Ta-da! My first foray into Pimpernel fanfiction.
The garden party was dreadful, at least from her perspective. Then again, from her perspective, it could have been worse. It could have been a society garden party with all the most fashionable lords and ladies in attendance; she might have been forced into her best dress and compelled to use her best manners in front of people that actually mattered. This was just a simple reunion of a few old friends, along with their families and some select guests, and though the most fashionable lord and lady in Merry Old England happened to be present, their importance seemed not to matter as much as the occasion itself.
But knowing that it could have been worse did not change the fact that she had been torn from her beloved stables, bundled into the most useless bunch of frills and lace in her closet, and dragged into a social situation where she was likely to embarrass herself by treading on the toes of the poor boy who had been unfortunate enough to dance with her.
Said boy looked as uncomfortable with the situation as she did. The poor thing was one of those boys who are destined to become very handsome when grown, but only look the more awkward for it when young. His long legs and big feet, meant for a man much larger than he was, only got in the way during the impromptu gavotte. Though, to give him credit, he never trod on her feet, while she could barely remember the steps she needed to take.
Thus, it was to the relief of both parties when the music ended and they were free to get away from the dance floor as quickly as humanly possible. The girl practically raced to the side, sitting down among the shade trees as demurely as she could manage. There were no dance cards to fill, she was too young to be seeking a husband just yet, and she had fulfilled her mother's request to dance at least once, so the afternoon was hers. The triumphant grin on her face at that knowledge might have been a tad bit improper, but amidst the generally jovial atmosphere it went unnoticed.
There was just one obstacle to her impending freedom: her dance partner seemed to have followed her.
Judging by the befuddled expression on his face, the situation had surprised him as much as it did her. He shifted on his feet, glancing in confusion toward the cluster of men and older boys, which conveniently burst into a fit of raucous laughter so as to draw her attention as well. There was one voice among them that stood out from the rest, whose laughter managed to be loud and genteel and bored all at once, and the boy seemed to concentrate longingly on that voice even as his hands fidgeted nervously at his lacey cuffs. Then he seemed to make up his mind, and with a resigned air he gingerly sat down, mindful of his pristine white breeches.
"Miss Wentworth," he said, acknowledging her with a bow of the head.
She smiled uncertainly as she returned the gesture, and hoped that that would be the end of any talking. Perhaps her siblings would come to her rescue by challenging her to a game of croquet; she hated the game, secretly preferring cricket, but it was any port in a storm, as her father would say. Perhaps after a few moments he would be weary of silence and go over to the men's circle, as his original intention had obviously been.
"So…er…would you like a glass of punch, Miss Wentworth?"
Perhaps her luck had always been rotten, and this was no exception. "No, thank you."
He nodded, and said nothing for a while. She stared at him from the corner of her eye, studying him without his seeing. The only word she could come up with that described him completely was "indecisive;" his hair couldn't decide if it was dark blonde or light red, his eyes couldn't decide whether to be grey or blue, and he himself couldn't decide if he liked her enough to stay. He certainly was not the kind of boy she wanted to spend her afternoon with, but beneath his hesitancy there lurked a persistent nature that refused to back down from a challenge like her.
"Well, then, would you…care for a stroll, Miss Wentworth?"
She shook her head. "No, I'd like to stay here, thank you."
He nodded again, and a frustrated slump appeared momentarily in those broad shoulders he had yet to fill. It was a very minute change, and she only just realized she saw it before the appearance of an idea obliterated it.
"How about another dance, Miss Wentworth?"
"I'm not interested," she said, barely keeping the irritation out of her tone. "And please, stop calling me Miss Wentworth." She hoped that last bit wouldn't hurt his feelings too much, but really, enough was enough.
His feelings gave no indication of being hurt. Rather, his eyebrows lifted a fraction, and he answered a bit more quickly this time, latching onto the first glimmer of a real conversation their chat had yet developed. "Would you prefer to be called Dorothy?"
That question gave her pause. At any other time, with any other person, she would have given a resounding "NO." No one who knew her called her Dorothy, because she hated her first name, and never passed up an opportunity to say so. It sounded so terribly frumpy and mean and ugly to her ears, like the frumpy, mean, ugly Aunt Dorothy she had been named for as a matter of courtesy.
However, when he said it, this gangly, clumsy boy who was irresolute in his words, manners, and his very looks, her name became beautiful. It was no longer the strident "DAH-THY!" her parents yelled when she was in trouble and her aunt yelled just to be contrary. Instead, the syllables seemed to roll off his tongue, a rippling "Dor-oh-thy," like it was a prayer or a song. It made her blush just hearing it, her mind on the girl she wished she could be, the tall, elegant young woman with hair like spun gold and sparkling emerald-colored eyes. Her name suddenly seemed worthy of that girl.
And the boy who had said her name suddenly seemed like a man worthy of that girl.
Her hands became unexpectedly interesting as she replied. "Well…my friends call me Dot."
It was a childhood nickname, coined by a younger sibling who couldn't say "Dorothy," only "Dah-ty." The result, "Dotty," was probably not the best epithet to have, but to her it was better than the alternative. It seemed…childish, now that she thought of it, but she wasn't yet the gorgeous young woman of her daydreams. She was still the graceless little girl she saw in the mirror every morning, who was already too tall to be dainty and, thus far, too short to be elegant, whose eyes were a defiant swampy green reminiscent of those of her surly namesake, and whose hair was a featureless yellow mess which she had not yet learned to tame. When she could live up to this boy's "Dor-oh-thy," she would allow him to use the name, but as yet, she was still "Dot."
He smiled a shy half-smile that fit him perfectly, for now. "Dot," he repeated, and even that seemed beautiful.
Despite her blush, she grinned and met his gaze. "I thank you for your courtesy, Master Blakeney…or would you prefer George?"
In response, he flushed, looked away for a moment, and then looked back at her, smiling fully now. "Actually, I prefer the name Jack."
She nodded. "Jack, then."
As the afternoon flew by, she eventually refused her siblings when they asked her to play croquet, and he scarcely noticed when the cluster of men dispersed to play cricket, so absorbed were they in each other. And if either of them knew about the talk's inevitable culmination, years down the line, neither mentioned it.
But the garden party turned out to be less dreadful than expected.