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La Belle Christiane
Copyright 2011 by Lyn Cote
All rights reserved
Chapter Fifteen, Scene 1
Dawn’s light filtered through Christiane’s eyelids and the events of the night before paraded before her half-conscious mind. They ended with a vivid love scene. She opened her eyes and looked around. She was in his bed, but this time not in innocence. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the truth. But closing her eyes changed nothing.
For one night she had allowed herself to behave as her mother and she had done it completely just as her mother would have beginning–to the end. She cringed inwardly. She was engaged to another man. And not only had she been unfaithful, but she had been unfaithful with the enemy.
Even in her distress though she could not believe that Eastham had planned what had passed between them. He had had ample opportunities in the weeks they had been together to try to seduce her. He hadn’t. The events of the night had moved them both to a point neither of them had intended to reach. She writhed in shame and regret. No, no. But the truth could not be denied. Her cheeks burned as if she’d been in the sun too long.
And she could not face his scathing wit. What mocking phrase would he greet her with upon waking? She glanced then at the sleeping major. She cared for him, She knew that now. But I cannot stay and live as his mistress. Her eyes shut just thinking of the word. Two days ago she had planned to leave this morning for Valley Forge. Looking at his sleeping face once more, she made her decision. One night of wayward passion would not change the direction of the rest of her life. She must act.
She crept out of bed. As her bare feet touched the chilling floor, she experienced a quiver of icy fear. What if she were pregnant? Forcefully she pushed this from her mind. She had no time or stomach for more worry this wretched morning.
Quietly she stood by the embers of last night’s fire. She donned both of her plainest dresses, wearing the brown one outermost. Then she wrapped herself in her warm shawl. She glanced around the room to see if she had everything. Her chain with her engagement ring. She retrieved them from a little box on the dressing table. Perhaps if she had been wearing them last night, she would have remembered to whom she belonged.
Opening the door, she slipped out, closing it silently behind her. At this hour the back steps might be in use, but the main hallway would be empty, so carefully she made her way down the front steps and out the door. The yard was deserted. She hurried away, already becoming chilled in the brisk wind. When she stopped to claim Nancy, she was sure the Widow Schulz would offer her a cup of tea.
Upstairs in his warm bed, the major turned over in his sleep. Something startled him and he awoke. Sleepily he blinked his eyes. Was it real or had it been a dream? He looked over. She was gone, but the pillow still showed where her head had lain. Sitting up, he scanned the room and listened. And icy fear flashed through him. She had bolted!
So what’s he going to do?