Queen Evangeline placed a hand to her stomach, hoping that the butterflies might cease but they did not. She took a small sip of the fine red wine in attempt to calm her nerves, placing her glass down upon the long table. King Rupert patted her hand.
“Why are you nervous?” He whispered. “You are Queen after all.”
“There is something I must do.”
“Oh. Please dear, do not cause a scene.”
“I never cause scenes!” She snapped, batting his hand away.
“Come, come people are watching and judging us. You must be careful, but tell me, what ails you?”
“Rupert, you are a blind fool sometimes! I really am the brain in our relationship.”
“Now, that is hardly fair Evangeline!”
“It is true Rupert.”
“Oh, you are fretting about Miss Mallis aren’t you? For goodness sake! Why would you let yourself get into such a state about some little woman, whose station is lower than your own? You have a horrid way of taking out your frustration on others Evangeline.”
“Says the man who hid away from society! You do not understand and you never will!”
“No, you’re right. I do not. Excuse me, I have other people whom I wish to speak to.”
“Yes, that’s it. Turn a blind eye.” She muttered, rubbing her gloved hands together.
He turned his back to her and greeted the Duke and Duchess of Lincoln. Evangeline floated off in the opposite direction, scanning her eyes across the guests. Jane was not among them. Not yet. She took another sip of the wine tasting the sharpness upon her tongue, it seemed bitter and most unpleasant. Determined not to let her nerves get the better of her, she hid behind a pillar and she downed the remaining glass of wine, placing her glass upon one of the butler’s trays.
Her heart fluttered as she eyed the woman with the blonde hair, piled high into a bun. Queen Evangeline recognised those fine features, observing the woman’s new, fitted baby pink gown with suited her oh too well. She paused, glancing at Miss Jane Mallis once more. There was something different about her, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. It was not the fact that she had lost weight, for she hadn’t, but her face looked slightly changed, more pinched than usual and the witty sparkle in her eyes seemed to have vanished. Queen Evangeline waited until Jane was quite alone. Unseen, she placed a hand upon Jane’s back. Jane jumped, but the Queen took no heed, ushering her into the smallest parlour and bolting the door.
“What in the name are you doing here Miss Mallis! Oh I knew you would come, but why!”
Jane sat down, a little flushed.
“Do not sit down when you are being addressed by a Queen!”
“I- I am afraid that I need to.”
“I have not been well these past few months.”
“Pray, tell me more. Is that why you decided to come back to the Palace, unexpected and unexplained leaving my son broken-hearted yet again?”
“I came with a good reason!”
“Well, you did not make that in the least bit clear.”
“I know, I was not prepared. There was something that I had wished to tell him but-but.”
“Stop stuttering like a fool Miss Mallis and how dare you address me in such a way!”
Jane placed a hand to her forehead, the tears welling in her eyes.
“You are not going to believe what I have to say your Majesty.”
Queen Evangeline, shot up marching over to Jane. She grasped both of her arms, pulling her to her feet.
“Tell me now!” She shook her. “How dare you sit back down, you selfish little viper!”
“I cannot tell you!”
The Queen shook her a little harder. Jane did not react, though her teeth chattered in her head as the Queen gripped her arms like an iron vice.
“Please stop.” Jane begged. “I haven’t been well.” She whispered.
The Queen let go of Jane and she sank shakily into an arm-chair.
“You infuriate me! You haven’t been well!” Queen Evangeline mocked. “Miss Mallis, my son has been dying for many months, his heart weakened by scarlet fever, he could die at any minute, he endures pain every single day and he counts himself lucky if he is conscious for more than a few hours at any one time! Do not talk to me about illness or suffering!”
“I-I have had my own troubles.” Her voice sounded so soft, so very afraid. Queen Evangeline paused for a moment, her tone slightly altered.
“I cannot imagine what. Nothing of much importance I presume? Has your family had some financial problems?”
“No, my family are all quite well.”
“I do not care to know about your little family, all I asked was, had you been in financial difficulty?”
“Then, in answer to your question, your majesty. No we have not.”
“Are you playing a little game Jane? If you are, I will ensure than you are thrown outside in the rain!”
Jane took out her handkerchief and dabbed her eyes.
“I am very sorry for the things that I said, it was never my place to say them.”
“You’re right, it wasn’t. Now, you’re wasting my time as you wasted my Son’s. Take your carriage, go home and never ever return.”
Jane tightened her grip on her chair, her cheeks flushed. She adjusted the neckline of her fine dress, unbuttoned and re-buttoned her sleeves.
“What is wrong with you Miss Mallis? You are behaving like a fool! Are you intoxicated or just out of your mind?”
“I am neither.”
“Then, I have come to the conclusion that you are not well. As much as I despise you, you may borrow Theodore’s carriage and go home early, did you come here alone?”
“I came with friends.” Jane whispered.
“I am surprised you have any! I suggest, that you drink some water, stand up, turn around and walk out that door. Do not try to make contact with my family again.”
“There is something of importance which I must tell you, your Majesty.”
“Out with it then!” Queen Evangeline ordered.
Jane’s pale hands shook as she grasped the silver crucifix cross around her neck, squeezing it with her clammy fingers, a the hot/ cold sensation filling her body. She could not conceal her news any longer, in fear that it would eat her up inside. She took a deep breath, sensing the cross once more.
“I-I bore Prince Theodore’s child!”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014