Emily was outwardly glum and inwardly relieved. After her father heard that she had passed out in the sun on the beach in France, he had immediately sent word that she was to come home as soon as possible. Her friend Roger – whose uncle was a Rockefeller – had been deemed trustworthy enough to escort her back to the States. While Roger was not her favorite (she preferred Will, who never flirted with her despite the fact that they had been close companions since they were small), Emily had had to restrain herself from being visibly relieved when her father had insisted that Charlie not be her escort. Daddy could be somewhat controlling from time to time, but at least he absolutely loathed Charles Foster Kane.
However, it would not be prudent to appear anything less than distraught over the abrupt termination of her vacation with her friends, especially after Daddy had paid so much for it. For days, Emily sat in her room, pouting to the servants. On occasion, her Daddy paid a visit to her quarters, and she always saw him. At these times, Emily praised her father's prudence in bringing her back to the States, all the while knowing that the servants would pass information regarding her distressed behavior back to him.
She passed two weeks in this manner, gazing wistfully out the window with an open book on her lap, or cross-stitching designs onto linens. Sometimes, she would practice the piano, only to stop mid-Mozart and sigh at her elegantly curved fingers. Dolly and a few of her other friends corresponded with her by mail; Charlie wrote her, too, but she ignored all of his letters. Her father, she knew, kept close tabs on her post, and his disapproval of Charlie provided an excellent excuse not to communicate with the boy. Emily also refused to read what Charlie wrote, certain that to do so would be a most banal waste of time. Yet throwing them away would hardly be proper, so she kept them in their envelopes – each stamped with his personal seal – tucked away at the back of her desk drawer. She couldn't have said why.
One day, while Emily was cross-stitching and looking forlorn on her window seat, a serving woman named Faye knocked softly before entering Emily's room. "You have a visitor, Miss," she said meekly, keeping her eyes lowered respectfully. Emily stood, set her stitching down on the seat, and smoothed her skirts.
"Send them in, Faye," she purred. Dolly and the others had returned from France two days previously; she had been waiting for Dolly to call on her for that entire time period.
It was much to Emily's surprise, then, that it was Jed Leland who crossed her threshold. He held his hat in his hands and appeared extremely nervous. Emily didn't know what he had to be particularly nervous about; the staff, certainly, were not educated enough to realize that his dapper suit was cheaply made, and her father was out for the afternoon.
Emily herself barely managed to hide her own astonishment. By sheer force of will, she prevented herself from blushing, which would have been extraordinarily inappropriate. Faye was still standing at the door, where Emily knew she would stay. Daddy would want to know all about the young man who had come to call.
All this flashed through Emily's mind in a fraction of a second. She gave a little cough to clear her dry throat, then bowed slightly to Jed, who returned the courtesy. "Please do sit down, Mr. Leland," she intoned cordially, indicating a pair of plush wing-backed chairs.
"Thank you, Miss Monroe Norton," Jed replied just as formally. He sat.
"Make yourself comfortable," Emily went on. "Bring Mr. Leland some tea, Faye."
The serving woman had already disappeared from sight before Jed jerked to attention. "Oh, that's not necessary, Miss-"
"Oh please, Mr. Leland," she teased, "haven't we been friends since childhood? Call me Emily." Despite her playful words, Emily forced herself to keep her tone so regally frigid that it must have seemed as though she was bestowing a precious gift upon him. It killed her to keep him at such a distance. She had to keep reminding herself that it was necessary.
However cold she seemed, though, Jed smiled, and Emily felt her heart collect in a puddle at the bottom of her stomach. "Then I beg that you, Emily, call me Jed." Unable to look at him any longer, Emily crossed the room and sat in the vacant chair. This served the dual purpose of making her shaking knees less evident, and giving her brain time to reorder itself after it flipped somersaults over hearing him say her name. Her name, from his lips. Barely suppressing a shudder of delight, Emily forced herself not to hurry to the chair. She had to remain calm.
Faye broke the uneasy silence between them by bringing the tea things and pouring a cup for each of the young adults. Jed stared at the hat in his hands, while Emily stared at everything except Jed. Amid the gentle clatter of Daddy's china, Jed spoke.
"I hope I find you well today, Emily," he stated slowly. With Faye's presence, his voice, too, had dropped below freezing.
She replied in kind, hoping her refusal to look at him would be taken as demure and not rude. "I'm in perfect health, thank you very much, though I did have something of a fainting spell over in France." Emily daintily sipped at the tea Faye had handed to her.
"Ah yes, I heard about that." Jed noticed that Faye was offering him a cup of tea. He fidgeted with his hat for a moment, as though uncertain what to do with it, then set it on his lap and accepted the cup. He took a drink. Emily took the opportunity to watch him, his eyes closed as he drank, his long lashes brushing his cheeks. She barely suppressed a sigh, then hastily glanced away when she realized that Faye was probably looking right at her.
Emily took another prim little sip of tea, debating how to get him talking again. Most people today spoke as if they were in such a hurry. Jed was never afraid to think about what he was saying, and Emily adored that. Finally, her brain latched onto something. "How was your play?"
Jed nearly choked. "Midsummer?" he sputtered.
"Well yes, I suppose that's when it took place. The one you did with the other Yale boys, while I was in France?"
The young man regained his composure. "A Midsummer Night's Dream, yes. It went fairly well, thank you."
"You directed it, did you not?" Emily queried before taking another sip.
"I also played Puck," Jed said quietly.
Emily raised her eyebrows, impressed. His modesty had a ring of truth about it, which she liked. "That must have been quite a feat, to direct while also playing a major role."
Jed said nothing, just stared down into his teacup. After a moment, he looked her square in the eye. "How did you find out?"
"About what?" she asked.
"Oh. Charlie Kane told me." Knowing Jed and Charlie were inseparable, she did everything in her power to keep the sneer of disdain from her face. She almost succeeded.
Thankfully, Jed did not notice. Instead of a sneer, the mention of Charlie brought a grin to his face. His eyes shone. Emily thanked God she was seated; otherwise, she would have been floored by his good looks. "He would." Jed drank a hearty gulp of tea, which couldn't have been comfortable as it was still rather hot. He seemed not to notice. When he spoke again, his voice was much lower. "Charlie said you'd promised to come with us to the Alps, later in the year."
Emily smiled wryly. "I promised no such thing." He always came up. Always. With the girls, with the boys. She was sick to death of hearing about Charlie Kane.
"Ah." Jed stood uncomfortably, set his teacup on the tray Faye had brought, and picked up his hat, which had fallen to the floor. "I should leave you to your stitching, Miss- Emily."
As he turned to leave, she couldn't help herself. Let her father and Faye be damned. "Jed!" she called. He stopped, then spun slowly.
She strode toward him, and took his arm. What was she doing? She had to run, to get away from him, to end this stupid situation. But the smell of him- "Would you like me to come to Switzerland with you?" Hopefully he would think she meant the whole group. Of course, he knew what she really meant; he was far from stupid.
He turned to face her, pulling her hand gently from his arm as he did so. "Your company would certainly heighten the experience, no pun intended." There was another of his gorgeous half-smiles.
To cover herself, Emily made her voice icy once more. "Tell Charlie I'll come," she said haughtily. Maybe invoking Charlie would atone for her touch.
If she hadn't been searching his face, she would never have seen it: that split second where his face contorted like that of a whipped dog. The smile was back in place so quickly that had she blinked, she would have missed the flicker of pain. But she saw. Oh, yes, she saw. "Of course I'll tell him." He bowed coolly to her, and she gave a shallow curtsey in return.
"Faye will show you out."
"Good day, Emily."
"Good day, Jedediah." They parted ways without another word. When he was down the stairs, accompanied by Faye, Emily rushed to the banister, watching him from the shadows. Had she revealed too much? Said or done something wrong, something that might tip him off? She hoped her distance, and her mention of Charlie, had covered up her true feelings. Because he could not know.
He must never know.
I've been thinking about length. I don't know how many chapters this will end up being, but I'm aiming for each one to be at least 1000 words. Sound good to you? Let me know if you want longer (or shorter, but... that'd be kind of difficult to write) updates.
Curious what Jed was doing visiting Emily out of the blue? Read on to see!
Oh, and if you're inclined to review....... that would be kickin' sweet. :]