The Taverner Chronicles: One Summer's Night, One
They were in there again. Dancing... in her ballroom. Millie took a deep breath. She stood in the hall just outside- although the sun had only just set, the dancing was already in full swing. She hadn't danced yet, and didn't feel like it, despite the fact that there were many desirable partners. Somehow, she didn't feel like joining them. Louise would have giggled and said that the absence of a certain Doctor had something to do with her listlessness, and laughingly Millie would have objected. Half-heartedly, of course, because she knew in her heart that was the reason.
For here, at this dance, would be the first time she had seen the Doctor since the letter. How she had managed to avoid him in the last few weeks she couldn't guess, because while he had made a few visits to the mansion, Millie had been able to keep out of his sight.
Was that a good thing? That he hadn't seen her in a while? Or was it the other way around? And was it such a horrible thing that she dreaded seeing him again?
'Waiting for Dr. R., are you, deary?'
Louise's voice snapped her out of her reverie. With a withering expression, Millie turned to her friend with a smile playing at her lips.
'What makes you think that? I thought I'd find you out here pining for a certain someone.'
Louise looked shocked for a moment, as if half-expecting Millie to reveal the inner workings of her own heart. But her momentary surprise was quickly covered with a sly countenance.
'Millicent Taverner! Have you been prodding into the affairs of others?'
Millie's eyebrow shot up. She knew she had Louise exactly where she wanted her.
'Oh, it didn't take much to guess. Any fool could see it.'
'See.... what?' the concern in Louise's voice was evident, 'What on earth are you talking about?'
Millie pulled Louise into the darker side of the hall, as if to avoid being heard by the gossips.
'That you would profess your undying love for... Anthony Lang. I've seen it in your eyes when you look at him!'
The expression on Louise's face was dumbfounded, but it quickly gave way to a peel of laughter.
'You're the last person I'd expect to pull a thing like that, Millie! My, you've changed in the last couple of days. What's gotten into you?'
'I don't know.' Millie's tone became somber, 'Perhaps it is seeing how devoted you and Anthony are?'
More laughing. Millie couldn't remember having more fun than she did with Louise.
'Goodness! You're sharp tonight!' Louise managed to say between giggles, 'I'm the one who should be teasing you, silly!'
Millie was about to spout another quip when a deep, resonate voice echoed down the hall, 'Miss Brightwell, you promised the next dance!'
Seeing that it was Anthony Lang sent the girls into another bought of giggling. He looked absolutely flabbergasted as he led Louise back into the ballroom. It was almost as if he couldn't fathom how they could be so giddy at such a serious time as a dance. Millie watched with a grin as her friend began to dance with her awkward partner, and as Louise cast a few pleading looks in her direction. Obviously Millie's little tease had gotten the better of Louise and she was now second-guessing Anthony's attachment to her friend.
Millie averted her eyes momentarily from the grand scene in the room before her to rest them in the cool darkness of the hall. She could not have been more surprised when she saw Doctor Rawlings slowly walking towards her.
At first, there was nothing different in his demeanor. He had that same playful look in his eyes as he always did- in fact, everything about him looked the same. Why had she expected otherwise?
But then, she saw something underneath that humored expression of his, something that she had not seen before. It was strange and wonderful- frightening, yet beautiful to see. The way he looked at her as she wore that gray silk dress; the way he looked into her eyes. Millie saw a man who only teased her to hide who he really was, a man in love. Perhaps it is love that makes one lower their shield so that the loved can see the chink in the armor. Is it only then that the loved can see who their lover truly is?
This sudden realization took Millie's breath away. Simply seeing him stand close to her and wordlessly hold his hand out to her was worth infinitely more then all the money she ever could have needed.
They began to dance. It was flawless- Millie couldn't remember when she had danced better. It was almost as if they were dancing alone on a quiet hillside, for although the room was full of people and noise, all she could hear was the sound of her own heart beating; all she could see was his face.
The dance was over far too soon.