(123-09-05) Still Waiting
Still Waiting
Summary: Not much has changed since yesterday, except the depth of their always-flawed understanding of one another…
Date: 02/10/2016
Related: The day after Waiting.

The standing embroidery frame is gone from the sitting-room, Lady Rowan's winter garden rolled up and tucked away; she has instead in her lap a small round tambour frame, and her head is bowed over the violets she's stitching upon a length of fine white linen spilling over her black skirts and the sofa-cushions next to her. Tendrils of steam and an astringent herbal scent rise in tandem from a cup on the low table in front of her, forgotten for the time being, so complete is her concentration upon her work…

Expecting Lady Bryony Tyrell, she doesn't look up at once when she hears the doorknob turn; she finishes her stitch, and only then do her eyes lift. She is not expecting her husband. She shows this only by a discreet widening of those eyes, so blue and so reserved. "My lord," she murmurs.

"My lady," Antony returns as he quietly lets himself into the room where he knew Margot would be. He stops inside the door. "I'll be frank: I've come to apologize to you."

Lady Rowan looks down as she settles her sewing in her lap, careful of her needle; she looks up again uncertainly. "My lord?" she repeats, but this time the words form a gentle, tentative question.

"I wasn't… Yesterday's conversation did not go as I wanted it to go," Antony says, clasping his hands in front of him. "I let…passions intervene that should have been under better control. I did not treat you as I believe a lord should treat his lady, particularly when she is… Well, under special circumstances."

Her dark head bends again. "It was nothing, my lord. I try not to take such moments to heart," she murmurs. And then, a moment later, because courtesies to the contrary it was something, she adds a quiet, "Thank you."

Antony hesitates briefly, then crosses the intervening space and takes a seat next to Margot. Not uncomfortably close, but next to. "You…I understand why you don't want to make too much of it right away. I know that you…don't like to show it, but you are afraid. Because…I am afraid."

At that word, 'afraid', Lady Rowan's shoulders tense: when her husband confesses that he, too, has his share of the same wholly natural fears, she looks up, her pale face tilted subtly towards his. She meets his eyes and she nods, first a shallow nod and then a deeper one. For once in her life, she feels better understood by her husband than by the little bundle of joy and optimism she calls 'my sister'. Yes, she's afraid.

"I… don't wish to count upon anything, yet," she says softly, echoing her sentiments of the day before; "to build too many hopes, too many plans, before we can truly know anything of the future. I hoped you would understand. I spoke too soon, once—" And she presses her lips together, biting down upon a pang of regret from twelve years past, much in her mind in recent days.

Antony looks more haunted than guarded when he meets Margot's gaze. "I know," he says. "It's never sure, is it." He reaches for her hand, even though his trembles a bit. "It isn't that I don't understand. The worry."

When was the last time he took her hand in anything but a formal gesture, for the benefit of onlookers? … Lady Rowan, though uncertain, doesn't protest. Her silky long fingers rest unresistingly in his. "It's later than it was, the first time," she mentions, more to herself than to him, her eyes lowering and losing themselves in the draped folds of her sewing. "I found Bryony knitting a little hat yesterday, but I made her put it away. I'm wary of… tempting fate, just yet. In another few weeks…" The same length of time by which, yesterday, she seemed to bemuse him. She speaks of it now almost hungrily.

Antony nods faintly. "Time never seems to move the right way. Either too quick or too slow, isn't it." He's quiet for a long moment. "I know there's nothing I can do," he says. "It makes things frustrating."

"We neither of us have anything to do but wait," Lady Rowan agrees, "and… pass the time." She smooths the fabric in her lap unnecessarily, fingertips lingering upon her tiny silken violets. "I know," she admits, "you don't know what to do with a problem you can't ride at directly in attack. Men… don't learn the same patience we women are taught all our lives."

"That is…true," Antony admits. "And I have…few distractions." He tightens the corners of his mouth. "I've sent an agent out to find out about land. When he has found suitable options, they'll be presented to you."

Lady Rowan's head bows deeper. "Thank you, my lord," she murmurs. "I will be glad of the opportunity to take my mind from… the uncertainties of these present days. My household duties fill so few hours."

Antony turns his head to regard Margot for a moment. "Is there anything more you would like in…this manse?" he wonders. "More ambitious gardens, or… Well, anything."

"The houses at either side are so near, and the alleyway behind, that I fear we haven't room for a larger garden," replies Lady Rowan unhesitatingly, having considered the idea long since. "Of course I'm pleased with the garden we have; I think it is blooming very well under the new man's care."

"Yes," Antony says quietly. "Well. I don't know what else to offer to take up your time. Of course you have your sister. And a harp and needlework. But those things may not take up your attention at a time like this, I don't know."

"I pass my hours well enough, my lord," his wife assures him, "in the main. The children are…" She hesitates, just perceptibly. "Always a distraction," she concludes, though it is to be inferred they constitute at present a mixed blessing. "I hope you are able to find occupations enough. The city doesn't… suit you, does it?" A slightly awkward acknowledgment, and another lowering of her eyes. Well, how could he be well-suited, in a place where she herself is so at home…? The sky would fall and the rivers run dry, on such a day.

"I don't have friends here," Antony says frankly, but without venom. "And I haven't been at all myself. I'm best making friends on a battlefield. Or…at one time I was that."

Lady Rowan nods, not quite knowing what to say to that — she reclaims her hand from his, to hold onto her tambour frame whilst she leans forward over it to pick up her cup from the table. Her tisane is more than cool enough to drink. In fact, it's nearly cold. She sips without enthusiasm, and sips again. With both hands curled now about the cup she ventures, "I have not yet felt equal to giving dinner parties. For that I must apologise."

Antony returns his hand to his side. "I don't think I'd have wanted to attend very much," He answers softly. "I'm…unsure of myself. I don't know who I am. Just now."

"We aren't even parents anymore," his wife says bleakly.

Antony lets a long silence elapse, rolling his lips inward. "I don't know what to say," he says at last, rather unhelpfully.

Lady Rowan lifts her cup again in one hand, taking slow sips, whilst the other lowers into her lap, curling unobtrusively round the place where her whole future seems to rest. "Perhaps there isn't anything," she says at last, "to say. Yet. The tale we agreed to tell the world, that we are mourning and we don't yet know what the future holds — it has never been so true."

"I suppose so," Antony allows. "I don't really know much of anything."

"I would like to hope," his wife murmurs cautiously, "that these matters will grow clearer, when… In a matter of months. One way or another."

"Well," Antony says slowly, "I expect that you shall become a parent again. But will I, or will I not?"

Lady Rowan reminds him quietly that, "You are the father," as though he could have forgotten those awkward evenings of theirs, two months past.

Antony looks at his knees, nodding wearily. "Yes, I am /the/ father," he allows. "But what I am trying to say is… Well, put it this way: If you could choose to raise a child with my presence, or with my patronage but not my presence, which would you honestly choose?"

"… You would like me to have all the answers, all at once," Lady Rowan says sadly, "and before we can even be certain that will be a question."

Antony is silent for a while as he considers what to say. "I meant that more…" He shakes his head a little. "Not that I'm asking you to decide it now, but that…I am more uncertain than you are. About /my/ future. Do you see that?"

Her glossy dark head nods twice. She drinks a little more of her tisane and then suddenly asks him that question which bears perhaps the most weight of all, for a woman and a wife in her position: "If all is not as we would wish — would you love a daughter, the way you loved your sons?"

"I've never had one," Antony admits. "I don't know what they are like. But…I do know that…whatever child we have now may be all my future, and that stands for a great deal, boy or girl."

"… I do see," the lady admits very quietly into her cup, "as I hope you see in turn that— I am unwilling to speak of what I would do, what I would not do, what I would wish and what I would feel, so far before… anything is sure. I would not wish to cause either of us unnecessary pain, by settling and counting now upon arrangements I might later desire to alter. I cannot see into the future, my lord, and I am…" She blinks away tears. "It is natural for a woman's moods to change, often, at such times as these," she apologises, "and I think decisions are better not made when one's temperament is so variable."

Antony looks from Margot's face to the finer points of the room, all of which Margot has surely arranged, anyway. "I accept it," he says. "But it goes hard on me, lady."

A woman's sitting-room is often a reflection of her nature; Lady Rowan's is scrupulously clean, elegantly symmetrical, ornamented with an ever-changing array of seasonal flowers. Her violet and orange and golden lilies have only multiplied since yesterday, colonising in small numbers two side-tables.

"I will not be as I am forever," she offers softly. She takes another sip of her tisane; her corseted figure tilts toward to restore it to the table. Her sewing seems then to need straightening in her lap. "But I have a sense that anything at all may change, between now and… March."

"Perhaps it shall," Antony says, though he doesn't necessarily seem to hold out hope for anything good. He sets one hand to either side of him. "Well. Shall I leave you, then?"

She doesn't answer at once. She glances at him obliquely, gauging what of his mood he's showing in his posture and in his face. "As you wish, my lord," she says quietly, after another moment, sounding neither regretful or relieved, but — for a change and for a wonder — untroubled, either way.

Antony at least doesn't look angry or spiteful as he goes. Neither is he particularly cheered. "Be well, Margot," he bids her, seeing himself to the door.

Lady Rowan's voice follows him; "I will try," she promises, with a sudden quaver betokening the breadth and the depth of her present concern with her health. Her hand curls in again about her belly, that same furtive motion she hardly seems to know she's making. "Please be well, my lord," she echoes.

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