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San Francisco, California
Maeve Kaye put the finishing touches to the feast. The roast goose was resting on the platter, waiting to be carved. Stuffing, whipped potatoes made with real cream … even an apple pie made with Macintoshes that she’d canned just a couple of months ago. This holiday dinner would be something.
Maeve was delighted to be back in her home after the months spent sharing an earthquake cottage with Claire Rochambeau and her daughter, Veronique LeMaitre, in the aftermath of the earthquake. Maeve’s son, Michael, and that nice Gilbert Rochambeau, Claire’s handsome artist husband, had stayed in the houses to prevent looting after that Major General Funston fellow had insisted that they all evacuate.
Claire had kept them all busy, what with helping the nurses at the Army Hospital. She’d charmed that General Torney fellow almost out of his shoes, that was what. That little French hen proved to be made of stout stuff.
Michael came into the kitchen from the dining room, opened the back door and shook out the dust cloth.
“The table’s laid and everything put to rights,” he told her. He stuck a nervous finger into his collar and tugged just a little bit; he was wearing a new suit and tie.
“Now, Michaeleen, I told you that there was no need to get so dressed up. The Rochambeaus are like family.”
“I know, Ma. It’s just that, well, Veronique … I wanted to look nice for her.”
“Don’t set your cap in that direction, boyo,” Maeve cautioned. “Her ma, well …”
“Ain’t always quite right,” he interrupted. “So you’ve said, Ma. None of that matters. She doesn’t know I’m alive, anyway. Still, a gentleman should be properly attired when hosting.”
That was what Mister Rochambeau … Gilbert … Veronique’s stepfather, had told him. Gilbert seemed to know an awful lot about how gentlemen should look and behave. Michael often wondered if it was because he was French. He didn’t know for certain.
What Michael did know for certain was that he was very fond of Veronique, and that he would need every possible advantage. Looking like a gentleman when sitting down to table couldn’t hurt.
A chime sounded from the front door and broke Michael’s reverie.
“They’re here,” he whispered.
“Well, Mister Gentleman of the House,” his mother smiled, “be so kind as to let our guests in so that we may celebrate together.”
Michael did as he was bid, letting the Rochambeaus in and taking the ladies’ wraps.
“You look very handsome in your suit, Michael,” Veronique said as she handed him her coat.
It took every bit of self-control Michael had not to look at his mother and blurt out “I told you so!” Instead, he thanked Veronique and offered to escort her in for dinner.