The Southern Dragon house made Demeter’s, two doors further down, look like a suburban kit home.
Her heart seemed to climb higher in her chest with every step up to the front door, so it was in her throat by the time she rang the doorbell.
The door opened onto a huge, marble hallway. With no one in sight. She stepped through, looking around for someone, anyone.
The door closed behind her and revealed a small lady with a mass of dark curls piled on top of her head. She smiled. “You must be Miss Calypso. Miss Amy sent a picture you know. Come along then.”
And with that, she set off, Calypso teetering between a fast walk and an awkward run to keep up.
She kept up a flow of conversation as she went. “The family were never that keen on your papa you know, and we’re all happy she’s back home where she belongs and we can take proper care of both her and Mr Joshua.”
She gasped. “Oh, that was rude, I’m so sorry, but you see Miss Amy talks about you all the time, and we see you as completely separate to him. And you’re Mr Joshua’s big sister, and a little boy needs a big sister to keep him growing too big for his boots.”
Calypso was torn between embarrassment and amusement. She managed to break into the flow for a moment. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even ask your name earlier.”
The woman stopped. “Oh my dear goodness, I’m so sorry, how very rude of me. I’m Maria-Philippa and I run the Quin Luong London home.”
Calypso looked around them, she had no idea where they were, but whatever room it was would have given the Midas reception area a run for its gold. “You’re in charge of keeping all this running? That sounds like a big job.”
Maria-Philippa flushed and smiled. “Oh yes, keeps me on my toes you know. Now just through here. There’s only one member of the family in residence at the moment, Mr Richard. He’s Miss Amy’s eldest cousin, you know.”
She pulled open a door and ushered Calypso into a large, light-filled sitting room.
There was a man on a sofa by a window at the far side of the room, reading a book. He looked up at their entrance, then stood and made his way towards them. He was tall and lean and walked like a tiger.
Maria-Philippa waved a hand at Calypso. “Miss Calypso, Mr Joshua’s big sister, here to drop off a gift for him.”
She turned and patted Calypso’s arm. “I’ll leave you with Mr Richard then, call if you need help finding your way out after your chat.”
Calypso gulped, then turned to meet Richard Quin Luong’s dark, assessing gaze with a polite one of her own.
He grinned, and offered his hand. “Amy said you were a good sort. Nice to meet you.”
Calypso shook his hand and replied. “I feel incredibly fortunate to count Amy as a friend, she’s a remarkable person.”
Richard’s response was a snort. “She’s an impetuous brat who’s been far too indulged. She’s also whip smart, stubborn as a mule, and usually a good judge of character. Joshua’s father being her only mistake so far.”
Her cheeks heated and he waved her to a seat on a white-and-gold sofa, decorated with red cushions.
As she sat, she reached into her bag, pulling out the picture frame and the onsie. “I just wanted to drop these off. Amy said it would be easier than posting them. They’re not much I’m afraid but I wanted to get them both something.”
She handed both of them over and he laughed at the sight of the onsie knight’s outfit. “It’s perfect. He’s going to be the envy of the Singapore baby set in that one.”
He looked at the frame. “You know she’s going to put a photo of you into this.”
“What?! But it’s for her to put pictures of Joshua in.”
Richard replied. “And so you’ll have to have a picture taken with Joshua. She wants him to grow up knowing his sister, she’s very vocal about it. The family’s probably just going to end up adopting you.”
She swallowed a second squawked ‘What?’ and fumbled her way through an increasingly garbled sentence instead.
Richard was kind enough to interrupt her. “Don’t worry, it just means you’re known to family members, and our most important staff, such as Maria-Philippa, and are welcome in any of our homes, at any time.”
She choked. This was all too much, it was too extreme, too fast, but it was clearly sincere and offered with a warmth she hadn’t expected. She took a breath and started again.
“Thank you. Amy’s friendship means a lot to me and I’m happy she wants me to be part of my brother’s life. Being known to her family sounds lovely, and incredibly overwhelming, I think it’s going to take a little while to process.”
Richard nodded, then stood. “And I’m afraid, I’m going to have to leave as soon as I’ve welcomed you. I’m on a plane back to Singapore tonight.”
She stood as well. “Of course, and thank you again.”
She turned towards the door and paused. She had no idea where to go, once she left this room.
“Turn right, down the first set of stairs, turn left, take the second set of stairs, then right again, and you’ll end up in the foyer.”
Calypso giggled. This was insane. “I’m trying not to say thank you a third time, it gets a little cloying, but I do appreciate the help.”
He nodded again, and she slipped from the room, wary of overstaying her welcome. Richard Quin Luong was charming, genuine, polite and utterly terrifying. If the rest of the family was like him, and Amy, it was no wonder they had Zeus running scared.
She let Amy know she’d completed her errand, and wondered how to raise the subject of her assimilation into the Quin Luong circle of care.
Amy replied. Richard says you’re going to be a very good sister to Joshua and it’s far more than I deserve – he’s teasing don’t worry. I’m the spoiled brat and he’s the boring old party pooper, even if he is only five years older than me.
Calypso’s heart twinged. It sounded rather nice, growing up with cousins close enough to tease and be teased in turn.
She signed off from their conversation and messaged Herne. I’m starting to think Ryan’s correct, and I’m a weird magnet.
She could see his smile in his reply. You saying I’m weird?
She snorted, and phoned him. “You’re the only non-weird part of my life right now.”
“Sounds like you’ve had an interesting afternoon.”
As she headed home, she filled him in, then heard his news from the previous few hours. Nothing dramatic, and she loved every quiet element of it.
The call ended as she got into the lift, and returned to the apartment.
She was glad she’d neglected to mention her present-buying plans to her flatmates. It made it easy to not mention the visit to the Quin Luong home. All she had to do was fend off avid questions about the Fates.
“You actually walked out on them?” Jason squeaked.
“They’d clearly been put up to it and I wasn’t going to stay to be bullied by Zeus in person.”
Hercules said. “He’d have sent Ares, or Hera. He doesn’t do mistakes.”
Calypso humphed. “He clearly does, he just doesn’t have the balls to admit to them.”
Jason wheezed, then said. “Maybe he’ll get the message now, and stop pestering you, so you can focus on your new job.”
Hercules sat forward. “Are you excited? What are you going to wear?”
Calypso’s mind went blank. Clothing? She had no idea. “It’ll depend on what the weather’s doing.”
Jason rolled his eyes and smirked. “You haven’t even thought about it. Just as well you have us looking after you.”
She glanced between them. “What did you do?”
Hercules replied. “Us, nothing. Other than lay an insane guilt trip on Thalia and Narc on Friday. End result has been another raid of the Z Corp office stores, this time charged to Narcissus’s account, and all clothing vetted by Clio and Calliope. Thalia insisted. The poor thing’s beside herself.”
Calypso gasped and reached for her phone. “Why didn’t you say so? And I wasn’t there on Friday so we didn’t have a chance to talk.”
Jason said. “Maybe check the clothes before you call her.”
Calypso waved a hand. “They’ll be perfect, everything else for the weekend was, it was just the nightwear and I’m putting all of that on Narcissus.”
Hercules looked at Jason. “It seems she’s not unconditionally forgiving everyone.”
He turned to Calypso. “The clothes are laid out on your bed, at least be looking at them when you talk to her so you can say what you like.”
She nodded and smiled absently, then wandered into her bedroom with her phone to her ear.
Thalia answered, and burst into tears.
By the time she’d finished comforting Thalia, she wanted nothing more than dinner and bed.
The clothes were perfect, of course, but Herne’s comments from the weekend before echoed back. Why was she leaving it to other people to decide what she wore?
She opened the cupboard, then scanned through the chest of drawers. Other than the casual clothes she’d worn on her Sundays off from Z Corp, the only clothing she’d chosen and bought for herself was underwear. And even they (and the casual clothes) were from getting-rid-of-end-of-range sales for Z Corp employees.
For all the Fates were fretting about her leaving the Fashion world, had she ever truly been part of it?
She thought she’d hidden her abstraction from the other two over dinner, until Jason gave her a fond smile. “Whatever it is, you’re over-thinking it and it’ll be fine in the morning.”
The smile she sent back was a grateful one. “In that case, I’m going to make an early night of it. Thank you for spoiling me with those clothes.”
Both denied having anything to do with them, but their pleased expressions said otherwise. They were so sweet to her.