Lady Susan's Lover

My first attempt at this flash fiction prompt. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it was one way to interpret these objects.

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"Lady Susan!" A sing-song shout from the street below: "Oh my Lady Susan, grace me with your beauty!"

Suzie stifled a laugh that no one else would have heard and put aside the journal she was writing, as was her nightly habit. She recognised the voice -- it was slurred by drink and too many late nights, but that was hardly new. Mostly likely, Sir Andrew hadn't slept in three days.

Besides, the disturbance may have been unwelcome, but at least it added some interest to an otherwise dull evening.

She opened the shutters and peered down into the street. "I do believe you're drunk, Sir Andrew," she declared. He was a state: dishevelled and dirty, a tankard of something still in his hand. "Have you quite finished making a fool of yourself, or do you intend to wake the entire street with your revelry?"

"My beautiful Lady Susan!" he declared theatrically, almost falling over in the process. "My cruel temptress! Oh how you taunt me, to stay so far away, with I so desperate for just one touch of your hand."

He was drunk, but that didn't stop her from blushing at the thought of some truth in his words. "And you may remain desperate until you are a little less drunk, I think."

"You don't love me!" he shouted. "You'd rather go riding than talk to me. You've been avoiding me, Lady Susan. I'm no fool."

Suzie gritted her teeth. "Will you keep your voice down? If you have something to say to me, come back in the daylight hours."

"Come down and talk to me now," he insisted.

"In the cold night air, where I might catch a chill? I'd rather not."

"That doesn't bother you when you're with your horse." He wasn't even looking at her anymore: his gaze was fixed on something unseen in the middle distance. "Perhaps you'd rather be proposed to by a centaur."

"Stop talking nonsense."

"Why should I? Every time I call to see you, they tell me you're out riding, that you're in the stables, that you don't want to see me."

The trouble with drunk people is their propensity to tell the truth in a loud and obnoxious fashion, menacing one's reputation. Suzie pulled on a shawl and headed down the stairs to the doorway that opened out onto the street where her former suitor was waiting. In the time it had taken her to reach him he seemed to have had an entire conversation with himself.

"... and it's just not right, is it, that someone should spend so many hours on their own with just a horse for company? Stands to reason they'd go a bit funny in the head, start seeing things. Hallucinating. Nobody in their right mind would turn me down."

"Andrew," she said sharply.

He looked up, and for a second she thought perhaps he didn't recognise her. "So you came down after all."

"How could I resist? That dirty inebriated look suits you." Andrew was probably too bleary-eyed to notice her smirk. "I think what you need is some cold water and a nice sleep, don't you?"

"Not tired."

"You're due to ride out with the hunt tomorrow," she reminded him. "If you keep drinking there's no way you'll stay on your horse."

"The hunt." With a drowsy stagger he came towards her, and she whisked the tankard from his hand.

"That's right. The hunt, with my father and the king's other nobles. I doubt the king would overlook the slight if you didn't come."

"Would've thought you were going, to be with that horse of yours."

"Maybe I'll take your place."

"Knew you liked Morgan more than me."

Suzie sighed. "I was thinking more of proving to my father that turning you down was responsible rather than reckless. Stop with this rubbish about the horse. You know I was never interested in marrying you. When I turned you down it should have been no surprise."

Andrew was silent a moment. "Suzie," he began; he hadn't called her that since they were courting, always resorting to the mocking formality of 'Lady Susan'. "Suzie, don't leave me here."

"I think you ought to go home."

"No." Desperation in his eyes. "I can't go back there, Suzie."

Because his sisters would not want to see him drunk, just as she did not want to marry someone so easily caught up in alcohol. If he wouldn't listen to them he would never listen to a wife. "I'll see you sober before I send you back to your sisters," she said. "Perhaps they'll take pity on you."

"The hunt." Andrew suddenly seemed to remember his morning engagement. "I must be ready for the hunt. Your father wouldn't like it if I--"

"If you were too drunk to make it? I suspect not. Come on."

*

Despite the thorough dunking Suzie gave Andrew with the help of her maid, Jenna, it was clear he would not be sober enough to ride in the hunt the following morning.

"Your father won't be pleased if he's not there, ma'am," said Jenna, as though she would not already have thought of that. "And it'll offend the king too."

"He can't ride a horse in this state." Or rather, he couldn't ride his horse, which was as unfriendly as any Suzie had seen. "He'll kill himself."

"What will you do, ma'am?"

An idea was beginning to form in her mind, though she was sure she would regret it later. "I'll put him on mine. Morgan's steady enough that she won't throw him, and I can always tell Father that Andrew's was lame."

"You'd do that? Let him ride Morgan?"

"This is Andrew, Jenna."

"Of course, ma'am."

*

Come the morning, Lady Susan stood at her window and watched the hunt ride out. Sir Andrew, a little unsteady on her trusty Morgan, looked up to her window and gave her a wobbly salute.

Suzie, hidden by the shutters, smiled a secret smile to see the two creatures she loved most in the world, together in the bright morning sunlight. 

The End

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