Paris, France 1896She ran her index finger across the image of the sandy banks along the Seine River. She bent herfing
er at the water’s edge as if she could slide into the river finger
-first and be washed clean.
A knock sounded on the door, and Vivian jumped up from the bed. “Just a—” Before she could
stack her cards and finish her sentence, the flung door opened and her aunt stepped through theopening.A strawberry-
red braid crowned her aunt’s head like a halo. Aunt Alma glanced from Vivian tothe rumpled quilt and back, her eyes narrowing. “You can’t mope around here forever. I say it
was a rare act of chivalry that he let you off the hook when he did. Never trusted that weak chin
of his. A sure sign he’s not the kind deserving of a prize like you.”
“I’m fine.” Vivian fanned the postcards and held them up. “I was only reclining and looking atFather’s writings to me.”
slow smile deepened the laugh lines that framed her aunt’s green eyes. “Well then, I’d say Ihave superb timing.” She pulled a long envelope from the pocket on her duster and waved it likea banner. “I’ve just come from the post office.”
“A letter from Father?”
Vivian’s heart hammered as she snatched the envelope and ran her finger
along the seam.
“Dinner is nearly ready. You can read the letter to me while we eat.”
Vivian nodded. When she heard her aunt’s footfalls on the stairs, she closed the door and hu
rriedto her bed.
Vivian would miss her aunt and her sisters. She’d been anxious to meet her three
brothers-in-law and her new niece, but Paris held her future. Living with Father would allow hera fresh start, a chance to pursue her dream of being a famous dress designer.Perched on the foot of the bed, Vivian opened the envelope and slid out a piece of stationerymuch smaller than promised by its large packaging. She drew in a deep, hope-full breath,unfolded the sheet of paper, and began reading.