She watched his expression with tender attentiveness, noting his every gesture, blink, breath. He sat across from her describing his day without any particular interest in it. He caught her eye and smiled his deep, easy grin and suggested the pair take a walk under the setting sun. The garden was fresh with the blossoms of early spring and it would be a good caesura from the stuffy indoors. The lady consented.
Her shawl was brought and the gentlemen helped it on. He offered her his arm and their stroll commenced. The sun had already begun to sink beneath the horizon as the pair followed the winding garden paths around the maison. They talked about nothing, and yet everything was said in their laughs and smiles. The gentleman, she had known him for years and had always found great pleasure in her associations with him.
They walked together for a great while. It had not taken them long to fall into step with each other. She knew him quite well. She knew he was fond of her and she admired him greatly; indeed she loved him. She was quite content in her walk with this man whom she loved, and cherished every second of it.
The sun had almost disappeared behind the foothills in the distance. The lady started with a chill. The gentleman immediately apologized for his imprudence and offered her his jacket. The lady accepted with glad appreciation. It was suggested they return to the house, but the lady assured him she was fine and desired to continue on their path.
In response, the gentleman pulled her a little closer—in hopes of providing the lady some comfort in his warmth. Only the last glances of bright hues cast in the fading sunlight remained for the couple to gaze upon. Twilight came quickly thereafter bringing with it the gentleman’s determination to bring the lady home unscathed.
As they turned their course, the lady noticed the dense clouds that revealed no stars. She expressed her admiration for the blazing entities and her disappointment that they two would not be, on that night, granted the privilege of beholding those heavenly orbs. All was dark, but for the one small aperture in the dense cloud-covering. It did not reveal the moon itself, but let its light reflect and rebound escaping only slightly into the night.
At long last the lady and the gentleman stopped in front of the maison. The gentleman sadly declined her invitation to come inside and talk for awhile. There were things at his own home he needed to tend to this night, but he assured her he would be glad to return on the morrow and promised her a special outing which he had not fully contrived as of yet.
The gentleman held the lady’s right hand and kissed it sweetly. They stood for moments that stretched on for decades gazing into the other’s eyes. The lady read in his sparkling blue eyes something she could not quite discern—was it love? hope? desire?
Warm passion evoked in her a longing which she struggled to repress. It cried out with force and determination. A kiss that had been on her lips for months—nay for years threatened to lash out and expose her, leaving her vulnerable and susceptible to cruel heartbreak and vivid sorrow.
She violently fought her impulses to reach out and kiss him. She loved him—how she loved him! But it was not right. Their relationship did not dictate such conduct. Oh the impropriety! Oh what gossip might preach! But this did not concern her. All that concerned her at this very moment was his eyes penetrating into her soul, his nose pink with the cold of early spring, his brow that furrowed into a warm, affectionate gaze; his lips that curved into an easy grin of comfort and peace as they whispered softly, “Goodnight.”
He was so close to her and suddenly the night air did not seem so cold. He still held her hand where his kiss lingered on her fingertips. She did not want him to leave. She did not want him to go and break this moment.
“Goodnight,” she replied, in contradiction to all the screaming impulses that had awakened in her being.
The gentleman nodded with a light smile. He gave her a meaningful glance as he let go her hand and turned towards the carriage that had arrived for him. They parted in heavy silence. The lady did not move from her place as the carriage pulled away. She watched it until it disappeared into the darkness.
A small sigh escaped her lips. She turned towards the maison, but stopped. Her hand was still warm and tingling from his touch. She had not succumbed to her desires. She felt pride in the command she possessed over herself, and yet, the pride did not wholly satisfy her; her lips felt the heaviness of the unkissed kiss; her mind felt the reproach from her heart’s tingling desires.
Thoughts, emotions all spun in her mind as the lady made her way back to her chambre. It was not so late, nevertheless, the lady retired to her lit.
Distantly, as she reclined her head to her pillow, she heard the little parrot in the foyer screech, “Suivez votre coeur, ma fille! Prenez un risque!” She made a mental note to tell the maid to cover the cage earlier in the day.
Her eyes closed, but sleep eluded her. The lady’s thoughts lingered on the gentleman, their walk, their time together. They spun in circles and she could not dwell on a single one before another took its place. The only thing she could decipher was that her heart wanted something prudence highly objected to; and her sage mind provided an ever-vigil watch over her heart’s deepening desires.
Fatigue, stress, and discontent eventually led her to sleep. But it was a disturbed sleep, uncomfortable, restless and with sketchy dreams that held no happy ending; or at least none so soon as would satisfy her impatient heart.