“It wasn’t planned. It just . . . happened.”
“Yes, dear. I know how these things happen.”
“Are you happy about it?” Harper asked, suddenly concerned. “You can be honest now that we’re alone.”
“Ecstatic.” Granny patted Harper’s hand. “At my age, we don’t want to waste too much time waiting for grandchildren.”
Granny James made a face. “Please, let’s keep that fact between us, shall we?” She smoothed the napkin with her fingertips. “Are you going to tell your mother?”
Harper’s smile shifted to a frown. “I suppose I must. I’m just not sure how to do it. We don’t communicate at all. I’m not sure she’d answer if I called her on the phone.”
“You did send her an invitation to the wedding?”
“Of course. She should have received it. Though, I don’t know if she’ll come.”
Harper twisted her lips. “I’m not sure that I want her to come.”
Granny James looked off at the window, shuttered and draped. A new sadness was in her eyes, a heavy cloud over her demeanor that everyone had commented on to Harper since Granny James’s arrival. Even Devlin had taken Harper aside and inquired about Granny James’s health. “The fire has gone out of the dragon,” he’d said. It was meant to be funny but genuine concern was behind it. She’d lost weight and her hands seemed barely strong enough to carry the heft of the large diamond-and-sapphire ring that had been her engagement ring.
Harper had seen photographs of her grandmother when she was Harper’s age. She’d been a great beauty with aristocratic bone structure and a tiny, voluptuous body. She was a great lady of a lifestyle that belonged to her generation. She was an excellent horsewoman, a renowned socialite, a champion of causes, and a passionate gardener. She had almost single-handedly renovated the Greenfields Park estate to the showcase it is today. To see her now, tired and crestfallen, Harper felt suddenly afraid for her.
Granny James swung her head back. She was smiling. “Let’s give her a ring right now, shall we?”
“Of course your mother. It’s early yet. She should still be at home.” Granny James reached for her cell phone and said with a twinkle in her eye as she dialed the number, “She’ll answer for me.”
Harper suddenly felt sick. She put her cup of tea on the tray, noting that her hands were shaking. Her mother had this effect on her. Somewhere hidden deep inside, and despite all her efforts to be independent, regardless of her successful relationship and getting married, becoming a mother, being the mistress of her own house, she still wanted her mother’s approval. She clutched her hands together in her lap, watching Granny James sit with the cell phone to her ear, listening to it ring.
Suddenly her face grew animated. “Georgiana, dear. It’s me. Good morning!”
Granny James listened a moment. “I’m at Sea Breeze.” She paused, then rolled her eyes. “Yes, of course in South Carolina. At Harper’s house. We have wedding plans. Very exciting. You got your invitation? . . . Very good. . . . I’m as well as can be expected. . . . Yes, he’s settled in the Memory Center. Let’s talk about that later. Harper’s here, dear. She has some special news to tell you. . . . What? No, it won’t take long.”
Harper cringed. Obviously her mother didn’t want to talk with her.
“Must you always be in such a hurry? You can tell your driver to wait.” Granny’s voice brooked no disobedience. She looked up to Harper and waved her closer. “Here she is.” Granny held the cell phone toward Harper, her eyes bright with encouragement. She mouthed, Tell her.
Harper suddenly wanted to throw up. She felt cornered. Trapped. She reached out across the mattress, took the small phone into her hand, and brought it to her ear. Leaning back in her chair, she took a breath as she forced a cheery voice.
“Good morning, Mummy.”
“Harper.” Georgiana’s voice was coolly polite.
So, Harper thought. She remains unrelenting.
“You have some news?” Georgiana prompted. Harper imagined her mother glancing at her watch, foot tapping.
“Yes!” Too much enthusiasm, Harper told herself. She tried to still her quaking nerves. “I have happy news, Mother. You’re going to be a grandmother.”
There was silence on the other end of the line.
“I heard you. I’m just not quite sure what it is I’m supposed to say.”
“How about congratulations?”
“Well, I don’t know. You aren’t married yet. Are congratulations in order?”
“We’re very happy about it.”
“Then I’m happy for you, Harper. Truly. Congratulations.”
Harper couldn’t believe her ears. She heard real emotion in the words. Harper’s heart soared. What girl didn’t want to talk to her mother when she was having a baby? It was only natural.
“Thank you, Mummy,” Harper choked out, surprised to feel herself welling up with long-unshed tears. “That means a great deal. I’m so happy.”
There was a beat of silence on the other end, then Georgiana made a sound as if she was clearing her own throat, but when she spoke again, her tone was brisk. “You’re going to be a mother. Well, well, well. That changes things, doesn’t it?”
“Surely you won’t stay in South Carolina now?”
Harper wasn’t sure she understood correctly. “Yes, of course I’m staying here. Why wouldn’t I?”
“You have your child’s future to think of now. Not only your own. Do you think living in the backwoods of the South is thinking of your child? What kind of a life are you offering him or her? Consider the opportunities in England. The social connections. Darling, won’t you consider moving to Greenfields Park? You would make everyone so happy if you took over the estate. You could raise your child in the very best of surroundings with the very best people.”
“I think I am raising my children in the very best surroundings with the very best people. We’re really very happy.”
“You’re happy. Aren’t you concerned about Granny James? She dotes on you. Has all her life. She’s done everything for you. And Daddy, dear man. He’s been through so much.”