The days leading up to Saturday seemed to get longer the closer we got. Uncle and I could barely speak to each other because we were so nervous. There was no use in talking ourselves silly about the situation because there was nothing more we could do about it. We decided not to tell Henry or the Tanner's about the blackmail unless the problem persisted. If we never heard another word from the blackmailer there was no need to bother them. They wouldn't be happy with us if we were forced to tell them later, but there was nothing they could do to help right now. We were worried enough as it was without Mary having a panic attack. Henry could tell I wasn't telling him something and that bothered him, but I always told him the important stuff, so he didn't press the issue.
On Saturday morning, I barricaded myself in my suite; well it used to be my suite. After our marriage, Uncle Cunningham had renovated and expanded it so Henry and I could share. When I first arrived it had been a light blue Napoleonic style sitting room with a study, bedroom, closet, and facilities. The remodel had made the sitting room and bedroom bigger, added two private rooms for Henry, and changed the color scheme in the main room to crimson wallpaper with dark wood finishing. The furniture was the height of fashion and perfect for a young married couple. Henry loved how modern the space was, which made me laugh because it reminded me of the types of furniture I had grown up seeing in antique stores and museums. That day I curled up in my favorite window seat, which Uncle had made sure to leave just the way it was. I watched the people on the street below, wondering what the blackmailer was doing at that moment. How would he react when a fortune didn't appear in the street like he wanted? He was probably lurking near there right now watching for the drop.
Somehow knowing we were doing the smart thing didn't make me feel any less uneasy. My stomach was in knots, and I hadn't been able to eat breakfast because the sight of food had been almost unbearable that morning. Nerves were getting the best of me. I was still lost in thought when I heard someone knock on the door.
"Come in," I called automatically. My mind was still in a different place.
Mary came in pushing a trolley with tea and goodies on it. The smell made me gag a little, forcing my mind to return to the present. I looked over at her.
She smiled sheepishly. "I notice you didn't eat anything this morning, so I thought I'd bring you some tea."
I smiled at her. Mary had always been such a good friend, and tended to know what I needed before I did. I was getting a tad hungry. "Thanks Mary. You're too good to me."
"Just doing my job, ma'am." She set about putting the plates and tea pot on the small table in the corner.
I couldn't help but laugh. "Doing your job would be getting me tea when I asked for it."
Mary giggled and then recoiled slightly, putting a hand on her belly.
"Is it kicking?" I asked hopefully, rising from my seat and moving to the table.
"Like mad." She smiled uncomfortably. "Do you want to feel?"
Without waiting for a reply she grabbed my hand and put it right where her baby was kicking. I'd never felt anything like it. There was really a little person in there! I smiled up at her. "That's amazing. You must be so excited!"
I took my hand away and gestured for her to join me.
Mary beamed back at me as she sat down. "I really am, but I'll be glad when it gets here."
I reached for one of my favorite jelly tarts and held it up to my nose. It smelled extra fruity today which my nose enjoyed, but my stomach didn't. I tried not to cringe, but Mary noticed anyways, and chuckled softly. I jokingly said, "I'm hungry, but my stomach doesn't seem to want anything today."
Mary poured out the tea. "Reminds me of when I first got pregnant. It felt like I was queasy for months."
A chuckle escaped my lips. "Mary, I'm not pregnant."
She looked back sympathetically and put down the tea pot. "I know, Rebecca. You're just nervous about the blackmailer."
Wave of sadness gone! My eyes bugged out of my head. "How do you know about that?"
"I was listening at the door," she said casually as she took a sip of her tea.
I snorted. "Of course you were. I should know better than to try and keep secrets from you."
She nodded playfully.
"You're not mad?"
"Why would I be ma'am?" she shruged. "Mr. Cunningham and you are doing the right thing by waiting."
"But we didn't tell you."
"I understand that you didn't want to worry my father and I in our conditions. My father's is not up for something like this."
"I feel bad not telling you and Henry though."
"Henry won't mind as long as you tell him eventually."
"This whole thing has me all worked up. What if something goes wrong? In over three hundred years no one figured out our secret and suddenly I show up and we get two in five years? I'm the worst Heir ever!"
Mary pushed my tea cup towards me. "Drink your tea, ma'am. It will make you feel better, I promise. There is no use worrying too much until tomorrow or Monday when the blackmailer has had time to react and make his next move."
I took a sip of the tea and felt a bit better. Mary was right, as usual, I'd have plenty of time to worry later. We sat together for the rest of the morning talking about her baby, and other household affairs. I even managed to forget about the blackmail business for a bit.
That night I could barely sleep. I tossed and turned all night. At one point I got out of bed and walked around the house for an hour hoping to get tired enough to sleep. Not that being tired was the problem because I was so sleepy my bones ached, but my overactive mind wouldn't let me drift off. All of the scenarios kept racing through my mind. If the blackmailer did expose us and had proof enough to convince people, we were sure to be locked away for all eternity or hunted down by people with pitch forks. If he was bluffing tomorrow this would be over. If he kept sending letters we could track him down. If if if if if. I began to hate the word 'if.' If we made it out of this I swore to stop saying the word.
I went back to my room and climbed back into bed with my husband. He woke up for a moment.
"What time is it?" he slurred.
I brushed the hair out of his face. "Early still. Go back to sleep."
I didn't have to tell him twice. He was asleep again before I managed to curl up beside him. Safely tucked in Henry's arms again, my exhausted body finally managed to overpower my active mind and drift off to sleep.
I awoke on Sunday morning and Henry was already gone. I usually woke up before him. I could tell from the light streaming in the windows that it was mid-morning which was odd because I never slept that late even when I was a teenager. Even though I had slept late, I felt like I hadn't slept a wink, but I decided to get out of bed anyways. My mind was already racing at a mile a minute, and my stomach was once again squirming from nerves. To day was going to be bad enough without my whole body being on pins and needles.
I forced myself to get out of bed. Lying there indefinitely wouldn't do anything beneficial. I threw on a house dress and trudged miserably downstairs.
I found Uncle Cunningham, and my husband in the breakfast room enjoying a leisurely Sunday breakfast. Henry jumped up and pulled out a chair for me as I entered the room.
Uncle folded his paper. "Ah, so you are alive. I was beginning to wonder."
He sounded awfully chipper.
"She was up half the night tossing and turning. It's a wonder Rebecca is up at all," Henry said with a chuckle. He called for Mary to bring some fresh tea for me. In a matter of seconds she was there with a steaming pot.
I tried to shake some of the fatigue off my face but it didn't work. I sat there like a zoned out bump on a log not saying a word. Henry made me a plate and put it in front of me.
"You look terrible," he said, his face full of concern. Uncle chuckled a bit in agreement.
I glared at them still so tired that speech escaped me. Mary put a cup of tea down in front of me. She looked nervous herself, but I decided to no dwell on her discomfort by turning my attention to the bacon and eggs before me. They smelled divine, but my nerves were preventing me from eating even though I was starving.
"You're special like that?" Henry offered sarcastically from behind the paper. That was his favorite 21st century turn of phrase that I had taught him.
Uncle retreated behind his newspaper smirking.
Mary smiled. "Just drink your tea, ma'am. It always helps me when my nerves effect my stomach."
I took a long sip of the aromatic medley. The warmth radiated through me relaxing my nerves. Something told me I would be drinking a lot of tea to get through the day.
"Now, isn't that better?" she cooed.
I wanted to say no really bad, but I did feel significantly better. The British may sound silly when they say tea cures everything, but it seemed to be working for me so far. I gazed back at her sheepishly still not wanting to admit she was right. She chuckled and walked back to the kitchen.
I set to work on my breakfast. After I finished the bacon, I remembered why I had worried myself sick in the first place.
"Any letters today?" I asked mostly to Uncle Cunningham.
He smiled and shook his head over the paper. I felt relieved. We had dodged the bullet after all! The blackmailer had been bluffing. Then Henry had to rain on our parade.
"Why would there, it's a Sunday?" he said like it was obvious. "No post on Sundays."
Uncle and I locked eyes, both wondering how we had forgotten that little detail. We weren't out of the woods yet. Neither of us was looking forward to another day of waiting around for our fate to be decided by some unsavory individual. I felt sick with fear, literally, so I took another sip of tea.
Henry failed to notice the tension this time and asked conversationally, "Any plans for the day?"
If I was a person prone to hysterics I would have collapsed then and there. My eyes were still locked on Uncle Cunningham. I took a shuddering breath and blinked away a tear.
"No, do you?"
He shook his head, and turned the page of his paper. "We should go for a walk later. It should be a perfect day for it."
Uncle Cunningham cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, I don't think so, Henry. Let's play cards this afternoon instead. It's far to hot to go walking thus late in July."
Henry folded the paper and looked between the two of us. My husband isn't an idiot and you would have had to be one not to realize Uncle and I were upset by something. Uncle Cunningham was trying too hard to look casual and I was picking at my eggs while avoiding eye contact.
"Right...cards it is then." He rose to his feet looking annoyed. "I'll be in my study if anyone needs me."
I turned to watch him go, feeling terrible, but for a different reason than before.
"Not telling him is killing me," I said after the door swung shut.
Uncle Cunningham sighed. "It's for the best."
"That doesn't make it any easier." I resumed picking at my eggs.
"Why don't you tell him?" asked Mary. I had almost forgotten she in the room.
"You know why Mary," replied Uncle Cunningham.
Mary put her hand on her hips. "No, I do not. He is just as much a member of this family as you. It's true enough he not an Heir, but he has as much stake in this blackmailing as we do."
Uncle Cunningham glared at me. "You told her?"
"She listens at doors!"
He turned to Mary.
"Only because the two of you always think you can handle things just between yourselves. Henry's not the only one you leave out sometimes." She turned and marched out of the kitchen.
"She's right, you know?" I said, putting down my fork.
"Of course she's right, it's Mary after all."
"Should I tell him?"
"No, after tomorrow he may never need to know that we were hiding something."
I scoffed. "He already does."
"You know the rules. He-"
I stood up quickly and leaned on the table. "If you'll excuse me, Uncle. I'm going to go spend the morning with my husband."
I left the room quickly before Uncle Cunningham could pull me back to talk about waiting one more excruciating day for our future to be decided.