Chapter Eight

Viola's life continued as it had before. Nearly every day she accompanied her mother on visits to friends, who falsely grieved with her for the loss of her husband. And they all pretended to be overjoyed for her, that she was to have a child, who would remind her of her lost love. That she agreed with, though she was not as happy as they at the news. Her mother seemed pleased after every visit, and it never occurred to her that her friends might not be entirely truthful.

She seemed to be numb, caring nothing at all about anything life offered her. She became intensely quiet, a trait heretofore denied her, and though her mother noticed no change about her, her nurse became worried, and soon sought to find a cure for her charge's illness. But Viola seemed to be immune to all the herbal teas, amusing books, and friendly ears offered to her by her nurse, and continued to pass every day in the same uncaring state as she had returned home in.

But one day, as she and her mother were shopping in London, she happened to see Will. She had been obediently following her mother, a straw basket filled with purchases hanging from her arm and her condition badly disguised by a heavy cloak, and she had happened to look up just as Will was exiting a shop. Their eyes met, and she quickly looked away, tears springing to her eyes. She hastened her steps, and her mother never noticed that anything was wrong. For the ignorant woman had been crediting her daughter's random bouts of uncontrollable crying to the loss of her husband, and had long ago started to ignore Viola whenever one happened upon her.

But Will, upon a sudden impulse, followed her, keeping his distance until he was sure Viola was unaware of his presence. Then, hurrying, he grabbed her from behind and held her mouth so that she was incapable of screaming, and pulled her into an alley.

"Promise you won't scream," he whispered in her ear. He felt her gasp, recognizing his voice, and nod slowly. She turned to face him, staring at him in shock as well as in an expression of confusion, as if she didn't know how to react to their meeting.

"Will," she said at last. He nodded acknowledgement, and her hands quickly flew to her stomach. "I thought I'd never see you again."

"As did I, Milady," he said simply, in as respectable a tone as he could muster.

They looked at each other a moment, and then she held a hand to her head. Will rushed forward to support her.

"I'm fine, I just feel a bit faint," she explained.

"Here, come sit," he instructed, and led her to a wood crate abandoned on the side of the alley. Obligingly, she sat, looking up at him.

"How is the child?" he asked finally. She rubbed her stomach, smiling truthfully for the first time in ages.

"It's well," she said simply, not sure she could go into detail with him.

"And yourself?"

"I am also well. I am living with my parents now. My father is the trustee of my wealth now. It greatly pleases him to think his daughter so wealthy," Viola answered, the last bit slipping out of her mouth before she even thought about it. Will smiled.

Will knelt down before her, and she gasped at the sudden movement.

"Viola, I am in constant pain since you walked out of my life. The sun has forever set on my art, on my soul. I am without light, without love. Nothing, no person, can satisfy me, for I am forever tormented by my action. Please, Viola, accept my apology and forgive me, so that I may once again enjoy your love and friendship," he said.

She looked at him a moment, her brain in tumult. She had been awaiting this moment for months, not sleeping for dreaming of it, and yet now it caught her off-guard. She drew in a steadying breath, her head beginning to feel light.

"I forgive you, Will," she breathed.

She awoke in a strange bed, all her clothes save her undergarments removed, and a wet cloth being pressed to her forehead by Ned Alleyn.

"I don't know when she'll awake, Will, there's no telling with these things," Ned was saying.

Viola said nothing, and watched as Will paced the room and Ned wetted the cloth in a bowl by his side.

"Oy! She's awoken!" he called, and Will rushed forth to her side, grinning like a madman.

"Hello, Will," Viola said with a small smile.

"Hello," he said, too happy to care what he said.

Ned smiled, touched by this young love.

"Well, if I'm no longer needed, I suppose I'll leave," he said, standing to leave. Viola and Will paid no mind, busy staring into each other's eyes.

"I thank God nothing happened to you," Will said as the door closed behind Ned.

"At sea?"

"Yes, and just now. I feared for your life, Viola, and for the child's," he agreed, suddenly become serious. Viola attempted a smile.

"You know I'm strong," she said cheerfully, though faintly.

"But no one is stronger than the cruel hand of Death," Will whispered. Viola fell silent, finding no argument for this. She tried to sit up, but Will pushed her back down. "Rest, you are not yet strong enough to stand," he instructed.

"But my mother will be wondering where I am," Viola said. He put a finger to her lips, silencing her.

"I will send Ned to your house, to quiet her fears. I am sure she would not object to you spending one night in my house," Will said. Viola laughed.

"I am sure she would have many objections, but I doubt she would wish to have me die," she explained. Will smiled.

"Rest, whilst I dispatch Ned to your house. I will return in a minute."

He paused in the doorway, and turned to look at her. She laughed, and weakly motioned for him to leave, and he obeyed, glancing at her as the door closed behind him.