The bitch, Lillian, would have loved this. All pomp and show. The hotel where they gathered for the meal was indeed a five-star. Large, rusty-coloured clay urns dotted the foyer, filled with ferns and eye-catching vegetation, as you entered. The flooring was Italian marble, soft grey swirled with white. The cool pillars, which Lacey leaned against, complimented the flooring colours.
Bitterness and resentment ran through her body. Great, she thought, at a Christening celebration and all I want to do is escape. In the chapel, she had shuddered each time the priest had said her niece’s full name. Not that the infant was at fault. But although Lacey Taylor had accepted her past since that momentous day three years ago when she’d read that letter, she was surprised to find herself cringing at the lies she had been spun all her childhood, lies she had believed were behind her.
Often the inky scrawl of Lillian’s handwriting appeared before her eyes, just as she dropped off to sleep. Pronounced as my husband’s sin by that woman, Lacey realised now that is what she would be forever more. Even today at the mention of Lillian’s name, Lacey felt dirty and unwanted.
Keeping a smile on her face and remaining pleasant was proving to be difficult. Listening to her sister-in-law going on and on about the tot was draining. Surrounded by family, Lacey should have been happy, but a lingering black mood clouded her, and it was going nowhere fast. She really was trying to appear jolly and upbeat, and so far, it was working. No-one had commented on her lousy disposition.
Her tiny niece, only three months old, was sleeping in her Moses crib nearby. The pretty baby looked angelic and calm as the adults celebrated her special day. Robert, the tot’s father, had splashed the cash for this big occasion – one of only a few happy occasions for the family in recent years.
He’d booked a private room for their celebration, and the staff were busy topping up champagne glasses and offering more food, as time went on. Damn it, she could do with a drink. Just one sip should be alright, but her conscience wouldn’t allow it. Best not to when she was in a dark mood.
Really, she was thrilled that Robert and Aoife had their little girl. So, what was it that irked her so? Don’t answer that; you know bloody well what, she corrected her thoughts.
She wandered over to the baby basket and peeped in at the small bundle. Her beautiful long lashes were perfect over her closed eyes. Her tiny fingers were balled into two fists, ready to face any challenges. Ruth Lillian Taylor will be a fighter, Lacey thought, as she admired her niece. She’ll take on the world and win. Lacey smiled at this thought and found herself reaching out to touch the little girl, her baby skin soft and clear.
“Isn’t she adorable?” Sally gushed, joining her sister by the Moses crib.
Smiling, Lacey nodded. “Indeed, she is. I was just thinking she will grow up to be a strong young lady.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Ah, I was just admiring her little fists. She was named well, too, wasn’t she?”
“Ruth? I think it means companion; it’s a Hebrew name.”
“I meant, Lillian, after her grandmother. She certainly made the world her own, not caring who she stood on when doing so.” Anger she did not mean to share, swept into Lacey’s words.
Without responding, Sally stepped back from Lacey, then turned and walked away.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, Lacey thought, recalling the barbed remark she’d just made. The little girl before her was innocent, she wasn’t to know anything of the cold woman her grandmother had been. Lacey wished the ground could open and swallow her. She needed to apologise to Sally quickly. She didn’t want to ruin this special day for anyone. To hell with being tee-total, she was going to have a drink. Where were the waiting staff when you needed them?
Looking around, she tried to see where Sally had gone. Her older sister was a kind soul, and Lacey owed her a lot. It was Sally who had stood by her three years before, when Lacey had gone searching for her birth mother. What a rollercoaster ride that had been. Her life had totally turned upside down back then and, if she was being honest, she was still trying to right it.
Time to go home, she heard someone say. Great. Saved by the clock; forget the drink, and just get out of here.
“Thanks for a lovely day, Aoife.” Lacey kissed her sister-in-law briefly, then searched for Robert to say her goodbyes. She found him chatting with Sally. As she approached her siblings, she plastered on her best smile.
“Robert, thank you for a great day, I enjoyed it. Little Ruth is an angel.” She hugged the big man in front of her. Her only brother, he had made a successful life for himself over the years.
“Are we still on for coffee tomorrow, Sally?” Lacey asked hesitantly. Sally nodded and followed her to the exit. Outside the venue, the two women parted, heading off in different directions.