Chapter 1

Mary sighed as she handed her coat over to the restaurant hostess before being led across the main dining room to a private room for her youngest sister's engagement party. Sybil and their parents had already arrived, along with their middle sister Edith.

"Where's Tom?" Mary asked when she entered the room, as her mother and Edith adjusted a few of the table arrangements. Sybil ran over to peck her oldest sister on the cheek.

"He's stuck in traffic, although he's only a block away. Bloody rush hour," she whispered, aware that their father didn't approve of his daughters' swearing. Mary swore Sybil picked it up from her fiance. Or her college roommate, Gwen. Robert was sitting near enough to hear, although he pretended to be engrossed in his iPhone instead of calling her out on it. Mary went and sat in the empty chair beside her father, giving his shoulder a squeeze as a greeting.

"How many people are coming?" Edith asked as she counted the number of chairs again.

"Um, about thirty, I think. Not counting us or Tom and his family."

"Who else is coming?" Mary asked, searching her purse for her lipstick.

"Um, Thomas, Gwen, William, and Daisy. And of course, Elsie and Charlie Carson wouldn't miss it. They're so fond of Tom. Granny and Aunt Rosamund. Anna and John Bates. Some friends from Tom's office. Richard Clarkson is coming. Some of the girls from the studio. Oh, and Matthew Crawley."

Mary nearly dropped her lipstick. She carefully placed it back in her bag as her entire family looked at her.

"Matthew's coming?" she asked, forcing herself to sound offhanded about this news.

"You know he and Tom were roommates at uni. He's asked Matthew to be his best man," Sybil said apologetically. "Please don't be upset."

"Oh, of course I'm not upset, darling. Why should I be upset?" she asked, smiling.

"When was the last time you saw Matthew?" Edith asked. Mary knew she only wanted to hear the story. But it was one she'd only ever told to Anna. And she'd made her best friend swear to never utter the words to another person. Not even to her husband John.

"It must have been four years ago," Mary said evenly. "My, what a long time."

"Mary, I'm so sorry I've blindsided you with this," Sybil said, rushing to her oldest sister's side. "Tom didn't find out that Matthew was moving back into town until Saturday."

"Oh, he's moving back?" Robert asked, looking up from his iPhone. Cora shot her husband an angry look, which caused him to return his focus to the phone once more.

"Please don't worry about me," Mary instructed Sybil. "I'm fine with seeing Matthew again. We broke up ages ago."

"Are you sure?" Sybil asked. Mary forced a smile, giving her sister's arm a squeeze.

"Of course, darling. Tonight's your night, so don't worry about a thing," Mary instructed. Sybil beamed, kissing her sister's cheek again. Then her finance Tom Branson walked into the room and dear Sybil forgot anyone else was even there.

Mary clenched her fists under the table. She had lied to her family. She was not ready to see Matthew Crawley again.

The lights had been dimmed and most of the guests had already arrived. Except for Matthew, to Mary's relief and trepidation. She felt as though she were at war with herself. She didn't want to see him again, but at the same time she did. Although she would never admit this to anyone, Mary still thought about her old college boyfriend who she had wanted to marry. If they hadn't wanted different things after they graduated, she wondered if they'd still be together. She wondered if they would be married by now.

Am I still in love with him?

Mary sat at a half-empty table with John and Anna, who were talking with Charlie Carson and his wife, Elsie. She pretended to listen to their discussion on the upcoming election, although most of her attention focused on the door. It was a small comfort to Mary that she had bought a new dress for the occasion, which Sybil had helped her pick out. She knew she looked stunning in it.

"I'm going to get a drink. Anna, do you want anything?" Mary asked her friend, no longer capable of sitting still.

"Nothing for me," Anna replied, making a small motion to her slightly swollen abdomen. Mary smiled before getting to her feet.

"We have water, you know" she joked. Anna swatted her arm and Mary moved away, heading for the drink table.

As she crossed the room, two more guests entered the room. She looked over, her eyes meeting her ex-boyfriend's blue ones. Seeing Matthew again was like being punched in the stomach. Seeing him arrive with another woman made Mary feel as though someone's hand was clenched around her heart. She stood motionless in the middle of the room for a moment, unsure of what to do.

As Matthew looked back at her for a few seconds (although it felt like ten minutes), everything she'd felt for him came rushing back. He looked so handsome in his crisp black suit, his blue tie perfectly matching the shade of his eyes.

"Matthew!" Tom's voice broke through the din in Mary's head. He rushed over to his best man, shaking Matthew's hand and clapping his shoulder in a rough greeting. Aware most of the party was watching her reaction, Mary forced a smile and moved nearer to where Matthew stood with his date.

"How lovely to see you, Matthew," Sybil said earnestly, casting an apprehensive glance toward Mary before she kissed Matthew's cheek.

"Hello, Sybil," Matthew said in a friendly voice. No one could ever dislike Sybil. Mary realized how much she'd missed hearing Matthew's voice.

"This is my girlfriend, Lavinia Swire. Lavinia, this is my friend Tom and his fiancee, Sybil."


"It's so nice to meet you both," Lavinia said sweetly, her eye noticing Mary. "And you must be Mary!" Lavinia said with much more enthusiasm than Mary had expected.

"Um, yes," Mary said, faking her own brand of enthusiasm that was not quite so animated as Lavinia's.

"I've been longing to meet you, because I've heard so much about you from Matthew. Er, that is-" the other woman said, clasping her hand around Mary's. Mary wanted to hate her so badly, but she was so kind and disgustingly sweet.

"Nice things, I hope," Mary said with a forced laugh, glancing at Matthew. He looked uncomfortable, but not entirely unhappy to see her. He smiled slightly and Mary looked away.

"What else would she hear from me?" Matthew questioned, smiling slightly. Mary looked away, unable to hold his gaze for much longer due to the pain she felt.

"I'm sure we'll be good friends," Lavinia said with a smile, apparently oblivious to Mary's discomfort.

Mary had no response and Sybil noticed her sister's tension.

"So, Lavinia," she said, taking the woman's arm and leading her away to the drink table. Mary didn't catch anything else Sybil said, but Lavinia didn't seem to notice what had happened and only smiled back at Sybil.

"Sorry to burst in like this," Matthew said, trying to catch Mary's eye again. "It's been a long time." His voice was low and rich, just as Mary remembered it. It made her feel safe and comfortable, but on edge at the same time.

"Four years," Mary replied, her heart skipping a few beats as she looked up at the man who used to know everything about her. And now he couldn't.

"How have you been?" Matthew asked. It seemed Sybil had taken it upon herself to introduce Lavinia to the rest of the party, sans Matthew. Mary was glad, although she doubted she should be left alone with the man who broke her heart four years ago. Or whose heart she had broken.

"I'm well," Mary said, present circumstances omitted. At the moment she felt quite weak at the knees and a little dizzy from her close proximity to Matthew. "I'm assistant editor at the magazine now."

"Wow, congratulations," he said, placing his warm hand on Mary's arm and giving it a gentle squeeze. "I'm really proud of you, Mary."

Mary felt herself color at his touch and his accompanying words of kindness. And the way he said her name. It was just as it used to be. As though he was kissing her. Why did she still feel this way?

"And what about you?" She asked, carefully extracting her arm from his hand. Physical contact was not helpful if Mary wanted to stay away from Matthew. "Are you winning any big cases for yourself?"

"Not yet," he replied, smiling. "Although I was made partner at a very prestigious law firm in northern London. That's why we moved back."

"We?" she asked in a momentary lapse of composure. Matthew cleared his throat, slightly embarrassed. His ears turned slightly pink, a trait Mary had always adored. She pretended not to notice, hoping Matthew no longer remembered her fondness for it.

"Lavinia and myself," he restated, clasping his hands together.

"Oh, of course. How wonderful," Mary said, faking more enthusiasm. "How long have you been together?" She didn't really want to know, but her curiosity got the better of her.

"A little over a year," Matthew admitted, watching her carefully. She smiled as warmly as she could. "We met in Manchester at the university. Lavinia just got her undergrad in primary education."

"My, how interesting," she replied, trying to hide the irony in her voice, though unsuccessfully.

"I know what you're thinking," Matthew said, frowning slightly. "She's not as bookish as you would have expected, is that right?"

Mary swallowed, her heart racing from his scolding tone. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. She seems very sweet," she forced herself to say. She smiled her fake smile, the one she gave to the staff writers when their work wasn't as perfect as she wanted it to be, but there was no time for re-writes. Luckily, it seemed to work on Matthew.

"She is," he replied, smiling back at her. "I think you'd like her."

Mary only continued to smile, wishing she could disappear into the floor.

"You look beautiful," Matthew said after a few moments of silence. Mary felt her stomach contract happily, but she pushed the feeling aside.

"Thank you," she said, smoothing her hand self-consciously over her dark purple dress, her fingers playing with a bit of lace. "Sybil helped me a bit."

"Oh, naturally," Matthew said, his eyes straying to the rest of Mary's dress. He smiled, his ears still pink. "You're still as lovely as ever."

Mary smiled her thanks. "Well, you should get back to Lavinia," she said, aware some of her friends and family continued to watch their exchange.

"We should catch up sometime," he said, shifting past her. He nearly reached out to touch her arm again, but he pulled his hand back at the last moment.

"Mm, that would be lovely," she said, not really believing any such meeting would ever occur.

"Lavinia would love to know you better," Matthew replied, as though that justified his desire to talk to her again.

Mary nodded as she inched towards the doorway. "Of course," was her noncommittal reply. "Pardon me, I was just going to the loo."

Matthew nodded, watching Mary as she turned and walked out of the hall. Mary didn't realize that he stood motionless for a few moments after she exited, his mind racing with thoughts of the woman he'd never stopped thinking of even after four years.

[Thank you for reading! Please review with any thoughts or comments you have. Updates will hopefully be once a week!]