The Taverner Chronicles: One Summer's Night, Three

Fiction By Marlene E. Schuler // 12/13/2012

The dancing went well into the night. There were many different dances; waltzing, jigs, bouncing lines and slow, dignified ones that were almost like taking a refined walk. Millie didn't know all of them- but her partners (and there were surprisingly many) were always willing to guide her through them. It was towards the small hours of the morning when Millie noticed that the Doctor was not amongst their number. Though she was enjoying herself immensely, such an observation cast a dim cloud over her fun.

Deciding that he had gone to bed, she realized that it was probably time to turn in for the night. Besides, everyone was visibly tired and the dances weren't as energetic as before. She winked at Louise, who was enjoying a glass of punch, and started to make her way out of the room. She did not see Louise try to follow, for almost as soon as she left the punch table, she was asked by Anthony to dance. Had she seen, Millie would have laughed at the comically tragic expression that crossed Louise's face.

As Millie went through the halls and away from the sounds of the ballroom, a slight strain of music came to her ears. It grew stronger as she neared the staircase- and as she crossed the landing to get to her room, it was apparent that someone was in the Music Room.

Playing the piano.

And she didn't need to guess who was playing it.

Though the song was soft and sweet, it came up to her ears with clear notes... it was perfectly enchanting. She walked down the stairs slowly, for fear of making a sound; it almost seemed as if a single footstep would break the spell that had breathlessly fallen over her world. As she approached the music room, she saw a faint light coming from under the door. Finding it slightly ajar, she gently pushed it open.

The room was bathed in moonlight, casting a subtle blue shadow on everything. A twilight breeze wafted in through the open windows, cooling her from the hot ballroom.

And he was at the piano, playing a song that captured her heart and lifted her fancy to lands far off, times forgotten, and beauty unknown. She leaned in the doorway, unwilling to break the thick enchantment that she could feel all around her.

Then, the song was over. He paused and looked up. Turning, he beheld her, and his heart was lost. The moon clad her in a glow of light, causing her gray dress to shine with an unearthly luminescence. He stood, and took a step towards her.

'Millicent...'

Her eyes widened at the mention of her name, awakening her from the Here he was, standing before her- utterly alone. And as he looked at her, the thought that she could never stay in the past cut her heart like a jagged knife. She caught her breath, and held back the idea. Now was not the time...

He a few more steps towards her. Here was the perfect dream- a moonlit room, solitude, and the Doctor. And yet, the reality of her situation kept crying out in her mind; so loud it was that she could no longer remain in the room.

'Doctor, there's-'

'Come now, I think we're beyond formal titles. Let it be Edward instead of Doctor.' he said, with a smile on his face and a familiar glint in his eyes. As soon as she saw both, she inwardly cringed, for she knew that both would be gone if she told him now.

'Very well then, Edward, there's something that I need to tell you.' she inhaled, trying to form the words before they crossed her lips and were no longer hers.

A voice from the staircase called, 'Millie, where are you?'

Millie sighed with relief. It would not be now.

'I have to go... meet me tomorrow at the bridge and I can tell you.'

Edward's brow furrowed.

'Bridge...? I'm not sure I know what you're talking about... the nearest bridge is quite some distance from here.'

She shut her eyes tight in remorse- had she really said the bridge, the one she and her siblings had played on as children? Even she knew that it wasn't built yet.

'Er... the spot... where I'd like a bridge to be built...? I've said to myself so many times that I just named it “the bridge”. It's the willow by the creek. Can you meet me there before noon?'

Edward looked thoroughly amused by her bewilderment, but something behind his smile told her that he did not completely believe her rambled explanation. He nodded agreement, and before he could say anything else, she picked up her skirts and ran into the foyer.

Louise was at the top of the stairs, and looked happy to see her. However, Millie could not help laughing in spite of what had just transpired, for Louise's hair was tumbled out of its pretty bun, giving her an overall disheveled look.

'What in heaven's name happened to you, dear?' Millie said, as she mounted the stairs.

Louise rolled her eyes and mouthed Anthony's name with such wrathful gusto that it sent Millie into fresh giggles. Louise started to laugh, but she caught sight of something in the foyer and stopped outright.

Millie turned around and saw that Edward was starting to climb the stairs as well. He was smiling at both of them. Once he reached the stair well, he extended a hand first to Louise, then to Millie.

'I hope you ladies will have a restful slumber after such an exhilarating night.'

He held Millie's hand in his a moment longer, then turned and went back downstairs to leave the building. Had Millie not been lost in thought, she would have seen the strange look on Louise's face.

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