Jocelyn was nice. She enjoyed nature, so we took many walks around the gardens. I thought she might expand my horizons when it comes to gardening, but it turned out she had less interest in getting her hands dirty and more in picking flowers to decorate her hair. We didn’t really have much to talk about. I was bored after a week. She took three months before she decided the dying fall flowers weren’t her thing. I planted the Sunset Beauty in her honor.
Elaina realized she hadn’t been a very good companion to Robert two weeks later when she saw him reach for a chessboard instead of a book in the massive library. Their daily existence had become a routine: breakfast, sometimes with Rose and sometimes alone; a morning reading session in the library; lunch with Rose popping up at every moment that was opportune for her; Robert going off with Nigel and Elaina retreating to the library; an occasional stroll through a hall lined with portraits and landscapes; dinner with Rose staring silently at her; and evenings spent on edge as it was Rose’s favorite time to drop in on them.
Elaina was suddenly afraid she’d become boring in her attempt to simply survive her time in Roderick Hall. How on Earth could she and Robert possibly fall in love enough to want to marry each other for life if all she did was read all day?
Almost regretfully, she closed her book, resting a hand longingly on the cover. She had been selfish for the past two weeks and Robert had been too patient. Rose had surely noted the distance between them. Elaina wasn’t sure if the woman approved or not.
She didn’t mean to startle him, but the new dress Clarice had made didn’t rustle and her soft-soled shoes did little more than whisper over the plush carpet.
“Do you play?” she asked as she came to sit on the other side of the end table.
Robert started, jerking his gaze up from the board as one hand swept half of the pieces to the floor. He stared at her for a moment, as though he were slowly coming to realize she was sitting beside him instead of on the sofa some feet away.
Elaina quickly reached out a hand and placed it on his wrist. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
He shook his head, giving her a rueful smile. “I was so intent on the pieces I didn’t know you had moved. But, to answer you, no, I don’t play. I only have a basic understanding of how the pieces move.” He picked up a pawn and turned it around in his fingers, his eyes drifting from hers to eye the piece. “Pawns move like foot soldiers, space by space. My father tried to teach me several times, but I always found other things that better interested me.” He gently placed the piece on a black square. “I should have paid more attention to him. I suppose I could have taught myself or learned from someone, but this was the one thing my father loved. It almost feels like blasphemy to learn from anyone else.”
“I suppose you must miss him a lot.”
“He was a good man, always caring about everyone he came across. I think that’s how he was so successful. Everyone trusted him.”
“Your mother seems like the polar opposite,” she said gently. “How did they meet?”
“You know what’s funny about my parents’ marriage? I don’t actually know a lot about it. I never saw they were close or particularly loving towards each other, but they never seemed to hate each other. I would ask questions when I was older, shortly before my father died, but they always deflected me.”
Elaina frowned. “It sounds like they were hiding something.”
“I got that feeling, too,” he said, his eyes meeting hers. “But, to answer your question, they always said a matchmaker paired them and they were obligated to marry.”
“What?” She couldn’t keep the disbelief from her voice, and was embarrassed as soon as the word left her mouth. “I’m sorry.”
Stop by the Writer’s Lounge to catch up on the story.