This letter will come a little late, as I've told your father to send it on to wherever in Marseilles you happen to be. I am not going to envy you too much, though I will this once say how lucky you are.
I have news, though I am not sure whether it is good and am inclined to think not. Grandmother wanted to speak to me today, only me and I am sure it wasn't a conversation she wanted passed on. I've copied it down for you anyway, though, and here it is, as far as I remember.
"Perhaps a year ago," she began, "I would have invented a lie to explain what is happening away. I am not going to do that now. You are a woman now, or nearly one, and I expect there are things you can be trusted to let alone."
"Olivia, children tell secrets for the sake of it, without a thought of their effects. Only a fool would tell their own secret and open themselves to the consequences of it."
"I am not a fool, Grandmother."
She almost smiled, looking me over for a moment.
"No, I do not think you are. Here is what I think you must understand. Perhaps you have caught parts of this, perhaps more than that. If a secret is mine and you come to know it, it is yours. If it is Elizabeth's, it is yours. Robert's, yours."
"I do know that, Grandmother."
"When the axe falls on one of us, it falls on us all, unless we are quick and clever enough to distance ourselves in time to separate ourselves from the target. Affection does not enter into it. I expect if such a time ever came, you would do so for me, as would I to you. This I accept."
"And that is what happened to Teddy?" I raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, Pia has been speaking to you. Teddy made his choices. I do not think there was ever an action he took which he was not entirely aware of."
She sat back in the chair, appearing to think for a moment before she spoke again.
"You have been spending a good deal of time with Pia, is that correct?"
"That is correct, we've been writing to each other."
"And how does she sound?" She wasn't inquiring after your health.
"She seems to be learning," I lied, "She knows what to say and when to say it. She is more like we are."
I have lied to Grandmother several times in my life before but this is is the first time when I think I was believed. It was a half-lie, the second part, at least, is true. You do know how to behave and pretend when you like to. I managed to weave the right notes of pained, disappointed correctness into it, as though you'd been turned into a socialite and I missed the way you used to be. You may be allowed to come to New York soon, whether you want to or not.
I don't particularly care how you feel about it.
"That is good news. Tell me, how is her father?"
"As I understand, he's quite well."
Grandmother gave me a distrusting look.
"The truth is, Pia doesn't mention him much in her letters. We don't speak about our parents very much. I do know he's been away in Corsica for a time."
I couldn't tell whether she believed that one or not.
"Olivia, do you understand you are not to write to her about any of the goings-on in this house?"
"Why would I do that?" I gave a little giggle, "What sort of things go on here that she'd want to know about?"
"Even if there is something she would want to know about, you are not to tell her. Clear?"
I could have mentioned that you were in fact, a Doisneau and part of the same rules she mentioned earlier. Still, that would give it away entirely.
"I wouldn't. We don't talk about serious things. Really."
She looked me over, reading me. I couldn't tell what she decided.
"Olivia, you may go."
And so I went. I'm proud of myself for carrying off at least one lie to her, though I don't know as well about the others.
I had no idea there was more to the elopement and by our standards, I wouldn't think we needed any more. It must be something interesting, because Aunt Isabella and Uncle Teddy seem to bother to tell you most things that matter (a novelty, believe me).
I have reluctantly written back to James Cole saying that we do have an understanding and that I would like to never speak about it again or speak to him, for that matter. I needed to add that, you see. I felt as if it was the only way I could agree to his little deal and not feel I'd bent to him in some small way.
At first, I thought James was a little rude and a bit of a cad but I almost enjoyed it, having someone to be allowed to argue with. But now he seems to have wrapped me into this whole world of his, this plan with his father, his drunkenness. He seems to hate me for some reason and I am not sure why.
Regardless of what you and Aunt Isabella think, I am not a prude. I don't care how much he drinks or where he puts his hands. He can even do it when I'm present, I know to look the other way. But he draws me into and makes me complicit.
And then he says, "Ha! Look where you are, Miss Van Der Meer! Look where I've taken you. Look what it could look like, even if there wasn't really much to it. Look at us."
But it's his fault, it's all his fault and damn him for it.
I don't want to be part of this anymore.
You're not the only one traveling, though yours is the only one worth doing. We are going to see Mary in two weeks and stay there for a few days. It seems I shall finally know the joy of meeting Miss Cornelia. I intend on engaging someone for the sole purpose of watching my pillow and make sure Jean-Pierre doesn't get to it.
Why don't you audition for Guillaume's play? I don't know whether you can act or not or whether there's anything in the script but you certainly do well with crowds and your imitation of Ironheart is flawless. I am sure Guillaume would cast you, he loves you, though not in the way your father meant.
You know, I've never been to the West Indies. It's not that I had a particular want of it but it was something I've been curious about. And the other day I thought of it and I realized if things going on in the same way, I never will. I want to, you see, I want to see things and do things. And I will. Or at least I hope I will.
in my heart: determined