I waited anxiously in the gardens. The sun had set nearly an hour ago and still Mr. Buckley hadn't arrived. Had he changed his mind? Perhaps he wasn't interested like Bryant said. Had Bryant pulled a prank on me!?
I was about to go back in when I heard someone clear their throat.
I turned nervously and smiled, pulling at my hair anxiously.
"Mr. Buckley," I breathed as he walked closer slowly. "I-I thought you had changed your mind."
"Of course I didn't," he muttered. He had his hands behind his back. "Please forgive my lateness. We- Megan and I were given a house," he finished with a laugh that suggest he couldn't believe it.
I smiled. "The one near the school?"
He nodded. "It's- I still keep thinking I'm going to wake up and it's all just a dream."
I bit my lip. We were at the edge of the gardens and I started to walk among them. He stayed beside me, his head bowed slightly, and I yearned to know what he was thinking. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to say.
"Did Megan enjoy her first day of school?" I asked finally and he smiled at the ground.
"Yes, she did. I'm very pleased. She was scared but she's already made a friend."
I laughed a little. "I don't think she'll ever have problems with making friends, Mr. Buckley."
He laughed, too. "I don't, either. She's such a lovely little girl." We came to a bench and he sat down, gesturing shyly for me to do the same. "Have you-" He cleared his throat. "Have you had a good day?"
I thought back to the argument I had with my mother.
"He is the only man to ask for your hand," she snapped and I glared at my plate.
"I am not interested, Mother," I said through clenched teeth as Bryant sighed.
"He is wealthy and handsome!"
"I don't care if he's wealthy," I argued, thinking about Mr. Buckley. "Money is not important to me."
She rolled her eyes. "Who said anything about what is important to you?" I gripped my fork tightly, hurt by her words. "You need to think about me, you wretched girl. Once your brother marries, it will be just you and me! I can't work! I'm getting too old!"
"Mother," Bryant interrupted. "This is up to Elvira. And Daniel is very rude to her. I will not have her marrying someone like that."
She waved her fork. "Rude? How was he being rude? Perhaps it is Elvira who needs to control her tongue!"
I got up and left the dinner table, hiding my tears from her.
"Yes," I said quietly. "I am learning how to embroider."
"Oh? Is it difficult?"
I laughed. "Very much so, Mr. Buckley." I showed him my left hand fingers. "I have stabbed myself with the needle so many times."
He took it in his hands. They were rough but his hold was gentle.
"My mother used to embroider," he said. "She used something she called a thimble for reason such as these." He cleared his throat. "I could make one for you, should you wish."
I smiled. "I would like that very much," I whispered.
Our eyes met. I wanted to kiss him again but, whatever courage I had at my brother's birthday party was now gone. Instead, I held the hand that was cradling mine. His eyes were uncertain and I'm sure mine were just as confused. Why did I feel such a strong pull to this young man? Could it be because he was the only to treat me well? Or was it how gentle he was with his sister?
"Miss Rivers," he whispered, "I am... new to this."
"Please call me Elvira," I whispered, moving closer to him.
He just nodded. My heart started beating faster. He reached for me hesitantly as if he were afraid I would yell. I stayed still but turned red when his hand touched my cheek. He brushed some hair out of my face and I was finding it hard to catch my breath. Would he kiss me?
I bit my lower lip as his eyes lowered to my neck. Wait. Was he going to-!?
"Why do you never wear necklaces?" he whispered suddenly.
That was the last thing I expected him to ask.
"I've never seen you wear necklaces. Bracelets, earrings, and rings yes. But never a necklace."
I put my free hand on my neck. "Oh. My mother says my neck is too fat."
He arched a brow at me. "Well, that is the largest lie I have ever heard, Miss- I mean, Elvira."
I blushed, loving the way my name sounded coming from his lips.
"What do you mean?" I whispered.
"Your neck is most certainly not fat. I think you should wear one."
"I don't have any," I said sadly, looking away from those beautiful eyes. "My mother never...."
"So this is what Mr. Rivers meant," he said and I stared at him.
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing," he said quickly. Then he looked sad. "I should get back to Megan. She slept early but... she gets nightmares."
My shoulders fell a little. "I understand."
"I'd like to see you again, though," he said, his voice shaking. "If-If you still desire my company, that is."
I smiled and nodded. "I very much desire your company, Mr. Buckley."
He gulped audibly. "I will only call you Elvira if you will call me Thomas."
I giggled. "Very well, Thomas."
He smiled and neither of us moved for a while. His eyes were mesmerizing but I knew he had to get back to his sister. We stood and I walked him to the back gate. When I turned to say good night, he kissed my cheek.
"Good night, Elvira."
"Good night, Thomas," I whispered and watched as he walked down the street, his hands in his pockets.
I walked back in, a smile on my face. Until I saw the look on my mother's face.
She was looking smug. Bryant was walking in at the same time and the atmosphere felt tense. My mother grabbed my left hand and shoved a ring on my finger. I stared at her in shock.
"I've accepted his proposal," she said haughtily.
"What?" I said in a small voice as Bryant's eyes widened.
"Daniel's proposal," she clarified. "I have accepted it."
"You can't do that!" I cried, taking the diamond ring off and pushing it into her hands. "It is not your decision to make! It is Bryant's!"
"Actually, it is yours, Elvira," Bryant said but his eyes were on our mother. "She has declined him, Mother. She does not wish to marry him."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh please. She won't have any other courters and Daniel-"
"I'm not marrying him," I said in a trembling voice. "And I will have other courters."
She scoffed. "Who else would possibly court you that is wealthier than Daniel?"
I stomped my foot. "If wealth is so important to you, why don't you marry him!?"
"Don't raise your voice to me, young lady! You're going to marry him sooner or later," she snapped. "Just watch. No man wants you."
I felt tears in my eyes but I refused to let her see them. I ran up to my bedroom and slammed the door shut. I sat at my vanity and cried into my hands. How could such a lovely night become so disastrous so quickly!?
"Elly?" my brother said from outside my door. "May I come in?"
"Fine," I muttered and he came in, shutting the door behind him.
"Don't listen to her, Elly," he whispered, grabbing my brush. "Do you want me to braid your hair?"
"What if she's right, Bryant?" I whispered.
"She's not," he said firmly. "Did Mr. Buckley not show?"
I sniffled. "No, he did."
"Did you have a pleasant time?"
I nodded, wiping my tears away. "He's going to make a thimble for me."
He arched a brow. "What's a thimble?"
"I'm not sure," I laughed. "He also wants me to wear a necklace."
"Ah, someone who finally agrees with me!" he laughed.
In spite of my mother's harsh words, I smiled.
"He's a very sweet man, Bryant," I said quietly. "He left early because he worries so much for his sister."
"Does that bother you?"
"Not in the least," I said. "He reminds me of you." I blushed. "I like him very much."
He chuckled. "Yes, I can tell." He began to braid my hair. "Did you set up another time?"
I sighed. "No. And perhaps it's good that I didn't; especially since Mother has decided to accept Daniel's proposal."
Bryant's face darkened. "We will figure that out, Elvira. I do not want you to marry him."
"What did he say?" I asked, not used to the bitter tone he had in his voice.
He shook his head. "Nothing for you to worry about, dear sister. I will handle it. You just focus on Mr. Buckley."
"If I write him a letter, will you find a way to get it to him?"
"Of course I will."
He passed me some parchment and a quill. Not bothering to try and hide what I was writing from him, I started my letter.
"How will you get it to him?" I asked, blowing on the ink so it will dry.
"I have my methods," he said with a wink. "There. Now your hair will be nice and curly tomorrow, just as it should be."
I stood up and hugged him tightly. "Thank you."
He hugged me back. "I want you to be happy. And if I have to commit murder to do it, then I shall."
I slapped his back. "That's not funny."
He laughed. "Yes it is. Now get some sleep. I will let you know when I get an answer from Mr. Buckley."