True Intentions

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Amanda was about to speak when Rachel's expression made her choke back her words. Rachel ripped the bonnet from her head, not caring that the pins tore out a few hairs. "I'm not feeling well, please make my excuses at dinner," she said and scurried up the stairs. Two hours later, she was still crying in her room. Amanda knocked and called to her, but the only reply was the sputtering of her candle in the hallway draft.

The next morning Rachel would not speak to anyone. She nodded when they asked if she was all right, but ate her breakfast in silence and then returned to her room.

Finally Amanda couldn't stand the strained silence. She appeared at Rachel's door once more. "May I come in?" she asked. She heard the squeak of the bed, a rustle of blankets, and Rachel cracked the door open. She stared dolefully at the floor, one shoulder against the door jamb. "I just thought I would sit with you, if you don't mind." She nodded, letting Amanda follow her into the room. She curled up in her blanket, leaning against the headboard, and motioned for Amanda to sit on the foot of the bed.

"I don't know what happened between you and John. I assume you quarreled." She paused, but Rachel didn't confirm or deny the suggestion. She continued to stare at the quilted pattern on the bedspread.

"It hurts, I know," Amanda said tentatively. "If you've really given up on marrying him, I know it will hurt. All the things you imagined would be coming about, new changes, such hopeful things, and now they're all gone..." Amanda swallowed, forcing the emotion out of her voice. "I just want to let you know I understand."

"How did you give yourself hope to continue?" Rachel asked quietly.

Amanda pressed her lips together thoughtfully. "After Dabney... after he died, I didn't think very hopefully at first. I felt torn apart, completely out of my mind with grief. But the first tangible, real thing I remember is you and Marian sitting beside me. It seemed you had been there a very long time. I couldn't remember being alone. So I felt that since you had been there all along, I could go on another day, just try to get through. You wouldn't let anything else happen."

"Yes, Marian and I sat by you for that whole week," Rachel said.

"And if my sisters were that good, that loving... then life was going to be okay." Amanda smiled and reached over to squeeze her hand. Rachel squeezed it back, closing her eyes with a sigh.

Amanda sat with her for a few more minutes, a silent ache shared between them. After a while the corners of Rachel's eyes leaked tears, and Amanda offered a handkerchief. She wiped her tears away and sniffed.

"Can you tell me?" she gently probed.

"Not yet. I promised I would not, not until John had... changed some things." She shrugged.

Amanda nodded. "But there's no wedding?"

Rachel shook her head.

Amanda wrapped her in a hug, scooting closer to cradle Rachel's head against her shoulder. She began to cry again, slowly, then with more fervent sobs until she finally lay down again, clutching the pillow and gasping. Amanda smoothed her hair, some tears of her own rolling down her cheeks and she thought of the pain they both had borne that year.

#

Rachel stayed home from church Sunday, so Amanda later shared all that had happened with the Ellsworth family. Amanda and Mrs. Pearce had been visiting with Marian and Simeon after the service, hearing about her mishaps with the kitchen stove and the coziness of their cottage. The newlyweds had a kind of comfortableness about them that wasn't there before, and Amanda smiled to think they were becoming happy together. Maman was just inviting them to the vicarage for dinner when raised voices could be heard in the church. They knew John Ellsworth had asked Vicar Pearce to intervene in some family matter, and apparently the conversation was getting sour. Marian and Simeon excused themselves and said they'd come over another time. Amanda followed her mother's hurried steps into the carriage, but even then, the angry shouts and accusations carried outside the church's stone walls. She nearly chewed a hole in her glove before Father came out to send the carriage home, then he went on to Burley Park to try to mediate the problem. Maman said she'd never seen her husband so worried.

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