Happy Fiction Friday, O readers! If you're looking at the time this was posted a little askance, well, you're right. Technically I should be on my way to work. But Friday traffic is always pretty light, and I don't really have to be at my desk until 7:45, so I'm going to give morning posting a shot and see if it solves the "I'm too tired" problem.
I have been tired the last few weeks and months, tired of a lot of things, which is why the postings both here and on Facebook have been sporadic and slow. If and when I get some energy back, I'm hoping very strongly to fulfill the promise I made over at the Patreon page and get back into the fan fiction realm. Comments you may leave here, on this little bit of story, will help.
So without further ado, since I do have to get on the road, here is part two of "Where Your Treasure Is". Please enjoy and I will see you on Monday with part three! (Need a refresher on part one? Click here.)
"Ah, yes. Yes, indeed." William blew out a breath. "And to think," he said wonderingly on the end of it. "I'd been worried you might turn missish, start to babble foolishness about true love and fated meetings! But I suppose I should have known you better than that. You may have something of a stubborn streak—your father was the same way, you know, once he'd set his mind on his course, it was 'cry God for Harry, England, and St. George'—but you're a sensible girl, Anthea, a good, sensible girl." He beamed approval at her once more, brighter than the sunlight still streaming through the windowpanes. "Run along, now, and don't you fuss about your future—we'll find you a proper knight to carry you off on that white horse yet, or my name's not William Franklin." He chuckled. "Which it is!"
Anthea dutifully laughed along with her uncle as she rose, curtsied, and left him to his work.
She had a letter to write.
May 4, 1757
Mr. Henry Graystone
Magnus Scribner and Sons, Publishers
I will be greatly obliged if you will send me at once a copy of your latest catalogue.
Miss A. Franklin
May 6, 1757
Miss A. Franklin
Expect your catalogue to arrive by tomorrow's early mail.
Mr. H. Graystone
Anthea was already awake and lacing up her shoes as the first light of dawn crept through the sky the next morning, when a tap at her window alerted her to a presence in the alleyway below. A tall, brown-haired man dressed in the manner of a clerk or secretary lounged at his ease against the wall of the next house over, tossing and catching a bit of gravel idly in his hand, his eyes roving across her uncle's home as though he had nothing better to do than count its windows.
Hurriedly pulling a shawl over her gray morning gown, Anthea slipped from her bedroom and made her way down the servants' stairs, to the side entrance she doubted her aunt even knew existed. "Are you mad?" she hissed, peering around the door. "Coming here yourself? What if someone sees you?"
"Ah, but will they see me?" Edwin flipped away his stone and crossed the alley in a leisurely lope. "Or will they see an obvious Cit, stealing a few moments before his workday begins to have a rendezvous with one of your uncle's maids?"
"True enough. But still." Drawing him inside, Anthea shut the door behind them. "Sally and Peggy are doing the early chores, and no one else uses this entryway," she explained when he gave the location a doubtful glance. "As long as we keep our voices down, we won't be discovered."
"You know the household, so I place my trust in you." Edwin took one of her hands in his as naturally as though they had a years-long understanding between them, instead of the friendship which, however enjoyable it might be, had begun only the previous September. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Sadly, to nothing as pleasant as I wish it might be." Anthea tried for a smile, but it felt weak and forced, so she let it go. "I thought you were being overcautious to give me your friend's name and direction, and devise a code by which we could send messages if we were forbidden to communicate, but now I see you were quite right. According to my uncle, any association between us must necessarily be tainted in the eyes of society, not only by your own opinions, but by the origins of your parents and the behavior of your elder brother—you do have an elder brother, don't you?"
"I do, and in that much, if in nothing else, I must agree with your uncle." Edwin laid his other hand atop Anthea's. "Thomas is not quite a libertine, but I grant him that qualification only because he limits his attentions to one woman at a time and takes his choice from women who have made it clear they are willing to be so chosen, not because of any selectiveness or restraint in his actions towards his current paramour. As for my parents, though I doubt this would sway your uncle, they disapprove of my opinions as thoroughly as he does, and are only waiting for me to misstep broadly enough that they may cut me off with the proverbial shilling."
"I could wish you weren't so correct." Anthea sighed once, then gathered her courage and raised her eyes to meet Edwin's. "But you are, and I thought you deserved to know why it must be, the next time we meet in public, that I can greet you only as the most distant of acquaintances."
"And is that why you sent me your charming invitation by way of my good Henry?" Edwin's voice was calm, but his fingers had tightened around Anthea's. "To do me the kindness of telling me the bad news face to face, and then dismiss me with a fond farewell?"
"What choice do we have?" Anthea drew her hand away and turned aside, unable to meet that direct blue gaze any longer. "You know how much I have treasured your friendship, how eagerly I store up in my memory the moments when we meet at parties or when you come to call upon us. If it were only a matter of you and me, of mutual desire and common ground, there would be no question. But so much more is involved here, for us both. How could we ever—"
She stopped, recalling an image reflected in an impossible mirror of water. A little house, tumbledown but generally sound, and a garden long-neglected but hardly past repair, as the voice of Starsight the fortune teller spoke coolly from the other side of the tiny tent, telling of scandal and exile, asking her to decide what she truly valued most in her life...