Miss Bexley Receives Unexpected Correspondence
For months, there was nothing. Not that she expected anything, for Emilia was called out of Tyrehampton so suddenly that nobody would have known where to send correspondence.
When her carriage pulled up outside of 8 Mill Lane last month, she thought there might at least be something. Immediately, Emilia had asked Pierce if there were any letters. But there was nothing. She’d gone to Mrs. Hatch with the same query and received similarly disappointing news. She’d been gone for months, and Mortimer Randall had not attempted to reach her.
She had gone to the inn and asked, but he had not been there in some time. As much as Emilia tried to place her focus elsewhere, the same questions plagued her mind as she was breakfasting, gardening, tending Eliza, and attempting to sleep. They would swirl in her mind as she’d lay in her four poster, keeping her awake and making the nights torturous.
Where had he gone? Had he gone to teach on the Continent again? To visit with his own family to share the news of their engagement? Or..had the gossip in the Gazette pushed him away from her entirely?
She’d gone out on a limb with her letter to Jean-Luc, whom she’d hoped would take care of her barriers to marriage, but now it seemed that would not be necessary after all.
Weeks went by after her return to the village, and Emilia fell into a routine. She’d prune her flowers and distill tinctures for those in the town that still requested them. She would pay call to her friends, visit with Mrs. Hatch, and meet new neighbors. Emilia did not thrive in the monotony, but it reduced the pain in her heart to that of an ache as opposed to a roar. Only recently did she dare ask these new acquaintances about Mr. Randall. Were they acquainted with him? No, they all replied. Why did she want to know? Who was Mr. Mortimer Randall to her? Oh, no one of consequence, she’d reply. Just an old friend.
There was no reason that today should prove different.
Emilia kisses her sister on the cheek before walking over to Mrs. Hatch to share a cup of tea and conversation. A navy day dress of quality material peeks out from underneath a rust colored pelisse worn to protect her from the crisp autumn chill. The harvest festival was around this time last year, and memories of the happy event caused a tightening sensation in her chest. She could not stomach another festival this year.
With a small nod to the butler, Emilia is led to Mrs. Hatch’s parlor. After the usual courtesies, Emilia crosses to the writing desk to look for letters. To her surprise, two letters awaited her. One, from Miss Hampton, who was so kind as to recollect her love of botany. The other made her heart seize:
Dear Miss Bexley,
I have only just returned to England and am hastening to you. Forgive the brevity of these lines in the assurance that I will soon speak my heart’s secrets in person.
Conversation, it seemed, would have to wait until another time. Before she could utter another word, Emilia stole from the parlor and flew home. Surely she flew, because she could not recollect her feet touching the ground the whole way back. It was not until she closed the door of 8 Mill Lane and the wind no longer rushed in her ears that she realized that she hadn’t drawn breath the entire time.