Chapter One (cont)

“At least,” Phillip murmured, “it’ll be quiet here. I don’t think-”

“I know: you don’t like the bustle of the world.” Aidelle’s air was obstinate.

“Well no, it’s not exactly that...”

“Then what is it, Phillip?” She couldn’t help feeling irritated at his vacuity.

“You know my brothers.”

“Army men, is that it? I remember…you went on, for a while, about the fact that an assortment of them dabble in and out whenever they wish. Didn’t you say it lacked clarity…? They all went to the Big College, didn’t they?”

“-Whilst I didn’t, yes. They’re still training for what they see as an inevitable war. I still don’t understand the point…”

Aidelle knew that he could have fitted in perfectly to that college. It had been two years before they had been introduced into each other’s paths, when he had finished his education, yet he still had no desire to be the gorgeous, Raven-haired hero that the world portrayed him as in their society-reports. Phillip was more gentleman than warrior, more likely to lift a paintbrush than a rifle.

“And you complain that it is I who level myself too badly against my siblings!” she argued.

“Men of war! I don’t ask to be compared in the way that you do with your own family…but I dislike thinking of myself as part of their organisation, confidently joined.”

“So don’t!” Aidelle countered. “Only give in when you feel it is a necessary part of you.”

Phillip flashed a smile at Aidelle.

“I know. I shall.  For the time-being: onwards, broken pacifists!”

Aidelle’s eyes flickered over her man as he thrust his chin to the sky. The argument meant nothing, as always; she would wipe it from her mind again. She gripped his arm as she spoke, her icing-pink nails digging into his skin, even when she tried to be gentle.

“I can’t believe that in a couple of months I’ll be Mrs. Costello!”

Phillip beamed at her.

“Two months and we’ll be living the rest of our lives together. To think, it’s only little time to go. Incredible.”

“Oh, to be wed at the age of twenty!”

“Aidelle…” Phillip chuckled. “Might I remind you of the ages your older sisters married at…?”

A little frown crossed Aidelle’s forehead. She saw those images in her mind, briefly, of her brother’s legal success, too, but because her older siblings had settled themselves swiftly, Aidelle was left, in fairness, with a good deal of the Masters’ fortune.

“Please don’t. They believed that their sole purpose was to get married. Now they are, their sole purpose, so they have said, is home-making. It only makes sense that they would marry whilst still in their teens. Their beauty allows them such treats and favours from my parents.”

A flicker of frustration passed through Phillip’s green eyes, but Aidelle was too busy counting mathematical sums on her fingers to notice.

“Don’t start this again. I am sorry. I was only teasing, darling.”

Aidelle looked up from her distraction, a way of calming the storm that could have brewed inside her at the mention of her physical inadequacy, and she watched Phillip for a moment. Though his body was angled through to the living area of the new house, it was obvious that his eyes lingered on her alone. As she stood watching him, Phillip laced his arm around her waist, leaning briskly down to kiss the top of her head. The little fury that was left inside Aidelle immediately dissipated.

Aidelle broke away, but only so that she was able to explore the room more freely. The beauty of the exterior was mirrored efficiently in the interior. Angular windows flooded the place with light, illuminating the golden print that decorated the walls with painted flowers, a mock of the green foliage that bloomed in pots.

“Well, I’m glad I’ll always have you, in any case,” Aidelle remarked, crouching to inspect one of the two miniature bookshelves that had been slid into corners of the sitting room. A volume on the red-shift of Earth’s moon caught her eye, and she tugged it out, her excitement tingling.

“Look,” her fiancé announced from behind Aidelle, pointing. “I moved in the grand piano your mother gave as her side of that ‘dowry’. Hopefully I shall be able to hone my piano-skills. You were eager for that to happen, weren’t you?”

Aidelle followed his finger, the book pushed aside. The piano really was extravagant.

“I’m sorry Mother insisted on paying your family.”

“She’s a traditionalist; my parents are not so much. There’s no issue with that.”

The pairing had been amicably well-chosen by Aidelle and Phillip’s parents, the two themselves being the end of honourable family lines, one with a history of war, the other science, and thus had been destined for an elaborate life, despite the differences of their households.

“You expect that our union will settle both to a medium-point,” Aidelle stated with an airy giggle.

“Indeed,” Phillip replied. When she had crossed back over to him, he weaved his arm into her own, tugging Aidelle onwards.

However, her eyes lingered on the pattern of the living room.

Intently, Aidelle tiptoed forward to the sole article that she found amiss in the room. There was no grandfather clock, as was supposed to be common in houses of their standing, and this one timepiece was where Aidelle settled her sight. The clock was barely three inches high and relatively plain amongst the other ornaments that were resting on the mantelpiece. The face was white but the body gleamed gold and had a handle, designed for it to be hung by, or clutched at, such as carriage clocks had been designed to give the time on a train carriage without sliding about. It could not, however, have been one from the railway, for, as Aidelle looked, she could discern that its body would be far too weighty to travel with a train. Its numbers were Roman numerals and the hands winked as they spun around into the light.

“They’re pure silver,” Phillip said as he noticed her looking.

Aidelle nodded absently and traced the face with an index finger. She found it unremarkable, yet…something about it drew her attention in sharply.

“Come, I should show you the rest of the house,” and with those words, Phillip guided her away.

Aidelle approved greatly of her fiancé’s choice of abode. Every room was bright, the furnishings jumping to life wherever Aidelle looked. The floor was always carpet, newly placed but without odour, and there was at least one cream-coloured rug in each room. Aidelle approved of the little fancies that happened to catch her eyes. Mirrors seemed to be a theme of the house, such as the one that she had noticed above the mantelpiece, sporting a golden frame to differ from the others, but all glimmered whenever Aidelle glanced over them.  Aidelle could not hide her giggle every moment she did spend her time peering into the looking-glasses, in spite of memories of past hurtful comments about her appearance.

Finally, she was led to the last room: the couple’s master bedroom.

It was possibly the emptiest of the rooms, but it contained one of the signature mirrors above a writing-desk, and a little diamond clock attached to the wall across from the window, shimmering gemstones adorning its elements. In the current light it was difficult to read, for the face was reflecting the diagonal shaft of sunlight outside, but, as Aidelle noticed, it was broken anyway.

“Phillip, this clock is to be thrown away. The time’s stuck at five to eleven, mid-morning. Rubbish. How am I supposed to calculate the rise of the stars if not even our own time-piece works?”

“Certainly. You will have the one downstairs in any case. It was ‘designed not to break’, so I was told.”

And then, despite the childish pout that wanted to cross her lips, Aidelle turned to survey the rest of the room, gasping in pleasure.

In the centre was a four-poster double bed, the elaborate quilting decorated with pink and crimson silk roses.

“Oh, it’s beautiful. I didn’t think they made Roseprint quilting any more. It’s just what I imagined!”

“Our marriage will be beautiful,” Phillip replied with a contented smile.

They wandered back to the sitting room, hand in hand, and looked with delight at the house. It was goodness, entirely.

The End

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