Kitty was a determined woman. It was less than an hour later when she poked her head in at Nora’s room, smiling broadly. ‘I just gave Ned a piece of my mind regarding his less than chivalrous behaviour last night. He apologises profusely and promises to do everything in his power to bring Sean to the King’s tonight.’
‘But what am I to say to him?’ Nora was equal parts excitement and panic.
‘Did no one tell you, Nora?’ Kitty’s grin broadened, if that were possible. ‘I am a matchmaker extraordinaire. Leave it to me. Now what will you wear?’
Nora looked down at her dress. It was a dull grey cotton, practical and well-mended, originally worn as half-mourning after serving her full year in black for a man who had let her down.
‘No, Nora. You cannot wear that.’ Kitty began to rifle through the pile of dresses that come back from the laundry that morning. ‘This?’ It was red silk, cut far too low, worn in a terrible play that Sam had pulled after a week.
‘Absolutely not! He’ll think me some kind of streetwalker.’ Nora stood to supervise Kitty’s selection.
‘Blue. Yes, it goes with your colouring.’ Kitty held the dark blue taffeta against Nora. ‘It might be a little big though. Try it on.’
The dress was almost a perfect fit, just a little loose around the chest and Nora would easily fix that. Thanks to her early start, she had completed all of her tasks for that day and was able to devote her afternoon to altering the dress, taking every care to match the thread to the material, making the stitches as neat and tiny as possible.
She was just putting the iron on the fire, ready to press the creases from the frock, when Ned knocked on the open door. She nodded and waved him in.
‘Afternoon.’ He shuffled his feet nervously. ‘Erm, so I wanted to apologise. For my behaviour last night. It was unlike me, I cannot explain it, and I don’t want you to feel that I cannot be trusted. I’m ever so sorry, Nora.’
‘And so you should be!’ She folded her arms across her chest and saw him gulp. ‘Look, Ned, I spoke to Sean this morning. He told me all about Maggie. I saw her, you know.’
‘Oh.’ She watched the colour rise in his face as he scratched his chin awkwardly. ‘You must think me a complete fool. I can’t tell you how stupid I feel. I want to make it up to you. I will make it up to you. Sean’s meeting us later on Union Street. I’ve made sure he knows it was all my doing, what happened.’
‘Good.’ She could only keep a straight face for a little longer, her mood buoyed by the news of Sean. ‘Oh, Ned I forgive you. Just don’t try anything like that again!’
‘I won’t. Lesson learned. Besides, if all goes well this evening I think Sean would have something to say about it.’
It was Nora’s turn to blush now. ‘Get out of here will you.’
Time seemed to have stopped. Nora went to the wings to watch the evening’s show but could not even follow the story of the so-called comedy that was on before Ned’s play. Kitty came to fetch her after her own dance number had finished and the two women headed down for some liquid courage.
‘You deserve to be happy, you know.’ Kitty spoke suddenly, surprising Nora.
‘What do you mean?’
‘You. You’re punishing yourself for something. To do with your late husband?’ Kitty was more astute that Nora had given her credit for.
‘I know that I should not. Peter was a handsome drunk. Ned reminds me of him a bit actually, though I’ve never seen him as mean as Peter could be. I was glad when he died.’ Nora clapped her hand to her mouth in horror. She’d never said it aloud before.
Kitty pulled Nora’s hand away. ‘You can say it. It doesn’t matter and you feel better now don’t you? He doesn’t know and, horrid though it is to say, it sounds like he didn’t care much about you. Forget him. Sean seems like a decent fellow and you’re no longer tied down.’
Nora did feel better. ‘Thank you Kitty.’
‘No thanks necessary.’ She linked arms with her new friend. ‘Just promise me that whatever happens we will good friends.’
‘Promise.’ They turned on to Union Street and Nora saw Sean coming towards her from the other direction. He raised his hand in greeting and she waved back. It was time for a new beginning.