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Everything had seemed so simple then. Emma perused the last invitation, wistfully remembering how orderly she and Anne and Maggie had thought life would be when they left school and burst on the London season. They had expected the stacks of pasteboard invitation cards, including them in masquerades and rout parties, balls and soirees. Wasn't life to be a whirl of carriage drives, picnics, strolls in the park, visits to the theater?
For three young ladies with the proper backgrounds, the best schooling, adequate dowries, life in London's exhilarating social clime was to be the greatest adventure thus far embarked upon. They had spent hours discussing fashion plates and members of the ton, most of whom they would not have recognized had they come face to face. But their visions were peopled with handsome gentlemen of rank, ballrooms bedecked with spring flowers, sparkling sunlight pouring down on them as they walked in the parks. For who could escape their own shining freshness: Emma's exotic coloring, Maggie's fine eyes, Anne's glorious hair? Girls fresh from the schoolroom, eager for what life had to offer them. What gentleman could be so insensitive as to pass them by?
But they were girls, when all was said and done: girls with more eagerness than knowledge, more enthusiasm than prudence. Emma could look back and see that now. Their dreams of how their lives would progress when they walked out the doors of Windrush House had not a shred of practicality. Things had started to go wrong even before they left school. Reality had intruded on their make-believe world and they had been powerless to handle even that first crisis. Emma had thought herself stronger than theothers, but she had found herself no more effective then than she had been later in solving her own dilemmas.
As she placed the last invitation with the others in the stack, Emma sighed. Another season, and she was not at all sure she could face it. She smoothed out the skirt of the gray Circassian cloth dress, amused at its lutestring roses and modest bodice. Not exactly the sort of dress she had expected to be wearing! Though, come to think of it, probably it was more in keeping with the school dresses they had all worn that day two years ago.