Chapter Twelve – continued
“It doesn’t matter,” she said, looking away. “I don’t want to cause trouble in the family, especially not with the stepmother and stepsister we have. You know that’s not in my nature.”
“Abigail,” Camille said, smiling, “always the placid one, Father would say. The one who would never rock a boat. He would always jokingly say he should take you out on the boat to the lagoon of the Pearl Kingdom because it would be the smoothest ride ever made out there.”
“My point,” Abigail said, perhaps a little sharply, “is that I’m not going to go running over to Murant Manor to tell him he can court me. I will not create waves here that might drown us.”
With that said, and feeling sufficiently warmed up, Abigail pushed herself away from the table and whirled away.
“Where are you going?” Camille demanded.
“To dry off and change,” Abigail called back. “In case you didn’t know, it was snowing out there and now it’s all melted into my clothes.”
Abigail hurried up to her rooms, freeing the clasp holding her cloak closed as she went. She waved off Geoffrey and Violet, who had been worried with how long she’d been outside for.
Her head was starting to pound, fiercely and painfully, like a hammer up against her skull. All she wanted was to put on some dry clothes and curl up with one of her mother’s books. Supper would be announced soon, but she could decline to go down. After all, she’d just finished the most filling stew she’d had in ages.
Her feet came to a sudden halt as her heart lurched into her throat. Warm clothes and a book were not in her immediate future; just a more ferocious headache.
Madeline was standing in front of her door, the basket twirling in her hands. She looked up when Abigail approached, looking every bit like the young woman Abigail had befriended. Surely Camille had been wrong. After all, Camille and Muriel loathed each other. That would color her sister’s thoughts about Madeline.
Abigail forced a smile. “Madeline. I’m sorry the afternoon did not go as planned.”
Madeline bit her lip, the same way she’d always done so. Abigail studied her stepsister as Madeline appeared to mull over what to say while twirling the basket in her hands. She looked the same, acted the same.
“Don’t be,” Madeline finally said softly, thrusting the basket into Abigail’s arms. “Adrian will make his choice, and then it’ll be our turn.”
“What?” Abigail said, startled, as Madeline swept past her. She turned to watch Madeline walk around her. “What are you talking about?”
“I thought you didn’t have any interest in him,” Madeline said over her shoulder. She nodded to the basket. “I’m not sure what that basket is supposed to tell me.”
Abigail stood, thunderstruck, her wet clothes clinging to her, the basket clasped in her hands. “It’s a basket, Madeline.”
Madeline only gave her a sad smile before continuing down the hall. “It’s a shame, Abigail. I really do like you.”
She vanished around the corner. Abigail raised a hand to her head, feeling the heavy pulse at her temple. Her sisters were making her lose her mind.
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