He sees her again behind a towering tray of confections: all thin lipped pleasantries and painted on smiles and smirks hidden in the lace of her collar. There are initials monogrammed in red on the handkerchief she’d carried that day.
And she catches his eye for the briefest of seconds. Tips her head just once before returning to her conversation.
No one notices when he slips out to the porch like the ghosts that are rumoured to lurk in the manor, when she sneaks out to join him.
‘You never did tell me your name,’ he says, holds his fingers against a chilled glass of lemonade, perspiration sliding across his knuckles.
She merely simpers. Tucks a lock of hair behind her ear and clasps her fingers against the buttons of her dress. ‘I thought you’d surely know it by now.’
He does. Has ever since the day he sought her out in the creaking wooden pews of church, had come up empty and scoured the town for any hint of her. He’d found it, oh yes, isn’t sure whether he’s intrigued or dismayed by her reputation. Thinks that it just may be the former.
‘I do,’ he tells her, alacrity tinging in his tone.
‘And?’ she asks, barely audibly. A voice meant for whispers that linger against your ear and verses recited in dimly lit rooms.
He smiles. Says her name, just the once. Rather likes the way it tastes in his mouth.
He finds a ring in one of the drawers of his father’s study the week after he meets her.
And he always has believed in signs.