(The following story is prompted by the date, and the theme that only a thief can catch a thief.)
It was August 15, 1925 when I first stepped into the sprawling, Gregor mansion. I was a young thing, sexy, suave, and reckless. I thought I could outsmart everyone. After all, who would ever suspect sweet, small and innocent Marie of anything sinister. Well, they didn’t really know me then, did they?
It was late afternoon when I arrived in my finest, hat, dress, gloves, the whole package. I rang the door bell, wishing and hoping that Bill, or William Gregor, the eldest of the Gregor heirs would open the door. After all, he was the one nearing marriage age, and I, was the perfect bride material, ready to marry at a word. And I planned to marry Bill. That was the whole reason Julia Pratt had taken to being Marie Clementine Avery and adopt a demur personality. If my mamma could see me now, she would be spinning in her grave. ‘Demur? Ha!’ That’s what she’d say.
The keeper of the house opened the heavy doors inwards and barely cracked a smile upon seeing me. I flashed my pearlies as sweetly as I could manage. ‘Am I wrong? Or is Billy home, Thea?’
I slithered past her rigid form, into the grand round marble alcove before the foyer.
‘Master Gregor is busy having tea with the family.’
I smiled ever so sickly. ‘They wouldn’t mind me joining them, I’m sure.’
Thea almost growled, her lips rolling up in irritation. Heavens only knew why she hated me so. ‘The party isn’t till the evening, Ms Avery.’
I was beginning to lose patience. ‘Oh, is it? I truly thought it was an afternoon affair. Would you mind fetching Bill for me? I’m sure he’d love to know I’m early for private seating with the future family.’
Thea left without a word. And in the grand alcove, I couldn’t help but imagine myself as the lady of the house. Eventually.
I checked myself in the mirror, retouched the rouge on my cheek and the red of my lips. Who could resist? I smiled as I caught a glimpse of Bill staring at me from the corner as he appeared. Yes. He was definitely mine. All I needed was to keep the family on my side. Just until the wedding. And I was pretty sure there was going to be a wedding.
I turned, feigning innocent. ‘Billy, darling. I’m so sorry. I must have heard you say 3pm instead, so here I am.’ I kissed his cheeks lightly, like all society women do, and lingered a little longer near his cheek. ‘I hope I’m not intruding. Your Gregor parties are so famed, I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun by turning up late.’
‘You’re welcome anytime, Marie,’ Bill extended his arm and escorted me through the maze of the mansion, and out into the manicured gardens. ‘Come, I shall introduce you to the family.’
Wonderful! I thought. Just wonderful. I plastered a smile on my face as the family came into view. This was going to be easy compared to the last family.