Rosie pushed a hand through her hair. She didn’t understand at all. Not only had he, a nobleman, just behaved so out of the bounds of propriety, he had done so, because he “wanted to”. Her whole life, she had been content living in the shadow of her sister and so she could not understand now why people would want to be with her. Her hands clasped in her lap, and she wrung her fingers together nervously.
“Rosie, look at me.” Alexander’s voice was soft, and altogether closer than she had first imagined he would be. She turned her face up, but her eyes remained fixed on the ground, the trees, anything but this man who was trying to talk to her.
“For God’s sake, Rosie, is it that awful? What could possibly make me this abhorrent to you? I’m sorry, I should not have done that,” he sounded frustrated, and raked a hand through his hair, pacing in front of her, “but I can’t apologize for everything.” He stopped pacing, sitting next to her. “I don’t know what came over me, Rosie. I’m truly sorry. I acted like a complete cad.”
Rosie’s eyes looked over at him now, meeting his face. She pulled her cloak tighter around her body and wished, for a moment, that she could disappear. “I’m sorry, no one has ever expressed any sort of… interest in me. It is not something to which I am accustomed, receiving attention and whatnot.”
It was Alexander’s turn to look away from her. He cringed and muttered something about his damn mind, and then looked back at Rosie. “I am terribly sorry. I had no idea that you’d never been kissed before. I was damn stupid.”
“Yes. You were. But I forgive you.” She looked up at the sky as she was wont to do when she was nervous, and grinned. “That cloud looks like an elephant.”
“An elephant? Nonsense! It’s obviously a rooster with a very long tongue.” All was better now. The way Rosie had changed the subject indicated that she wanted to forget he had ever kissed her – he understood completely.
“A long tongue? How could that possibly be a rooster with a long tongue? You’re crazy. It’s completely and beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt, an elephant.” Rosie rolled her eyes and looked at him like he was crazy.
“What the hell is this? I’m crazy? I’M crazy? Look at who’s talking, crazy girl!” He poked her in the side and she let out a yelp. “Ticklish? This is very useful to know.” Alexander’s fingers stroked his imaginary beard as she scooted away from him. He adopted a strange foreign accent next time he opened his mouth. “I shall have to use this in my quest to make your life a little less stressful… Hmm…” He suddenly lunged forward and tickled her on purpose. She shrieked and jumped away from him, laughing until tears ran down her cheeks and she had to pause to catch her breath
“Please-” Rosie gasped for air, slapping his hands away, “stop it.” Alexander sat back, looking rather pleased with himself.
“Doesn’t it feel better to laugh?” He grinned and stood, holding out his hand to her. “We should get going back to your home. Your mother will be wondering what has happened to us, and with all the wedding hubbub, I’d hate to get forced into one myself for spending too long out in the woods.” Rosie nodded, composing herself. She pulled her fingers through her hair to neaten it as much as she could given the tools she had. It didn’t help much, but it gave her something to do with her hands.
The walk home was rather tense and awkward, but Alexander had been right: it felt better to have laughed. She felt lighter than she had in some time, and she knew that letting out her stress and letting go and laughing had a large amount to do with it.
Alexander was doing his best to make small talk, to make the walk a little less awkward for her. It wasn’t working very well, but Rosie appreciated the effort. She walked slightly behind him, and rather than looking at her feet, Rosie spent her time watching her companion. He claimed to be a watcher of people – so was she. She watched him for different reasons than she usually watched people for. Where she normally watched people because the emotions they expressed interested her, she watched him because she enjoyed looking at him.
When they got back to the house, the sun had finished setting, and Rosie’s mother rushed outside to embrace her daughter. “Good heavens, Rosie, where have you been?” She quickly checked her daughter for injury, which Rosie appreciated but not as much as she probably should have. She didn’t appreciate that her mother assumed she would sustain some great injury in her adventure.
“I was out, mother. Alexander and I went on an adventure to some old ruins in the forest.” Her mother looked a little disapproving, which caused Rosie to clench her jaw in frustration for a moment. “Mother, I am fine. I am twenty-two years old, which is certainly old enough to go walking in the forest I have lived next to since I was a toddler.” Rosie watched her mother’s face go from disapproval to confusion. Rosie had never really spoken up before. Normally, she would have just apologized and gone back to working like she did.
“Ma’am, I promise, no impropriety was committed. Rosie is to be my sister-in-law. People think of us as brother and sister anyways. I see no problem with exploring a ruined structure in the woods with her.” Alexander’s voice had changed in tone slightly, causing Rosie to blink and stare at him in shock. He was pulling rank on her mother. His voice suddenly had some sort of aristocratic quality that it hadn’t had before, some sort of compulsion behind it. He made you want to listen to him, to do what he said. She took this with a grain of salt – he’d probably heard people speak like this to servants and common folk for his whole life, he probably had spoken to people like this for his whole life. Aristocrats. No matter how nicely they act or how fun they are to be around, they can’t change their stripes. Rosie rolled her eyes at him, and took off her cloak, hanging it on a hook on the wall by the door. She pushed her sleeves up to check the tea kettle, which was whistling for their attention.
The standoff between her mother and Alexander didn’t seem to be going anywhere until her mother looked down first. “Very well, I suppose you are correct. You should have informed me of your plans, Rosie; I worry.” Rosie nodded, although she had to restrain herself from rolling her eyes at her mother. Rosie’s mother hadn’t noticed her for weeks now, why should she now? As soon as the thought entered her head, Rosie was ashamed of it, and she chastised herself for her uncharitable thoughts towards her mother. Deep down, Rosie knew her mother loved her, but she also was frustrated with being ignored. Usually she could count on being at home for any attention that she needed, but today, it seemed that she wasn’t going to get it here.
Rosie thought that that was why she had enjoyed herself so much with Alexander. It wasn’t the right reason for liking to be with someone, but perhaps it was a start to a true friendship. Pathetic, really, that Rosie couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a true friend. When the tea that she had added to the water had finished steeping, Rosie poured it into the same cups they had used to serve cocoa to Charles when he had come to visit them. She handed one to her mother first, then to Alexander, jumping at the sparks that seemed to fly when their fingers brushed (Alexander must have done it on purpose, because it was by no means accidental).
Her eyes flew upwards to meet his, hazel meeting blue in a startled blend of confusion and pleasure. The pleasure came quickly because she guessed that he’d felt it too, judging from his reaction. Almost instantly, they both looked away from each other.
“Thank you, Rosie.” Rosie didn’t know if her mother had thanked her, but it pleased her that Alexander had dropped the formal “miss” in front of her name. She felt a little fluttering in her chest, and blinked, sipping her tea to hide her face. Her mother wouldn’t take long to figure out how she was starting to feel about Alexander, the fluttering in her chest when he talked to her, the nerves when they were together.
It didn’t help that he’d kissed her. Really. Rosie could have lived without having to imagine what would have happened if that kiss had been allowed to continue. At the direction her thoughts had turned, she flushed and returned her mind to the conversation at hand.
“… blue accents would be best, don’t you agree?” Rosie’s mother had managed to turn the conversation around to the wedding once more, and Rosie rather thought she ought to save Alexander from the topic of conversation, which he had seemed to dislike so strongly.
“Blue would suit Snow White’s feature’s perfectly. She will look enchanting. It would also mean that one more requirement is filled. ‘Something borrowed, something blue’?” Rosie’s mother looked pleased, and probably would have clapped her hands except that she was holding a cup of hot tea and the tea would have ended up everywhere, which wasn’t something that any of them would have liked.Alexander looked grateful for the rescue. “I’ve finished my tea, and I thank you kindly for it. Perhaps Rosie might walk with me to the barn, so I might have a brief word with her while I saddle my horse?” He was being the aristocrat that Rosie wasn’t sure he wasn’t again, and both women nodded as Rosie set her cup down and pulled her cloak from the hook on the wall and walked out the door with Alexander.