“What precisely did you think you were doing, taking off like that when your son was so ill?”
“I felt trapped.”
“What utter nonsense, spare me the moment Rupert, you are an embarrassment! You have hidden away when your son and I need you. I am your wife!”
“Well, I have heard that it took a long time for you to come to your senses!”
“Who told you that?”
“Word has a way of getting around, rumours spread you know, I know what you did.”
“No matter, let’s let the past lie shall we.”
“Yes good idea, I think that is the first sensible thing you have said all year, you old fool.”
“Old fool! You are the same age as I!”
“And I heard that you had affairs.”
“Or did you just assume? I assure you that I did not, I have been living as a hermit these last few months.”
“Oh isn’t’ it lovely to talk like this.”
“Well it is an improvement on before.” Rupert took a sip from his tea. “Look dear, I am sorry for how I behaved, it was wrong and there was no excuse for it, but I will make amends I promise, it is not too late to mend the damage, please do not be angry any longer. I felt, I can’t explain it.”
“Say it Rupert.”
“Like I had been plummeted into a darkness, I have never felt to sad and worthless in all of my life.”
“And you chose to hide away?”
“What else could I do? Our son needed positive people around him, not his pathetic Father, who was too busy wallowing in self-pity.”
Queen Evangeline’s expression softened. “You know, I have never been so relieved to see you, I have missed you terribly and so has Theodore. Please go and see him again soon, for he slips in and out of consciousness in a very un-predictable manner.”
“He is almost sleeping now, I will go to see him again tomorrow morning.”
“Very well. My dear, let us sleep together tonight, it has been such a long time.”
“Bonnie, please, do not go, not yet.”
“I shall stay with you for as long as you like, my services have no time limit.” Bonnie laughed.
“Have you received your wages of late?”
“Oh yes, thank you I have. I sent them straight home to Mother, I am still to buy that new dress but there was some repair work that needed to be done on our house. That was far more important.”
“You are a selfless woman.”
“and you are too kind. Have some water, your mouth is very dry again. I have some mints today, would you like one, they are smallish peppermints.”
“That would be lovely.”
Theodore obeyed, opening his mouth as she placed the small, sugary candied sweet upon his tongue.
“How refreshing it is.”
“Don’t talk for you may choke. You look a little flushed, you’re not choking already are you?”
“I feel a trifle overheated to tell you the truth.”
“Oh Lord, I truly hope that it is not another fever.”
“Bonita, I am currently bundled up in goodness knows how many blankets, that is the reason why I am so warm.”
“Why didn’t you just say so your Grace?”
Bonnie unwrapped her shawl from him, placing it over her chair and took away one of the smaller blankets.
“How is that?”
“What a relief!”
“I think I shall open the sash window wider, that way Aggie can climb out and go to the toilet if she needs to.”
“Talking of being too warm, I think Mother was overjoyed to see Father, I do hope that they are care-“
Theodore smiled, a secret sort of smile. “I cannot say.”
“Ha! You do amuse me your Grace. I can guess exactly what you were thinking.”
“I would not get to meet the baby anyway.” He pouted.
Bonnie laughed, smoothing the loose lock of hair away from his damp cheek.
“You do surprise me sometimes your Grace, you really are a card.”
“What kind, birthday or Christmas?”
“Your own special type I think.”
“How sad, I have already received the last one I shall ever get of both.” He inhaled sharply, pressing his lips together. “My condition is a very confusing one, your doctor said my heart has been damaged and I believe every word he says but I still do not understand it. How can scarlet fever attack someone’s heart like that? It is not like I was an invalid before that, I was quite an active man.”
“I know. Right, I need my rest now and more importantly you need yours. I will leave you in the capable paws of Aggie the mangy cat. Ags where are you? Oh gosh, what has Mr Howard been feeding you? He looks after you so well.” She laughed, scooping her up and placing her on Theodore’s bed. “She has a little beard of cream or something similar.”
“I shall kiss her anyway.” Bonnie kissed Aggie’s little fury head and patted Theodore’s hand.
“Yes, your Grace?”
“She is a cat and yet you show her so much affection. I am supposedly your best friend and all I receive is a pat on that hand, this is really unjust.”
He beckoned with a forefinger, tapping his right cheek. Bonnie went to kiss it, as she did so, he moved a little closer to kiss her, planting a tender kiss upon her lips. She reciprocated it, but pulled away.
“Oh Lord in heaven! I am sorry!”
“It- it is not my place, I crossed the line by a country mile.”
“It was I who kissed you Bonnie!”
“And I let you, kissing you in return. Oh Lord! I should go now.”
“To-to my chamber.”
“Forgive me, I don’t know what on earth I was thinking.”
Bonnie cleared her throat, scurrying from his bedroom. She gasped placing a hand to her stomach, her emotions flying around her body, she felt so completely and utterly confused. Did she love him, did he love her? But it would be so wrong wouldn’t it, to love a dying man and especially if that terminally ill man was a Prince. She fell upon her bed, placing her head upon her hands and wept as if her heart should break. She jumped, she was blinded by the darkness of the room, but it was blatantly obvious that there was no-one there.”
“There, there my dear daughter.”
“What?” Bonnie sniffed.
“Yes.” The voice came again.
“Oh God! But how?”
“Do not be afraid.”
“Why would I be, if it is truly you, then you are my dear old Dad. Oh how I miss you.”
“I know you do. Darling, you must compose yourself and go back to Prince Theodore’s chamber.”
“What? But why?”
“You will see, you will see.” The voice faded away.
“Oh no!” Bonnie picked up her skirts and raced back to Theodore’s bedroom, he was not… but he wasn’t. He had been crying, sobbing dreadfully for he gasped for breath, his cheeks blotchy with tears. Without saying so much as a word, she placed both arms around his neck, kissed both his cheeks and kissed him tenderly upon the lips.
“You came back.”
“Well of course I did. I am sorry.”
“It is me who should be sorry, frightening you like that.”
“You did not scare me. The trouble is, I do love you and that one moment made me realise that fact, but the problem is all that talk about class and..”
Theodore placed his index finger to her lips. “Shhh.”
Bonnie kissed his forehead as they interlocked their fingers and he rested his head upon her shoulder.
“They often say that you sleep better if there is two of you in one bed, I have not been sleeping so well of late so..”
She sensed Theodore’s warm tears collecting in the dips in her neck and run down onto her nightdress.
“I really am sorry.”
“Oh no, it is not you. I guess that I am feeling a little sorry for myself once more, I am afraid that I have not gotten quite used to the thought of dying yet.”
“I don’t think anyone does. When Mother and I were looking after Father, we saw him sink a little every single day and each day he would say; ‘ God has allowed me to have another day with this wonderful family of mine, and for that I am so glad.’ Anyhow, one day he did not say it and Mother and I just knew that his time had come and my dear Father was taken away from us.”
“He loves you very much.”
“You will think me mad if I tell you.”
“No please, you cannot be any madder than me.”
“I shall have to whisper, for I am losing my voice, but very often now I hear a little voice or sense a gentle touch of a hand that is not yours. It may be my conscience, but I am so sure that it is your Father.”
“It will be him, for I asked him to take good care of you.”
“On the morning he died, what happened?”
“I feel fortunate that both Mother and I were with him, little Andrew had gone to school and I am very grateful for that too. Father gazed around the room and took both of our hands as we sat on either side of his bed, he said; ‘I could not think of a more pleasant way to die, in a tranquil room, on a beautiful morning, with my darling girls at my side.’ He breathed his last, and expired.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014