music wash over them.
And when Estelle entered a few moments later, she didn’t notice. Nor did anyone else.
For it’s rare to see a dragonfly in a garden at night.
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends! A new week of whimsy awaits!
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