The music starts up. Your father nudges you, and says “Get up, Arty. It’s time to dance”.
“I know, Father,” you reply, standing.
It is the sort of dance where the girls change partners every few minutes. Your first partner is a tall, blonde, blue-eyed girl, who looks like she was a cheerleader or a Pom in high school. “Who is your date?” She asks immediately.
You gesture at the pretty French girl dancing on the other side of the room, her blonde curls swaying along with her.
“Oh. Her.” Eliza sounds disappointed.
Angeline always wanted this, though. Minerva isn’t your only reason for coming. So now, you go in honor and in memory of the two women in your life. Minerva, and Mother.
She is twirled to the next boy, looking annoyed at your lack of congeniality, and a brunette dances to your arms.
“I am Eliza.”
“My name is Artemis.”
She purses her lips thoughtfully. “Wasn’t that one of those pagan gods?”
Your face does not betray the resentment you feel. “Yes. The god of the hunt.” You conveniently forget to mention that Artemis is a female name. She doesn’t need to know that.
“Artemis…” she tries out the name. “Can I call you Arty?”
“No,” you reply, perhaps too quickly.
Eliza looks affronted. No, she must not call you Arty. Only your parents could call you that. Only them. Especially now.
The next round begins, and Eliza is sent to a different partner. Another blonde is in your arms, dancing. “Jennifer,” she introduces herself.
There is a silence as you dance together. Then Jennifer asks, “How did you spend your winter break?”
It seems an odd question to ask. She sees your confusion in your eyes, and laughs. “Sorry. My mom was briefing me on questions to ask guys in the limo on the way here. That was the first one that popped into my head.”
You laugh with her. Your father had tried the same thing, though he knew you would only be caring about Minerva. “I spent the holidays at our summer house in Niece. Where did you spend your Christmas?”
The smile immediately disappears from her face. “I’m Jewish. Not everybody celebrates Christmas, genius.”
Her comment is sarcastic, but oh, if she knew. You remember Angeline, insisting on having a menorah set up at their Holiday Party (she called it that) so as not to insult their Jewish guests. Angeline, with her welcoming hostess smile and beautiful decorating skills. Juliet had spent many an evening griping to Butler because the Madam wanted the crepe paper placed “exactly so”.
Jennifer is passed along to the next man. A short girl is your next partner. She has to reach for your shoulder, but she manages it very gracefully. “You dance well,” she comments.
Yes, Angeline taught you how to dance. You remember hearing music, a waltz, coming from your parents’ bedroom, ten years ago now. You peered around the corner, and saw Angeline and Artemis dancing happily. You watched as they whirled and spun, and came hesitantly into the room. Angeline gracefully left her husband at the side of the room, and danced over to you. She showed you where to put your hands, and taught you how to dance. You were too small to truly dance with her, but you spent the next few days in your room with the door locked, practicing. And the next time your mother threw a party, you danced.
And Angeline stood by and watched, a proud smile on her face.
“Did your mother teach you?” You ask.
She glares. “I’ll have you know that I learned dancing from the most prestigious dancing academy in all of Europe!”
She huffs, and twirls away.
Minerva is next.
Her blue eyes twinkle with joy. “How is the dancing going, Artemis?”
You sigh. “I just keep offending them. It doesn’t make any sense.”
She laughs, a sweet sound that you never grow tired of. “We’re girls, Artemis. We don’t make sense.”
There is silence. You remember Angeline, after school, telling you exactly what you did that made the girls hate you, why they were mad, what you should have done, and what you should do in the future. It hadn’t made any sense then, and it made no sense now.
Minerva caught the sad look in your eyes, and interpreted it correctly. “I miss her too.”
“It’s been almost a year now, but I still can’t get over the fact that she’s just… gone.”
The music ends, and you escort Minerva back to your table. She sits in the third, the last, seat. There should have been four. Angeline should have been here, welcoming Minerva, and playing matchmaker. She should have been laughing along with your father. She should have been…
But she wasn’t.
Your father raises his glass. “To Angeline.”
Minerva raises hers. “To Mrs. Fowl.”
You are last. “To Mother.”