"Faster Jim, faster! We don't have the whole day!"
Jim rushed the carriage on the winding road as fast as he could, holding tight and twisting the harnesses curled around his hands and pushing the horses into a mad race that didn't seem to satisfy Sophie a bit.
She pulled her head back into the carriage but only for a minute, impatiently looking out again to see how far still was the house of her dear and lifelong friend, Greta Mason.
What on earth was taking it so long to reach their mansion? They were neighbors, weren't they?
It was a beautiful and long friendship between Sophie and Greta. They knew each other since childhood and had been inseparable, like two sisters, and soon the families they had built became just as close as them.
When Greta had to face the cruel truth that she wouldn't be blessed with children, Sophie's daughter became like her daughter. And when Hattie was left alone after her parents' death, she took the little girl under her care, treating her like her own offspring.
And this is why Sophie knew it wouldn't be easy to ask her friend what she came for, but Greta had to trust her. Rarely she had been wrong throughout her life.
The morning sun was glittering in the old eyes of Sophie but that didn't seem to bother her at all. On contrary, the warm sun was shining just as her face was shining with eagerness and happiness of this wonderful morning that brought her so much joy.
Of course it was the best thing to do! Strikingly surprising was actually the fact that she didn't think to do this earlier! It had to work, her plan had to work and had to be put in place at once. Nobody knew her grandson better than she did.
And yes, Hattie was perfect and surely her daughter, Margret, could have never been wrong, not about her son and not about Hattie who literally grew up in her house.
Years after Margret passed away she was still reluctant to the idea, but not today. Today is the day when Margret's wish will come true.
Because after all these years while Sophie had twisted the matter on all sides possible, she would reach all the way to the same conclusion: Hattie was the perfect choice.
And if love was not going to shine from the beginning, well, they would have to learn it and over the years they would understand that it had been the best decision to be made.
Maybe they didn't know it yet, but they were made for each other. Sophie was all smiles and joy in her eyes just to the thought of it and getting closer to Greta's house she was even more excited.
She was checking the surroundings every two minutes, picking her head out on the small carriage window. And finally there it was! The beautiful mansion of Greta was standing tall and graceful at the end of the road.
The carriage approached the entrance door in the same speed where Sophie was welcomed by Ellen, Greta's housemaid.
Jim unmounted the carriage and rushed to open the door for Sophie, reaching his hand to the old lady so she could get down easier, but she did it by herself, light as a feather.
One could have never guessed she was almost 72. She was always full of life and cheerful that sometimes it was making envious even the young Ross.
Ellen smiled to Sophie in a large and sweet curl of her lips as she was always a delight to see.
"Ellen, it is so good to see you in such a beautiful morning. Isn't it beautiful, tell me?" Sophie was saying as she was walking up the steps towards the wide entrance doors. "I need Greta and I need her now," Sophie ordered in a joke.
"The day always gets nicer when you are here, Miss Sophie. Miss Greta is in the salon, for breakfast. It has just been served. I hope you will join too," Ellen said with a happy face.
Hearing her friend's voice, Greta rushed to the hallway, all excited and in the same time relieved to see her.
The news of her visit, so early in the morning was not as much of a surprise as it was the mystery Sophie kept around the reason of her visit.
"Sophie dear, I am so happy you arrived, finally. Jim said it was something of great urgency, just tell me that nothing bad happened," Greta rushed to welcome her friend and her heart unclenched slowly seeing the happiness on her friend's face.
"Greta dearest," Sophie said and kissed her friendly on her cheek. "Nothing happened, at least nothing bad happened, you can rest assured. We are all fine, I am fine. Only these many years I'm carrying are giving me some ups and downs and not only to me. That's what bothers me the most. It gets everybody worried."
They both sat on the small sofa in the dinning disregarding the breakfast. Greta asked Ellen to bring a tea for her dear friend.
"Sophie, all this excitement you put yourself through every day will keep giving you ups and downs and I have told you that so many times. There, now just calm down and tell me. Is everybody okay?" Greta kept asking.
Sophie took a sip from the freshly brought cup of tea and waved her hand in a restful sign towards Greta as she was swallowing the tea.
"Your nephew, how is he? All is good?" Greta insisted.
"Oh my dear, he is well and in good health and seems so happy with his bachelor life which, if you don't mind me saying, is taking way too long for my taste. He seems to need nothing more to feel happy. The new printing house he's purchased keeps him busy all day and the club and easy women all night. But I didn't come here to talk about him. Or at least not yet. I mean it is about him, but not mainly about him ...."
"Oh Sophie, will you stop it already and tell me what is it? It surely seems important and I know nothing is more important than your grandson, I know it very well," Greta became impatient.
"But I don't see Hattie," Sophie said searching for the young lady around the house with the eyes. "Where is she?"
"You are trying to avoid the subject and you know that this way of yours is making my ears pump with blood pressure and I know you enjoy that," Greta said pouting.
Sophie burst in a laughter that made Greta stare with such wide eyes that she definitely had to answer or Greta would think she had gone crazy.
"Not at all my dear, not at all. You should have known me by now and understand that no, I am not trying to avoid any subject. And I definitely have nothing with your ears. And to spare you from waiting allow me to tell you that I am here to ask a hand in marriage. For my grandson," Sophie completed and took another sip from the tea cup, giving Greta time enough to absorb the news.
But that didn't happen at all, as Greta's eyes became even wider in surprise. What on earth was Sophie trying to say? Greta could not get to the bottom of her friend's bubbling no matter how much she would try. Sophie was asking a hand in marriage was understandable, she just confessed of her grandson's way of life she didn't approve and surely a marriage was the right thing to do, at least for the image sake, but why did she come to her? What hand could Sophie find here to ask in marriage? Greta was still staring at her friend, puzzled, waiting for more details.
"I am afraid I still cannot get it, Sophie," she finally said.
The old lady placed aside the cup of tea in a painful slow motion and held Greta's hands with her soft finger, looking straight into her eyes.
"Well, I believe it is the time for my grandson to get married. He is passed 30 already and it is about time he gets a good wife."
"I totally agree, Sophie. You want me to find him a wife?"
Sophie motioned her right hand in a sign that she should not bother herself with that. It is all arranged.
"I found her already and trust me, there is no other better than her. I now understand clearly my late daughter's wish and she seems the best choice. She took care of that, I know. Listen to me Greta," Sophie said becoming serious. "I know that after Hattie's parents had passed away in that awful fire you took her under your protection. And this is why I came here to ask you her hand in marriage for my grandson, Ross."
Greta was as surprised as Sophie knew she would be and that was why she was watching and waiting her answer with sweet eyes and a smile on her face, giving her time.
"Sophie O'Tool, I have known you for so many years but you never ceased to surprise me. I know how much you love Hattie and dearest Margret as well, but to marry her with your grandson ...don't you think is too much? I am not saying that she doesn't deserve it nor that this wouldn't be a wonderful thing to happen but .... Ross is such a strong personality, he is tough and stubborn ... would he accept to be married by his grandmother? You have just told me how much he enjoys being a bachelor. How do you think he would agree to get married? Specially that Hattie comes from such a ... simple family?"