Chapter Seven

A/N - I suppose "earphones" wasn't the correct term to use but it is a good description of the hair style - it's like two bits of hair at each side of the head braided into a sort of bun on both sides. Anyone who ever read the Chalet school stories by Elinor M Brent Dyer would know what they were as Joey (the main character) wore them. Earmuffs would be a better term.

By the time everyone had assembled and went outside, it had began to rain. Antonia started to weep softly and silently. It was not suitable for anyone to show their emotions in public in Victorian England so Antonia kept her head at an angle, refusing to look at anyone.

It was a journey of around a hour. Antonia was unusually quiet, staring out of the window, tears running down her face. She remained silent while Andrew and Emmie exchanged stories about the ball, laughing merrily. This basically continued for the entire journey and she longed to get home. She was exhausted, both physically and mentally. Sniffing, she noticed that the carriage had stopped and she groped for the handle of the carriage. Opening the door, she flung it open and ran across the pavement and up the stone stairs that lead to the front porch of her home. She had retained the position of one hand wrapped across her middle, and pushed open the front door of her house. The hall was empty, the live in maids were probably enjoying some welcome rest in their rooms either in the attic or the basement of the house so no one noticed her lonely flight up the stairs.

On entering her dark, silent room, she didn't carry out her normal rountine of lighting the little oil lamps and calling in one of the maids to put coal in the fireplace and lit it, instead she flung herself on to her bed, rumpling the fresh counterpane put there earlier by Anna. Her body racking with silent sobs, she didn't move for at least five minutes. It was only when she heard footsteps coming up the staircase that she jumped up, hurridly wiping her eyes with her hand and sniffing. She half ran to the dresser, lighting the lamps and then went to the mirror to examine her apperance. Her eyes were rid rimmed, giving away the signs of her earlier tears and she looked suspiciously pale. In that era, make up was generally forbidden for ladies of respectable standing, it was only women of ill repute that wore rouge to brighten their faces or lip colouring to colour their lips bright red. Some women used belladonna to pale their complexions to a ghostly pallor but Antonia's mother had forbidden this, fearing her daughters health. Antonia knew that Sarah had alternative methods of altering her facial apperance without using make up. She would sharply bit on her bottom lip to colour them without the use of any lip colourings, pinching the apples of ones cheeks to flush them to a pleasing rosy colour. Antonia didn't usually have to resort to these trickerys but on this occasion, she did. It was a good thing as well as it was her mother who chose to visit her room.

Antonia quickly made her way to a chair and flung a shawl over her shoulders as her mother entered the room.

"Mama?" Antonia said in surprise, trying to revert to her "I am really very much in pain, honestly" look.

"Tonya," She began to reply (Tonya was her prefered abreviation of her daughters name), "why did you not dance tonight? You usually adore dancing!"

"Oh mama, I injured my ankle, these silly shoes. It pained me too much to dance so Emmie was a darling and sat with me." Antonia quickly explained, pointing at where she imagined the pained ankle was, without lifting her skirts.

"Does it still cause you pain?" Emelia asked.

"A little but I'm sure if I rest it for a while, it'll be fine." Antonia replied.

"Good," Emelia said, coming closer to Antonia "I'll send Abigail up with some ice for the swelling and some tea for you."

"Thank you." Antonia said, glad that she had convinced her mother who could normally see through every trick.

Emelia looked at her daughters face and touched her forehead saying,

"You're looking rather flushed and I think you have a temperature."

"I expect it's nothing mama, really, I'll rest and I'll be fine tomorrow." Antonia reassured while inwardly wishing that her words were true.

Emelia nodded, gave her daughter's head an offhand pat and vacated the room, again promising to send Abigail with ice and tea, and that Emmie would be up after she had finished her sewing.

Sewing was one of the things that Emelia would frequently engage her daughters in. She belonged to a group of extremely fiancially able women who made clothes for the poor in their spare time. Emelia enjoyed this group more for the social chitter chat than the concept of helping the poor and soon tired of constant sewing. Sarah, eager for any chance to be involved in the activities of the upper class, accomponied her mother to these weekly meetings where they would discuss various events and people while sipping tea from china teacups and neatly sewing shirts for the poor which were given to various charitable institutions to give out said shirts. Antonia had had years of sewing at the various schools she had attended over the years which had made her an able seamstress but she had little love for it. Years of painful pricked fingers and school mistresses rapping her fingers with rulers when she dropped stiches had caused a dislike. Yet, Emmie and Sarah had aquired a style akin to the ones of Continental ladies and they were admired for their beautiful stitching with they done with ease.

Antonia was left alone with her thoughts for a while but they were the thing that troubled her the most. She kept replaying the conversation between herself and him and clenching her hands at the thought of it. She considered writing him a letter to explain her actions and was actually in the process of taking writing paper from her desk and was rummaging for a pen when she decided that she could not. Instead, she returned to her chair and picked up a novel that Emmie had left in her room on one of their nightly chats. She didn't take in the title of the book, never mind the contents, again only replaying over and over Laurie's voice in her head.

She was momenterily distracted when Emmie came into her room.

"Tonia," Emmie said, slipping into her siblings childhood name for their sister "are you all right? What made you run away like that?"

"I felt quite sick, it must have been too much creme brulee." Antonia said, hating to lie to her sister.

"Oh dear! That's such a shame, are you all right now?" She asked.

"Yes yes, I'm fine. Abigail's bringing up some ice for my ankle and some tea for me." Antonia explained.

"Of course, your ankle. This hasn't been a good night for you!" Emmie said, her tones sympathetic, not realising how far to the truth that she was.

"You're right. Actually, Emmie, I think I'm going to go to sleep now, if you don't mind." Antonia said.

"Oh of course, how thoughtless of me! Goodnight dear." Emmie said and dropped a kiss on her forehead.

Soon after, Abigail came with the ice which she put on her ankle and the tea which was placed on the table. Abigail helped her out of her corset and dress, found a nightgown for her and took down her hair, plaiting it for her. Antonia gratefully thanked her and Abigail left.

Antonia got into bed and fell asleep, dreaming the dreams of the guilty and the unloved.