The Taverner Chronicles: Midwinter, Four
Millie nearly collapsed on her bed. It had been a long night.
Memories came flooding into her mind; it was hard to sort through them. At first, she dwelt only on brief moments that were yet fresh in her thoughts... but then, everything began to fall into place.
The afternoon was spent in the pleasant company of Grandfather. They were left undisturbed by the household; giving them the time they needed to spend together. Millie was surprised to find that she neglected to ask any of the questions that had been burning in her mind; instead, she had contented herself by listening to all Grandfather had to say. Hours slipped by before they realized the time.
Their little heaven was disturbed by Dr. Rawlings, who came in to inform them that the dance was starting. Grandfather offered his arm to Millie and escorted her out of the room; however, she couldn't help but to hazard a backwards glance to see what became of the Doctor. Her cheeks burned when she saw that Gianna was on his arm.
That's where my pretty little vision started to go wrong, she thought, pulling the sheets over her head in recollection of what had happened next.
The ballroom was full of people, and after seeing it empty for so long, she found herself somewhat stunned. Never in her imaginings as a child did she think that the room would look so beautiful; nor did she ever hope to see more beautiful women or handsome men. All of sudden, she felt out of place and alone, making her cling to Grandfather all the more. But as he led her into the room, he introduced her to some of his friends- all older, all wanting to speak of dreadfully boring things like politics and money. Millie wished she were elsewhere, but where else could she go? She hardly knew anyone in the room, and she was suddenly too shy to do anything about it.
Things didn't get any better when she saw Dr. Rawlings dancing with Gianna. He caught Millie's eye and winked at her - actually winked, causing her to color and quickly look away. It didn't look like the night was going to improve, until a young man came up to Grandfather and asked to be introduced to her. With a twinkle in his eye, Grandfather gladly introduced the young man to her, giving the name 'Anthony Lang'.
He was a good-looking fellow, blond with merry green eyes that danced when he asked her for the next waltz. Millie gladly accepted, hoping that Dr. Rawlings would notice. As she stepped out onto the dance floor with her new partner, she saw the Doctor at the punch table with Gianna. He had been laughing, but when he saw Millie and Anthony dancing, his face fell.
Millie didn't really see what happened next, for she was trying to be intent on Anthony- she had thought that her attention to him would make Dr. Rawlings sorry. But somehow, Anthony got the idea that Millie was interested in him... far more interested than she had hoped to appear, for at the end of the dance, he boldly asked if he could write to her.
Her heart stopped cold. What could she say? That she lived at this address, but in the future? She decided that the best course of action was to accept, hoping that Grandfather wouldn't mind saving the letters for her. However, as soon as Anthony walked away to get some punch, another young man asked her for a dance.
As she was dancing with the newcomer, she saw something curious occur in the corner of her eye. Gianna had been standing contentedly watching the dancers in the corner when a young boy spilled his punch all over her dress. He was attempting to clean it up with some napkins, but the endeavor was doing nothing to improve Gianna's quick temper. Millie realized that she couldn't just stop dancing with the fellow, and nor could she speed the dance along to get to Gianna.
It was then that the absolute worst occurred. As she and the young man were dancing, they waltzed around the edge of the room, just where the loose board was. And just at the very moment Millie was putting her foot down, she jammed it into the loose board and twisted her ankle terribly. She let out a cry of pain and fell to the floor, covering her face in shame and embarrassment.
Nothing could have been worse.
Millie stifled a tear as she lay in bed, trying to forget that awful moment when the whole room had fallen still as she lay on the floor. And she remembered that in one terrible little instant, she thought that she would cry in frustration right there, right in front of everyone.
But she didn't.
She heard Grandfather close to her, and felt his hand reassuringly on her shoulder. He told her that they would take her into one of the bedrooms if they would let them carry her. She must have given her assent, for she felt someone gently pick her up and carry her out of the room. Much to her astonishment, she found that it was Dr. Rawlings.
After that, Grandfather showed them down a long hall into one of the rooms, away from the ballroom, away from all those staring people. There was a little settee in the room, where Dr. Rawlings carefully deposited her. As she sat, he wordlessly took off her slipper and felt her ankle. Much to her relief, it was merely sprained, but it meant the end of her dancing for the night. Once Grandfather was certain that Millie was all right, he left to return to his guests.
Millie turned over in bed, smiling as she remembered all Dr. Rawlings said to her. He didn't say much, but when he did speak, it seemed to her that he had carefully thought out his words and measured them even as he spoke. He was kind to her, unlike before, and made sure that she was comfortable and at ease. She wondered at the change; was it because she was hurt? Or was there something else that could have changed his demeanor towards her?
When he left the room in search of a servant to bring her bedclothes, Millie couldn't help but to wish she could go back to the dance. Perhaps he would have asked her if she hadn't twisted her ankle... but then, she realized that was the only reason for his kindness towards her. Sighing, she tried to stand, but fell back on the settee in a hopeless reassignment.
But then, an even greater surprise came to her that night. Instead of the maid she was expecting, a beautifully dressed woman came into the room with a night gown over her arm. Millie somehow knew her, though she hadn't been introduced. She was stunned to find that the woman was her Grandmother. She was so consoling; she spoke soothingly to Millie as she helped her undress, helping her into the bed and explaining that she wouldn't be able to travel back until the guests had all left the ballroom. Millie didn't mind being told that she would be awakened in the middle of the night to be sent back; in fact, she was too happy to be in bed to think any different about it.
After she was lying comfortably, Grandmother had a tray of chamomile tea brought in, which she served to Millie herself. She stayed for a while after that, talking to her about little things that didn't matter much, but Millie realized that it was a great think for her to be even speaking to her.
Millie sighed. It had been a long night. Many things had gone wrong, but in the end, she was glad she had gone to the ball.