After they placed their order, Sedna shifted slightly in her chair. It wasn’t like she wasn’t used to wearing formal clothing–she’d gone to white-tie and black-tie events before, as the daughter of the First Seer. Her father had been important even before he’d become First Seer, so Sedna had gotten used to these kinds of things early in life.
But the evening gown she wore here seemed unusually… eye-catching, Sedna guessed. She couldn’t remember ever wearing something so tight around the chest–not that she would have been able to tell, she guessed. It was strapless, but the skirt fell all the way back to her ankles.
She’d tired her red hair back into a short tail, and Louise had handled putting makeup on her. Sedna had been glad of that, because she didn’t use makeup that often herself. Once everything had been done, Sedna had looked in the mirror and been surprised at just how good Lin could look, when she made an effort. Or when her parents did, anyway.
Despite that, Sedna had to wonder if Cara Mayer was a bit prettier than Lin. Than Louise, too… almost. That fight was closer.
Louise and Hector looked like they belonged in paintings. Cara looked that way, too, in an understated white dress. When Sedna had seen how dressed-up the Baker family got, she’d worried that they’d be overdressed for the restaurant. But everyone else in the place wore equally fancy clothing. Sedna hadn’t known before that there was a restaurant this expensive anywhere near Oakland Street.
She couldn’t stop glancing at Cara Mayer, the only one at the table she’d never seen before. Cara’s blonde hair and bright blue eyes stood out, and she wore a golden, knotted string, a kind of necklace. It seemed out of place with everything else.
It surprised Sedna that Cara was an angel. She didn’t have any of the saintliness that Sedna had expected, as beautiful as she looked. Cara kept looking off to the side. Sedna swore that she was about to spit, every time, but she stopped herself. Anyway, the conversation stayed pleasant enough, at first.
Louise, Hector, and Cara carried on most of it. Sedna talked only when she needed to, because she didn’t want any of them to notice that she wasn’t Lin. Instead, she focused on the restaurant. The way conversations hummed low, with classical music playing in the background. Sedna could smell the food at the table closest to theirs. She thought it might be good. She couldn’t help eating a few of the rolls, as hungry as she was, and they tasted very good. She stopped herself before she took too many, though.
It felt like Lin might have skipped breakfast, and Sedna hadn’t had any lunch. With all that, just three rolls didn’t come close to filling her. She’d have to wait until the food actually came to have more, though. Cara seemed like the kind of person who would comment if Sedna ate too much.
Sedna watched the waiters going about their business. She felt herself starting to relax. The lights were dim, here, and they played strangely on the ornate green-and-yellow carpet. Cara, Louise, and Hector were all drinking wine. Sedna was used to being the only one not getting drunk. She’d been to dinners like this quite a bit, before. The secret was, they always ended if you waited long enough.
Sedna glanced over at Cara. She replayed the last bit of the conversation in her head, realized that Cara had just asked what she thought of the place.
“It seems nice,” Sedna said, giving a faint smile. It seemed better than she’d expected, like the food would be very good. It might even compare with some of the restaurants back in Greece. But to say all that would be a blunder. The right thing to do was almost always to understate. “Did you find it, all the way out here?”
Cara tilted her head, bright blue eyes half-closing to study Sedna. “No. I think your parents suggested it.”
“Ah,” Sedna said, shrugging. “Well, they know a lot.” She tilted her head, letting herself smile. “Don’t you wonder when our soup will be out?”
Cara looked even more unsure. Sedna didn’t know why. She was doing her best to be perfectly pleasant.
Cara said, showing her teeth, “Are you hungry, Lindsay?”
Sedna thought she understood the question. It might have been a barbed shot at how Lin hadn’t made herself feed on a human for a while. “Well, I suppose I am,” Sedna said. “Unusual as it is for dinner time…”
A veiled insult earned a veiled insult back. It wasn’t that hard to do. Cara’s smile suddenly looked a few shades more brittle.
Sedna considered poking at her plate to show how little she cared about the exchange. But it might have also looked like she was nervous, so she just sat back and waited. Louise and Hector very smoothly started the conversation rolling again. Sedna noticed Cara looking at her, a few times. It looked like she might want to have some kind of a fight.
Sedna wouldn’t, of course No matter how hard to suffer she got. It wasn’t what Lin would have wanted to do, at all. It was just that, if Cara kept insulting her, the night would drag on and on.
Sedna had somewhat bigger problems, now, of course. She reached out for her glass of water, took a sip. It tasted very clear. She set the glass back down, carefully on the tablecloth. A spill wasn’t the sort of opening she wanted to give Cara.
“…Lindsay’s examination?” Cara said. “The whole thing with the poltergeist…”
“Well,” Hector said, “I’m sure that–“
“It really was quite a blunder,” Cara said, grinning. “Wasn’t it, Lindsay? Not that it’s your fault–you can’t help the way you were raised. Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the trees, you know?”
Sedna glanced up at her. She didn’t have any idea what the angel was talking about. But she knew for sure that it was another insult. Cara was smiling at her like she knew she’d won, this time.
Sedna took a deep breath. She had to. She clenched her hands on the edges of her chair, hidden by the tablecloth and pressed her lips together.
All of that, she had to do to keep from rolling her eyes. Instead, she just smiled, sunnily as she could. “That’s funny,” Sedna said. “My parents always speak so well of you. Just last week, my mother was telling me that you’re one of the best officers Himmel has.”
Cara blinked, the corners of her mouth slowly turning down. Looking closely, Sedna saw her cheeks color.
Insulting people who thought you were great never made you feel like a genius. Sedna had seen Koizumi, from the Amphictyonic Council, take someone down a peg that way at least ten or eleven times.
She had to fight to keep her eyes from rolling, again. She didn’t know how stupid Cara thought she was.
Over Cara’s shoulder, Sedna saw a waitress in a nice white blouse and skirt bringing their soup over. She looked over at it, giving a real smile this time. Maybe she’d actually get to fill her stomach on something solid. First time all day.