Index > Ongoing Stories > Patience and Bullen Speak in Riddles at the Library

Patience and Bullen Speak in Riddles at the Library

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penelope_stout If days ago Patience had thought her new home might have had potential, now she is thinking of any possibly way she can force Thomas to bring her back to London. She has never been a sentimental type. Her friends were people who helped to secure her invitations. Her mother was a sick woman who was broken by her father. She lived her life for herself. But now, all she wishes is to see those vapid acquaintances. She wishes to hold her mother's weak and withered hands. She does not want to stay here, bored, cold. Either way, she cannot stay at home any longer, not with her own thoughts. Thomas is the worst company. And in fact, Patience can not think of anything except for James Bullen. Perhaps that is why she goes to the library. Or perhaps, it is truly because she is bored and in need of a novel. But she knows it is not the latter when she steps a snow covered shoe through the library's door and realizes with some degree of disappointment that Mr. Bullen is not there. She shakes the foolishness from her him and gently touches the spines of several books before she pulls an anthology of Shakespeare's poems from the shelves. She might have preferred Marlowe in the moment, but she has no intention of making the effort to look.

The students have gone home for the holidays. Bullen would have gone home too, but his parents have gone to stay with friends in Bath, and so he's decided to stay in Tyrehampton for the duration. It will be strange to spend Christmas alone, but after the last week he's almost glad of it. He desperately needs time to think, though preferably about something other than Patience seeing as how she has no intention of seeing him ever again. Having exhausted the books he's borrowed from the library, he decides to return to the library to give them back to the librarian and see if he can find something new. Perhaps a novel for once. Or at least Shakespeare. When he reaches the top of the stairs leading to the reading room, he pauses. He knows that form, that red hair, anywhere. He sees it in his sleep. Part of him thinks he should back away, leave her to the books. She doesn't wish to see him, and he would not force himself on her. And of course she stands just in front of the volumes of Shakespeare's works so he cannot get to them without disturbing her. He sighs a little more loudly than he intends, and quickly turns to head back down the stairs before she can see him and flee herself.

She cannot decide if she wishes to indulge in sonnets, or plays. She has devoured Shakespeare numerous times in the past. His bawdy sense of humor, his fearlessness in tackling topics which might now be considered taboo--she revels in it. She stands at the shelf which is covered in Shakespeare's works and opened a tome to Sonnet 52. Her bright, blue eyes travel over the printed words before she hears someone sigh at the stairs. Her head snaps up, and she sees Ja--Mr. Bullen turning dutifully to walk down the steps. She should let him. She should say nothing, finish her sonnets, and forget that she even sees him. But she is Patience Sharrington, and she does not know denial. "Mr. Bullen!" She said, her tone purely pleasant. If anyone were to be listening, they might suspect the two of being introduced in completely normal settings. And her neutral, but kind, smile gives nothing away.

When she calls his name, he cannot figure out if his heart is sinking or soaring. Whatever it is, he pushes it aside and turns to face her with his usual bright smile. If she wants to play polite then so will he. It is what he is best at, after all. "Miss Sharrington. How lovely to see you here." He looks briefly at the floor before lifting his face again and stepping further into the reading room, hesitating a moment before going to her side and look at the books with her. "I thought I might look for a change of pace and try Shakespeare instead of Greek history for once. It seems you had a similar idea." He reaches past her to pull out A Midsummer Night's Dream, flipping through its pages as if looking for something. He isn't really, he is only trying to find words that remain purely shallow. "I thought I would try a comedy this time. What is it you look for today?"

Maybe it is disappointment she feels in his ease of politeness, or maybe it is simply the proximity of him as he comes close and pulls a book from the shelves. She does not let her face falter. "A Midsummer Night's Dream?" she muses, glancing at the book he pulls. She purses her lips, but does not comment any further. Instead she looks down at her own pages. "Poetry for me today. Though, it is only a whim." Every word she speaks comes off as easy as could be, though she must force it from her throat. The things she wishes to speak are impossible. She runs her finger down the middle of the creamy page before her. "So is the time that keeps you as my chest, Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide," she recites a bit of the poem.

He recognizes studied easiness when he hears it. Lord knows he's practiced it enough times, as a rule. But he lets her have her space, so to speak, only smiling and looking down at the page as she reads. Something about the sonnet feels ironic, though he cannot place his finger on exactly why. He'll make no mention of it for now, though he wonders if she didn't choose it on purpose. It is impossible to tell with her. "A beautiful poem spoken by a beautiful young lady." He says this as he would say it to any woman, although his eyes don't quite meet hers as he does. "Is it a favorite of yours? You recite it as if you've read it before." He has to step back, feeling too close to her, his hands itching to reach out and touch her, even for the briefest of seconds. When he feels he is far enough away to be safe, he meets her eyes again and smiles.

She is certain she can do this. It is far from the first time she has encountered someone she has ceased relations with. It is far from her pretending to be cordial with someone she is not exactly cordial with. She does not bother to look flattered or bemused by his kind comment. The words he speak are far too trite compared to the reverence she had seen in his eyes days before. They do not affect her. She lifts her chin with a dimpled smile and shakes her head. "It is far from a favorite. However, I felt drawn to it this day." She pulls the book to her chest and steps forward, following him in his retreat. "What is your favorite sonnet, Mr. Bullen?"

It is with some surprise that he realizes he is glad she does not play coy and pretend to be flattered by his words. He did not mean for her to, necessarily, he only wanted to keep things as surface-level as possible and making sure he is as kind and polite as possible is part of that. "A favorite sonnet? Well, I confess to not having read all of them." He frowns a bit, trying to remember enough of them to choose a favorite. "I believe I would have to choose Sonnet 116. Love does not alter when it alteration finds, or bend with the remover to remove." He realizes that it is particularly poignant to him now that he knows Patience. He would not change her even given the chance, and she has not sought to change him. He will of course not mention it though. Instead he raises and eyebrow and smiles.

She keeps the trained smile plastered upon her lips. She does not let his words, or his presentation of the sonnet alter her expression in anyway. Instead, Patience swallows and closes the book in her hands. "That is a lovely one." The way he speaks the words creates a pang in her chest. She does not allow herself to think of the words, the meaning. It is better not to. She shelves the book and pulls the gloves from her fingers as she contemplates. "Mine is not so pretty. My most favorite is Sonnet 87." Her cheeks peak into a smile that does not reach her eyes, as she recites from memory, "For how do I hold thee but by thy granting,. And for that riches where is my deserving?"

That sonnet /is/ one he knows, and it feels like being pierced through the heart to hear it. Is it truly her favorite or does she only say it is to make a point? If so, the point is taken, and he nods to acknowledge he gets her meaning, though his smile remains in spite of how he feels. "Oh, it is not too terribly un-pretty. Though, I daresay Shakespeare had a difficult time making anything that /wasn't/ pretty." The platitudes were difficult enough when they weren't sharing poetry with one another, but this is harder yet. All the poetry succeeds in doing is make him recall their first night together when he read Sappho to her. He wonders if she remembers that now too, if it makes her feel the longing he feels, though he has told himself he must not.

If she feels anything, she does not show it. She, instead, appears to be completely pleasant, almost unknown to him, despite what they shared. If she had not shared what she did share with him, she might have taken a step forward and teased some passion filled sonnet. Though, if their passions had been shared, she may have been happy to read something different. Instead, she is there, reciting Sonnet 87 as if it meant something, as if she hopes he finds meaning. She looks up to him mildly, making certain to show nothing but a bemused interest in everything that is Bullen. "He may have been capable of writing beautiful verse, but he also was quite thorough in his sorrows." She takes a step towards him.

His breath catches in his throat as she steps toward him, though he manages to mask it with a cough, muttering about it being cold outside as though that is some excuse. He tries not to be annoyed, more than annoyed, that she is so focused on keeping up this facade even though he knows he must try to keep up that same mask. They cannot possibly be together, no matter if he wants that again, even just once. She has made it very clear to him that she does not want that and he knows he must respect it. She may not even be wrong about it. Regardless, he lifts his chin and smiles, nodding agreement. "Indeed, he was that. I believe sonnet 57 is an excellent example of that. Are you familiar?" He /is/ trying to make a point with this, even if she was not with hers.

The book is still heavy in her arms as he speaks. Whatever it is she may want, cannot be. She is vulgar, and ruined, and nothing, in comparison to his wonderfulness. "Sonnet 57," she says, "I cannot say I remember it," she admits, realizing she does not have it committed to any sort of memory. She utilizes the moment to look through the book in her hands. She flips to the poem in question and scans it diligently. She opens her mouth to speak the words of the poem, but as her eyes scan the sonnet she closes her jaw, and she looks up.

When she flips to the page the sonnet is on, he is glad for it means he will not need to recite it to her. It had seemed particularly apt to his situation and had been on his mind in spite of himself. Her reaction when she reads it herself is more than he expected. What is she thinking? Does she agree? A thousand other questions go through his head. His message seems to have gotten through her facade though if the way she is looking at him is any indication. "And what do you think of it, /Miss Sharrington/? Is it as sad as I believe it to be?" He says her name with possibly more inflection than intended, but it does seem strange now to him not to be able to use her given name anymore as intimate as they were only days ago.

She has completely underestimated him. Or, perhaps, this is precisely what she expected. Either way, it does not surprised her when he matches her for sonnets. In fact, she might have even be disappointed if he did not allow his own aptitude bleed through. She wishes that she could go to him and show her admiration for the subject. Instead, everything she might say seems to be quite incriminating. "I feel such a wanting and desperation in the words," she says. Her voice is quiet, close to a forced whisper. "I think it is more than sad. It is hopeless." She allows herself the full eye contact that her words deserve.

He wants to say /Then you know the wanting and desperation I feel/ but he does not. He only nods and makes his face appropriately interested and sympathetic for the bard's words. "I quite agree. I can only imagine what could have led him to write such a thing. To feel so must have been terrible." He holds her gaze, wondering if she can see the truth in his eyes. He knows he must be easier to read than she is, even if he has been successful all this time in making people believe he was nothing past his own facade. "I am sure neither of us can relate to such a feeling."

Her casually interested expression falters slightly at his words. But she replaces it quickly with pouted lips as she looks down at the poem in question. Then, she suddenly clamps the book shut once more and replaces it unceremoniously amongst the rest "I grow weary of poetry," she announces. Mostly, she is not sure how much more she can take of him using the bard's words, and her responding in kind. She keeps her gaze focused on the shelves, though she does not know what she might be looking for. It is easier than looking at him. "Perhaps you were right, a comedy seems more suitable."

It feels almost like triumph when her expression changes. He feels guilty for feeling like he's won a game, a contest to see who could make the other react genuinely first. Either way, her expression is quickly schooled into something more benign, and she shelves the book as if it has burned her. He shrugs and looks back down at A Midsummer Night's Dream in his hands, the book open to the random page he had flipped it to. Should he just leave her alone as she surely wants? When he finally actually /sees/ the page he's been staring at, he murmurs the words there, not necessarily to be heard. “O, when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd! She was a vixen when she went to school; And though she be but little, she is fierce.” It reminds him of her, of their first night together when she left, and he wishes he had not spoken it aloud. He dares a glance up at her before returning his eyes to his book. "I've found the volume I sought out. I suppose I should go."

She gently touches the spines of more books, as if deciding amongst them. However, she hardly even sees the titles. Her face heats up at the words he speaks, and she refuses to blush. He is doing this intentionally, and it makes her angry. Especially as she is no longer armed with anything to use against him. She pulls the next book she touches from the shelf and frowns in dismay as she sees The Taming of the Shrew. Apropos, maybe, but she does not feel the want to like herself to a shrew in need of taming. Instead, she shoves it back onto the shelf and frowns, perfectly offended that fate would have her pick that play. "Yes," she agrees. "Except, I realize now that I am in quite a mood for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and you have the only copy." She tilts her head to look up at him, her face painted with a mild expression, giving nothing away.

He barely gets a glimpse at the book she pulls out, but has to hide a smile behind his hand when she returns it to its place with rather more violence that is entirely necessary. Her expression should not amuse him but for some reason it does. "Oh, you would have my book? And if I do not pass it over to you with a smile, what is it you will do?" It was not his intention to come here and tease her so, but he finds he cannot help it when he sees her this frustrated. Somehow he manages to maintain his usual cheerful smile -- the one that carries no meaning other than genuine kindness -- as he watches her with interested blue eyes. "Will you take it away and leave me wanting?" The briefest of frowns flits across his face, replaced quickly again by his normal smile. It was not what he meant to say and he is perplexed as to why it came out.

What a game this is. She finds herself all too happy to play. She knows all too well that she should let him leave, and go back to her own reading. But deep down, she did come here hoping to find him. And now he is playing this game right along with her. Their matched masks of pleasant faces. His kind smile that does not warm his eyes, her aloof expression that hides her growing frustration. Her eyebrow lifts, the only sign that his words have any meaning to her at all. "I am certain there is another volume here, which might suit your needs." She looks down at the book in his hands. "Are you planning to put up a fight?" Her tone is airy, and she does not look at his face, instead allowing herself to exude a coolness, even if she is burning inside.

So she /is/ playing this game as well. He thought she might be, though he thought he had won. Apparently she does not give up so easily. "Perhaps I do not /want/ any other volume. Certainly there are many lovely books here to read, but the one I want is the one you have demanded for me not to have." Will he put up a fight for what he wants? It is very apparent that she is not simply referring to the book in his hands. "I wonder if I shall have to fight for it at all, when it is already in my hands." He tilts his head to one side, as if curious to see how she will respond to that. Of course, the analogy isn't exact, but he has to wonder how she will react.

A flicker of something crosses her face at his words, but Patience quickly schools her expression to mild interest once more. This is chess. This is cards. This is /exciting/. And he is good at this. She thinks it must be all the practice he has in keeping himself together. She has to try a little harder to ensure her emotions do not betray her in this. "I will have you know I am quite apt at fighting. And what may be in your hands now could easily fall." She has lost her own trail of thought. He is flummoxing her. "So you do not accept that I wish to take this book from you?" She adds, placing her hand on the book in question, just resting it there.

His smile grows a little brighter, a little more amused as her expression changes for the briefest of seconds. They are fully engaged now; he could not escape this game if he wanted to. Not that he wants to. It is almost easier to argue over their situation with veiled words and analogies than it is to simply have it out in the open. "I do not deny that you may have some ability in taking what you want, regardless of what someone else may desire." A small laugh escapes him at this, though he is not sure why. "I am afraid I cannot /allow/ you to steal away from me that which /I/ desire. Do you find me cruel to refuse you in such a way? Am I impolite? Unkind?"

She does face him now, blue eyes on blue eyes. The smallest of smiles touches the corners of her mouth as she tries to keep frustration--her Shartington temper-- from showing on her face. He is laughing. He is /enjoying/ this, and so is she. She is determined not to lose--but she already has the disadvantage. "I believe, Mr. Bullen, you are being unfair. After all, I did explain to you that I want to take this book from you. You /should/ oblige a lady. Instead, you leave me with two options," she muses, not moving her hand. She makes no indication that she might reveal those options. Instead, she stifles a fake yawn with her hand.

The hint of a smile on her face is obviously there to hide something. He can see it in her eyes even if he cannot decipher it. "Unfair? Miss Sharrington, you must remember that I wanted it first. You did not wish to have it until you decided you disliked poetry." He manages not to laugh again, though he almost wants to if only to frustrate her more. "I think the key word is that you wish to /take/ it from me. I suppose that means it is already in my possession." Raising an eyebrow, he looks her over as if measuring up whether she is capable of seizing the book from his hands. "Though I believe if you are going to mention options then perhaps you should share what those options might be."

His laughter is breaking her down. She is certain he knows it. Instead she straightens her back and does not allow herself to falter, not at his words, not at his meaning. "Perhaps that is true. I still do not think you should have it." She tilts her head debating what she might say. She keeps glancing at the book, though it is far beneath her interest right now. "As for the options, I could take it from you, forcibly, then leave here before you may have a chance to protest." Her fingers slide over the book threatening. "Or, I could attempt to convince you to part with it." There is a third option . She is not going to tell him there is a third option. Especially not now, when she is desperately trying to find the upperhand.

"And why do you think I should not have it, Miss Sharrington?" He pretends to frown as if confused by her words, though he, of course, understands her meaning perfectly. She is obviously struggling, losing this game they play. "You /could/ take it from me or convince me to part with it, though I am not convinced that is what you truly /wish/ to do." He considers for a long while whether to say what he wants to say or if it would be taking things a step too far. "Or, you could simply let me have it. We could even share it perhaps." One moment he is glancing at the stairs, the next he is holding her gaze. "You do know where I live after all."

"I believe you could find a more suitable book. This is hardly worth it. It is silly, and vulgar, and not nearly as agreeable as most other books." She is not going to lose this. She is sure. And then he presents the third option. She snatches her hand from the book. His meaning is too clear. "I should not consider that," she snaps, before remembering herself and smiling politely. "But you seem quite determined not to let me take it from you." No she should not consider it. But she is.

"It is clever, funny, moving. And it is the only book here that I wish to have." His smile has faded some, especially from his eyes. It is all he can do not to grow angry with her for devaluing herself in such a way. And there she is, the angry, passionate Patience that he knows so well. Even if she does disappear again behind that maddeningly sweet smile. "It is the only option available for you to consider. You may either share the book with me, or return to the poetry that seems to make you bored... unhappy even." Something has changed in her expression, but he does not know what it is or what it means and he must fight to keep from scowling at her and shaking her until she says what it is. "You are right though. I will not let it go without a fight that would likely alert the librarian as to what is happening in his library."

It is hard not to lash out at him. To grab him by the face and tell him that he cannot have her because she is not someone he should want to have. She does not. She does allow herself to frown. He is not giving her a choice. Or, rather, she is too happy to not have the choice. It is that immediate wish to accept which terrifies her, which thrills her. "I still think you are mistaken. This book is not worth such a fight. But considering my options, I suppose I am left with very little choice." She takes a few steps back and looks at the shelves, letting herself consider for a few more moments before looking back at James. "I've made up my mind then."

Her frown should elicit a triumphant smile from him. Instead, it makes him frown as well. Is she so unhappy at the idea of what she can have? "Can I not decide for myself if said book is worth a fight? Is my judgement so lacking that I cannot make up my own mind?" He takes a small step toward her, though he stops himself before getting /too/ close. "What is it you have decided, Miss Sharrington? Am I to leave with my book, will you take it from me, or will you share it with me?" He finds he is more than a little afraid of what she has decided. If she chooses simply to leave, to forbid him from having what he wants, what will he do? Will he seize her and kiss her and not allow her choice to be carried out? Or will he simply watch her disappear down the stairs, never to see her again except possibly in passing? He watches her with wary blue eyes as he awaits her answer.

She waits, drawing it out. She has to think of her answer, think of all the reasons she should not answer the way she is going to. Finally she says, "If we are to share, you must realize that I can make no promises to abstain from other books." She lets that hang in the air, hoping it will change his mind. She's bluffing, though, she does not think she would so easily run into the arms of another. She just does not trust herself enough to be sure of that as a fact. She wants him to know his risk fully. She wants him to take it back. "And you must know I only intend on reading with you." She is being unkind again. Maybe she hopes to scare him away.

Is he alright with what she is agreeing to? What she offers? He considers what she says for several moments, staring down at the book in his hand as he does. When he realizes that he will take as much as she is able to offer at this moment, he looks up at her with a small smile. "If you find that other books are what you desire, then I will not complain so long as you continue to read this one with me." He is not sure if he is /truly/ able to accept that, but if it is the only way he is able to have her at all then he will accept it. "And if reading is all you wish to do, then it is something I will concede to." He wants to reach out, to graze her fingers with his own, perhaps a way to say he is grateful for even what little she is able to offer. Instead he grips his book tighter, keeping himself from touching her like he wishes to. Perhaps there is somewhere in him that believes she will someday wish for /more/ than just the physical, more than simply flitting from one man to another, though he will never admit to that, not to her when it could so easily drive her away altogether.

Pay watches his face carefully. He is making this too easy. Or, rather, he is making it too hard to stay away from him. And why should she not continue having him? After all, he is willing, and she does not say no to herself. She gives him a quick, curt nod. That is all they will have, and no one need get hurt for it. Saying yes means she does not have to feel empty, lonely. It means she might have something to look forward to. "Then it is settled." She replaces any serious expression that may have crossed her face, and puts on the practiced neutral smile. "I am glad we have come to an agreement on this matter. Though, I am not at all pleased that you have bested me. I will remember that." A glint appears in her eyes, her smile turning a little more wicked and real for the briefest of moments.

"Indeed it is, Miss Sharrington." He would rather use her given name, but their game has yet to end so he puts back on his usual smile, one that matches hers. He wants to kiss her, so badly that he digs his fingernails into his palms to distract himself from that desire. It is not that they have not kissed in this room before. It is that he is afraid he may still chase her away if he does not move warily around her as if she is a wild creature that may be frightened away by the slightest wrong movement. "I suppose you must punish me later for having won this particular battle. I shall take it with grace when you do, as long as it is fair punishment." He is glad that the real Patience seems to be re-emerging, the spark in her eyes, her smile, setting him ablaze, though it is gone as soon as it came. "I will take the book home and you may call on me at your leisure to read it with me."

Though she keeps her face genial, her eyes darken considerably at all the ways she could think of punishing him. "I make no promises for fair, but you will certainly atone." She relaxes a little and moves across the room. Almost as if ending the conversation. However, it is just because she does not know if she can continue pleasantries without wishing for more right now. "Until then, I suppose."

"I suppose it will have to do." He laughs for real this time, his eyes dancing in amusement. "I cannot blame you for being unfair when I have bested you so easily." When she walks away, he sighs, though he is unsure if it is because he can finally breathe without her so near to him, or if it is because he /needed/ to be so close to her and now he is not. She intends to leave now, he realizes, and he feels a pang of regret that he did not kiss her when he could have. It is not too late now, he supposes, though he is not sure if she wants him to. He shakes himself, nodding and smiling. "You may call whenever you like. My time is quite free until the holidays are over."

Patience shoots him a glare, which is filled with a sort of amusement, and she gives him a scoff. /Easy/. She definitely will remember that. She looks to the stairs and knows it is time. They have finished their conversation, and there is nothing more that can happen between them in a library. "Then I will consider you entirely at my service until then." She straightens out her clothing and walks towards the stairs. "Goodbye, James. For now." She dissolves her resolute exterior entirely and offers him a warm smile.

He laughs again at the look she levels at him, though it ends when she moves toward the stairs. "I shall ever be your obedient servant, Miss Sharrington...Patience." He bows low, looking back up at her with a twinkle in his eye. When he stands back to his full height, he raises his hand in farewell. "Goodbye, Patience. Do take care." He revels in the warmth of her smile, his own just as warm, or perhaps warmer, though this one is special for her and not his typical facade that he holds for other young ladies.

She leaves, feeling conflicted, but mostly elated. She thinks of the promise she made to herself, that she should not and would not see him again. And as she leaves the library she shakes her head. She is terrible at keeping promises to herself. But this one may be worth it to break.

Posted 3 weeks ago

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