...their mother had said through her hoisted-up, tight lipped smile. She had led them through a pair of impressive oak double doors whose brass handles were shaped like dragons' heads, and they had followed her, hapless ducklings, into the room wherein the party was being held.
She had dressed all three of them in royal blue.
Auden, the eldest, was mildly irritated by this. What was the attraction in dressing them all the same? They were much too old for this, now, and it wasn't as though they were triplets. She tugged impatiently at the ribbon her mother had tied into her hair, but it was knotted too tightly to be easily undone, as though Mrs Emery had apprehended Auden's wish to rid herself of it.
Ira, the middle child, felt horribly self-conscious. His suit was a little too tight; twice, already, Auden had called him "chubby", asking him the second time if he was afraid that the trousers would rip when he sat down. He moved cautiously, expecting a loud tearing sound at any moment.
And the youngest, Fox, was pretending she was a queen. Ira and Auden were her faithful subjects, and they had dressed in the same shade of blue as she to honour her. Tonight was the night of her coronation (the eight-year-old felt proud of herself for knowing this word) and everyone in the room was happy to see her.
At the long table groaning under the weight of so much food, the children's mother turned to face them. "I'm going to talk to Mrs Newman," she explained briskly, "You three stay together, be good, and do try to be polite and mingle a bit." She gave each of them a swift kiss on the top of their heads (Auden glowered; Ira wriggled uncomfortably; Fox smiled, pretending Mrs Emery was the queen's most trusted lady-in-waiting, about to leave her to finish some other duties). Then she turned and melted into the crowd.
The three Emery siblings exchanged glances.
"Well, we'd better do what she said, then," said Auden, grudgingly, "Let's go and 'mingle'."