I swallowed at Mrs. Danvers's words and felt my left hand clenching into a fist. Looking down at it, I made it open again and relax. Now was not the time to lose control; if this truly was Rebecca then there was a question over why she wasn't dead, and if it wasn't Rebecca, then what was she doing with my husband?
Mrs. Danvers chuckled breathily, and busied herself at the bookcases closing the glass doors. I composed myself, and wondered if I should sit or stand for Rebecca's arrival. There were two chairs in the room, wing-backed, and both seemed to squirm when I looked at them. I considered it for a moment longer than was probably healthy, and then turned away, resolving to stand while I waited for Rebecca.
Who was standing in front of me, hands on her narrow, angular hips, one foot aggressively forward and her shoulders thrown back. She tilted her head back slightly, and glared at me down the length of her nose.
"A frump?" Her voice had power, it was used to command. Unbidden thoughts of a maiden great-aunt who had legendarily fought alongside the Confederate army invaded my mind, and I instantly stiffened my back and tensed. "Max picked out a frump to replace me?"
"You must be Rebecca, ma'am," I said as sweetly and icily as sorbet. "I had been given to understand, by Mr. de Winter himself no less, that you had met a most unfortunate demise. Am I to believe now that he is a bigamist?"
"Rumours of my death have been... exaggerated," she said, one fine black eyebrow arching in a face as achingly beautiful and flawless as the diamonds in the rings on her fingers. "You have a spine, at least, but you're still so dowdy. What was Max thinking?"
"I have no idea," I said. "Perhaps he wanted someone who reminded him as little of his loss as possible?"
"Then he chose very well."
It was a stand-off, and I could feel her presence trying to force me out of the room. Mrs. Danvers was still chuckling to herself under her breath as she patted and caressed the spines of books that I myself would not touch under any circumstances. The pressure was like a wave at the shore's edge, crashing down, trying to push me off my feet one moment, and the next suck my feet away from me. Something in the air fluxed around me, the air seemed to shimmer as though I were caught in a heat-haze. Suddenly, unexpectedly, it relented, and I was sure that for an instant there was a grudging respect in Rebecca's face.
"I will have your stuff burned," she said with an hauteur I envied and hated myself for envying. "You may find your own way out."
She turned away from me, lithe and sexy in her muddied jodhpurs, and a sensible woman would have accepted her dismissal and left. I have never been accused of being sensible though.
"And I shall have a wing of Manderley set aside for your private use," I said. "I would hate for you to feel importuned by Max and myself."
Somewhere in the distance, a glass shattered.