The Taverner Chronicles: What Gianna Did, Two

Fiction By Marlene E. Schuler // 12/29/2012

And then she ignored him. After that night, she tried to keep away from his very presence; if she saw him coming, she ducked in one of her many hiding places throughout the house and lawns. Though she was successful most of the time, there were times when she couldn't help avoiding him. Such times were meals.

He was a typical boy; any and all food he consumed with great relish, so the prospect of eating at a great house whenever he liked suited him greatly. In addition to scarfing delicious food, he had the chance to annoy one of the young female members of that great house. Gianna found this to be exceedingly aggravating, vexing even. She tried very hard not to show it, for she knew that an outburst at the table would not only cause an extreme disturbance, but would encourage Alex to annoy her all the more.

On one such occasion, when the Taverner and Rawlings families were present in the grand dining room, Gianna was trying her best to look disinterested and paid close attention to her soup. The flavor of it was greatly detracted by the fact that Alex was sitting right across from her and was doing everything in his power to make himself known. Though he was pulling wry faces and winking at her (which Gianna quickly found out to be some of the highest weapons in his arsenal), she paid little heed to him and tried to join in the conversation.

Grandfather was talking about the Boer War, and though she knew next to nothing about it, she tried to think of something to say about it. Thankfully, the topic was changed when Doctor Rawlings coughed and mentioned something about Millie's absence.

Andrew and Gianna stole looks at each other and began to think of what to say, when Grandfather quickly stated that she was elsewhere recovering from her fall at the dance.

'Where exactly?' the Doctor came again.

That stumped even Grandfather. Just when Grandmother was about to remark something, Gianna felt her ankles being kicked sharply. She shouted out and banged her knees hard on the edge of the table, nearly toppling her chair and upsetting her soup in the process. In the next moments of confusion, Gianna quickly looked across at Alex. He looked sorry enough, but she could see laughter behind his eyes.

Grandmother, who was sitting next to her, helped Gianna sit back up again and called for the servants to get some napkins and another bowl of soup, adding, 'Good heavens, child, one might have thought that you were attacked by some savage beast!'

The look in her eyes, however, betrayed an inner amusement at the whole prospect of getting out of the Doctor's queries by such a blunder. Gianna said she was sorry and glared indiscreetly at Alex.

The subject then rapidly went from Millie to the weather; having found that his inquiries were unsuccessful, the Doctor spoke about the coming of spring with much relish. Apparently, he was glad to see winter go- though he enjoyed the season for what it was worth, spring brought an end to the danger of many illnesses. Alex, upon hearing his reasons, rolled his eyes.

'Edward, must you always talk about your work at supper? It does get boring.'

Gianna gulped her spoonful of soup. What a cheek for being so rude at the table! She glanced at Doctor Rawlings to see what his response would be. She was surprised to see that he was unaffected by his brother's remark, in fact, he coolly looked over at him and said, 'Well now, if you're so bored with the topic, why don't you bring up one of your own?'

It was Alex's turn to react, and stumped he was to find anything to say. Gianna was quite pleased to see his distress, but in the moments of awkward silence that followed, she quickly felt sorry for him.

'Er... Alex, where are the rest of your family?' she ventured, trying to look intelligent and phrasing her words carefully.

Alex looked up quickly with a look of gratitude before speaking.

'Well, you see, they live over in Northampton. When Edward got out of medical school, he asked if I could come along as his... apprentice, I guess. Mum and dad said yes, and we've moved here.'

Doctor Rawlings grinned.

'There's a little more to the story than that, but I suppose that will do for now. Thank you, Gianna, for sparing my brother the apparent embarrassment of speechlessness.'

Alex blushed a little and began to examine his empty soup bowl. The talk went on; Grandfather was questioning the Doctor about Richard's health. Richard Taverner, who had had scarlet fever and was recovering from it, was staying in the South with some relations to speed his recovered. It seemed it would be a fortnight before he would be able to return.

Alex perked up at the mention of Richard's name.

'When he comes back, Mr. Taverner, will I be able to see him again?'

Grandfather smiled and nodded to the Doctor.

'Perhaps that's a question you should ask your brother.'

Alex looked expectantly at him, and he nodded. 'All risk of infection is long past, but you should still be careful not to overexert him. He will likely be very weak even after his recovery.'

Gianna reflected how this illness, now being spoken of as a current event, had affected her father in the present, in 1935. He had taken badly ill with the fever, so much so that it had weakened his heart. Even now he still had to take pills and work lighter than everyone else.
Dinner was soon over, and as the Rawlings were leaving, Gianna saw Andrew talking with the Doctor. From her vantage point on the upper staircase, she could see the Doctor handing Andrew an envelope with an earnest expression. Thinking that no one could see her, she leaned forward and tried to get a better view of the envelope before it disappeared into Andrew's pocket, but she instead had clear sight of Alex winking roguishly at her.

Throwing a markedly unwelcome look at him, she turned on her heel and went straight to the ballroom to await Andrew for their return to the present. The nerve of some people.

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