POINT OF NO RETURN
"My lady," Mercy said quietly.
"What? What is it now?" Clara sniffled, raising her head for the first time in quite a while.
Once she had buried her head in Mercy's lap, she had not bothered to look up. She did note that they were now stalled, and assumed that the carriage had arrived at her own house. Well. She would not go in. Not just yet. Not while her face resembled a squashed and runny tomato.
"Lord Wentworth's carriage is parked in front of your house, my lady. There is no doubt he is here to inquire your answer to his proposal last night." Mercy urged gently.
Clara drew a trembling breath. Mere minutes ago, she had been prepared to throw Eaton Foster's signet ring into the ocean and sail off halfway across the world with Will. Now, she was determined to have Lord Wentworth. She would show Lord William that she was not about to turn into a weepy-faced toady over him. She wanted to show him that their kiss only meant a moment's passion to her, like it had been only a moment's passion for him. She wanted to show him that the tender words she had uttered in truth had no real attachment. No, she was not at all like Rebecca, that weak, simpering, low-class, Seven Dials scum of a maid who paraded herself about and gave herself airs. She was true nobility.
And true nobility knew how to hold their heads high, no matter how great the heartbreak.
No, not heartbreak. She quickly corrected herself, and she believed it, for Lady Clara Barrington was so stubborn a creature that she could not even allow herself to admit the truth when she was clearly devastated. She would not call it heartbreak.
Not while the wound still festered.
Will Foster stared out at the vast Atlantic Ocean in front of him. He could hardly believe that he was to sail across this giant water to the New World. It was even more unbelievable that he was having second doubts and regrets. He was a man of impulse, one who behaved according to a moment's passion, one who gave little thought to consequences. But now he was thinking so hard about it that he thought his head might break with thoughts.
This was not the grand departure he had envisioned.
He was not supposed to feel so hollow inside. Clara was not supposed to have arrived onboard and then run off with his heart. Clara was not supposed to have weighed in the bargain at all. She had been a good, life-long friend, but he had not expected to miss her anymore than he missed Garrett Ellertson or David Phineas. But, now he missed her most. Missed her terribly. Missed her so much that he would gladly jump into the ocean if it meant he could swim back to her open arms. He glanced over at Rebecca. She was standing quietly alone; her luxurious black hair whipped about her head, her large blue eyes stared blankly out at sea. He sighed. He could not read her at all. She was so very different from Clara, whose eyes had told Will all he needed to know after one glance.
What was the girl thinking? She was exceedingly brave to have come all the way with him. Even Clara had lost her nerve at the last minute, rather, Will admitted, sorely disappointing him. Alas, he sighed, that was to be. He had no doubt that he would see her soon, maybe even within a year. And then, and then…perhaps, he could finally settle with what he had been searching for to his heart's content.
Rebecca was wildly confused. She did not know what had gone on between Lord William and Lady Clara before she arrived on-deck, but she could tell that something had happened purely by the flushed expression upon Lady Clara's face. Will had acted quite normally about it, though, so Rebecca was having a hard time distinguishing and picking out what was the matter.
It does not matter what he may or may not feel for Lady Clara Barrington. She told herself firmly. Lord William had chosen her in the end, hadn't he? By taking her with him. He had not offered to take Lady Clara, nor any of his other female acquaintances onboard. Yes. He had chosen her and only her. And that would be proof enough for Rebecca.
She gazed out across the beautiful blue.
Somewhere, on the other side of the ocean, a new life awaited her.
A/N: Ah here we are at last, the last chapter. Thanks to everyone who has read this and stuck through to the end. I'm sorry this ending has taken so long, and I'm even more sorry that it is so short. But there is a sequel/connecting story, whatever you wish to call it, already in steadyprogress. Again, thanks!