Katherine's Invitation to Rebecca

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Dear Mrs. Spencer,

I would be honored if you would meet me for tea at 3:00 o'clock at the Langham Hotel this Tuesday afternoon, May 19th? I await your positive response with anticipation and hope.

Yours with warm affection,

Katherine Fleming-Drake

Katherine looked at the note card, blotting it with care. The gilded and flourished edging was definitely feminine and soft and the soft cream of the cardstock was anything but aggressive. Re-reading it, she almost tore it in two to start again. "Positive response," she mouthed to herself, a bit appalled that her father's forthrightness had made it into her writing, but to be honest with herself, she did not want to give the other Eldren a moment of thought of refusal. They needed to talk, she and Rebecca. They had had hardly any time together. Katherine had been taken the night of their acquaintance and Ezekiel had hovered close on the boat trip back. In the time in-between then and now, there had been little chance for talk and camaraderie with their mutual travels.

She had sensed that there was some unhappiness between her husband and Mrs Spencer, a formality that seemed strained and unusual for them both. And seeing the hurt quickly hidden on Rebecca's face as Ezekiel had railed at her, she had understood the other woman's withdrawal into indignant propriety. And in his words, Ezekiel had reminded her of a conversation he and Katherine had had, that Rebecca was not trained to battle yet and had endangered his and Bertie's lives in Egypt. Katherine knew that she was not there to see it, would not, despite her intimate trust of Ezekiel's judgment, wholly condemn the woman. She would not do that now even though this time she had personal experience. The confusion she had glimpsed on Rebecca's face had told her stories, the fear quickly smothered under manner. Something had gone very wrong.

The choice of the Langham had reasons; she had inherited her father's battle sense and understanding of staging. The Langham Hotel was neutral, a place where propriety could not and would not be broken, no matter the passions of the meeting. In that Rebecca would have the better hand. Katherine had to work hard to be a lady despite her title. She would give Rebecca the advantage of place, not force her to her home or ingratiate herself into Rebecca's. Neutral, her father's voice boomed in her head. Negotiations and treaties must take place in neutrality. And all should feel equally safe.

He rarely let it happen that way, Katherine mused with wry irony, sealing the invitation for the footman to take to Rebecca's house. Her father always had the upper hand. But she would not do that to Rebecca. She liked her too much. And in that, Katherine was as much her mother's child. The Lady Fleming had been a gracious and kind friend, liked by all, full of life and love. On the edge of becoming a mother in her own right, Katherine wanted Rebecca to know that she was not angry, wanted to pull her into her own circle friends. Her father had said that her mother had always said every friendship started with tea. Katherine smiled, looking at the small painting of her mother that she kept on her desk.

"Tea at the Langham Hotel mother?" she asked softly of the picture and with the nod of approval felt not seen, rose to send the note to its destination.

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