Conrnwall, 1925 – Throsby Manor
Emmaline stopped in the middle of her track and turned around only to find Henry standing before her, one hand clutching his stack of books in an awkward position and the other in front of his face, clearly protecting it from the expected impact with the wooden door.
Her face was tinged red as she eyed him back anxiously. A grunt escaped from the back of her throat as she struggled for an apology, but failed as she couldn’t find her voice, much too surprised by Henry’s sudden appearance in front of the library. However, her angry features softened at his sight as she managed a greeting somewhat, “How are you today, Henry?”
“Fine.” Henry simply answered, yet he couldn’t resist the urge to frown on the stiff greeting. It was unusual to find his childhood friend to be in such a foul mood so early in the morning.
Lady Emmaline Clarissa Breckenridge was the only daughter of Lord Frederick Breckenridge, who had been sent to India to be a British Official, along with his wife and daughter. Lord Alistair Fenton, Henry’s father, had kindly taken her in after the death of her parents in the cholera outbreak in India back in 1914. She was the sole survivor and heiress of her family, but because of the closeness between their two families, her parents’ will had named Lord Fenton to be her guardian.
And that was how he was introduced to Emmaline who was two years his junior. The first time Emmaline joined them in their permanent residence in Cornwall, she had been withdrawn and quiet, although as time went by her original radiant personality shone through. Along with his brothers Patrick and Raoul, they ended up spending most of their childhood together before the need of higher education sent them off to different boarding schools.
Thereafter, they only met during the holidays.
But it didn’t stop them from developing a close relationship, and Emmaline’s infectious smiles could only mean an antidote to his gruff one. Even though sometimes he
thought of her as an annoying little sister he never had, they spent every holiday in each other’s company, sharing stories, dreams, laughter and even fights.
He had been hoping to see her mischievous smile today. The butler had informed them that Emmaline had arrived last night, but he had a few friends over and it was too late to seek her out last night. Today he missed her at breakfast, but now that he was refreshed he intended to look for her immediately after he finished putting away a few books from his trunk in the library. He fully expected Emmaline to be spending her time with his older brothers, reading books or enjoying a bout of tennis game.
Henry hadn’t expected the hot glare directed his way. Emmaline, regardless the formality of their surroundings, had always managed to show her mischievous side toward him. This Emmaline, he had never seen before. He couldn’t read the jumbles of emotions that swirled behind those crystal coloured eyes and he didn’t like it.
And somehow, amidst the awkwardness, Henry started to feel the uncomfortable twinge of being somehow unwanted. Her eyes were anywhere but him, and her body language screamed relentless. So he lifted one eyebrow in his own way to say good day to Emmaline and proceeded to move out of her way, bouncing the stack of books a little bit as he balanced it on his hip.
“Everything alright?” he ventured reluctantly.
The girl offered no explanation, but he could see her shoulders stiffened even more. “As fine as it should be.” She replied, her tone was terse and final. Then she left.
He watched as Emmaline walked further and further away, the sound of her high heels clicking against the marble floor became fainter and fainter. Henry furrowed his brows. Something beyond mere annoyance must have happened to her.
You’re curious, aren’t you, Henry?
A small voice at the back of his head whispered, and he winced, reprimanding himself to keep his mind straight and out of Emmaline. However, his eyes kept wandering back to the spot where Emmaline almost crushed his nose and remembered how much desperation he noticed in her aquamarine eyes – their pale colour pleading for him to look further behind her strong exterior of total confidence.
He placed the books onto the large oak table and stepped closer to the ceiling tall windows lining one side of the wall, pensively looking onto the vast green of Throsby Manor. Below was a row of well-tended rose bushes that Emmaline had kept ever since she was old enough to be interested in gardening. He was half hoping that she would be there, but there was no one. He was walking away from the window when his sensitive ears caught the sound of drizzles transmitted through the clear windowpane, getting heavier by the second. Tilting his head to one side, he observed the rain absent-mindedly as his index finger traced the path of rolling water beads on the outside of the glass absent-mindedly.
Oh, the rain is getting a bit heavier.
He blinked twice when he saw a feminine figure finally emerged, forcefully striding toward the rose bush. He was unable to see the face since the library was on the second level of the manor, but he didn’t need visual assurance to confirm that she was Emmaline. He would recognise her figure anywhere.
Emmaline had not worn any sufficient coat for her protection, let alone taking an umbrella with her. His frown deepened, for a moment the thought of Emmaline catching even the slightest cold disturbed his mind. Woman is a mystery, he remembered Patrick had told her the year before he began his education in Cambridge. You’d do well to keep your distance from their private thoughts.
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