How would she know which young men she ought to encourage? What were the most important qualities she should look for in a potential husband? And when someone did pursue her, how would she know if he truly loved her or if he was more interested in her family's wealth and position in society?
Her mother focused on choosing the right gown and making the most influential social connections. Surely there were other things that were more important.
She pushed that thought away. Her parents had provided every advantage for her, including the best education a governess could offer, as well as years of piano, voice, and dance lessons. She should feel grateful and confident about the future, but somehow she couldn't help feeling unsettled, like something wasn't quite right about her life.
Faded memories of her early years in England and her family there drifted through her mind. Her father had died when she was five, and she wasn't sure what had happened to her mum. She could barely recall her parents' faces now, and that thought pierced her heart. Why had she been sent to Canada? Weren't there any relatives in England who could have taken care of her and her siblings?
She was the youngest of four, she remembered that much. Her brother, Garth, and sister Katie were twins seven years older than Grace. They would be in their midtwenties now. Were they still living in Canada, adopted into families as she had been, or had they finished their indentured contracts and struck out on their own?
And what had happened to their oldest sister, Laura? Was she still working as a lady's maid on a large estate in England, or was she married and caring for her own family now?
Her throat tightened as she recalled other memories of her brother and sisters. They had been so close when they were young. She thought they had shared a bond that would never be broken. Yet they had been separated soon after they came to Canada, and none of them had ever written to her or visited her.
She blew out a breath to release the painful ache in her chest. It wasn't right. They were older. They should've searched for her and made sure she was safe and well cared for, but they hadn't. She'd been taken in by strangers and expected to accept them as her new mother and father.
Her parents said they knew nothing about her birth family and had forbidden her to tell anyone she was adopted. Most people didn't approve of taking in a Home Child with an unknown background.
She lifted her chin, and a wave of determination coursed through her. She might be a British Home Child, but she was not ashamed of that fact, or of her birth family, no matter what her adoptive parents said.
If she could find her siblings and discover the truth about her family and life in England, maybe she could make peace with her past. That seemed the only way she could live an open and honest life rather than feeling she must hide her history from everyone she met. But would connecting with them finally fill the aching void in her heart?
"Turn, please." The dressmaker looked up at her.
Grace blinked and shifted her gaze to Mrs. Wilson.
"Really, Grace, you must put aside your daydreaming! Soon you'll become a wife and then a mother, though I can hardly imagine my little girl is all grown up." Her mother's eyes filled, but she sniffed and looked away.
Grace sighed softly. Her mother was often sentimental and dramatic, praising her one minute and criticizing her the next.
Footsteps sounded in the front hall, and her father strode into the parlor. Tall and glowing with good health and confidence, he was dressed in a fine charcoal suit and carried his black leather briefcase. Threads of silver glistened in the black hair at his temples and in his full beard and mustache.
His assistant, Richard Findley, followed him through the doorway dressed in an equally fine fashion.
"Ah, Judith, here you are." Father greeted Mother with a brief smile, then looked across the room at Grace. His eyebrows dipped into a slight frown. "It looks as though we're interrupting."
"It's all right." Mother glanced at Grace before she turned to the dressmaker. "Mrs. Wilson is just pinning the hem."
Mrs. Wilson rose. "Yes, the dress is finished. I was just checking to make sure the hem is the proper length."
Richard flashed a confident smile at Grace. "You certainly look lovely this afternoon, Miss Hamilton."
Her cheeks warmed as she stepped down from the stool and returned his smile. "Thank you."