Reluctant Wife(6)

By: Lindsay Armstrong

‘I… ’ Roz stopped.

‘Find her hard to like?’ enquired Margaret ‘Don’t worry, we all do. Although I must say——-or perhaps I shouldn’t—but as a girl she wasn’t quite so…’ she gestured. ‘But anyway,’ she went on after a moment, ‘she gets around now as if she was the supreme arbiter of all the taste and elegance in the family, not to mention. its first lady—by the way, that’s your role now, and don’t let her tell you any different. But she really likes to think she has great power of influence over us and she’s not always terribly ethical about it, I’m afraid. And the third force,’ she said slowly, ‘is about to be born. Well, she’s already born, but I don’t think anyone has realised her potential yet. I’m talking about Nicky.’

Nicola, universally known as Nicky, was Adam’s youngest sister and the baby of the family at nineteen. ‘But. she’s a honey,’ Roz said bewilderedly.

‘I’m not disputing that. I’ve just got the uncomfortable feeling that Nicky will move heaven and earth one day to get what she wants whether it’s what she should have or not, and that even Adam will find her hard to control.’

‘I think Adam’s really fond of her. He sort of stands in as her father.’

‘That might be the problem—how fond he is of her,’ Margaret said cryptically, but then she had shrugged and gone on briskly, ‘I hope you don’t mind me filling you in like. this but you looked totally confused at the last family get-together,and not only about who was who but all the cross-currents as well.’

‘I was,’ said Roz. ruefully, then a thought struck her. ‘isn’t it odd that all the minor forces, as you call them, are female?’

Margaret had smiled with genuine humour. ‘There’s at least one more, and she’s on our side of the family. Wait until you see Aunt Elspeth in action! But I can tell you one other thing, when you produce a son and heir for Adam, they’ll not be able to hold a candle to you, Roz …’

The irony of that last remark was to stay with Roz over the ensuing months, and not only because she had no desire to be first lady of the family. And when Margaret had made her disclosures, Roz had, been tempted. to ask her about Adam’s first wife, but found herself unable to broach a subject that seemed to be totally taboo. She’d also treated Margaret’s confidences with some wariness and tried to stop herself from making judgements based on them. But it was obvious that Adam liked and respected his cousin Margaret, and he certainly did everything he could for the fatherless Amy and Richard, even to employing Richard. But she’d gradually, grown to see the truth of Margaret’s assessments of the family, except for one. For the life of her she couldn’t imagine where Nicky fitted in as a minor force.

Like Adam and Angelo—Angelo was the fifth of Flavia’s children and, Nicky’s immediate elder, a dashing young blade of twenty-three—Nicky had inherited her mother’s dark good looks, although some of the Milroys were fair and Lucia was a striking Titian-haired goddess with a magnificent figure, although the proud mother of three. But Nicky had a bright, sunny personality, and although there had been some recent drama associated with her it had been more Flavia’s drama. Nicky had wanted to go flatting with two university friends, which seemed quite a normal aspiration for a nineteen-year-old——as Adam had pointed out to his mother. Also that Nicky would still be in the Same city, not on the other side of the moon.

But Flavia had found the decision hard to make, and Roz had pointed out to Adam that it couldn’t be easy losing the last of your children from home.‘ He had replied with a slight smile that his mother was a very resilient person, she must be to have been torn from her own family so young, survived the Milroys, coped with being widowed fairly young and rendered nearly destitute for a time. And that she would make the necessary adjustments, he had no doubt.

On the night of her twenty-first birthday, after dinner had been successfully concluded to Milly’s patent relief and Roz was sitting with Flavia and Lucia as the band struck up, she glanced at her mother-in-law, and couldn’t help admiring her because she had made the necessary adjustments as Adam had predicted, just as she’d coped rather marvellously with being ousted from Little Werrington two years ago by a complete stranger, something Roz had always felt guilty about-but then Flavia had taken that step, herself.

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