Grace Hamilton shifted her weight from one foot to the other. How much longer was this going to take? They couldn't expect her to stand perfectly still on this footstool forever. She shot a look at the dressmaker, kneeling at her feet, and then at her mother. "Are we almost finished?"
Impatience flashed in her mother's eyes. She crossed the parlor toward Grace but then pressed her lips together and held her peace.
Mrs. Wilson pulled a pin from her lips. "It shouldn't be too much longer. I'm almost done pinning the hem."
Grace turned and glanced at the clock. "I'm supposed to meet Abigail Gillingham at one to work on our plans for the church charity sale supporting injured veterans."
Mother's eyebrows arched. "Abigail can wait. This final fitting is more important."
Grace twisted around. "But, Mother—"
"For goodness' sake, Grace, stand still! You're almost eighteen. You must learn to have patience and conduct yourself like a proper young lady!"
Grace froze in position, her frustration simmering just beneath the surface. Being forced to pose like a statue had worn her patience thin. But if that was what it took to be free to meet her friend and have some time away from home, then that was what she would do.
Mrs. Wilson poked the next pin into the sky-blue satin fabric and looked up at Grace. "I must say this color is a perfect match for your eyes, and it highlights your blond hair very nicely."
Mother sent Grace a pointed look, her expectation clear. Grace swallowed her frustration and gave the expected response. "Thank you, Mrs. Wilson."
Her mother nodded, seeming satisfied. "Grace will be wearing this gown when she makes her debut at the St. Andrew's Ball in April."
Mrs. Wilson turned toward Mother. "I didn't realize she was coming out this spring."
"We had planned to bring her out next year, but now that the war is over and the soldiers are coming home, her father and I have decided it's best not to wait."
Grace lifted her eyes to the ceiling. All this fuss and bother about making her debut and finding a husband. She wouldn't turn eighteen until mid-May. Why were they in such a rush?
Mrs. Wilson added another pin. "I'm thankful the war is finally behind us. But what a terrible cost our men had to pay for the victory."
The dressmaker's words sent a pang through Grace's heart. Here she was frustrated about this dress fitting when so many brave men were still recovering from injuries they had suffered in the Great War. How courageous and noble they were to serve their king and country. And some would never come home, including her cousin Rodney, who had died at Passchendaele.
Her eyes grew misty as she thought of how she and Rodney had laughed and played together when they were younger. He might not be her cousin by blood, but they'd shared a close friendship ever since she'd joined the Hamilton family. Now he was lost to her forever.
Mother stepped forward and touched Grace's back. "Stand up tall. No man wants a wife who slouches."
Grace straightened her shoulders and tried to ignore her mother's stinging words, but it wasn't easy. No matter how perfectly she tried to follow every rule of etiquette, she couldn't seem to please her mother.
"With so few men of marriageable age left, the most promising prospects will be snatched up this spring." Her mother fingered the satin fabric of Grace's skirt. "That's why Grace must make the best impression possible at the ball. We don't want her to miss the opportunity to find a suitable husband."
Mrs. Wilson looked up at Grace. "With her natural beauty and this lovely gown, there's no doubt she'll attract a long line of suitors."
Was that true? Grace shifted her feet and looked away. The idea of dressing up and attending balls had sounded exciting and romantic when they'd first discussed moving up her debut. But now that the time was near, she wasn't so sure.