Ruby ignores Gisselle as best as she can until it’s time for the twins to head back to New Orleans for the Christmas holidays. She’s hopeful that, once back home, Gisselle will spend all of her time with her friends, and Ruby can avoid her further and spend time with Beau. Before they leave, though, Ruby knows that she has to hang out with Louis at least once. Louis has decided to go to Switzerland earlier so that he doesn’t have to spend Christmas with his grandmother. Ruby goes up to the mansion for dinner, where Louis announces that he has two presents to give her. They are not, shockingly, the heads of his grandmother and cousin. One is a big ass ruby ring, which is sized perfectly since Louis has memorized every part of Ruby that he’s touched. Oh, and he has to mention that he felt the ring of the woman at the jewelry store and told her that Ruby’s fingers were “two sizes smaller”, because of course she was some beast forced to work in a shop and not a delicate flower like our Ruby. Ruby thanks Louis and kisses him on the cheek, and he guesses correctly that she’s already in love with someone else. Ruby admits it, and he tells her that he’s just glad to be her friend. Of course he is. The other gift is a record of the symphony he wrote for Ruby, as he had full recording equipment brought to the mansion. Ruby is overwhelmed and they part on pretty good terms.
The day that the students leave for the break, Ruby says goodbye to Rachel, who tells her that she’s going to spend Christmas with one of the nuns from the orphanage where she grew up. Gisselle watches their goodbye like a hawk, but Ruby ignores her. Daphne deliberately sent the driver late, so the twins are among the last to leave. Gisselle, naturally, is not pleased by this, but cheers up as they near New Orleans. Upon arrival, the girls are surprised to find the house fully done up for Christmas, with lights and candles and a giant tree with a pile of presents under it. Daphne waltzes in all decked in white furs, accompanied by Bruce.
Daphne announces that she’s throwing some holiday parties and going visiting over the New Year, so she expects her stepdaughters to behave. They can have friends over and go to parties, but she’d better not hear any scandal. Gisselle is thrilled, but Ruby is upset that Daphne can celebrate and go to parties so soon after Pierre’s death. Gisselle brushes this off and hurries off to get ready for dinner. After dinner, when the guests go in for cordials, Daphne pulls Ruby aside and tells her that she wants them to have a fresh start. She’s depending on Ruby to make sure that Gisselle controls herself during the break. She goes off to the guests and Gisselle comes to ask Ruby what was up. Ruby says that she doesn’t trust Daphne and Gisselle jumps on her for being paranoid, and tells her that she’s so melancholy that even the birds in her paintings look like they’re about to cry. Ruby considers this and decides it’s okay for her to have some fun. She calls Beau and they make plans.
The days go by and Ruby allows herself to relax and have fun with Beau. At Christmas dinner, Gisselle asks Daphne if she and Ruby can have some people over for New Year’s and Daphne agrees, as long as it’s only a few people and everyone leaves by midnight. Gisselle quickly agrees. Daphne and Bruce leave for a party and Beau and John (Gisselle’s new boytoy) come over. Ruby gets a brief phone call from Paul, but it’s sad and weird and let’s move on. Gisselle and John go upstairs and Beau and Ruby are alone in the living room. Beau gives Ruby his school ring and then they totally do it in Ruby’s living room. Even Gisselle took it upstairs, y’all. Afterwards, Ruby wonders if maybe it wasn’t the best plan, but she decides that the happiness was worth it. They get dressed just in time as John and Gisselle return. Gisselle teases her sister a while, then notices Beau’s ring around Ruby’s neck. She tries to bring up Louis, but is disappointed when Ruby informs her that Beau already knows. After a bit, the boys leave and Gisselle tells Ruby that she’d better be prepared to give the ring back, as Beau’s parents won’t be too happy about it. Nervous, Ruby decides that she’ll go to Nina the next morning for a protection charm.
The next morning is Christmas, and the girls get tons of presents. Instead of the usual VCA shopping montage, we get a gift montage, so here’s a sampling:
- Leather coats
- Fur hats
- Bath oils and talcum powder
- Charm bracelets
- Diaries from Paul, though Gisselle gives hers to Ruby, since she doesn’t write down her secrets
Daphne even bought some of the silk shirts that Uncle Jean likes, telling Ruby that she can take them out to him the next day, and she can even take Beau. Ruby is suspicious, and rightly so, as Daphne takes this opportunity to tell the girls that she and Bruce are getting married. Gisselle just wants to know if that means that the twins can come home from Greenwood, but Daphne tells her that they’re going to finish out the year. Ruby coldly says that she hopes they’ll be happy. Gisselle decides that there’s no time like the present for drama, so she stands for everyone and tells Daphne and Bruce that she was saving it for Christmas, and now it can be their wedding present too. Gisselle tells Daphne that she wants to work extra hard so that she can walk again at the wedding, but that she should really be at home for that, not at Greenwood. Daphne’ll think about it.
After presents, Beau come over and Ruby has Nina bless them. Beau is…less than 100%, but he goes along with it. Ruby tells him about the wedding and he tells her that his parents had suspicions. Ruby and Beau go out to the institution, but Jean is worse than ever, and completely unresponsive. When Ruby gets home she goes to see Daphne and asks her to pay for Jean to be back in his own room again. Daphne tells her that she’ll do so–if Ruby convinces Gisselle to go back to Greenwood, as Daphne doesn’t want her around at the moment. Ruby goes to her studio to think about things, and is interrupted by creepy Bruce, who vauguely comes onto her and is generally skeezy. *Note: This is foreshadowing for the next book*
Ruby tries to talk to Gisselle about returning to Greenwood for Jean’s sake, but her sister isn’t hearing it and would rather plan their New Year’s party. Even though it depresses her, Ruby tries to have a good time. Naturally, even their party outfits are wildly different, as Gisselle is wearing a ton of makeup and jewelry, and Ruby is wearing only Beau’s ring on a chain and the ring from Louis.
The party is, naturally, wild, and Ruby and Beau soon escape it to go to her room, where they promptly get naked. Ruby spares a moment to worry that they’re not being careful (FORESHADOWING), but Beau waves her concerns away. After a bit, they go back down to the party, and the house is trashed. Decorations have been torn down, there’s vomit on the floor, and there’s been a food fight. Various friends of Gisselle’s are draped around the place, but Ruby manages to get out of one of them that John and Gisselle vanished about an hour before. Beau and Ruby eventually find them in Ruby’s studio, where John and Gisselle have gotten naked and are smearing paint all over each other. Shenanigans! Beau and Ruby get them dressed and downstairs, where they chase away the rest of the party guests and try to clean up a little. Finally Ruby tells Beau just to go home. She tries to clean up a little more, but finally just goes to sleep in an armchair, where she is woken up shortly thereafter by a furious Daphne. Long story short, the girls are going back to Greenwood.
Upon their return, Gisselle gets some joy out of debuting her “recovery” for their quadmates. On their first day back in class, Ruby heads over to the art department to see Rachel, but immediately senses that something’s wrong. There are clusters of students whispering in the halls, and all of them seem to be looking at Ruby. You’d think she’d be used to that sort of thing by now. Anyhow, when she gets to the classroom, Rachel isn’t there. Ruby asks the teacher (an older man) where Rachel is, but all he’ll say is that Rachel isn’t coming back and he’s her replacement. Ruby runs to find her sister, locating her in a circle of other students. All Gisselle knows, she says, is that Miss Stevens was fired. When Ruby pushes for answers, Deborah tells her that Rachel was fired because of her “immorality”, but when Ruby turns to Gisselle, her sister tells her that Mrs. Ironwood found out all on her own why Rachel never dated men. Ruby immediately calls it all lies, but the others just mock her. Ruby runs to see Mrs. Ironwood, but all she’ll say is that Rachel resigned on her own. Later that day, Ruby taps into the gossip and learns that Rachel was accused of immoral behavior when a student came forward and said that Rachel had seduced her. Rather than go through a hearing, Rachel chose to resign. Ruby is now totally alone at Greenwood.
SWAMP THING?! Oh thank god, I was really worried! But he’s right folks, that’s it for now. Next time: Letters from Louis, Ruby keeps getting sick all the time, in the mornings; and the conclusion of Pearl in the Mist.