Chapter Thirty ~ Fools In Love
"Maria?" There was a gentle knocking on my bedroom door, that startled me from my motionless day-dreaming.
It had been about a week since Mrs Heliotrope and I had arrived back to Moonacre and there was no word from any of the De Noirs (discounting Loveday obviously). Each morning I hoped to wake up to news of a letter from the castle or a messenger or even better - Robin himself. But there was no knocking on the front door or the sound of a carriage approaching the manor. Just the usual sounds of the forest and the house of Merryweather.
Loveday was fuming with her brother, and her father at that too. Uncle Benjamin had convinced her not to storm up to the castle and had told her to leave it and wait for them to come to us. I didn't like this idea, as I didn't think the De Noir's were going to be making their presence known any time soon and the absence only made my heart ache.
I sat up slowly and got myself into a more dignified position before calling for whoever it was to come in. Loveday with Mrs Heliotrope at her heels entered, shutting the door behind them. The pair of them were wearing matching sympathetic smiles that made my stomach lurch.
"How are you, my dear?" Mrs Heliotrope asked, making herself comfortable on my single armchair in the corner. Loveday perched down on the end of my bed. I flicked my eyes between the two of them before nodding.
"I'm fine." I replied.
"You haven't been down to eat." Loveday said gently. I shrugged.
"I'm not hungry." I muttered. I noticed Loveday's gaze turn briefly to my bedside table and regard it before turning back to me. I didn't need to look to know that on it was several plates of untouched food that Marmaduke had brought up to me over the last few days. She knew I hadn't eaten. "I'm fine." I repeated, more firmly.
"Maria, dear, It's alright to be upset, but you must talk to us. It'll do you no good cooped up here, mulling over things." I narrowed my eyes at my tutor and sighed, leaning my head back against the headboard.
"It's been so long." I breathed, dryly, not talking to either of them in particular. "I should go up there-"
"You'll do no such thing." Loveday muttered, shaking her head. "I won't have you trampling up there to give them the satisfaction. He should be the one coming to you. After everything he's done-"
"Don't." I cut in, my throat hollow. "Don't blame him, please." Loveday regarded my silently for a moment before her face fell soft and she nodded. Even after everything, I refused to be angry towards Robin, it was impossible even after trying. "I love him." That's when the tears began, I wiped them away furiously and turned away from their pitiful stares. "And I'm scared that I've ruined everything and lost him." Before I knew it, I was sobbing and Loveday's arms were around me in a instant, her soft coos in my ear as I cried into her shoulder.
"Everything is going to be alright." Loveday murmured. "Just you wait."
I continued to cry, letting out all the emotions I had held in over the past week, mourning for what I thought I had lost forever. Robin.
SIR BENJAMIN'S POV
I ate dinner alone, somewhat aware that the women were upstairs in Maria's room doing whatever it was that women did. I couldn't deny that it was an odd feeling staring at the familiar empty table and thinking back to a time when I was alone and I did not have those three infuriating ladies in my life - I couldn't say I missed that old life though; those infuriating ladies are my life now.
"Digweed, am I to eat alone today?" I asked as the baboon entered the dining room. He nodded.
"They're with Maria, sir. I heard crying when I passed." I raised an eyebrow at this and nodded thoughtfully.
"Thank you, Digweed." I muttered, waving a hand in his direction to excuse him after he placed my dinner before me. I mulled over this revelation as I sat alone in that dining room.
I didn't need three guesses to work out who was crying. There was a few moment's debate in my head as to whether I should go up and comfort my upset niece, though knew the women could handle it without me. I would be no good. No, instead I could just remain down here and think deeply about what has led up to my niece being in such a state.
The De Noir Boy. The old flame of my De Noir hatred burned briefly as I thought about my niece crying over the youngest of the clan. She deserved better, someone more suited to her needs, some more-
Who was I kidding? She loved the boy and there was no taking that away. And no matter what was happening now, I couldn't help but remember all the memories of the last few years. I couldn't deny that I wasn't happy about their union when it began, but the smile on my niece's face and the sparkle in her eyes was enough to warm my heart towards the boy. He made her happy and for that reason the boy had wormed his way into my approval.
It occurred to me how odd it seemed that over three years ago I did not care for anyone (minus Loveday). I was alone and that was the way I liked it. Now, I had a family and one of them was hurting. My paternal side was crawling out.
The sound of the front door knocking rang through the halls and I glanced up from my dinner and stopped my train of thoughts. I frowned curiously, wondering who would be visiting today.
Digweed shuffled past the doors of dining room to answer it and I continued with my dinner, letting him deal with it. I heard the sounds of the doors opening and a distant chatter. I couldn't quite work out who Digweed was speaking to, but the tones sounded too deep to be feminine. The door shut again and footsteps were heard on the stone floors. Digweed's figure appeared in the doorway and I looked up. He gazed back for a moment, fidgeting nervously with his hands and opening and closing him mouth, resembling a fish. He didn't speak and I raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, Digweed?" I asked, impatiently. He glanced back over his shoulder and back to me.
"You have a visitor, sir." He breathed finally, swallowing hard.
"Well, let them in then." I sighed loudly, picking up my goblet and taking a sip. Digweed stepped aside and another, familiar, figure stepped into his place. The sight of them was enough to make me spit the entire content of my mouth out and force myself into a coughing fit. Digweed made a move forward though I held up my hand to stop him. "I'm fine." I hissed between coughs, narrowing my eyes at the guest and feeling a wave of unpleasantness wash over me. "Leave us, Digweed."
"Sir?" Digweed glanced between the pair of us, anxiously. I clenched my fists and exhaled deeply.
"Now!" My voice was enough to make the pair of them flinch and Digweed nodded obediently. "Make sure the women don't disturb us or know of our guest's presence." Digweed nodded again and shuffled out, shutting the dining room door behind him and leaving me all but glaring at the boy in front of me.
The silence drew out, painfully, and I knew my stare was making the boy uncomfortable. Good. I rose slowly, walking over to the table where the drinks were and picked up the closest drink available. I topped up my own glass before pouring another and placing it non to carefully on the table in front of me, some of the liquid spilling. I gestured vaguely to the glass and the chair it was placed in front of and there was a moment's hesitation before my hesitant companion sat himself down on his allocated place. Once he was sat down, I sat down also, judging him silently and letting my eyes bore into him. I sipped at my drink carefully before speaking;
"You have some nerve." I muttered, dryly. He didn't reply and I breathed out a humourless laugh. "Have you come to break her heart even more than you already have then?" It was a low blow, I must admit, and I felt bad when I saw the boy wince. I let my face soften and I sighed. "Do tell me what pleasure I have of your acquaintance. You wish to talk to Maria, I take it?" He paused before answering.
"No." Robin replied, his voice quiet and almost broken. "It's you I've come to see actually." I raised an eyebrow at this, wondering what on earth he could possibly want to talk to me about.
My question was answered when the young De Noir began to rummage through his pockets, nervously, before pulling out a small leather-bound box. He glanced up at me before placing it on the table and sliding it towards me gently. I stared down at it with trepidation, not liking the way my stomach had lurched at the appearance of the mischievously unnerving object. I swallowed hard before taking the box carefully between my fingers. I glanced up at Robin before opening it.
My heart stopped for a moment at the sight of small a velvet cushion and sat on it; a delicately gold ring.
END SIR BENJAMIN'S POV
Sir Benjamin didn't say anything for a long moment and I hated the silence as it drew out longer. I expected his initial harsh tone at my overdue appearance, though his silent awe was something I did not count on. I played with my shirt sleeves nervously, waiting for some sort of response from the man before me, hoping I had done the right thing for once.
Finally he licked his lips and glanced at me once before looking back down at the ring.
"It's beautiful." He breathed and I smiled slightly.
"It was my mother's engagement ring." I replied with a hoarse tone. I cleared my throat to try and regain my normal confidence, but I could not find it. Sir Benjamin nodded once before placing it back down on the table and returning it back to me. He pushed away his plate of food and rested his chin on his hands, regarding me with a steady gaze.
"I take it I'm right in thinking that the ring isn't for me?" He asked and I chuckled a little.
"I'm afraid so." I said, staring down at the ring in front of me. "I would have come sooner," I began, not meeting the other man's gaze. "But I wanted to find the right ring for her. It was my father who insisted that I give her this, though it was a matter of actually finding it aswell." It was hardly an excuse, but I wanted to at least try and earn myself some dignity before I asked Sir Benjamin that all important question. "I had a lot of thinking to do too and discussing with my father."
"Maria's not been the same." Sir Benjamin spoke up suddenly. I met his gaze and was surprised to find no anger behind them. "She told us about what happened on her first day back and ever since then, she barely leaves her room. I haven't eaten dinner with her since that first night." I swallowed hard, knowing I was responsible this.
"I'm sorry." It was hardly going to make things right, but I had to say it anyway. "I didn't mean to hurt her. I never would intentionally. I just saw her and that Haversham boy together and everything was too overwhelming. I panicked and I ran." Sir Benjamin eyed me evenly. "It was the worst decision of my life." He didn't say anything, merely stared at me, attempting to devour my thoughts. I swallowed hard again, trying to rid myself of the lump that was gathering. "I understand that you all hate me, and you have the right to-"
"We don't hate you, Robin." Sir Benjamin cut in, shaking his head. "I feel a great many things towards you right now, and I will admit that some are unpleasant, but hate you I never." He smiled slightly and took a sip of his drink. "Loveday's your sister, she may be angry but hate you she couldn't. Plus, I think she's incapable of actually feeling so negative towards anyone let alone her brother." I smiled, agreeing with his description of my sister. "And Mrs Heliotrope is an infuriating woman who wants only for Maria to be happy." He met my gaze, downing the last of his drink. "Which you make happen."
"I've hurt her." I shook my head. "How can I make her happy when all I do is cause situations like this? She deserves to be happy. She deserves better."
"I agree with you with that fact she deserves to be happy, but I challenge you to name me someone who's better for her than you." Sir Benjamin raised a defiant eyebrow, a slightly smirk on his lips. A pause. I chuckled and shrugged, looking down at my hands.
"Do you think I can fix what I've done?" I asked, glancing at my brother-in-law. He studied me silently before leaning forward.
"When I was first courting your sister, I felt much the same that you do now. I loved her more than anything in the world. After what I did, I knew I did not deserve her and that I could never fix my wrongs. I grew bitter, cold, heartless. Loveday brought out the best in me and I knew that when she left me that day, she had taken a part of me with her. After being reunited with her that day Maria saved Moonacre, I remembered what it was like to love again and I knew that things were never the same when she wasn't around. I needed her and I would have done anything to get her back again, even when I didn't think I could do anything to fix what I had done.
"You need Maria, Robin. I know you do. Why? Because I see a lot of myself in you and I understand the turmoil going through your head right now. You think what you've done is unfixable and that you've ruined everything. But let me tell you, son, you cannot give in. You would be foolish to throw away such a feeling. And I disagree with you completely when you say Maria does not deserve you. She loves you, Robin. I think you forget that sometimes with your insecurities. What you and Maria have is something worth holding onto."
There was a heavy feeling of numbness washing over me at Sir Benjamin's words. His speech had pulled at my heart and left me speechless for a few long moments. He must have realised my tongue-tie as he smirked at me, pushing my glass towards me a little more. I downed the drink in one, letting the liquid burn the back of my throat carelessly.
"We are all fools in love, Robin." Sir Benjamin announced, leaning back in his chair. I laughed a little, thumbing the box in front of me, glancing at the man. I sighed deeply and Sir Benjamin smiled. "Is there something you wish to ask me, Master De Noir?" I breathed out another chuckle at his teasing tone, thankful for this sudden change in my brother-in-law's attitude, and held his gaze.
"There is actually." I swallowed. "I was wondering whether I have your blessing to ask for your niece's hand in marriage?"
Sir Benjamin smiled and leaned forward. He took my hand in both of his and squeezed it.
"I couldn't think of a better man for my niece than you, Robin."
(A/N): Don't die in shock, but this is actually an update! Not a very good one, I admit, but one all the same. I intended for Robin and Sir Benjamin's talk to be a little differently but this is how it came out. What do you think?
I thought I'd try a hand at Sir Benjamin's POV too and I'd love to know whether you think he's in character or not. I'd also like to know how you'd like the proposal to occur. Any locations you think would suit the occasion? Any complications? Basically, how do you want Robin to ask Maria to marry him?
I won't promise a quick update, though I have some time off at the moment so I will try and get some more done for you all. Thank you for the reviews and your patience!