I was living in a constant daydream, swirling in the ethereal light of Mr. Hartley's brilliant blue eyes. How handsome he was, in both appearance and mind. Where were his faults? His wrongs? It did not matter. I simply enjoyed being at his arm, strolling at his side.
None of this passed my father, my mother, my brother's notice. They took note of each time I made my escapades outdoors, the time I spent at my mirrors, the new obession with my hair, my dress, my look.
Despite Fred's great fun with sly comments and purposeful smirks, Mother was the first to seriously approach me on my unusual behavior.
"Tell me," she began with a bluntness with which I was familiar. "What is this situation with Mr. Hartley about?"
I busied myself with whatever at hand, timidly looking away with an anxiety fluttering at my chest. I fumbled over an answer, darting round and round a definite reply before Mother stopped me with a prodding impatience.
"There is no reason to be shy in your answer. Is there anything between you and this Hartley man? If there is, be open with me. You cannot keep it from us for very long."
"He is kindly enough," I said simply. "I find his company enjoyable."
My father entered upon these last words. He was a tall, statuesque man of grave countenance; a figure who grabbed immeadiate attention on his arrival. Without a moment's hesitation, Mother rushed to his side, a glint of play at her eyes similarly to that I had seen in Fred so many times before. She clasped eagerly at his arm, surprising him with her excitement."We must invite Mr. Henry Hartley to dine with us."
He blinked, briefly confused by her confrontation. "Henry Hartley? To dinner?"
"Why yes!" She grinned at me. "Emily admires him."
"I did not say I admired him!" I cried defensively, heat rushing to my face.
Father frowned thoughtfully. "Do you? Mr. Hartley is something of a vague figure. There is not much known about him."
"That is why I suggest we invite him to dinner," My mother continued to press.
He shrugged, "If that is what you wish, Dearest. But I don't want any mischief from him...," Father gave the both of us a warning glance, a particular firmness holding over me. "...or either of you."