Cover Art by Platon Tz
Gretchen E. Fusselman
What are you doing here? How-” Emeline’s soft-spoken words were cut off when Jordan pushed his index finger to her ruby lips.
He took a step closer to her and shook his head, holding a small, wry smile. “Never mind how I got here. I had to see you,” he whispered to her in hurried words.
Jordan took her champagne-gloved hands in his and Emeline’s lips stretched into a smile. Her eyes fluttered shut when Jordan leaned forward and kissed her forehead, generating a soft sigh through her lips. A single endearing gesture and she instantly felt at peace for the first time since she had last seen him.
“I’ve missed you,” she told him when he pulled back so they could look into each others eyes. A longing had sat in her tone and it nearly broke Jordan’s heart just to hear it, to think about how unhappy she’s been when they’re apart.
Outside the door of the study that they stood in, echoed the orchestral music from the ballroom. A waltz was playing and Emeline was missing her own engagement ball.
“Don’t marry him,” Jordan pleaded her, shaking his head in the denial that this was even happening. He tried his best to keep this little meeting as light and happy as possible, but he couldn’t help himself with his words. There was just so much he wanted to say.
Emeline’s smile had faded and she looked down to train her eyes on their joined hands. She could feel the comfort of the heat from his large hands seeping through her gloves and wished that this could last forever.
“I have to, Jordan,” she whispered sadly and wearily. “It’s my duty.”
Jodan shook his head and let go of her hands, trapping her face in his hands as he kissed her. At first the kiss was light, meaningful, but Emeline soon pulled away, shaking her head with suddenly widened light brown eyes filled to the brim with worry.
“Jordan, I have to tell you something.” There was a specific edge to her voice that made Jordan’s heart drop into the pit of his stomach. Something was terribly wrong. He just knew it.
Jordan blinked, shaking his head again as he furrowed his eyebrows at her. “What is it?”
By now Emeine’s eyes were watery and the look in them suggested that something was seriously corrupt, scaring him. She shook her head and a sob erupted from her. It sounded broken and rushed, as if she had been bottling this up for a while now.
“Emmie,” he began as he cupped a cheek, trying to give her a bright, positive smile—anything to keep her from crying further. He hated seeing her in such a miserable state, “you can tell me anything. You know that, right?”
It took Emeline a moment to suck in a breath and to calm herself down well enough to speak clearly. “I’m p-”
Emeline’s sad words were cut off when the door to the study abruptly opened. The two lovers turned their heads immediately, alarmed and horrified until they felt themselves relax at the friendly, familiar face of Emeline’s lady’s maid Adele.
“He needs to leave,” said Adele, her bright violet eyes showing worry as she pointed to the door that led out to the balcony. “Baylon’s getting suspicious. He can’t just keep showing up here like this and keep you from your fiance.” Adele said “fiance” as if trying to make a point and it made Emeline feel ashamed of herself.
Adele pushed Jordan away so she could produce a piece of fancy cloth and run it over Emeline’s wet cheeks, murmuring something about it being impractical.
After helping Emeline look tidy again despite her puffy red eyes, Adele turned and glared up at Jordan, pursing her dark red lips. “This is the last time I help you, Jordan.” She scowled, pushing him towards the door, not even allowing him another word towards Emeline but just a look that Emeline just knew was his silent way of telling her he loved her.
When Jordan was gone, Adele locked the balcony door and turned to look towards her best friend. Emeline sniffled, giving Adele pleading eyes.
“I don’t know what it is that you think you can get away with, but enough is enough, Emmie,” Adele said sternly as she gathered her skirts in her hands and walked over to her friend, expecting some naive, love-sick excuse.
What Adele received in return was silence. She didn’t need to ask Emeline what was wrong. The two had been friends long enough for Adele to know Emeline would tell her, vent to her, anything sooner or later.
Adele walked past her mistress, opening the door that led out to the stairs leading down to the hallway before the ballroom.
“Well come on then,” Adele hissed. She didn’t want Emeline to get into any trouble, feeling it her responsibility to refrain her from such.
Adele immediately closed the door again, her eyes widened with horror and so much fear. She felt as if her heart had stopped beating.