Missed the last instalment? The Changing of the Leaves – Part Four

Maria barely slept that night. She lay on her bed, listening for a while to Celine weeping in the bedroom above that she shared with Daniel, to Daniel’s soft placations as he apologised for upsetting his wife. When Celine gave in and forgave him she buried her head in the pillow, blocking out the sounds that followed.

Breakfast the next morning was taken in her sitting room, a little alcove off her bedroom that had been built as a gentleman’s dressing room. Sam had never shared her room for more than the odd night and so she had turned it to good use. Sally brought her toast and a pot of coffee each morning at eight, never later.

She was just draining her cup when Sam called on her looking sheepish. She had never removed the second chair from the table, more to stop the maids gossiping rather than out of hope that Sam would join her more regularly. She gestured for him to sit.

‘I came to apologise.’ He sat down and poured himself coffee, unable to meet her surprised gaze.

‘Thank you.’

‘I’m tired.’ He shook his head. ‘All of this…if it is affecting you even half as much as it is me then I pity you. I don’t know why I was so angry last night, only…it is a strain, having the pair of them rely on me. I love Daniel like a brother, but I am never free of him!’ He laughed but the sound was not true.

‘They’ll be gone soon enough. I think that Celine is desperate to set up home.’

‘Yes.’ He took a sip of coffee and she knew he was steadying himself to speak. ‘Maria, I know that this is an odd situation for both of us. I, for one, am set to make this work as best it can, for the good of our child if nothing else.’

‘And what does David say?’ Maria asked.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I’m no fool, Sam. I see how you are and I see how he looks at me, like he’d like me to disappear. Or perhaps he hopes that childbirth will prove costly for me.’

‘Maria, he means you no ill harm, I’m sure.’ He did not look convinced. ‘Perhaps we could go away, just the two of us. I will leave David here in London, you can leave your maid, Sally, is it? We can go down to Ramsgate for the week, and get to know each other properly. We could talk for once, properly, like we are now. We used to be friends, Maria, and it seems that we never talk like we used to.’

‘Do you mean it?’

‘Yes. I can make the arrangement s today and we can leave in two days’ time, as soon as I can ensure that all is taken care of at the Olympia.’

‘I would like that very much.’ She smiled, and it felt strange, unusual, her facial muscles surprised.

Sam looked pleased with himself and hurried off to put his plan into action. Maria took her cup to the window and looked out, pressing her forehead against the cool glass of the window pane. Below her in Eaton Square the trees were brown and gold, their leaves casually falling as they saw fit and creating a carpet beneath them.



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