DINNER AND A MOTIVE

by RUBY

An AU story that begins with …

what if Father’s biological child had been a girl and Vincent had grown up with a big sister?

 

Well, if my brother likes her and Father doesn’t, I should consider that a mark in her favor, Grace thought, idly turning a skewered lime wedge in her gin & tonic. A very English drink, she joked she drank it for the antimalarial effects of the quinine but she had to admit some of Father’s English-isms had rubbed off on her. She wriggled her toes in the uncomfortable pumps she quickly bought at Macy’s that afternoon along with the dress. She hated shopping for clothes, especially formal ones. The one bright spot of that trip had been a visit to the candy counter to pick up a big box of chocolates for the children Below, with a stop by the beauty department for a tin of rose-scented bath salts for Mary.

She thought of Father…her father, as she swished a sip of her drink around her mouth. Below still didn’t know about that, and she figured it’d be a cold day in Hell indeed before Father ever claimed her publically. It had finally given her the push to apply to an out-of-state medical school. The guilt she’d felt of being busy with an Up Top high school preparing for college and not being there for Vincent or Lisa when that disaster happened gnawed at her. But she had known since she’d been 15 and found the clippings and the old suit in Father’s wardrobe. His name had been Jacob Wells, and she finally pieced together the cryptic gossip between Lou and Wong one Winterfest she was not meant to have overheard: “…I don’t know Lou, I guess Jacob always hoped Margaret would change her mind one day and take him back, but she’d never do that if she knew about Gracie…”

He’d had the decency not to deny it but she could tell he was more frightened she was going to tell everyone else. She nearly left that night but knew it would shred Vincent. But a severing had been struck between her and Below since. She’d gone to medical school at Wake Forest; she’d signed up for Doctors Without Borders soon after. And while she wrote Vincent regularly, her letters to Father were infrequent and terse. Father’s were the same, and she fully felt it was in his court to change that.

She looked at Catherine again: designer dress, perfect hair and nails. My brother couldn’t have fallen for a magazine ad. She chided herself at her lack of charity. She remembered the first letter from Vincent that mentioned her, how his already fine handwriting seemed to become a work of art in the careful pen strokes of her name, “Catherine.” Gracie had bit her tongue that she was familiar with the name Catherine Chandler. Until recently, Catherine Chandler had been part of her father’s law firm that represented clients that not infrequently made her job as a doctor necessary. Clients who dumped toxic waste and sold arms to places people at this dinner would be unlikely to be able to find a map. But they’re writing nice big checks to salve what remains of their consciences so just be a good girl and you can go home in an hour. Catherine noticed her sitting alone at a table and walked up.

“I just want to thank you for coming in place of Dr. Salis, Dr….?”

“Vincente. Grace Vincente, but most people just call me Dr. Grace.”

Grace didn’t miss how Catherine’s eyes seemed to soften at the last name, and the secret smile on her lips as she said, “That’s a lovely name. I know you don’t get leave often so I want to thank you again for coming at the last minute.”

Grace smiled a secret smile herself. Oh, have you got it bad, honey. “Don’t mention it, Ms. Chandler, right?”

“Call me Catherine.”

“You really know how to work a room, Catherine, we’re getting some exceptionally generous donations this year.”

“I’m glad. The work you do is so important.”

“Thank you. Look, I’ll admit this isn’t my scene, how about when this wraps up we go for a cup of coffee, I’d love to hear all the New York gossip I’ve missed since I’ve been gone.”

Catherine laughed. “Sure, but I’ll admit I don’t get around as much as I used to, I probably won’t have many interesting things to tell.”

Grace smiled. “You’d be surprised what some people find interesting.”

Catherine walked away.

You’re mad to have fallen for her, little brother. Utterly, completely and hopelessly mad. But I hope you make it work. I hope you make it something wonderful. Grace smiled and thought about what she might get Catherine from Macy’s the next time she was in town. Her smile became wicked: a box of jellied orange slices that were Vincent’s favorite and an innocent suggestion that Vincent might enjoy sharing them with her. I know you move at the pace of molasses in January, dear Vincent; thank goodness you have me. She was glad to have come here tonight after all. 

DINNER AND A MOTIVE

by Ruby 

An AU story that begins with …

what if Father’s biological child had been a girl and Vincent had grown up with a big sister?

 

Well, if my brother likes her and Father doesn’t, I should consider that a mark in her favor, Grace thought, idly turning a skewered lime wedge in her gin & tonic. A very English drink, she joked she drank it for the antimalarial effects of the quinine but she had to admit some of Father’s English-isms had rubbed off on her. She wriggled her toes in the uncomfortable pumps she quickly bought at Macy’s that afternoon along with the dress. She hated shopping for clothes, especially formal ones. The one bright spot of that trip had been a visit to the candy counter to pick up a big box of chocolates for the children Below, with a stop by the beauty department for a tin of rose-scented bath salts for Mary.

She thought of Father…her father, as she swished a sip of her drink around her mouth. Below still didn’t know about that, and she figured it’d be a cold day in Hell indeed before Father ever claimed her publically. It had finally given her the push to apply to an out-of-state medical school. The guilt she’d felt of being busy with an Up Top high school preparing for college and not being there for Vincent or Lisa when that disaster happened gnawed at her. But she had known since she’d been 15 and found the clippings and the old suit in Father’s wardrobe. His name had been Jacob Wells, and she finally pieced together the cryptic gossip between Lou and Wong one Winterfest she was not meant to have overheard: “…I don’t know Lou, I guess Jacob always hoped Margaret would change her mind one day and take him back, but she’d never do that if she knew about Gracie…”

He’d had the decency not to deny it but she could tell he was more frightened she was going to tell everyone else. She nearly left that night but knew it would shred Vincent. But a severing had been struck between her and Below since. She’d gone to medical school at Wake Forest; she’d signed up for Doctors Without Borders soon after. And while she wrote Vincent regularly, her letters to Father were infrequent and terse. Father’s were the same, and she fully felt it was in his court to change that.

She looked at Catherine again: designer dress, perfect hair and nails. My brother couldn’t have fallen for a magazine ad. She chided herself at her lack of charity. She remembered the first letter from Vincent that mentioned her, how his already fine handwriting seemed to become a work of art in the careful pen strokes of her name, “Catherine.” Gracie had bit her tongue that she was familiar with the name Catherine Chandler. Until recently, Catherine Chandler had been part of her father’s law firm that represented clients that not infrequently made her job as a doctor necessary. Clients who dumped toxic waste and sold arms to places people at this dinner would be unlikely to be able to find a map. But they’re writing nice big checks to salve what remains of their consciences so just be a good girl and you can go home in an hour. Catherine noticed her sitting alone at a table and walked up.

“I just want to thank you for coming in place of Dr. Salis, Dr….?”

“Vincente. Grace Vincente, but most people just call me Dr. Grace.”

Grace didn’t miss how Catherine’s eyes seemed to soften at the last name, and the secret smile on her lips as she said, “That’s a lovely name. I know you don’t get leave often so I want to thank you again for coming at the last minute.”

Grace smiled a secret smile herself. Oh, have you got it bad, honey. “Don’t mention it, Ms. Chandler, right?”

“Call me Catherine.”

“You really know how to work a room, Catherine, we’re getting some exceptionally generous donations this year.”

“I’m glad. The work you do is so important.”

“Thank you. Look, I’ll admit this isn’t my scene, how about when this wraps up we go for a cup of coffee, I’d love to hear all the New York gossip I’ve missed since I’ve been gone.”

Catherine laughed. “Sure, but I’ll admit I don’t get around as much as I used to, I probably won’t have many interesting things to tell.”

Grace smiled. “You’d be surprised what some people find interesting.”

Catherine walked away.

You’re mad to have fallen for her, little brother. Utterly, completely and hopelessly mad. But I hope you make it work. I hope you make it something wonderful. Grace smiled and thought about what she might get Catherine from Macy’s the next time she was in town. Her smile became wicked: a box of jellied orange slices that were Vincent’s favorite and an innocent suggestion that Vincent might enjoy sharing them with her. I know you move at the pace of molasses in January, dear Vincent; thank goodness you have me. She was glad to have come here tonight after all. 

4 Comments

  1. Ruby, what an amazing idea! You gave us Gracie instead of Devin — so alike and yet so necessarily different. In just one story, I knew who Gracie was, felt her devotion to her brother, her painful ambivalence about her father, her hard-won assuredness in the world Above, her unsevered ties to the world Below. You took a wonderfully original idea and made it fully believable. Thanks for such an enjoyable and intriguing read!

    Reply
  2. I love your stories. They always bring such an unexpected and welcome perspective. I would love to read more of Gracie!
    Thank you for this,
    K.

    Reply
  3. Ruby, this was such a clever and delightful story! How creative to give Vincent a sister, and what a larger-than-life sister: she’s a doctor, with Doctors Without Borders, who likes gin and tonic and plans to help Vincent move faster than ‘the pace of molasses in January’.
    If Catherine passes her scrutiny, that is.
    Only the best for Dr. Grace’s brother. Of course.
    Thank you for a memorable new character.

    Reply
  4. It turns out that if he had a sister, it would also be nice, she seems so feisty but well-organized, I liked her, I’m sure she will understand Catherine perfectly and will push Vincent in the right direction. I could definitely read more about her. Thank you for an interesting story.

    Reply

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