Writers (in order): Erica H., Zephyr, Irene Tsen, Alyssa Tang, M.S., Christina Fernandes, Emma Crawford, Zephyr, Erica H. Irene Tsen, Emily Zhou
Editor: Irene Tsen
“Oh, Mr. Wilford! Of course I will!” Grace’s squeal from the drawing room was loud enough to make Elizabeth look up from her book. Elizabeth sighed to herself. She had supposed it was only a matter of time before her last sister would be getting married, but she had hoped to have a couple more weeks with Grace before Mr. Wilford proposed. Though, the way Charles Wilford had strung his gaze to meet Grace’s, Elizabeth knew a week was a vain hope.
Elizabeth ran a hand to her collarbone, twiddling the chain with a sigh. Avery had looked at her like that. Like it was just them, the night, and the sparing tip-tap of rain hitting her tin roof. Avery had promised they’d always and forever be friends. And the poor girl had to believe it. She especially couldn’t not believe it when Avery leaned over to clamp a silver locket on her chest, nodding back to tie her own. Sealing the vow with the weight of the chain and their chiseled initials. She shook herself, clamoring back to reality. Avery was gone, married for a dowry, leaving her leaps and leagues away from Elizabeth; quite literally a sea away. An “extended holiday” in Spain was a simple chip in her husband’s pot, but traveling to York was an inconvenience. Where had she gone wrong?
“Elizabeth!” Grace tumbled into the study, flinging her wrist to show a subtle diamond, “It happened!”
“Congratulations! Everyone was counting down the days, it was only a matter of time.” She offered a honey smile. Hoping her sister would miss the bitter residue of her crisis. She fished for a distraction. “Well, where is the lucky fellow presently?” Elizabeth peered around the doorway, coming up empty.
Grace furrowed her brows. Clearly, Elizabeth was spot-on with her observation: this was an ever-present grievance. “Apparently, some ship wrecked a few kilometers off the moor. As you know, Charles is third lieutenant—” Grace sniggered. “Responsibility is far more important than his fiancée.”
Chuckling, Elizabeth made way to her sister, letting out a low yawn. “’Tis a shame. Did he mention the ship’s name? Julia’s brother is coming home on some passenger line. I do pray it wasn’t his.”
“Oh, no, Maurice landed last noon. Besides, Charles said some French names of sorts, Massue, Masque? Anyhow,” Grace patted her skirt, “I’m about ready to rid myself of this gown. Will you be joining us for early brunch, Elizabeth?”
“Of course. I’ll see you tomorrow, sister.”
Suddenly, there was a loud banging on the front door. Elizabeth, startled, flew out of bed, then crept trepidatiously towards the knock.
Elizabeth opened the door a crack and looked out. There stood a man in a well-tailored suit, holding a top hat in his hands. “Excuse me, is this the house of Miss Elizabeth Adams?” he asked politely. “I’m sorry to be a bother, but it is quite wet out here, and I have been waiting for a good while.” Elizabeth gave the strange man a once-over. Despite the storm, and his complaint, he was untouched by any drop of water.
Elizabeth opened the door fully and stepped aside to let him through. She knew she was breaking all of society’s implicit rules by doing so—for what was more taboo than letting a stranger into her home, and being unsupervised with the man at that?—but her good manners superseded that concern. As the man moved into the light, there seemed to be something hazy to his form, some quality of his skin and clothes where light seemed to pass through.
The man spoke after taking off his coat. “Forgive me for not introducing myself earlier. I am Augustus Bamford, Earl of Malton.” He sketched a light bow.
Elizabeth gasped softly. This was the man her dear Avery had married, whom Elizabeth herself had never meant but had written many letters about. And now, in the strangest of circumstances and without warning, he was on her doorstep! “’Tis a pleasure to finally meet you, My Lord,” Elizabeth finally got out.
Mr. Bamford smiled wryly, as if he understood the shock of his presence. “I would like to speak to you, privately if possible. I have something very important to give you.”
“Yes, of course!” Elizabeth led the gentleman to the sitting room, nearly tripping over a fallen candlestick in her haste. Once they had both sat down on opposite ends of the worn leather couch, Elizabeth clasped her hands together in a prayer.
“How is Avery?”