My dearest Anna,
You are the difference between ordinary and extraordinary; just that little, but magical 'extra.'
I hope your married life is all you wish for and more.
Falling To The Ground
“Anna…”he prompted. “Will you do me the honour?”
Anna rose in her bed before his face looming into clarity. His face…only it wasn't.
She didn't recognize this man.
He certainly wasn't Julian.
She tried to push herself to a sit but let out a wince as her arm collapsed beneath her weight.
The man propped a pillow between it and the hard back of the bed, cushioning the inexplicable ringing of pain.
“No more than a bruise,” he informed. “Consequence of the dramatic fall, I'm told.”
“During a proposal of marriage,” he said, as if it was so matter-of-fact.
“Well, clearly no one thought to catch me,” she murmured unthinking, before a question came to the forefront, “who exactly are you, sir?”
“Apologies; Dr Peckham . . . Michael, if you like,” and as he said so, he removed a weighty bundle from her forehead and took it to the basin. “ I've never witnessed such an amusing refusal, Miss Walters.”
Anna attempted recollection but saw nothing past Julian’s face as he’d stood, announcing his intentions with an expectant hand held out for her. The absence of the afterwards was worrying her. “How brutal was I?”
He was back now and sitting on the edge of the bed, folding what she now saw had been a cloth of some sort. He replaced it on her forehead with a deftness that was curiously calming and she sighed, inaudibly content, as the coolness of the cotton swept into her where the warmth of his fingertips did not. “I’m afraid you answered in your sleep.”
Stunned, her mouth hung inelegantly open. “I refused him in my sleep?!”
He chuckled at that but then his slated blue eyes were commiserative and kind as he looked at her, his hand sacredly still on her. Dreadful expectation filled her before he continued.
“Not to worry,” he said. “He will find someone else to share his French spoon collection with.”
Anna groaned, wishing to disappear amidst the heap of bedding. “Oh Lord, tell me I did not say-!"
“You certainly did,” came his honest reply.
Anna’s bruise had healed.
Julian’s pride had not.
It appeared to her that it was not the response itself that had wounded him but rather the method of delivery. She could not fault him for that; even though she had had no intention of accepting him, he had deserved more. Soon, she hoped they could extend their coexistence in society towards civility.
If for nothing else, she would have liked to amble down Oxford Street as freely as she used to. Now as she did so, she heard and saw and felt the knarled branches of the scandal suffocate her movements.
She left the main street into the quiet turn of a lane and came to a halt; a man hid his lustrous head of hair with a hat as he stepped out of one of the houses. A smile touched her face; instant and admiring. Internally, she almost cursed her good health for providing her no reason to seek his company.
The admission, asinine as it was, made her fearful. She swiveled on her heel and returned from where she had come, unknowingly allowing her pace to slow after a mere minute.
Admonishing her panicked hastiness, she decided she should greet him with all the composure that was expected. Naturally, she had not foreseen that he had been so near that she should tread on him in her attempt and almost lose her footing.
“Miss Walters?” as he drew her up to a stand. “Is this a common occurrence for you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Embracing the ground,” he replied.
“You are partly to blame,” she said pointedly.
“Oh, how so?” he asked, eyes shining with amusement.
“You … startled me.”
Her belated reply came out dumbly, for he was watching her with an expression that made her doubt her fluency in English.
And then he grinned.
And the air between them changed.
Their breaths coalesced.
He gathered her close and when he spoke, his voice was low and so daring she thought it must have surprised them both. “And if I sought to court you?”
She leaned in, gladness making her bold. “I cannot guarantee I would remain standing.”
“I can,” he promised.