Eleanor had other reasons to be unsettled during the Harvest Fest. She feared her feelings for Dorian were becoming obvious. She gave up trying to forget him. The futility of that exercise had become undeniable. Instead, she tried to be as close to him as possible, as often as possible, without attracting any suspicion. Her stomach churned with longing, paranoia, and guilt.
She had become used to Gregory’s drinking and carousing, and learned to ignore the little cruelties that lashed out with his temper. He had strayed from their bed, HighGod knew how many times. There had been clues; scratches on his back, a delay in opening his bedroom door, a long dark hair screaming at her from the whiteness of his tunic. His infidelity sat in between them, like an embarrassing cousin that was never discussed. But he was still her husband, and her prince, and Dorian was his best friend. She told herself he had pushed her toward Dorian, but in her heart she knew that even if Gregory had been the most dutiful husband the world had ever seen, she could not have known Dorian Finley and not been in love with him.
She felt as if she wore a sign around her neck. They continued studying and riding, and she still sought some form of chaperone, be it unicorn, parrot, or person. It was worse at the Fest parties, after a glass or two of wine. She stood close to him, close enough that their elbows just brushed. She touched his long fingers when he handed her a drink; she touched his chest when she spoke to him. She cut into conversations he had with women who were too pretty or flirtatious. Chou Chou landed on her shoulder during the Harvest Ball after she monopolized three of his waltzes.
“Careful,” said the parrot.
“What do you mean?”
Chou’s yellow eyes rolled. “I mean Mister Finley should spread his wings a bit, yes?”
“I’m tired. I think I’ll go to bed.” She set down her drink.
She resolved the next morning to pull back, and she succeeded in avoiding him for one entire afternoon, until they met at a chapel service. She knelt beside him, trying to pray, and before she knew it she edged so close her skirt covered his calf. Through it all he was stubbornly unflappable. He didn’t egg her on, but he didn’t discourage her, either.
Eleanor had always been slight, but she progressed to painfully thin. Food had no taste, and she lost much of the sparse cleavage she had with her appetite. She was snappish and moody with her friends. While Eliza was too proper to let on, Margaret’s gentle prodding and Anne Iris’s lack thereof gave away their concerns. Thankfully none of them pressed her. Although she trusted them all it was too dangerous to talk about it. She didn’t know what she wanted to happen, but this certainly could not go on. Just when she decided she must confront Dorian for her own sanity, a chain of events changed her mind.
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