The Grays’ Gala

It was the night of his parents’ annual charitable gala. He was there with Briony. His father remembered her and greeted her warmly. When he introduced her to his mother, the older woman was very reserved in her manner. He could tell that she didn’t approve of Briony which hardly surprised him. She had never approved of the girls he dated. She always found fault with them, even the otherwise socially acceptable ones.

He watched now as Briony was engaged in a conversation with a couple. “She’s quite lovely,” Mrs. Gray said to him. “Where did you meet her?”

“At Dad’s club. She was there alone. I was supposed to have lunch with Dad but he couldn’t make it. I went over to her, introduced myself and invited her to have lunch with me. We have been seeing each other since.”

“She isn’t at all what I expected.”

“You mean because she’s an older woman?”

“Yes. Aren’t there any girls your age whom you are interested in?”

“You sound like my supervisor. She assumed that I would be dating a twenty-something old.”

“She’s right. Briony is charming but she’s quite a bit older for you. I think you should date a girl in her twenties.”

“Mother, I’m not interested in girls my age. I’ve always preferred older women.”

“Now that you mention it, growing up, you were always besotted with the older girls. I was hoping that you would grow out of it eventually, though. What do you really know about this woman?”

“She’s a farmer’s daughter. I was invited to visit it and we went horse-riding. She has never been married and she doesn’t have any children. She has an older sister who is going to be a grandmother soon. “

Mrs. Gray stared at him, aghast and appalled. “Her father is a farmer?” she exclaimed.

“Yes. I haven’t met him but she said that he and her mother would love for me to have dinner with them on the farm–“

“Tadeas, I don’t like the idea of you dating a farmer’s daughter.”

“Mother, stop being such a snob.”

“I’m not being a snob,” she retorted. “I’m being practical. You and she are unequally yoked. You’re from two different worlds and that could never work.”

“Velma was right.”

“Who on earth is Velma?”

“My boss. She wondered if you and Dad would approve of Briony because of this whole preposterous idea of class difference. She’s right. British aristocracy places too much emphasis on the class system. It’s as bad as the caste system in India. You can have a farmer’s daughter who has more breeding and class than a man or woman who was born into and raised in wealth.”

“Oh, don’t talk such foolishness. Social class is extremely important. We can’t have people of different social classes mixing.”

“What about people of different races or cultures mixing?”

“We can’t have that either.”

“So, if I were to date a woman of another race, you would have a problem with that?”

Of course, I would.”

“Then, it’s a good thing that I don’t need your approval. I’m a grown man and free to date whomever I please. Excuse me.” He turned and walked away, bristling. He joined Briony. “Would you excuse us?” he said to the couple. He held Briony under her elbow and led her away.

“Are you all right?” she asked as they left the banquet hall.

“Yes, I’m fine. Just need a break from this.”

“I know what you mean.”

He took her to the library where it was nice and quiet. “Have a seat.”

She sat down but he remained standing. “You look very dashing in your tux,” she remarked.

“Thank you. And you look lovely.”

“Thank you.”

“Are you enjoying yourself?”

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“Yes, I am. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people. Thank you for bringing me.”

“You’re welcome.”

“What about you? Are you enjoying yourself?”

“To be quite honest, I’m not keen on these black tie affairs but I attend them when it’s for a good cause.”

“I get the feeling that you would have preferred if you weren’t from a wealthy family.”

“You’re right. Don’t get me wrong. My parents raised me as best as they could although, growing up I was closer the nanny than to my own mother.”

“That’s a shame. What about your father? Are you close to him?”

“Yes. We get along very well.”

“Your father was as charming as when we first met. Your mother was very reserved. I couldn’t tell if she liked me or not.”

“That’s just how she is. Don’t let it bother you.”

“How long have your parents been married?”

“For about thirty years.”

“And you’re their only child?”

“Yes, but before she had another boy but he died soon after he turned two. My father said that it devastated her and that was probably why she didn’t want to get attached to me because she was afraid that something bad would happen to me too. So, she hardly spent any time with me. The nanny was more of a mother to me than she was.”

“I know women who have lost children and they still haven’t recovered. I don’t think it’s something a parent will ever get over. It’s obvious that your mother loves you and like most mothers, she wants you to be happy.”

“That’s fine but I don’t want her trying to control my life. Now, would you like to go back to the festivities or would you like a tour of the grounds? It’s well lit at night so you’ll be able to see everything.”

“I would like a tour of the grounds.”

“All right. Let’s go.”

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