As night drew in closer, we returned to the Manor and he wished me goodbye. It was then that he told me he wouldn’t be able to see me until our wedding day because of some vague social notion about luck. I didn’t know how I would survive without his presence in my life for an entire week. He promised me a letter every day and that on the 13th of July, I would be the most beautiful bride to ever have walked down the aisle at the church. And I knew he would be the single most wonderful groom waiting at the end of it.
The next days ticked by slowly. I wrote to Valentine a few times each day (which my mother assured me was allowed and wouldn’t offend Lady Luck) and I wrote back and forth with Gabriella through secret letters slipped under the door by Cheyenne. Gabriella assured me she was doing well in Williamsburg. Valentine wrote to me always talking of love and our life together and then at the end, he would always add a little conclusionary note asking about the placement of some furniture and whether or not I was going to want to share a bed with him after the honeymoon period, to which I replied yes, of course.
Apart from the letters, the week before the wedding was perhaps the most tedious of my existence. There were perpetual well-wishers who – while I wished them well – I wished they would go away. They brought gifts of flowers and little plantation goods like chocolate and fine lace and told me how lucky I was to be marrying the Marquess (which I found rather presumptuous because they didn’t know Valentine).
On the front of the war, more soldiers were dying day by day on both sides. Everyone was saying that it was all coming to a head and soon there would have to be a final deciding battle. That prospect worried me. Either way, the outcome could not be good. I didn’t know if Gabriella knew of these rumours from her room up in a brothel behind a bookcase, but if she did, I hoped she didn’t worry too much for Charles – he was an excellent solider.
The day of the wedding ticked closer and more and more I was at the Creek again. I sat alone, like I always had, and contemplated whether I would ever come back here after I was married. I knew Valentine wouldn’t mind where I went, but I wondered if my own soul would allow me to return to these trodden twilight corners where my mind had so wished to leave for so long. I wondered if I would ever here the sepulchral chime of the inevitable tick of the clockface ever again.
I wondered what it would be like to live at the Ravens’ Wood Estate. I had only visited it briefly, but in the time I had spent I had noticed that it was far bigger than Ceasebury. It had trees everywhere, although none of the flowers had been in bloom and none of the trees seemed to be baring fruit, but I suppose that when I lived there I could devote all the time in the world to making all the fruit I wanted. I wondered what it’d be like to share a bed chamber with someone, particularly a man. I wondered if I would have a maid like Cheyenne or if I would have to get Valentine to do my corset.