Elsie stood in a daze as she watched a golden ray of sun shine through the small box window and pour down her body, creep down the age-scarred table, and spread across the dark wooden floor. She barely stirred as Charles entered the room, yet his presence was certainly welcome. She wondered what he was thinking as she felt his eyes on her. It was almost as if she could have heard his thoughts in the resounding silence of the room. Finally she turned to him with a warm smile.

"Good morning, Mr. Carson," she greeted him.

"Good morning," he returned. "Did you sleep well?"

With that, they fell into their typical morning conversation. Elsie wasn't sure whether or not it were her imagination, but these talks had always sounded to her as if they were between two people who would discuss anything in order to avoid the real issue at hand. She wondered if Charles thought the same, and she wondered how the two of them sounded to the others, particularly the more curious ones, and if they had ever suspected anything between Charles and herself.

Sometimes Elsie imagined them going on like this forever. They would continue to enjoy each other's company and friendship and would often pause to ponder the depths of their relationship, never caring to break away from the chase long enough to make any real advances. However, in times like these, when their eyes would lock together, and the only sound filling her ears was the frantic pounding of her heartbeat and a coil low in her belly would writhe and twist till it threatened to snap, Elsie wished there could be something more. As they currently stood, though, she didn't know what to name whatever type of relationship the two of them had. Was it love? She wasn't certain she knew how sincere love felt, but this, she conceded, was the closest she could ever imagine having that feeling.

"I have to go make certain everything is running smoothly in the kitchen," Elsie spoke at last, her voice sounding raspy to her own ears.

"May I see you later?" Charles asked with a note of disappointment in his voice.

She paused. At first it sounded like a silly request; of course he would see her later; he always did. Then the realization of what he was asking, as well as the evidence of his uncharacteristic nervous fidgeting, came to her suddenly.


"How about tonight, perhaps in your sitting room?"

Elsie nodded. They had spent numerous evenings drinking tea together in that room. This was nothing out of the ordinary, she was certain; still, she could not shake the childish feeling of excitement that lay heavy on her chest.

"I shall see you then," she answered before turning to hurry toward the kitchen, squeezing her eyes shut in an effort to rid her mind of those soft, kind eyes smiling at her...

To be continued