The Taverner Chronicles: Into Spring, Three
'Millie, you have to go!' Mother had said.
'My mother doesn't take no for an answer, Millie.' Father had said.
'Come on, don't be stuffy!' Gianna had said.
Andrew had merely given her an empathetic look as they got ready to travel in the ballroom. This time, Gianna forced Millie to go first, so that there would be no mistakes or retreats.
Millie took a deep breath, then slipped a pretty tea gown over her head. There was a breathless moment of utter silence and darkness, then the fresh drought of air. She was back, even though she had promised herself that she wouldn't return.
She dreaded seeing Anthony... and Dr. Rawlings. What on earth was she going to say to them? How could she face them, knowing what she did? As she crossed the threshold of the ballroom, Grandmother almost immediately grabbed a hold of her arm.
'Millie, I need to talk to you... come with me.'
As they walked down the halls in silence, Millie felt her heart sink to the depths as she began to think of reasons of why Grandmother seemed so concerned. The only thing that came to mind was either Anthony or the Doctor. Grandmother led her into the master bedroom, and closed the door behind them.
'It's about Anthony, isn't it...?' Millie queried.
Grandmother nodded with a worried look in her eyes.
'Millie, you know you can't let this go on. I... don't want to make you think any the less of him, but he is to inherit a deal of money.'
Millie expectantly leaned forward, 'Is that so bad?'
'Oh no, I'm sorry. Let me finish- he's to inherit a deal of money, upon his marriage to a girl either of a good family or with a fortune herself.' Grandmother continued.
Millie felt her insides collapse. Her palms were suddenly sweaty, and she knew that her cheeks were probably a bright red.
'Millie... I think he intends... to ask for you hand in marriage.'
There was a dead silence. Neither knew what to say next, though both knew what had to be done. Millie swallowed hard, and tried to think of something -anything- to say, but Grandmother finally broke the stillness.
'You must sever the correspondence and make it known that you are not interested in him. And Millie... it's not your fault that all this happened. He is a pretentious young lad, and he often acts rashly. You were just the unlucky recipient of his wife-hunting.'
Millie nodded and turned to lave the room, but stopped when Grandmother spoke again.
'And Millie... you understand that you mustn't get involved with anyone, right?'
Grandmother looked deeper into her eyes.
'And that means anyone.'
Millie felt a sudden anger course through her veins.
'I understand.' she replied, in a stern, cold voice.
As Millie left the room, she felt her throat start to burn as a tear started down her cheek. Grandmother went downstairs to attend to some matter or another, leaving her alone in the hall way.
No one to see my tears, thought Millie.
How could this all be happening? Here she was, in her own home... feeling lonely, left-out, and out of place. Thoughts began to race through her head.
She didn't belong here.
Why did she come back?
Grandmother was right. She couldn't stay, stay and face either of them.
She started for the ballroom, hoping and praying no-one would notice her slipping back. She would have made it, had there not been one obstacle. Just as she was rounding the corner near the ballroom, she bumped into a tall man.
Dr. Rawlings, of course.
Millie felt her face burn as she blurted an excuse and tried to pass him. She didn't even look at his face... how could she? But she felt him grab her hand before she could escape.
'Millie? Is something wrong...?'
She gulped and tried to stop her tears, turning to face him with a false smile.
'I'm fine, really I am.'
Though she tried her best, her voice belied her emotions. When she finally looked into his face, she couldn't hold her tears in. Not knowing or caring what happened next, she buried her face in her hands and let herself cry.
Did she notice as Dr. Rawlings tried to hand her his handkerchief?
Did she feel his arms around her as he tried to calm her?
All thoughts of leaving were gone from her mind now. For all she knew, she was in his arms... safe, and without a care. But then, Grandmother's words rang through her mind like a cannon shot,
'...you mustn't get involved with anyone...'
She broke away from him and started again down the hall, but instead of following her initial plan of escaping from the ballroom, she ran downstairs and did not look back.
She would stay, but she would not speak to him.