As Valentine left Ceasebury that night as the ever-vigilant clock face struck ten, I felt a deep sense of unease. It felt as if it were only a matter of time before Gabriella was found and then – as she didn’t have her father’s permission to wed – would she be able to be forced to return here to Ceasebury? I didn’t know, but I feared the answer.
As I walked up the steps heavily to my chamber, Cheyenne came up beside me and slipped a folded piece of paper into my hand and then slipped away again down another corridor. I stuffed to into the pocket of my skirt and then proceeded into my chamber, bolting the door behind me. I took the paper out and unwrinkled it slowly, flattening out the creases I had just made.
Charles and I have made it to Mr Jameston’s tavern. I have thanked him for his hospitality, and he said I can stay here as long as I want and even stay when Charles gets shipped out to fight soon. Mr Jameston is lovely and has been getting Chantilly and I to read together. Being here is very different from Ceasebury and I really do miss you, but I’m glad I’m here with Charles. My chamber here is at the very top of the building and there’s a bookshelf next to the door and Mr Jameston says if anyone comes looking for me that mustn’t find me, he’ll send Chantilly up to move the bookshelf in front of the door so no one will even know there’s a room up here. I share the chamber with Charles, but he has to get up very early to train the troops. Congratulations on setting a date for the wedding, I saw it in the paper, I hope to be able attend somehow.
I hope to see you and Valentine again soon,
I crunched the paper up again once I had finished reading. It felt odd to know that Gabriella had accepted her new place in Williamsburg as a married woman who was now on the run from the rest of society. From what I had seen of her this morning (when she was with Charles), she was much changed by her marriage. Yes, she was now Gabriella LeBolt, not Gabriella Kingston who I had known. Not that I had ever truly known Gabriella Kingston. She was just a girl who was a year my senior, who slept in the chamber across the hall and had dressed in various shades of yellow.
She had not taken the yellow dresses with her.
In fact, she had told Cheyenne not to pack them. No, Gabriella had just brought some of her plainest clothes. Today when I had seen her, she had been wearing a white dress with a piece of red material tied around the waist. I had never seen her dressed like that before. She did not have a diamond engagement ring like I had (or even a proper engagement, for that matter.), but when I had seen her she was sporting a shining silver band around her ring finger. I didn’t have one of those yet, but I would in a matter of days.
After Cheyenne had helped me undress, I got into bed and fell into an uneasy sleep. When I woke up, I wondered if the dreams I had had were visions of the past, for I had seen a thirteen-year-old girl all dressed in black holding the hand of a tall teenage boy. Both of them had dirty blond hair and wore grief-stricken expressions. The boy was leading her to an older woman who I couldn’t make out the face of who took her hand as the boy left, walking back the way he had come. And then the picture had changed. Now, I was seeing a white bed chamber with a woman I had never met and a man I recognised slightly laying together between the white sheets. The woman had bright blue eyes which darted around uneasily and messy blond hair which was almost identical to Gabriella’s. The man she was with seemed a little older than her and (although I couldn’t make his face out entirely) had emerald green eyes that stared at his lover with a kind of magical joy. The picture changed again. Now, it was of two young men – scarcely older than 16 – standing outside in a vast green field, pistols in their hand. The older of the two boys looked familiar. Yes, it was the same boy I had seen in the first part of the dream, he was just a few years older now. The other was tall with dark waves around his face, I felt as if I knew him, but before I could work out who he was, the vision was snatched away, and I was shown an entirely different scene. This time, it was the same taller, younger boy I had seen out on the field, just this time he was gently kissing a girl who looked to be around eighteen who was darker in complexion than he and dressed in the attire of a maid. And then I was shown one final scene. The woman I had scene with the blue eyes who had been in bed with the man I felt I had seen before was back in the chamber, almost alone this time. There was a man standing as the doorway with blue eyes who leaned over, watching as the woman in the bed began to choke. He watched. He didn’t move. He just smiled. And then the choking stopped. And the dream was over.
It was bizarre when I thought about it. I felt as if I knew the people I had seen in this strange apparition as well as I knew myself and yet I could not pinpoint who they were. I stared around the chamber blankly for a moment, hoping (in vain) to be struck by some colossal inspiration. I attempted to remove my mind from the nocturnal incarnation it had formed. I blinked rapidly, as if attempting to shake off some vague remanence of an enchantment which may have bewitched me as I slept. It was then that I saw returned to reality by the echoes of hushed whispers and gentile exclamations of artificial joy bellowing up from the rooms below me, the sound cascading itself through my white door and around the room, much like pearls that crash to the floor when the string is cut.
I got out of bed and hurried to the door, opening it with a start as if expecting to see some vast hoard of ladies and gentlemen outside in the hall. They weren’t outside my chamber, their flurried voices were emanating from the drawing room. I quickly dressed in my pale lilac gown, fastening it at the waist and slipping my feet into a pair of silken slippers before hurrying out of the room, my feet permissively padding along the steps to the ground.