Chapter Seventeen

A/N: Thank you so much to chelsietothenorthern, granthamfan and Guest for reviewing the last chapter.

When the knock at the door came later, Annabelle was more than ready for it. She had prepared every possible argument in her mind that would allow her to stay at Downton, to convince Lord Grantham that she should not be sent back to America. As she called entrance, expecting her aunt or her cousin, she stood, trying to make herself appear as perfect as possible. It lasted only a few seconds once she realised who stood in the doorway. True, it was her cousin. Mary.

"What are you doing here?" Annabelle asked, a little more harshly than she had intended. "Come with a message from your papa to tell me to pack my bags?"

"Don't be spiky, Annabelle." Mary chastised, though she did not seem as serious as usual when she did so. "I don't only roam the house when Papa sends me. I came to speak with you because I wanted to speak with you."

Annabelle was rather sceptical of the word 'with'- Mary seemed more the type to speak at someone than hold a conversation- but she listened nonetheless.

"You'll be pleased to know, or at least I think you will, that my parents are not going to send you back to America." The young girl raised her hands to cover her open mouth, making the smallest pretence of being ladylike. It seemed that may come in useful over the next few years, she was glad to admit. "We managed to bring Papa to his senses."

"What did you say to him?" Annabelle asked, her curiosity too intense to overcome.

"I simply reminded him that you hadn't done anything his own daughters wouldn't have done." Mary sighed. Her young cousin raised her eyebrows. "Parts of it, at least. Sybil came on the picnic with you; if she had had the idea herself and you weren't around, she probably would have done it anyway. Edith is just the kind of person to go around accusing people of doing her harm, even if they've done nothing wrong. As for me… no one has ever fought my papa the way I have. No one, until you."

"And that was enough to convince him?" the young girl pressed. It seemed unlikely the great Earl of Grantham would be swayed by such a feeble argument.

"It was enough to convince him that you were no different to his own daughters." Mary surmised. A gentle smile was spreading across her face. "And that was enough for him to decide he would treat you no differently."

Annabelle stayed silent for a little while, running her cousin's words over and over in her head. They almost seemed like a foreign language to her, that she was trying to translate. When she had lived in New York, she had often heard different languages, and strained against the clip-clop of the horses' hooves to catch a glimpse of what they were saying. Sometimes, with some time and effort, she understood a phrase or two, and a warm rush spread through her veins. That was exactly how she felt at that moment.

"So, that means I can stay here, at Downton?" Annabelle questioned, trying to keep her smile at bay. There was still a chance that it was not right. She could not be sure until she heard the words.

Mary nodded, her smile impossibly wider. She had never seen the woman so gleeful. "Annabelle, you may remain at Downton for as long as you want. This is your home now."

The words were enough to bring tears to her eyes and Annabelle tried to wipe them away, not wanting to appear weak before her cousin. Mary had always seemed so strong, statuesque, that the young blonde could not help but try to emulate her.

It was at that moment that Mary's own eyes began to water, and her young cousin's mouth curved into a smile.

"You must swear not to tell anyone about this." Mary stated, accepting the handkerchief Annabelle offered her, though her voice was more jovial than warning. "My reputation would be in tatters."

"Your secret is safe with me." the blonde assured her. "After all, now that I am going to be staying here at Downton, I hardly want to make an enemy."

She meant the comment as a jest, but when she smiled up at her cousin, the woman's eyes had fallen to the floor. If Annabelle had not known her better, she would have thought Mary Crawley looked sheepish.

"Annabelle, I wanted to tell you how sorry I am." Mary's voice was quiet, gentle, the kind of voice the young blonde had never heard from her before. If she closed her eyes and overlooked the clipped accent, Annabelle could almost imagine she was speaking to Mary's mother. "The way I treated you when you first arrived was awful. I was ignorant and hurtful, and instead of trying to make amends, I kept my distance and made the matter worse. I wanted you to understand that I did not want to hurt you- quite the opposite, actually. And if you ever got the impression that I did not care about you, then I am very sorry, because that is not true at all."

Annabelle swallowed past the lump in her throat. "Thank you, Mary. I understand that it is not easy for the English to talk about their feelings, so it means a lot to me."

"Yes, well," the brunette continued, shrugging her shoulders a little. "I doubt I'll make a habit of it. I'm far too set in my ways to change."

"That makes two of us, I suppose." Annabelle conceded, tilting her head a little. She could anticipate Mary's argument before she had a chance to speak, and raised her hand to silence her. "I will learn how to do things properly, though. The last thing I would want to do is embarrass you all. Do you think you could teach me, how to be a proper English young lady?"

Mary chuckled again, shaking her head. Her mask had finally slipped away and there was no point in replacing it now. "I am sure we can think of something. Now, come along, everyone's waiting in the drawing room. We might as well put them out of their misery."

As the two walked out of the door together, Annabelle reached out to clutch her cousin's hand in her own. It was a strange gesture, for the both of them, but satisfying all the same. And what was even more satisfying was that Mary did not let her go.

A/N: Hope you enjoyed the interaction between Mary and Annabelle! I think they're quite similar people, deep down. Next chapter will have a time jump to the end of Series One- Annabelle can't stay a baby forever! Please review!