We entered Valentine's drawing room with a much lighter air than the one we had left behind in the hallway. The ladies and gentlemen sat down here and there, and I attempted to entertain them in what vague ways I could, but we who had the privilege of sitting in that room could all feel the colossal weight of all of the world upon us. Was it guilt? Not precisely, no, or not as far as I could tell, anyway. But anyway, guilt is a most unhelpful of emotions; I had learnt that myself earlier today when we had left Gabriella to chase off this hoard of red-coated men. And from the absence of her dirty blond-haired head atop a pike, I could only assume she had gotten away.
The cake was cut by me, although I felt as if I were watching someone else cut it from above like my soul had floated up into the air like some ecclesiastical phantom hovering - seeing and yet unseen. I was both within and without. It was such a strange thing to think that this was my life now, a new home, someone with whom I could fully reject Virginian society, a lover. Yes, Valentine under the cover of some lurid nocturnal brilliance could – I was sure – perform blessèd rites of twilight in that liminality between the vibrancy of the evening and the potency of the night.
And I was right. For after the guests finally bade us their farewells with many wistful utterances of congratulations and hopeful exclamations of the future. And when talking of the future, no one had dared mention the Revolution. I think even then, in that privileged drawing-room in that corner of the Colony of Virginia, we knew that our world was coming to an end. That was what had been pushing down upon us in that room, the knowledge that the end could not be far away. No one dared speak of it, yet we all knew that the Red Coats were losing. King George III – a man I had never met who, as I understand it, lived in a place called England where I had never visited – would soon rule over this - our corner of the world – no longer. And that seemed fair. 'Self-governance', as some academics had whispered, seemed the fairest way to ensure liberty, but I could tell even now (for it was self-evident) that that was not what was meant by 'self–governance'. This man Washington meant he would like to rule and, by the simple virtue of being 'born Virginian' (another vague and undefined expression), had some otherwise unfelt ability to govern fairly over a land this big. I had not been to all of 'New England' (imaginatively named, I know), and I knew it was large, no man, no matter how 'Virginian' could possibly successfully and fairly govern this place. So maybe we should just all govern ourselves. Now, what a ridiculous idea that would be.
But it was not the Washington man we feared; it was the people. We all knew that we would face attack by those who now miraculously would consider themselves to be not 'British' but 'Born Virginian' in some vague wave of imagined patriotism and would come for us. And we are Virginians too; we would be too proud to stand down and flee. And we all knew that we could pay with our lives for it. The days of terror were ahead for us. And by God did we know it.
Why did it always have to be hate that would bind people to do the most unfair acts of cruelty?
Anyway, fate will move as ever she shall. If God – another vague and romanticised notion – wanted to keep me alive, I knew he would. I couldn't help but wonder if there was some great plan for me, but when does God ever have some great plan for a woman?
It was then that I was returned sharply to the room where Valentine was. He leaned in the door, his huge shoulders balanced between the frame so that he seemed to take up a lot more room than he had before. His black coat clung to his form so tightly it was a wonder it had not been painted on my Michelangelo himself. It hadn't, of course; it was just a nice thought.
"Let's open these back up." He said with a flourish of his left hand towards the double doors of the manor. With an equal flourish, he pulled them in towards his body, causing them to drift apart in the centre and open back out again into the hallway so that the evening breeze caught the drapes again and floated them up, cascading them around in horizontal free spirals like kites on a windy day. I inhaled deeply as the drapes floated up by some unseen force and shut my eyes for a brief second. I switched around to Valentine and whispered softly to him.
"Are you ready, my love?" I asked.
"For us to try those things I have read about in books."
"No." he shook his head. "It is my wish that we should enjoy this state of liminal un-consummation for as long as we can bear it. I want us to take a walk in the vineyard." I smiled at him. I knew our hearts should share a secret intimacy on this night before our bodies did.