The small dark-haired, dark-eyed girl stood in the shadow of the half-opened door, watching as the Count and his wife spoke with the doctor who had been attending her mother.
"…there was nothing to be done. She was already half-gone."
The Count pinched the brim of his nose. "The child?"
"She was only six months along."
"One less orphan in the world," the Countess said quietly. "All this because Alexander put a pistol in his mouth."
"He was in debt."
"Which we will be too if we take the girl."
"Natalie, we must. We're the only family Sonya has now."
For as long as Natasha could remember, Sonya had been her constant companion. It didn't make sense that they weren't really sisters. Sonya was older in both years and maturity even if Natasha was the more loved. Though, Sonya figured, that was best for both their sanities. This way she could keep an eye on the wild and unpredictable Rostov darling with a legitimate excuse.
"We have no secrets, do we, Sonya?" a ten-yea-old Natasha would ask.
Twelve-year-old Sonya would nodd and smile. "I sure hope not." In her girlhood Sonya never feared of being cast aside by her companion.
Nicholas has a habit of being quiet when he's nervous. He'll stand, leaning on the balcony rail, arms folded, staring out blankly in front of himself. He won't say a world and there's hardly any knowing what he's thinking.
Sonya stands in the doorway, the candlelight from the room softly framing her face and dark curls. "What are you thinking?" Why won't you looks at me?"
"I…oh…it's nothing. I'm fine, uh, it's fine," he stumbles and falls quiet again. She thinks she knows what he's thinking. But for now she'll wait for him to mull it over. They have time.
Nicholas always puts space between them when the Countess is around. "Mama does not need to know," he tells Sonya repeatedly when she confronts him about it. "Not yet."
"But why must we hide? If you really intend to marry me… How do you expect me to feel when you say one thing but then go and sit on the other side of the room when Mama walks in and flirt with Julie Karagin?"
"I do intend to marry you." He closes the space between them and takes her hands in his. "I…I just want to wait. Please?"
"I hate geometry," Petya complained, perching next to Sonya on the windowsill. "My tutor will ask me for the work tomorrow and there's no one to help me. Vera's busy with her beau and Nicholas is out somewhere and Natasha says she's occupied though I know she's not."
Sonya laughed softly at the petulant tone of her young cousin's voice. "Are you implying that I should help you?"
Petya nodded and eagerly shoved the notebook into her hands. "Please? It's just dimensions and things."
Sonya sighed. "I can try but math…well they teach boys math."
Petya shrugged. "Better than nothing."