Bonnie returned to Theodore, she tickled his outstretched hand as his mouth spread into a wide smile.
“How do you feel now?”
“Better after my sleep.”
“That makes me very glad. You gave Mr Howard and I a fright earlier.”
“I know, and for that, I apologise.”
A blonde haired young woman pulled her intricately woven shawl around herself, exiting her horse and carriage. Bonnie, on hearing clattering hooves glanced out of the window, into the court yard.
“Your Grace, forgive me, but there is a woman outside. She is very finely dressed and pretty.”
Theodore gasped. “Describe her some more.”
“She has a slim face and shiny, blonde hair she must be of our age. Your Grace, it is not?”
“I-It sounds like it could very well be.”
“What shall we do? Shall I ask Mr Howard or your Mother to send her away? No one has gone to greet her.”
“I do not understand why she is here. Oh Lord! I am embarrassed that she should see me like this!”
“Shh, it’s alright.” Bonnie placed a hand upon his shoulder. “Do not be alarmed, Mr Howard has stepped outside.”
“Open the window, quickly.”
“Mr Howard does not seem impressed to say the least.”
Mr Howard folded his arms. “You are brave or perhaps very foolish to show your face here!”
“I wanted to see his Grace after hearing that he was ill. It is a known fact that Theodore has not been well.”
“But why; after all this time, does she want an inheritance?” Theodore hissed to a silent Bonnie.
“Mr Howard, what is it?” Queen Evangeline strutted outside. “What is she doing here?”
Theodore attempted to raise himself up on one elbow, but could not. “Please open the window Bonnie.”
“I don’t know if I should.”
Bonnie obeyed, forcing open the sash window with shaking hands.
“Miss Mallis you are quite out of line showing your face again after what you did.”
“I heard that Theodore was ill.”
“That would be ‘his Grace’ to you!”
“After hearing that his Grace was ill, I wanted to see him.”
“You wanted to see him after all this time! What for? In hope that you might be able to win him back for a short while so that you may gain part of his inheritance?!”
“That was not the reason.”
“You must leave now.”
“All I ask is to see your son! I have been doing a great deal of thinking of late.”
“Yes well, don’t we all Miss Mallis and you of all people should. You do not seem in the least bit sorry or remorseful. But why am I not surprised.”
Bonnie placed her hand on top of Theodore’s.
“Your Mother sounds furious. Would you want to see her after all this time?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then you must ignore your head and answer with your heart.”
“Yes, my failing heart. Oh she has opened an old wound!”
“I know. Wait, I think they are both coming inside.”
“Oh God no! Look at me, how embarrassed I feel.”
“I am bedridden, dilapidated and ugly!”
“You are very ill your Grace and you could never look ugly, I can assure you. I- I hear footsteps. Shall I leave the room?”
“Please, I ask you to stay. Remain exactly where you are now.”
“Very well, I will help you to sit up, bolt right in bed and remove the towels for now, they have gone cold anyway.”
With haste, Bonnie ran a comb through Theodore’s hair and straightened his bed sheets, placing a small peppermint imperial into his mouth.
The bedroom door finally opened and in stepped the finely dressed Miss Mallis, the woman with the usual haughty air.
“Theodore, my goodness, I did not expect-”
“I am your Grace to you.”
Jane ignored him, staring sharply at Bonnie.
“Who is this red-head? Isn’t she a little, erm… what precisely is her station?”
“She is a reader, companion and friend. No, Bonnie is the best, dearest friend that I ever had.” Theodore smiled, stroking Bonnie’s shaking hand.
“Does the best friend that you ever had not speak?”
“Ah, she has found her tongue, but how her voice trembles.”
“She has a name.” Bonnie muttered.
“Why precisely are you here Miss Mallis? I am tired and a little upset at present, but tell me one thing how am I supposed to forgive you after you left me when I needed you.”
“Needed, not wanted! That is where the problem lies! I had no choice!”
“You are wasting my time. Mr Howard, please remove her from the room.”
“I am here because…”
“You desire part of my inheritance for I shall be dead soon, does that please you? Do not answer that! But it is the only reason I can think of!”
Bonnie placed a hand on top of his. “There, there it’s alright.”
“Leave and do not set foot in this palace again, or I will have you hanged.”
“How silly you are. Saying things like that that you do not mean and now you are best friends with a peasant, how quaint. How you have let your standards slip”
“I would not marry you if you were the last woman on earth!”
“Well you will never have to! Looking at your hideous, dilapidated form and crumbling looks, you have but weeks to live.”
“And you Jane, you will never ever be happy! At least I shall die having found happiness at last!”
Theodore coughed, closing his eyes, his throat feeling like it had shards of glass stuck in it. Bonnie placed a handkerchief in front of his mouth, catching the droplets of blood. Jane’s eyes widened.
“You are infectious?”
“Oh he is very. Hence why I must stay here and not return home, so not to infect my whole family.”
“Yes, you may or may not catch it.” Bonnie continued. “But I would think twice before returning home. Mr Howard, would you say that I am over reacting?”
“Oh no, why it was very dangerous of you to come here. You have now put yourself and your whole family at risk and now, you must leave.”
“I came because I wanted to tell you-“
“Your Grace, are you alright?”
“Why, yes. I was more concerned about you.”
“Me! Why ever would you be, I would much rather be a peasant than a climber of society.”
“Stop labelling yourself as that.”
“I am one. Here have a drink of water to take the taste away.”
“My throat is on fire.”
“I am so sorry.”
“It was Mother who allowed her in, but no matter. I am tired now, I shall go to sleep and hopefully forget about all of this nonsense.”
“How is your pain?”
“Then I shall warm the towels again for you my dear?”
“Only if you want to.”
“I do, I wouldn’t have offered otherwise.”
“Something amuses you?”
“Jane will now be paranoid that she will get ill for months now, what did I ever see in her. Oww! I should probably not laugh, for it hurts.”
Bonnie placed a hand upon his cold, clammy brow. “It is so cold in here that I can almost see my own breath.”
“You are cold Bonnie?”
“And tired too I imagine, as am I.”
“Yes, but I do not want to go to bed, not yet. I think I may stay here for a while and write to Mother and Andrew.”
“Yes, you must.”
“What do you think Jane wanted to tell you.”
“I cannot even begin to imagine.”
‘Dear Mother and Andrew,
I miss you both so much, and I hope that this letter finds you well. Prince Theodore is fading fast and I must do what I can to comfort him as today he is a little shaken, I will not write the details, in case this letter should get lost. Andrew, I am sorry that you have to do my chores as well as mine, but I promise that I will make it up to you. Aggie could not be happier, she is currently purring at the foot of his Grace’s bed and I cannot help but smile. She looks far too content.
It will not be long before I see you both again.
Lots of love, Bonnie x’
“There I am finished.”
“You are a fast letter writer.”
“It is only a short one my dear.”
“I just wanted to reassure her and keep her updated. I told her how happy Aggie was.”
“Little, slumbering, Aggie. She has a good life. What a shock she’s going to get when I bring her home again. I mean, oh gosh that was very insensitive for me to say.”
“Not at all.” He sucked in a breath of air, placing his hand on a chest in a fan. He groaned as Bonnie wiped away the freezing cold sweat from his brow with a warm cloth.
“Cold sweat is a strange thing.”
“I don’t understand it myself, but that is helping.”
“My Father suffered from the same thing.”
“Forgive me, I may have just forgotten, but what did your Father die of?”
“Like yourself, he had poor health.”
“I did not answer your question. No one was sure, we tried everything but could not save him, he was so brave and kind, right to the end.”
“I am really sorry.”
“I’ll never forget the day that he died.”
“Bonnie, you do not need to tell me.”
“No, I want to. We knew that he only had hours to live, Mother and I nursed him through the night, I couldn’t let Mother do it alone, inside she was breaking. She still cries for him now some nights.”
“Would you think me mad if-”
“Well, sometimes when I am alone and this has only been happening recently, I get a little voice of reassurance inside my head, it tells me not to be afraid. Forgive me in saying this, because normally I would assume that it was my conscience; but the voice is Scottish so-“
“Father answered my prayers!” Bonnie threw her arms around Theodore’s neck.
“Now what is all this about?”
“I will tell you. Often, when I take a walk I pray to my Father, the outdoors was his favourite place, so I just assume that it will be the best place to find him. Anyhow, I hope you don’t mind, but I do pray for you and-I pray to my Father, not to God. I asked him to look after you when I am not by your side your Grace.”
“That is precisely what I am doing.”
Theodore jumped, but smiled.
“Something startles you?”
“I felt a little draft.” It was a white lie, but a necessary one.
Bonnie placed her hand on top of his, running her hand over his fingertips and the beautiful ring upon his finger. She placed her head upon his chest, listening to the gentle beat of his unpredictable heart.
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014