The Taverner Chronicles: The Tryst, One
What on earth am I going to do?
Millie felt her palms growing sweaty. She hoped and prayed that the Doctor would be long gone by the time she returned, and slowed her pace considerably so that it would take her far longer to reach the house.
How long she wandered in that shaded lane, she could not tell; she had no desire to return home and still less to go back to the present.
And I thought the past would be a relief from my troubles, she thought bitterly.
However, realizing that it would look somewhat suspicious if she returned to the house without a reason for lingering so long outdoors, she looked for a patch of wild blueberries that she knew was nearby. Though the berries had yet to make an appearance, Millie found the fragrance of their flowers sweet and refreshing. While she was musing upon several excuses to give to Grandmother, a sudden crash of thunder startled her and caused her to look skywards.
Storm clouds, covering almost the whole sky. Why hadn't she noticed? She kicked herself inside as she remembered that she had been idling on a tree-covered path, giving her little chance to observe the weather.
It was then that the rain started to pour, gushing down from the clouds in torrents. Millie moaned and shouted in anger, 'Perfect! A perfect ending to a PERFECT day!'
She started running down the way, pulling up her skirts in an ungainly fashion to gain more speed. Millie winced as she felt the rain soak down through her garments onto her skin, making them stick to her and slowing her down.
If she had noticed the rabbit hole in the path, she would have avoided it. But since it was covered in grass, she didn't really see it until too late.
Before she knew it, she was face down on the ground. There was no pain, so she knew her ankle wasn't twisted, but the whole thing was ludicrous. Having no better course of action, she gathered herself up and crawled under a nearby tree. Slumping against the trunk, she buried her face in her hands and tried not to notice the storm around her.
But instead of crying, like any other girl would have, Millie found she was singing before she even realized it.
The summer time is coming...
Straightening herself and looking defiantly up at the sky, she sang on.
And the trees are sweetly blooming
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Before she could go on, a sob choked her throat and she fell back against the tree, this time crying into her hands with no restraint. It had been the most horrible day of her life, and it was only getting steadily worse.
Why had she come here? Why didn't she listen to her conscience months ago and stay away from the past? It had only brought her anguish and pain, hurt that could have been averted had she just kept her curiosity in check.
And now, here in the rain, sitting under a tree that offered little to no protection from the elements, all she wanted to do was cry. With bitter irony she realized that her tears meant nothing now, soaking wet as she was.
'Will ye go, lassie go?' a voice softly intoned next to her.
She didn't look up right away, but she knew who it was.
Bracing herself and trying to wipe her tears from her wet face, she looked up. There he was, kneeling a few feet away with an umbrella over them both. No look of reproach or regret did she find in his face; rather, there was a beautiful smile curving on his lips.
'You'll catch pneumonia, my dear, if you wait a moment longer out here.' he said, handing her the umbrella and taking off his coat. After he helped her up, he put it over her shoulders.
This was her chance. The big moment. She could tell him that he would never see her again, and be through with her terrible errands for the day.
But how could she? He had just rescued her, and even now was lending her his warm coat and a shelter under the umbrella. He had even offered her his arm and was talking on about the benefits of spring rainfalls as if nothing had ever happened. As if nothing was wrong.
And every time there was a lull in the conversation (few though they were), every time she thought she could break it to him- she couldn't. Words would form themselves on her lips, but somehow they would never get past that stage. Almost as soon as she gave up trying, they were in sight of the house.
It was no use. She wouldn't be able to do it, not now... not ever. Even though the warning words of Mother and Grandmother rang through her mind like cannon shots, she couldn't tell him. Not when he had done so much for her... and...
Andrew ran out from the house with a blanket in his hands, but though he had just come from the building, Millie saw that he was also soaking wet. Had they been searching for her in the rain?
When she entered the house, Millie was immediately rushed into the music room, where a warm fire was blazing on the hearth. Grandmother came in with a change of clothing, and helped Millie peel the soaking clothing from her skin and change them for the dry garments. After that, she was wrapped in a few blankets and seated directly in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot tea. Before Grandmother left, Millie grabbed her hand.
'Grandmother, I... sent Anthony away.'
A rare smile formed on Grandmother's lips, though there was a sad look in her eyes.
'I could tell from the dejected look on his face. There now, Millicent... don't worry about it. Just try to get some sleep, and we'll get you back.'
Millie nodded sluggishly. She did feel tired...
Grandmother left the room, though Millie did not hear the door close. As she drifted away, she heard footsteps cross the room and stop close to her chair. A warm hand was placed gently on her forehead, but she didn't bother to look up and see who it was.
She didn't have to. It was only the Doctor, making sure she didn't have a fever. Though her consciousness was waning fast, she felt a warm thrill running through her body.
It was lovely.