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Sitting in the wicker chair which had been drawn forward into the middle of the room, Kathie felt sick with mortification. How could she have been so conceited as to think she might have a chance with someone like Nancy Wilmot? She had almost lost her nerve and turned back before reaching Nancy's door. In fact, she believed she would have done exactly that, had Sharlie Andrews not shown up and found her there. If only Sharlie hadn't arrived just then, Kathie need never have known that Nancy was having a party. A party to which Sharlie had been invited and Kathie had not.

Or if only Sharlie hadn't been invited to the party either. Kathie would have thought nothing of Nancy having invited such old friends as Peggy Burnett and Biddy O'Ryan for an end-of-term drink. But to invite Sharlie as well, and leave Kathie herself out, well, that suggested only two solutions, neither of which was encouraging. The first possibility, that Nancy had a closer relationship with the younger mistress than Kathie had ever realised, stirred such feelings of envy that she could hardly bring herself to look at Sharlie. The alternative, however, with what it might imply as to Nancy's feelings (or lack of them) regarding Kathie herself, was too depressing to contemplate.

And if only Sharlie had been sitting demurely on this chair, halfway across the room. Or on another chair. Any chair. But instead, she had to sit exactly where Kathie wanted to be, on the bed, so close to Nancy that she brushed up against her with every little movement. With the spot she particularly coveted thus unavailable, Kathie had to fight a strong desire to cast herself down on the rug at Nancy's feet, but she could think of no acceptable excuse for exchanging a perfectly good chair for the joys of sitting on the floor. If she could even move the chair closer to the bed, that would be something, but by this point Kathie was so overwrought that she could no longer tell whether or not that would seem like a perfectly normal thing to do.

A mere twenty minutes earlier, Kathie wouldn't have believed it possible that sitting in Nancy's room in her pyjamas could be anything other than exhilarating. But now Sharlie had spoilt it all. If it hadn't been for Sharlie's presence, Kathie would have enjoyed listening to the banter flying back and forth between Nancy, Biddy and Peggy. She might even have plucked up the courage to venture a comment or two herself. As it was, any remarks she might want to make now were unlikely to add to the gaiety of the occasion. And if it hadn't been for Sharlie, Kathie would have exulted in this opportunity to take a surreptitious survey of Nancy's room, treasuring every little snippet of information that could be gleaned from Nancy's possessions. But now the thrill was lost to her, and it was all Sharlie Andrews' fault.

At this moment, Kathie wanted nothing more than to escape to her own room, huddle up under her blankets, cry herself to sleep, and pretend this evening had never happened. And Biddy O'Ryan was about to offer her the perfect excuse to slip away and do just exactly that.




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