“Ma’am?”
“Yes Mr Howard, I thought it would be sensible if we made a list.”
“Oh?”
“I quite like organising things. I will dictate if you would care to take notes.”
“Yes of course, I always find it easier to work from a list.”
“I know, firstly I shall tell you which guests I would like to be there. Of course Miss Mallis shall be on the list and her Mother. Do not forget the Earl of Lancashire, my sisters and…”
She paused. “Yes, the usual people I suppose. Have you written those details Howard?”
“Yes Ma’am.

“I have decided that I do not want it to be a sit down dinner. Perhaps we should hold a dance instead.”
“Yes of course.”
“Do you like the idea Howard?”
“Yes Ma’am.”
“What shall be done if Miss Mallis does not come? I doubt she will.”
“Ma’am, she came to see his Grace un-announced. I am sure that she will come.”
“Perhaps. You always have a simple way of putting things.”

Theodore was indeed exhausted, tired in body and spirit. He lay there sleeping, with Aggie tucked under his left arm, her chin resting upon his chest.
“Your Grace.” Bonnie whispered. “I did not think I could love another human being as much as I love you. I would be too afraid to say such a thing while you were awake. I am of a lower station. Know that I love you with all my heart. How I wish that I were a lady. Lady Bonita McGrath.” She smiled. “How pleasant that sounds. Even if I were of a higher class, I don’t think we ever could have been married, we are too similar in nature, too fiery.”
“Oh… I don’t know.” He muttered.
Bonnie froze.  “Oh Lord! Forgive me, oh I thought that you were sleeping. I’m such a fool!”
“Bonnie, shhhh how lovely it was to hear you say that. You love me?”
“Yes.” Bonnie whispered. “I cannot deny it now.”
“Bonnie, I have loved you for months.”
“What?”
“Yes, yes I have.”
“Lord. Well, um I am flattered that you could love a poor, red-headed ugly thing like me.”
“You call yourself ugly again. Do you have any idea how sad that makes me? I can assure you that you are not.”
“But you are handsome and fair of face. You cannot imagine what it is like to be plain and unattractive.”
“Bonnie look at me. My ribs are protruding against my flesh, I have no body fat anywhere, my cheeks are sunken and my hair is so dry. I am little more than a skeleton, I am the definition of hideous.”
“You’ll never be ugly.”
“I am, I was attractive once, when Miss Mallis supposedly loved me, when I had colour in my cheeks, shiny hair and a strong physique. But not now.”
“You are ill, it is not your fault. But you still a handsome man your Grace.”
“Not compared to before.”
“I have seen the painting of you. When was that done?”
“On my 20th birthday.”
“It is an excellent likeness.”
“Of what I used to look like, yes. What did you think of it?”
“You were and still are good-looking.”
“You are kind, but I sense how my body has changed. It does not look attractive to be as thin as I am. When are my family to hold the ball?”
“Tomorrow.”
“Oh. That is very short notice.”
“I know, but long enough. They have over 24 hours to make preparations.”
“You know, I cannot remember when you last ate something. Even then you only had a very small portion of broth.”
“I’m not hungry. I suppose the time will come when I shall have to use an invalid feeder and then I will have no choice.”
“I promise that while I am at your side, I will never let anyone force feed you. Will you take some more water?”
“Yes please.”
There came a tap at the door. Bonnie stood once more and curtsied, feeling slightly taken a back that Queen Evangeline did not acknowledge her.
“Theodore my dear, you will be very glad to know that everything is under control.”
“Oh good.”
Bonnie held his hand in hers. “I cannot get over the speed of it all.”
“Mother and Mr Howard are a good team.” He paused, saying no more on the subject.
Queen Evangeline frowned, Bonnie sensed the change in the atmosphere. “Ahem, um it will be a wonderful event Ma’am. I imagine that they take a great deal of skill to organise, I could never do it.”
“They do, but anyone with half a brain can organise such things. I’ll go, there are things which I must attend to.”
Bonnie swallowed, turning her attention to Theodore once more.

You’re very cold my friend. I’ll put some more coal on the fire.”
“Please, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“I have a question.”
“Yes?”
“Are-are you afraid to ask?”
“No of course not Bonnie, forgive me. I am becoming a little absent-minded. I suppose I didn’t realise.”
“But your arms are covered in goose pimples, still, the room shall be warmed in no time. I have to say, the weather no longer looks promising, there are so many dark clouds overhead.”
“It is just as well that Mother…”
Theodore’s head slipped from its position on the pillow, his whole body slumped forwards. Bonnie supported his body as he lost consciousness, quickly placing a bottle of smelling salts under his nose. He inhaled sharply and groaned. Bonnie watched him as he came to, his long eye lashes flickering like caged butterflies.
“You fainted.” She soothed.
To Theodore, Bonnie’s voice sounded altered, as if she were underwater. He shook his head in hope that the piercing ringing in his ears might cease.
“-Orry.” He slurred.
Bonnie took his hand in hers, placing it against her cheek. “Shhh, a Prince never apologises. Don’t talk, take deep breaths and conserve your energy until you feel better.”

©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014

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