The lantern light was flickering its last light as she drew the heavy curtains together. She welcomed the shadows that darkened the corners of the room. She wanted the room dark. It helped her to think. In sunlight there were too many distractions in the room, from the collection of beautiful china figurines on the mantel to the sparkles in the chandelier. Her bedroom was a sumptuous candy box, designed to delight the eye. It was ironic, she thought, how much it felt like a prison instead.
There was a knock on the door and her youngest brother came in.
Why so dark in here, Katy? he asked.
Ah, the better to practice my shadow dancing, she said, and dipped to a curtsy.
Camden laughed. You did promise to teach me properly a tansy dance, he said.
Now why do you need to learn a tansy dance at the advanced age of 12, do tell me this.
I’ll tell you if you teach me right here and now.
I might at that, she said and wiggled a finger at him.
Camden was a tall lanky lad and looked much older than 12. He might have looked as old as 14, especially when he had a stern look, like he did right then. She smiled to herself and held out her left hand. Let’s go then, she said.
He took her hand and bowed to her. No bowing until the dance is over, Katy said.
She swayed back and forth, from left to right and then lightly danced forward until she was very close. Tansy dancing mimics the tall flowers in the breeze, she said. It’s more swaying than kicking up your feet. Do what I do as I do it. She swayed slowly to the left and he followed and then followed her movement to the right.
That’s right, you’ve got it, she said. Lean back as I lean forward. Then lean forward. Just take small steps. No jerking of your body, just smooth, like rippling wind.
They moved together until Katy thought he’d mastered the dance. Brilliant, she said. Time for you to tell me why.
Camden dropped her hand and took a step back. I don’t really know why, he said. Mother just asked me to learn it.
Katy stuck her hands in the folds of her skirt and clenched them into fists. Their mother had left the family and moved to another part of the city, where they had heard that she was scheming things, what things they weren’t quite sure, but not good things. They were sure of that.
When did you see Mother?
I didn’t see her. Haven’t since she left. She sends me notes. She’s asked me twice about the tansy dance and that’s why I asked you. He scrambled around in his pants pocket. Here’s the note.
She took it reluctantly. It was written on a piece of coarse paper, the kind shopkeepers use to tally up purchases. It was her mother’s signature. But the note wasn’t written by her Mother.