A Gathering Storm
Amy Paine © 2016
All Rights Reserved
The church looked lovely. The pews were decked out in foliage, and the large vases of spectacular flowers in their Greek urns, from Hemsby’s gardens, flanked the doors and naves.
Millie gathered her skirt up in her hands. It was difficult because the dress was so huge and elaborate, made up of copious lengths of lace and silk. Its train and long veil tangled around her arms and legs as if the confounded dress were trying to tell her something.
No, no, she must not think like that. She pushed such nonsense from her head. It would be hard enough as it was to get through what lay in front of her. Millie pasted a smile onto lips that didn’t want to smile at all. She had to think ahead, to think of the good points of being married to James.
Her uncle smoothed his hand along her thin arm. “Darling, there’s no need to be nervous.”
“No, I know. I’m not. Well, just a little…perhaps,” she replied, forcing a weak smile.
She was having absurd notions, as if she were delirious. Maybe, despite the preparations, James wouldn’t show up. Of course, that was wishful thinking. She was about to marry into the Hemsby fortune, and last-minute hitches didn’t happen to a family like his. But still she thought about it, as she had so many times over the last week or two. Wondered what it would be like to be free, free to live and love who she wanted. And she did love, didn’t she? But it wasn’t James.
She fluffed out her dress, smoothed the silk and satin with her hands.
It was a perfect day for a wedding, with a clear blue sky and not a cloud in sight. The crowds from the village had turned out in their finery, lining the one main street flanked by the jolly houses in burnished golden stone, the sunlight reflecting from their windows. The little public house was decked with bunting.
She passed beneath the lychgate and, glancing up, noticed the servants from the house that was soon to be her home. Some of them she liked. Davies, her maid-to-be, for instance. Others, such as Foukes the butler, she didn’t like quite so much. He was stodgy and patrician, and she’d once heard him whispering about her to the housekeeper. He’d said she was a fly-by-night. But she could cope with it. She had to.
Her mother, Patricia, arrived behind her in the car. The lines on her face seemed less etched than they had been of late. She was responsible for that, Millie thought with a sense of pride. She had saved the day—was saving the day, and salvaging her mother from a life of penury. When her father had died, leaving them in so much debt, the lovely dower house had been about to be taken off them. Then, amazingly, James had come along out of the blue. Her own angel. Ready to save her, incorporate her into the kind of wealthy lifestyle her mother had dreamed of, had wanted for her but never expected her to get. Sometimes she wondered how she had managed to trap him, when to all intents and purposes she wasn’t his type. James was a playboy who frittered away his considerable income in Monaco. She knew he’d had affairs, but none of those women had suited him and she had. She was flirtatious, she supposed, but she had always acted so coolly towards him, and maybe that was the reason. He had taken her reticence as morality when, in fact, the true reason was she just didn’t have an eye for men, not at all. No, her interests lay in a rather more feminine direction.
The little gatehouse waited for Patricia Carruthers, and Millie knew she was content with it. Content to have her daughter on her doorstep.
While she would be Lady Millicent Alice Hemsby. Her heart did a flutter. Any other girl would be delirious with joy, and she was grateful, she truly was, except…She loved someone else; she didn’t love James. Yes, he had been kind to her, made her immensely grateful, rescued her, but she couldn’t love him, not in the way he wanted because…because…