A Not Unexpected Predicament.
“Did our visitors have a good lunch before they went?” Selena looked Robert over as he entered the room.
“They did.” He came over and sat beside her, taking her hand as she had grown used to him doing.
“I liked Mr. Rogers. He was competent and gentle while taking some pains not to offend Nurse or me. He told me that he had found nothing new that you had not already discovered. I told him about Jessop, and how we needed another doctor in the area with Jessop on his last legs, and that he should think about it.” She lowered her voice. “I think he was quite taken with Sophia when he looked at her, and she at him, however briefly. There was a slight hesitation there on both of their parts, and I saw Sophia blush, and she never blushes. I decided to invite him to come and spend some time with us when he comes to see me again, if he can.”
“Did he say anything of the baby?” She felt pleased that Robert asked.
“No. He said that it is too soon to tell, but that, apart from this leg, I appear to be in good health. He will be able to say more, as I progress. He told me that I should get some exercise with my other leg, and with my arms, and upper body.” Robert’s relief was obvious to see.
“So, can I take it that you now feel much better, hearing that news, and feel rested, despite our lengthy discourse until the early hours? I almost fell asleep myself, sitting with you, holding one hand, and with the other resting on you in a personal way that quite shocked Sophia when she woke me up. Fortunately, it was she who woke me and not Abby or Deirdre, to find me with my hand on you there.”
She was listening to him and smiling at his words as she looked into his face but did not say anything about the small contusions on his cheek, so she may not have noticed them in the subdued light.
“I am not sure I understand how I feel, Charles. Sometimes I feel lightheaded and there are times when I am not sure where I am if you are not here. However, yes, I emphatically enjoyed our conversation, and it is such a relief to know that I am back where I should be. I think I was awake most of the remainder of the morning after you left, with my mind going over everything I could remember and that we had discussed. I am afraid I did not rest as well as Sophia or Nurse might have liked, but at least you were able to rest at last.”
“I got a few hours’ sleep. I should have stayed with you. I could not rest well either.”
“I would have liked that, Charles, but they fuss too much, and seem determined not to leave us alone for very long. You missed me just as much as I missed you. We have never been apart so long, nor were so well watched. I am sure we could both be thinking of better things that we could be doing together.” Now she was the one blushing up at him after her suggestive remark.
“They are concerned for you and want to see you recover. Nothing more. They do not care if our feelings might be hurt by keeping us apart.” Yes, he felt their efforts to keep them apart as much as she did.
“I fear that too many things may have been neglected while I have been like this. I feel as though I have rested enough for a lifetime. I will sleep during the day too, now that I know you and the children are alright.” She smiled up at him in a way that set his heart racing.
“And thank you for the roses. That was thoughtful of you, and perhaps a few days early, but most welcome.” He had known that Charles’ habit had been to give his wife flowers, from time to time, and while he had been out looking around he had picked a few. But what did she mean, a few days early? She held his hand, loath to let him move even a small distance from her.
“But you, Charles. You look more careworn than I like to see, and although you played down your own injuries, I can see that you did not escape as lightly as you suggested.” She reached up and touched his cheek with its light peppering of contusions. He captured her hand and kissed it on the palm, distracting her from noticing more.
“Yes, you have been in the wars.” He hoped she did not notice his momentary concern at hearing her say that. There was a disquieting look on her face, but not one of recognition. “As I have been. You did not escape as well as you would like me to believe. I suppose we shall slowly discover all of these things for ourselves as the days wear on. However, It is such a relief to know that I shall soon be up and about. In just a few weeks if I take care. I shall very likely go mad before then. But you are being remiss, Charles.”
“You did not kiss me this morning to greet the day as we always do each morning to wake up, and to make love, though there were never so many individuals scurrying about us before or interrupting our privacy, so I suppose that it could not be avoided. And anything more personal than that is clearly beyond our control at the moment. But it won’t be that way for long.” She blushed and laughed. He tried to rescue her.
“Then I apologize for such careless neglect and shall try to remedy some of it even now.” He approached her as she expected and wanted, took her into his arms without hesitation, and kissed her as they looked closely into the other’s face.
She saw the look on his face and knew what it meant. She held his arm to stop him escaping, which he was not about to do. “I am sorry I cannot behave as a wife for you at this time, Charles. Will they never leave us alone?” He was shaking his head.
She watched the maid remove some things from her room to the landing and held out her hand to him. “We are alone now, Charles, though for how long, one can never know with Nurse forever fussing about and servants in and out at all hours. Sit by me, at least.” He leaned over and gave her another gentle and lingering kiss on the lips as she seemed to need. She held his arm tightly, not willing to let him go. He was in no hurry to break away and loitered as a loving husband might as he looked into her eyes.
She was looking at him closely. Had he been too rough? Too gentle? Had it been different for her? Had she seen something about him? About his face? But she was looking into his eyes.
He liked what he saw in hers in return. It quite took his breath away. It had been many years since this woman, any woman, had looked at him like that, but that had been a painful memory left to torment him as he had driven away from the estate. That memory had been almost ten years ago. Time had seemed to crawl by with those ten years seeming like ten lifetimes, until now. He leaned in and kissed her more warmly and familiarly this time, as she seemed to expect and want. She reached up and put her arms around his neck and was not about to see him escape without even more affection.
He laughed at her eagerness and obliged her. “I was afraid of causing you pain, my love. Your ribs and your leg.”
“Damn my ribs! Damn my leg! Oh, Charles, why would I care about that? You would be gentle with me, knowing my condition. But you always were thoughtful and considerate of me. I am not so very fragile, and I shall not break by being loved. Thank god you are here to save me from what I was convinced spelled out the worst nightmare possible.
“We shall soon be back where we were, and you can soon share my bed again. I need your constant comforting, warmth and attention. It is not my lips that were injured, but my leg and ribs, so I suppose Nurse will not leave us alone until she feels I am totally healed and will banish you from me so that I might rest and sleep. But I do not want to rest without you beside me. And I feel as though I have slept enough for two lifetimes. I need you by me to be sure that you are here and not just part of a waking dream. I have had enough sleep. And this bandaging, itches so damnably. You can help me, there even if nothing more demonstrative is possible.”
She moved back the covers from her leg, pulled her nightdress up on herself, as before, and showed him where he might scratch to relieve her. She uttered clear noises of appreciation as she lay back into her pillows and guided him to where the aggravation was severe and where she wanted him to touch her. He followed her directions and guidance, cautious not to cause any discomfort or move anything, though she was well enough bandaged. She watched his face as he did that. He knew how it was affecting her, seeing her color slowly rise as she guided his hand and watched his face. It was affecting him in the same way as it did her. She knew full-well what really afflicted him.
He felt that everything was beginning to slip from his control by what she was doing, by what was happening. She clearly believed that he must be Charles to tolerate such familiarity in such a personal way. She clearly found relief in his effort, seeing him desist only when he heard the door open behind him.