Hillary stood before the window of the local drapers admiring the display of latest arrivals from places she could only imagine. The pretty French Silk prints immediately caught her eye... I have a new frock in mind and that fabric would be just the ticket she thought to herself...
"Oh.. what a lovely necklace" her ears suddenly assulted by the grating gushing voice of Audrey Pennington-Smythe. Her hyphenation disguising through assumption, a long lonely and resented spinsterhood.
Startled by the sudden interruption to her reverie, Hillary looked up and greeted her assailant through a clenched teeth smile. Sad, sad meddlesome woman she thought, don't give her and inch...
"Hello Auldrey, how nice to see you. I'm sorry, I was quite lost admiring that beautiful french print in the window for my next frock. What was that you were saying?"
"I was commenting on your necklace Miss Nightingale. It must be new. I've not seen you wear it before. Was it a gift perchance?" she chimed oozing insincerity. "Another trinket from one of your, if I should be so bold as to say, many, gentleman suitors?" Her pursed and virginal lips formed into a thin line of derision.
Hillary recognised the thinly veiled envious wanting in the tone of Audrey's enquiry as she continued. "They all seem very keen to leave an impression on the coveted Miss Nightingale. Surely one of them has stirred your interest by now. As it is, there are no doubt, any number from which to choose". Fetching in looks, well groomed and from a fine pedigree and very well moneyed little strumpet that you are... I've seen your type before, just like the harlot that took away my Christian. My love. So many years past. I shall cast a line here and see what I can hook.
" I should think the caller that bestowed that fine, if not, a little ostentatious to my mind, accoutrement upon you would be well ahead in the stakes to gain your hand in marriage. What, with freshwater pearls and such a large and beautifully engraved pendant gold, catching the light and drawing ones eye to your ample bosom, It would surely have cost him a Kings ransom one would imagine."
Imagine away Audrey..thought Hillary don't give the old crone an inch of the truth lest unleash further the jealous and hurtful beast of thwarted love. "Yes. It is quite pretty Audrey. Thank you. And so as to allay your curiosity and obviously compassionate concern regarding my state of being as yet un-wed. It was a gift from Father on his recent return from the Far East. He says he picked it up for a song at one something he called a bazaar. I think that is what he called it.
He says he had a marvelous time haggling with the vendor over a mutually agreed purchase price. It sounded such fun in his retelling. He had us all in such fits of laughter. We were, all of us, quite positively exhausted by his conclusion."
"Oh." sighed Audrey. "What disappointment. I was hoping that it may have been form that lovely Marchinson Boy. He's grown into an outstanding young gentleman. His Father I happen to know, is frightfully proud of young Jeremy's foray into the business arena trading with companies based in the Far East. Such a coincidence...He too, like your Father, has only recently returned. I have seen him on several occasions, you know, riding out toward Nightingale Mannor.
She's snooping. The sly old busy body. I'll not give her an inch... "Why, Audrey, you are astute in your observations. Mr Marchinson has been a regular face at the Mannor since his return from the East. He consults with my Father in matters of business I believe." Hillary, averting her eyes as she embarassingly felt the warm sensation of tell tale colour rising to her cheeks. Oh no, not now she thought. Don't colour and give away your secret Hillary. As thoughts of the night before flooded her senses. Moonlit Jeremy. Standing beside her their hands entwined as they looked out toward the lake shore. Jeremy. Confessing his deep love for her. His preoccupying thoughts of her, of this very moment of asking for her hand. Of dreams they would make together as Mr and Mrs Jeremy Marchinson. The very thought now filling her with further desire for him. Oh... don't give her an inch. Jeremy giving her the necklace. How her body seemed filled with tiny exquisite tremors as he fastened the clasp, kissing gently her nape as he did so. And then their embrace. Jeremy. Feeling his firm muscular body as he drew her into it's shelter. His warmth. His scent fueling her growing desire. Oh please she thought. Not here. Not now. And definitely not in front of Audrey Pennington-Smythe.
Of all people.
"I'm sorry Audrey" Hillary flustered. "It has been such a pleasure to see you, but, I really must away. Charles, my Brother is awating in the buggy and will be by now concerned about my whereabouts. Good day to you Audrey" and with that abruptly turned on her heel and hurriedly walked away in the direction of a waiting Charles.
Audrey Pennington-Smythe remained quietly standing outside the Drapers. She turned slowly to her reflection mirrored in the glass and smiled smugly. "Well Audrey my dear. I do believe you got one"
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