Geraldine sighed; the divertissement displayed below couldn’t distract her from her nervous and never ending thoughts. Philippa convinced her to come tonight; what Geraldine didn’t expect was for her cousin not to come with her. She should have though.
Philippa was reputed to have a terrible temper, which was not entirely unfair. When it came to her children though, her cousin was a fabulous mother. Geraldine could only hope to emulate the patience and care Philippa devoted to the twins. She wouldn’t leave the house if Anna or Stephen were sick. Geraldine had been willing to stay with the children so Philippa and Michael could enjoy the evening but her cousin refused; she wouldn’t stand the distance from Stephen knowing he was fighting a fever. She argued she would fret throughout the performance and annoy Michael anyway. Better Geraldine went and enjoyed the ballet.
So Geraldine had come alone. But even from this height, which offered her precious anonymity, she felt awkward. It was unlikely her identity would remain secret throughout the evening. Already a few people had turned to the box wondering who she might be and why Mrs. and Mr. Bearing hadn’t attended the opening performance of Cinderella by the Russian Ballets. Everyone knew it would be a triumph.
Geraldine had arrived as late as propriety – and the beginning of the ballet – allowed but she might yet have trouble avoiding people before she left. Of course she could remain in the box through intermission and until all the audience was gone, but the latter offered its own risks. A woman alone was always an easier prey.
It was useless worrying though; she should quit doing that and appreciate the show. It was curious though for so many reasons. For one, she had her own box, more centered than Philippa and Michael’s. She hadn’t used it since Henry’s fall from grace; it was one of the few things the Crown hadn’t reclaimed. But it had stood empty for the past four years. And it would continue so for now. She didn’t feel confident enough to resume her outings under her own name. There was too much she didn’t know. One thing she ignored was how likely the Duke of Longshire was to divulge her presence at the ball he organized a few weeks back. She hadn’t realized he was the host until he accosted her. Beyond the shock of meeting him again, she’d felt cozened. Philippa had tricked her into coming. Probably thinking it a good deed too. At least her cousin didn’t pry; if Philippa had asked about any interesting meeting Geraldine would have known her cousin arranged for the meeting. As it were she couldn’t be sure.
Still she was inclined to give Philippa the benefit of the doubt; not because the woman wasn’t capable of such trickery but because Geraldine was indebted to her cousin for the rest of her life. She’d have been destitute and without anywhere to go if Philippa and her husband hadn’t welcomed her. Regardless of their reasons, she owed them more than she could ever repay.
And with that came another reason this entire even felt weird; her parents and siblings might be here. They too had a box reserved for them. She had yet to look that way, but she wasn’t particularly tempted. They had done everything to distance themselves from her when it became clear her husband had betrayed secrets to the enemy during a time of war. Her demise wouldn’t tarnish their name and reputation. They denounced her husband – one thing she couldn’t blame them for – but associated her with him. No… she didn’t care much about seeing them here.
She shook her head and looked back at the stage; it was so difficult to concentrate on the performance even though it was beautiful. The prima ballerina was fabulous, the set and costumes gorgeous. And the orchestra’s rendition of the partition was at once haunting and uplifting. The intermission was almost a liberation. She leaned against the back of her seat, sighing softly. She would remain here; it was best. She pulled on the cord though that the usher might bring her some beverage. Just water with fruit would be perfect.
She was lost in thoughts when the clatter of the door startled her. Why would the young man be so noisy? She turned. And gasped. She stood up and recoiled from the gentleman who had entered the box. How could she be so foolish? Of course. She had observed him come and go freely in the house. She guessed he was Henry’s henchman, yet remained untroubled when her husband fell from grace. Was it possible Henry protected him the same way he did her? What was his name already? Grubber?
“You owe me Lady.” He growled.
As afraid as she was, she straightened.
“I cannot guess at what you are implying. I do not know you.”
“Your husband still owed me 1000 gold pieces. I risked a lot for him. Now you must pay me.”
She laughed. It surprised her but she laughed. The man had the upper hand; he was stronger than her, no one knew she was here. And even if they did, she was alone without anyone to intervene on her behalf.
“Even if I were willing to do such a thing, do you truly believe I have anything left I can give you?”
“You’re here, ain’t you Lady? Means you can afford it.”
“I’m here on my cousin’s generosity. My husband’s choices left me with nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Not quite Geraldine.”
She suppressed a scream at the sound of the newcomer’s voice.
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s prompt Wordle #126
1. Useless, 2. Weird, 3. Distance, 4. Crust, 5. Willing, 6. Upper Hand, 7. Bedevil, 8. Cozen (verb. to cheat, deceive, or trick), 9. Divertissement (noun. a diversion or entertainment./ a short ballet or other performance serving as an interlude in a play, opera, etc./ a program consisting of such performances.), 10 . Quit, 11. Clatter, 12. Height.