Saturday, July 21, 2007

Forty Five

Diana slept through supper and woke only once in the night to note that Butterball was gone and Will hadn’t come to sleep with her. She missed the cat, but was glad to be alone in her very own room. In the morning, she found that Butterball had returned and lay curled at her feet.

Diana went to the washstand, heated some water in the kettle and proceeded to give herself a sponge bath. She was annoyed to find she was bleeding from the two days of riding, but decided not to mention it to Amalia, who would only worry. She wasn’t in much pain, and the midwife had said this might happen. Her bags had been brought in during the night, so she dug out some rags and resolved the problem. If she was careful today and tomorrow, the bleeding would likely stop.

She rifled through her clothes, but they seemed so out of place in this clean, peaceful home that she went to the closet instead and took out a dove-colored dress of a thick material that reminded her of cashmere. She tried it on, relishing its warmth and softness against her skin. The matching slippers were small, but they would do. She brushed out her hair and tied it in a loose ponytail. Then she peeked out the door into the hallway, and made her way to the kitchen, the hem of the dress swishing at her ankles.

She found Will, Aguilero and Amalia sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Everyone except Rebecca stared at her in this odd attire, and she blushed. "What? It was clean and it smelled nice."

"I hope you plan to eat breakfast with us," Amalia said. "You didn't eat dinner, so you must be starving."

Rebecca set a platter of pancakes on the table. "Be sure and take first pick, Amalia. Otherwise you won't stand a chance against these young men."

"I'll set one aside for Diana."

"If she wants some, she'll say so. She's a grownup, just like we are."

Diana investigated the cupboards, found a mug and poured a cup of coffee. She sat at the table but made no motion to eat, enjoying the consternation on Will and Amalia's faces. It was nice not to be forced to eat. So nice, in fact, that she could hardly wait for everyone to leave so she could fix herself a snack.

After breakfast, Will and Aguilero went to the barn and readied the horses. Rebecca claimed to have chores to do, so Diana and Amalia were left alone in the house. "Are you going to be okay here?" Amalia asked.

"It's a little late to be asking, don't you think?" Noting the look of genuine worry on her face, Diana added, "Yes, Auntie. This is a nice place."

"We're leaving your horse."

"I know. Thank you."

"I'll try not to pester you with letters every day. There will be a guard posted. If there's anything you need, send him with a message. If you want to come back on your own, he'll accompany you."


"I don't know why this is so hard for me. I feel like I'm abandoning you."

Diana ducked her head. Amalia demanded much of her and got on her nerves terribly at times, but her own mother hadn't been much different. And unlike her mother, Amalia had made her sacrifices freely, not because she had any obligation of kinship. "You're not abandoning me, Auntie. You've brought me to a safe place, just like you always have. I'm going to get better. You'll see."

Amalia blinked back tears. "I hope so. May I tell Robert you're happy here?"

"I was mean to him. He probably wants nothing to do with me now." She looked earnestly into Amalia's face. "But tell him I said thank you, and that if—"

Will strode into the room, all broad-shouldered efficiency, but in spite of the grim set of his jaw, there was an expression almost like panic in his eyes. He caught Diana in his arms and held her so tightly her feet left the floor. "Please don't stay here long. I already miss you so much I can hardly stand it."

She pulled away, startled by emotion in his voice. "It'll be okay."

He leaned close and whispered in her ear.

No. How could he say such a thing? The very idea and all that it implied threatened to bring a mountain of additional worry upon her when she only wanted peace of mind. She shoved the crazy, complicated notion out of her thoughts. "Of course," she said, misunderstanding as if her sanity depended on it. "I love you, too, brother."

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1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

I love the line "misunderstanding as if her sanity depended on it"