A Few Too Many Secrets
Rain pattered against the pane, a soft, musical sound that calmed Mary. She had felt that it was finally true, really and fully true, for the last week, but it wasn't until today that she made herself confirm it. The feeling overwhelmed her with a murky mixture of joy, terror, and even a little anger. She didn't understand the anger, except that her body was acting like it shouldn't, and her automatic reaction to that was always a quiet anger. But the happiness and terror eclipsed almost all of the anger, and this morning, despite the calming sound of raindrops, Mary's heart would not stop pounding.
She had decided on today of all mornings because Matthew had told her he was wandering the grounds with Tom for another look at…well, Mary wasn't entirely certain. Something to do with rent, sheep, and land, and well, she'd never tell Matthew as much, but his enthusiasm about running Downton had yet to infect her in a similar manner. So she always smiled and when he had finished rambling, she kissed him and ran her fingers through his hair, and said, "Enjoy yourself, darling." Matthew had yet to notice her inattention.
But this time, she had paid close attention to when he was leaving and how long he would be gone. "We'll leave after breakfast," Matthew had said. When he declined to say how long, Mary prodded him. "Well, a few hours or so?"
Mary narrowed her eyes a little. "Yes, but what do you mean by a few hours? That could mean anything from one hour to ten to you, darling."
Matthew laughed a little. "How about…three hours? Will that satisfy you?"
Mary leaned over to kiss him. "Fully."
But now her plan to go into Ripon for some new pens and fresh paper would seem ridiculous in this rain—a light rain, but rain nonetheless—especially since the excuse of wanting some fresh air would be wholly illogical. Matthew had left before the rain had started, earlier that morning. Mary sighed and traced a finger down the windowpane, hoping the rain would give way before long.
Anna entered the room then, and Mary turned towards her. "Good morning, milady," she greeted Mary, a warm smile on her face. "I know you mentioned going to Ripon today, but now that it's raining…"
Mary smiled with frustration, but replied calmly, "Please help me ready to go out within the hour."
Anna raised an eyebrow. "Milady…"
"I think I'll wear my new lavender gown today." Mary sat down at her vanity. When Anna didn't move from her spot, Mary added while looking in the mirror at Anna, "Yes?"
"Of course, milady," Anna replied automatically. She began to unbraid Mary's hair and comb out the curls. Mary stifled a sigh.
It was supreme luck that the rain let up by the time Mary wished to leave for Ripon, but it continued to drizzle.
"Mary, are you still going out?" her mother asked as she made preparations to leave.
Gloves, hat, coat. An umbrella, too. "Yes, of course," Mary replied. She raised her eyebrows at her mother's confused face. "It's only a light drizzle, and I shan't melt."
Cora eyed her daughter, knowing that Mary was keeping something to herself, as she was wont to do. She tamped down the desire to interrogate her daughter, make her her confidante. She knew in her heart that if Mary wanted to tell her, she would only do so on her own time. "Well, stay dry, darling. Will you be home by luncheon?"
"Yes, of course." Mary kissed Cora briskly before going outside to the awaiting car. As the new chauffeur shut the door, Cora turned to Anna standing behind her.
"I suppose we'll find out soon enough, since I've never known Mary to be this eager to write letters."
As Cora walked away, Anna smiled.
It was raining again by the time Mary entered the car again. Hobbs, the new chauffeur, was not one to talk—not like Branson, she thought with a smile—and for that she was thankful. Dr. Clarkson had confirmed what she had already suspected for the last few weeks: she was pregnant. At his prognosis, he had seemed so happy that she had forced herself to smile and even laugh a little. But he'd eyed her with concern upon her departure regardless. Mary felt a surge of anger at that. And then she felt angry with herself, because she was a woman who wanted a child and was unhappy about it.
Mary bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from crying. She didn't understand what was the matter with her. She was happy, she was, but she was, she had to admit, utterly terrified. When Dr. Clarkson had said the words, and told her when she'd expect to have the baby—September—all she could see was Sybil tossing and turning and convulsing and her last breath leaving her, and it was all so overwhelming. She had a sudden urge to get out of the car and find Matthew; he was always a comfort to her, always calming her irrationality, her ridiculous fears about everything. But right now she had to bear the onslaught of emotions with her usual calm, and just hope that Matthew hadn't lied when he said he would only take three hours instead of ten.
Upon arriving at Downton, the rain was pouring down in hard torrents. Hobbs jumped out of the car and awkwardly opened the door while shielding Mary with an umbrella. He followed her with the umbrella, where Alfred held open the door. The footman was soaked through, his livery almost dripping onto the carpet. Mary almost laughed at his solemn face coupled with the water dripping off of him.
"Milady, if I might—"
Mary brushed aside his concerns. "Go and change into dry clothes, Alfred," she replied. "But before you do, let Anna know I'll be in my room."
"Very good, milady."
Mary was moderately soaked from the rain, and upon reaching her bedroom, began stripping off her clothes instead of waiting for Anna. She took off her shoes and began unrolling her wet stockings when Anna entered. "Oh, milady, you're soaked through!"
Mary looked up with a wry smile. "Only a little. Alfred and Hobbs had it worse than me."
Anna went to work on undressing her mistress, clucking at seeing that even Mary's underthings were wet. "You'll catch your death doing this again," she murmured as she had Mary raise her arms to pull off her chemise. As Anna began toweling her dry, Mary gazed at her reflection in the mirror, and she realized again that she was pregnant, truly pregnant. Her throat closed a little, and she eyed her body to see if there were any changes. Maybe a slight rounding of her abdomen, and were her breasts larger? If they were, it was so slight that only someone who knew her body very well could tell. Someone like her husband.
"Anna, has Mr. Crawley arrived home yet?" It was almost noon.
Anna smiled as she began to redress her mistress. "He just arrived a few moments ago, soaked to the bone. I imagine he's on his way upstairs as we speak."
And indeed, as Anna finished dressing Mary, Mary heard Matthew enter his dressing room while Molseley clucked and fussed over his master's soaking wet clothes. "Molseley, they'll dry, I promise you," Matthew assured his valet with laughter in his voice. Mary could only imagine the face Molseley was pulling, one of a puppy dropped into a cold puddle.
"Yes, of course," Molseley replied in a mumble.
Anna stood. "Is there anything else you need, milady?"
Mary shook her head. "No, you may go. I'll wait here to speak with Mr. Crawley."
Anna turned, but not before Mary saw her smiling like she knew something. Well, Mary shouldn't be surprised. If anyone could be considered astute, it would be Anna.
Mary sat on the bed and watched the rain hit the windowpane like she had earlier. It was a few minutes before Matthew entered their bedroom, his hair still damp but in dry clothing. "Mary!" he said as he realized she was in their room. "What are you doing up here?"
Mary smiled as he leaned over to kiss her cheek. He settled in his favorite chair—an ugly chair, Mary had always said, but Matthew had always replied that the ugliest furniture was often the most comfortable. Ignoring his question, she replied, "How was your outing?"
Matthew sighed. "We were caught in the rain, as you can see. Tom and I tried to keep going regardless, but it began to rain too hard to see or even hear each other speak. And well, I think I broke Molseley's heart getting that hat soaked." Matthew smirked. "But why are you up here? I thought you'd be in the sitting room already."
Mary opened her mouth to reply, but stopped herself. She knew that if she told Matthew she'd also been outside in the rain that he'd be upset with her. And if she then told him she was out in the rain to see Dr. Clarkson, who then had confirmed her pregnancy…she didn't particularly want to see that reaction.
"I had a headache, is all," she said instead. As Matthew opened his mouth to ask her questions, she added, "I'm fine now. I was just about to go downstairs. Are you hungry?"
She stood to leave, and Matthew stood as well. His glance told her this conversation wasn't over, but that he'd let it rest. For now. Mary left the bedroom with Matthew trailing her, and knew she had to tell him about the baby. But the terror clenched her insides once more, and she knew she couldn't. Not yet.
A/N: Well, it's been a very long time since I've written any fanfiction, but I couldn't help myself. I hope you enjoyed. This probably won't be more than 3 chapters or so, mostly because the semester starts again on Tuesday for me, and when you work full-time and go to grad school, you hardly have any time to put on pants, let alone write extra stuff. :)