“She’s waking up!”
“Hello there, my pretty! Glad to see you’ve finally come ‘round!”
Annica opened her eyes slowly and stared up at the many faces staring down at hers. She realized she was on a bed in a small, sunlit room; that was about all she could tell about her surroundings at the moment.
Annica had not brought any black dresses with her, so she had to borrow one from her aunt to wear to Lady Breyne's funeral. She thought a great deal during the service. She thought about the woman whose life had just ended...had it been a happy life? What had she been like? She thought of asking her aunt about it, but changed her mind. Lady Eldira had been mostly silent in the two days since the news of her friend's death. Despite her dislike of him, Annica felt sorry for Lord Breyne. To lose a mother....she shuddered at the thought of it.
Ariela pulled her pale hair back from her face once more as she eagerly opened Annica's letter. She read it repeatedly, and laughed every time she came to the part about the mirror. She sat down promptly to write a reply, and filled it with good-humored sympathy about Annica's dilemma and bits of news from home.
How are you and everybody? Has Johnathan returned from his visit yet?
Annica resisted the urge to scratch her neck. Actually, she had been resisting urges to scratch everywhere from the moment she had donned her evening gown. The dress was as terrible to wear as to look at. She could hardly breathe, no thanks to the corset, and she was trying not to think about her mother's probable reaction to the neckline. Annica looked at herself in the mirror and sighed for the fifteenth time that hour. Grey was not a good color on her. Sure, it matched her eyes, which currently looked like stormy grey clouds.
"Now, Annica, surely you realize that I did not invite you here simply for the pleasure of your company."
This didn't surprise Annica.
"Nor have I summoned you here as a gesture of false solicitude." This did. Annica had thought that her aunt had invited her purely because it was proper and was good for her public image. Apparently not. There was a slight pause, as Lady Eldira peered at her niece with the same bold scrutiny Annica remembered from childhood.
He paced in the tower, high up and far away from infection of any kind.