Henry carefully poured out the tea, so focused on the menial task that he didn't even notice it when the door opened and shut again. It was only when he put down the teapot and sat down on the sofa did he notice that Angela had come in.
'Hello, Henry,' Angela said smilingly. Henry relaxed and smiled back. She had been so happy after Randall had returned and they settled him down in the Ledore –Henry had offered to have the name changed in Randall's honour, but he had declined – estate. It had been too long since she'd last been so happy and the sight gave Henry a joy of his own.
'Hello, Angela. Will you have a cup of tea with me?'
'Of course.' She sat down next to him and picked up the cup and saucer. Even though a fire was burning in the study, a draft had left the corridor outside cold, and she wrapped her fingers around the cup, warming her hands.
'Has Randall settled down for the night?' Henry asked softly.
'Yes, I've put him in my bedroom. I hope that's alright; it seemed appropriate.'
'But of course. It's your room.'
A silence fell, somewhat thick and awkward. Words hung in the air between them, waiting for the person who would use them first. Angela sipped her tea as she worked up her courage. The tea was delicious as always – if nothing else, Henry's tea always made her feel better after a long day. And it had been such a very long day.
'I know what you want to say,' Angela said at length. 'You want to ask if I'm going to request a divorce ... for Randall.'
The smile on Henry's face didn't quite disappear, but it did seemed to slip a little. He quickly composed himself and said, 'It's what you – we've – been planning, isn't it?'
'That was our original plan, yes. But ...'
But we've been sleeping in the same bed for the last five years. I used to keep track of the times we made love until I lost count. We must have exchanged kisses in every inch of this house. And we said it was because we needed comfort and company from our own misery...
...went unspoken, and yet the thoughts mirrored on each other's expressions. Henry almost looked ashamed of himself, as if he had no right to hold his own legal spouse as his wife. Angela looked a little confused.
'You must have known,' Henry said when the silence became too painful. 'I first started to harbour feelings towards you over twenty years ago.'
'And you continued to, didn't you?' Angela said. Henry turned his face away, and didn't hear the kind tone, nor see the gentle smile.
'It means nothing,' he said dismissively. 'I've always known your heart belonged to Randall.'
'For eighteen years? Even the fifteen that I've been married to you?'
'Faith is a wonderful thing.' He stole a quick glance at her, but quickly averted his gaze again. 'Even I was always convinced that Master Randall would return.'
'I know. It was your faith that kept me reassured.' Angela hesitated, unsure of how to phrase what she wanted to say next.
'At any rate,' Henry said eventually, 'I'll get the documents tomorrow. I'll be sure to ask to have the process sped up for you.'
'What documents?' she said, momentarily thrown off.
'Our divorce petition, of course,' Henry said. His voice sounded unusually steady, and he still wasn't looking at her.
'Henry, I don't think you've really been listening to me,' she said, beginning to frown.
'I'm sorry. Have I missed something?'
She put down her teacup.
'Please look at me, Henry,' she said firmly. He turned around and tried to make eye contact, finally settling on staring at a point several inches to the side of her head. She reached out and cupped his face, gently directing him to look her in the eye. She was nervous about what she wanted to say next, but she had made her decision after the first few talks with Randall and she was determined to have it out with Henry.
'Eighteen years is a very long time,' she said. 'Your persistence assured me that Randall would come back within the first few years, but after that, I began to lose hope. I started to accept that Randall wouldn't come back.'
'It's fine,' Henry said. He paused, and then shyly covered her hand with his own. 'Master Randall has returned, and it has all turned out for the better.'
'Don't speak yet, Henry.' She lowered their intertwined hands into her lap. 'Back then, I tried to get over him and heal. I didn't think it was healthy to pine over somebody long believed to be dead. But it was like you and Monte d'Or were holding me back.'
Henry was startled. 'Angela, I'm sorry. I didn't know.'
She ignored this. 'I wanted to let go and forget about him, but everything about Monte d'Or was built around Randall and I couldn't. Yet you were there, the whole time. Seeing you working so hard put me at ease. You are a ... good husband.'
He flushed positively scarlet and timidly looked down at their hands. 'Thank you, Angela,' he murmured. 'I've only done my best to protect and provide for you while we waited for Master Randall.'
'There you go again, bringing it all back to Randall,' Angela sighed. 'Henry, I admire your dedication, but we need to stop making this about him. What if I told you that I've begun to return – have already returned your feelings? All this time, everything related to you kept reminding me of Randall, but now that we've found him, we can finally move on and maybe we can begin to accept that I love you.'
'I – what? Angela, what?' Henry's eyes became wide, staring at her in shock. 'What are you ... saying? All this time, I –'
'I didn't want to say anything,' Angela said carefully, squeezing his hand when he looked as if he might try to move away, 'because I thought you might think it was just temporary, or that I was trying to replace Randall with you in my heart. But once I'd talked to Randall a few times, I realised this wasn't so.'
When Henry only continued to look confused and lost, she pressed on, 'It's true, Henry. You aren't the one who broke a promise to me and left on some grand adventure for almost twenty years. You've always taken care of me. You never kept me in the dark and you always made sure I knew what was going on. Besides, you didn't marry me for Randall alone in the first place ... did you?'
'Probably not,' Henry said, finally appearing to regain his voice, although there was self-rebuke in it. 'Randall was my master and I would never dream of ... of taking you away from him while you were in a relationship with him, but I had little obligation to Alphonse Dalston and I didn't want – perhaps I was selfish,' he said in a flat tone. 'Yes, I wanted to keep you close to me.'
'I'm glad for that,' Angela said, and she smiled. 'Henry, please accept me.'
'How could I refuse? All my life I've served Master Randall ... and you. Angela –'
Angela moved closer until she would have been in his lap had she moved an inch further, and placed her hand on his cheek again. 'I love you, Henry. What else is there to say?'
'Um.' He was trembling underneath her hand, but leaning unmistakeably into the warmth from her palm. 'I love you too, Angela...?'
She laughed, a happy, cheerful sound. 'Oh Henry,' she said, and leaned forward to press her lips to his. He was as shy as the first time they had done it, but when she moved her hands to hug him, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer, onto his lap. She had to pull away to laugh again.
'What is it?' he asked. There was a lopsided smile on his face.
'It's nothing. I'm just so happy we're all together again. And you've never done that before.'
'Do you mind?'
'No. I find I quite like it.'
'Good.' He kissed her again, basking in the joyous feeling of being with someone he loved and whom he understood to love him, too. Then a thought occurred to him and he stopped, looking disconcerted.
'Is something wrong?' Angela said worriedly.
'Does ... does Master Randall know –' he began hesitatingly.
'Oh. Er, no, not really, I haven't told him. But I'm sure,' she said quickly, 'that he wouldn't ... stop me. Us. I feel that he's back to his senses now, I'm sure he'll be reasonable.'
'I hope – if it turns out – I would –'
'Randall can't change the way I feel for you, Henry,' Angela said resolutely. 'Don't worry about him for now, please.' She leaned her forehead against his. 'Tomorrow we'll talk to Randall. Tonight, I want you to just focus on me.'
Slowly, a contentment settled on Henry's features. 'Yes, Angela.'
Tomorrow ... tomorrow, the world would spin on. But tonight, it stopped to give Henry and Angela one perfect moment.