In Which Eleanor Is A Very Good Friend
This is a collaboration between the players of Ariadne Hughes and Eleanor Rowley.
It has taken Aria far too long to gather the...well, she isn't sure what the word is...to visit Eleanor, to tell her what had happened. She supposes it was really just that she hadn't wanted to talk about it, because as soon as she thought about it, she was liable to cry, and she didn't want to inflict her pain on her friend. Still, she finally manages to show up at Eleanor's house one day, and knocks nervously on the door, feeling a bit guilty for not having come before.
Mr Comerford opens the door and bows slightly as he recognizes the lady. "Miss Hughes, good day. Mrs Rowley is in the parlour, if you care to follow me."
Aria smiles slightly at him and nods, going after him into the parlor. "Thank you."
Mr Comerford bows slightly again as he opens the parlour door and announces her. Eleanor looks up from the book she has been reading and smiles at her friend. "Aria! I am so glad to see you! I was just thinking I should invite you for tea. Please, have a seat."
No matter how unhappy she has been, it is nice to see her friend, and Aria returns the smile with a genuine one, even if it is a little small. "Thank you," she repeats, sitting down. "I am very glad to see you, as well. How have you been?"
Eleanor blushes slightly, her eyes glowing with happiness. "I have been very well. I do not think I have ever been happier." Finally noticing her friend's reserved demeanour, she frowns. "Are you well Aria?"
Smiling again at her friend's clear joy, Aria nods. At the question, however, she hesitates, not wanting to interrupt Eleanor's happiness. Still, this is what she came to tell Eleanor about, and so she bites her lip, shaking her head. "Not...entirely," she admits softly. "I...I have something I need to tell you..."
Seeing her friend's hesitation, Eleanor takes her hand and squeezes it gently. "Is anything wrong?" Wondering if maybe someone in Aria's family might be sick, she adds: "Is your aunt well?"
Aria squeezes back gratefully, and nods at the second question. "She is well, yes. It...it isn't that. It is only...I...I told you I was engaged...and I /was/, of course...but...but now I am not." She swallows, trying not to think about what she's saying, especially not the way he looked when he spoke of it.
Eleanor looks with concern at her friend. "You are not engaged anymore? How... what happened?" The only reason she can think of for not being engaged anymore is if one of the betrothed has died but she can not bring herself to ask the question.
Biting her lip, Aria sighs softly. "He...his elder brother passed away," she begins quietly. "That is why he was away so long...and...and now, being the heir, he must marry higher than me."
Eleanor looks confused. "But... he loves you! And... and people know you are engaged. Everybody expects you two to marry..."
She shakes her head. "Not...not everyone. It was...known by some people, that is true. But it was never officially announced, and so...so he is quite within his rights to break the engagement, if he wishes. As to...as to loving me...well...I...I /think/ he still does. But he is concerned with his duty...and I can understand that. It...it seems that marrying me would now be marrying to disoblige his family...and...I should not wish him to..." She trails off, because she is not at all sure /what/ she would wish in regards to this situation. If he had been willing to marry her anyway.../is/ that what she would wish? She doesn't know, and it is no use thinking of it, because that will only upset her more.
Anger on her friend's behalf fills Eleanor as she witnesses Aria's distress. "Maybe it was not widely known but you were still engaged and he should still..." She sighs, not sure how she should finish her sentence. She does not know Mr Sokolov well, having met him only once, but she could see then that he was the kind of gentleman who took his duty seriously. She just wishes his duty could be done without hurting her friend. Gently, she squeezes Aria's hand again, not sure what to do. "Have you...have you talked to him? What...what did he say?"
Aria smiles faintly at her friend as she seems angry, hoping to reassure her, though she isn't entirely sure whether or not it helps. Knowing that Eleanor wants to assist her, though, helps her a little, as does the squeeze to her hand, and her second smile is a better effort. Squeezing back, she nods. "Yes, he was the one who told me he wished to break the engagement. He...he said that...what he wishes is no longer logical. That he had been...trying...not to...not to love me anymore..." She remembers the way he looked, and closes her eyes, her breath speeding up. After a second, she shakes her head. "And then he held me...but...as soon as I said I loved him... I...I should not have said it."
"Why shouldn't you have? He should know how you feel!" Eleanor bites her lip and sighs. "I apologize, I should not... He is doing what he thinks is best but..." She sighs again and gives a small smile at Aria. "I...I know what it feels like when the person you love... when they hurt you by doing what they think is for the best and...I wish... I wish I knew what to say or what to do..."
Aria shakes her head and smiles slightly back. "I am just glad to be talking to you. And I am sorry it had to be with such news. And...and I am glad, at least, that /you/ are happy. I...I may be again...someday..." She is a little doubtful on this point, but tries to believe it, for Eleanor's sake if not her own. "You are a good friend, Eleanor."
Eleanor takes both of Aria's hands in hers. "Please, do not give up yet. He obviously still loves you. Maybe...maybe you will find a way to be together?"
Holding tight, Aria nods. "I...perhaps so, yes. That is what I could hope for...but...well, I suppose it might be best to hope for that, yes." She takes a deep breath. "And yet...it worries me, too... Is it not possible that the more I hope, the more I will hurt if...if we cannot be together? /Is/ it best to hope? Or is it better to simply try to...move on?"
"Aria, how...how many times have you seen him since he came back?"
She bites her lip. "Just once. After that, I...I am not at all certain whether he is avoiding me, or I him, or whether we simply haven't met. His nature often leads him to stay at home in any case."
Eleanor smiles slightly. "Well, I think...I think you should wait until you have been in his company a few more times before you decide if you should move on or not. Maybe he will change his mind?"
"Maybe." She remembers how he embraced her, the way he said her name over and over. Maybe there is still hope. "Am I to seek him out, then? I...it has been some time since he was back, enough to make me think we may not meet by accident."
Eleanor frowns a little. "I suppose...Do you...do you know of any place where you would be likely to meet him? Or... or maybe Mrs Stanton could invite him and his parents for tea?" She looks apologetically at Aria, not too sure about her ideas.
Considering that, Aria frowns thoughtfully. "I...I suppose I could try the Fillintheblanks' library. He often likes to go there. Only...I do worry about upsetting him, or about...disturbing him. I...I told him I would not mention the engagement, and...and how could we hold a conversation without that being talked of? And, too...if he is in as much pain as I am..." Well, she hadn't meant to let that slip. "...I do not wish to cause him more."
Eleanor's eyes fill with tears at the idea of her friend hurting but she tries to hide it, not wanting to upset Aria. "I am certain you can find some subject of conversation without mentioning it. What...what did you talk about before you got engaged?"
Sensing that she's upset her friend, Aria winces and sighs. "I'm sorry," she murmurs, and then smiles a little. "Books, mostly. Books and studies. But also poetry and music--I tried to convince him that they were worth the time spent on them."
Eleanor squeezes Aria's hands once again to let her know that she is well and gives her a small smile." Well, there. Why don't you talk about music? Maybe remembering the time when you tried to convince him of its importance will help."
Returning the gesture again, relieved, Aria nods. "Yes, I suppose it could," she agrees, beginning to be hopeful. "Perhaps he will...oh, but Eleanor, even if he is convinced, what of his family? I...I am afraid it would hurt him to marry me when they do not wish him to."
"But... they knew about your engagement, did they not? They did not think you were a bad match then. Maybe they could be convinced again?"
"That is true...perhaps his mother, especially--she seemed the most...enthusiastic...the first time..." She hardly dares to believe it could be possible, and yet...perhaps... She smiles at her friend. "Perhaps I could convince her. And...perhaps my aunt would help me."
Eleanor laughs a little. "Oh! I am certain if anyone can convince anyone of anything, it is Mrs Stanton!"
That makes Aria laugh a bit, too. "Very true," she agrees. "My aunt is exceptionally good at such things, I believe." She squeezes her friend's hands again. "Thank you, Eleanor. Truly."
Eleanor blushes. "I am glad I could help you. I wish I could do more."
She smiles. "You have no need to do more, I promise you. You have given me hope, and that is more help than I could have asked for."
Eleanor smiles back. "I really hope everything will work out. I do not think I know anybody who deserves to be happy more than you."
It's Aria's turn to blush. "Thank you," she says softly. "Though I think you are forgetting yourself. I am so glad you are happy."
Eleanor's blush deepen and she cannot help her smile, though she tries to temper it. She has no wish to flaunt her happiness in front of her hurting friend. "Thank you. I really am."
"Good." Aria nods, feeling she can at least be happy in her friend's happiness, even if this doesn't work out. But now she hopes it might, and she is grateful for that.