i. stranger than you dreamt it

Emma is a realist. She is not yet sure if this is a strength or a weakness of character.

A dedication to reality, after all, has taken her from England and placed her on a steamer bound for India, bound for marriage to a prince of a strange and foreign land, who has dark skin and dark hair and eyes that glisten rather like the shells of the clams that filled her bucket as a child. She is still trying to figure out how this is any more realistic that hoping to marry Mr. Jones – but somehow it is.

Somehow this future, hundreds of miles across the sea, is easier to reach than anything she could have had with William.

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ii. all I ask of you

"Miss Emma, would you consider accepting my hand in marriage?"

She has her arms in a bucket of soapy water up to her elbows when he asks, and is for a moment a little more than speechless.

"Miss Emma?" He does not look unruffled at all, which makes her wish she was a little more composed.

"Wha-what did you say?"

"I asked if you might consider accepting my hand in marriage. We have known each other for many years now, and I admire and respect you. I have never married, and had always thought I would never had any reason to do so–"

She is very confused now.

"–but you have changed that."

Oh.

She isn't sure what to think about this. She isn't sure what to think about him.

No, that's not quite right. She knows exactly what she thinks of him. She has known him for three years now – three years since she arrived from London and never looked back once.

He is everything William was not. He is aloof and straightforward, matter-of-fact and collected and even a little imposing. When she thinks of William, she remembers flowers and lace, green eyes and genuine enthusiasm, of shy, halting affection on a gently blushing face. When she thinks of him, she thinks of clocks and watches and brightly shined shoes, of gleaming silverware and the smell of polish, of strong arms and hands that will never let her fall.

He is not William, but that matters little. She takes her hands from the bucket and, composing herself, smiles.

"I would be honored, Hans."

---


iii. we never said our love was evergreen

She is accompanying Mrs. Mölders to the milliner's in London when she sees them.

Emma is not dramatic in any sense of the word. Therefore it is an incredible statement to say that the sight of newly-married William and Eleanor Jones, out shopping together on a Saturday afternoon, has an effect on her roughly equivalent to that of a knife in the heart.

She knew already that they were married, of course. If there was one benefit to being a maid, it was that you knew everything that was going on before anyone else did. She had received the news of the marriage three weeks ago, back at Mölders House, and her reaction then was one of tacit indifference on the surface. Her true disappointment had been known only to Tasha; and even Tasha was not entirely certain of the reason for Emma's tears.

She had thought she would be fine by now – but she did not expect to see him here. The gossip was that he and his new bride would be honeymooning in India for some weeks' time. Obviously not. It was all she could do to hope that he would not turn around, that he would not see her, that he would not see her, that he would not see her

Luckily, Mrs. Mölders tires of the hat she is trying on rather quickly, and whisks them both out of the shop.

On the ride back to the townhouse, she tries to act as though nothing is wrong, for her mistress' sake, but it becomes harder and harder to maintain her composure as the minutes tick by. All the way home, subsiding panic is replaced by the feeling of that knife in her chest being twisted round and round, the pain building and building and building and building, until it begins to bubble over and spill onto Mrs. Mölders' new lavender dress–

"Emma? Emma, why are you crying?"

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iv. everything and nothing

Some mornings she wonders if it was really worth it, sweeping the floors and starting breakfast for five at the crack of dawn on a misty Monday.

Their little house in London is small and just a bit cramped, the both of them are more than a little overworked, and she is beginning to see premature streaks of grey in William's hair.

She has given up little to live this life, of course – but her husband has given up everything. She remembers asking him once, that week after his father said that he had no son named William, that week he spent sleeping on the floor of Al's kitchen, why on earth he'd done what he had.

His response – for you – was the fiercest thing she'd ever heard him say, and she's never asked again.

Work around the house, after all, is nothing far from the norm for her, and if William's work in the shipping offices is somewhat rote and mindless, he rarely complains of it. He blames the grey in his hair on their eldest daughter, who at ten already has neighborhood boys trailing after her blonde curls and brown eyes. If their little house is small and cramped, then the sounds of three (soon to be four) children tramping throughout when William comes home only ring louder and more joyful.

Some mornings she wonders if it was worth it, and the answer is always yes.

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v. give me the strength to try

"Hello, ma'am," she intones quietly to the gravestone.

Goodness, it's been a long time since she called anyone ma'am. How strange that is. But what else could she call her old mistress? Nothing else would be right.

"I apologize – it's been a quite a while since I came to visit." Her glasses slide forward on her nose as she bows her head, and she reaches up to push them back again.

"I am married now, ma'am. Married for four years." You were right about things working out.

The wind whistles through the branches hanging over the grave, and it sounds like a laugh, a little bit hoarse from disuse.

"William and I have a daughter, almost two years old." The laughing breeze whispers its approval. "Her name is Kelly."

The wind quiets down for the moment, whispering its thanks, and Emma smiles.


I'll let you decide which one happened. ;) Props to those who know where all the dividing titles come from.