Part Two: The Fiance

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Isabelle hurried down the spiral staircase to meet her mother in the reception room. She was wearing the pink dress with the lace trim that her mother had picked out for her with pretty white shoes with a buckle. Her hair was tied back away from her face and as she pulled awkwardly at the ruffles she hoped no-one would notice how uncomfortable she was.

"You look lovely, darling," her mother gushed as she greeted her. "But I wish you would wear your hair loose, it looks so pretty loose." She started to fuss with her hair.

"Don't." Isabelle pushed her mother away. "I like it tied back."

"You look tired, are you still not sleeping well?"

"Not very well, no."

"Well, perhaps lunch with Sir Thomas will brighten your spirits."

Isabelle shrugged. She doubted very much that lunch with Sir Thomas would brighten anything but her desire to spend time with people she could be herself with.

The coach ride into town was long, and despite the bumpy road she found herself dozing off in the cab as they trundled along, led by two white horses.

"Isabelle!" The harsh tone of her mother's voice told her she had been trying to wake her a while. "If you are having this much trouble sleeping at night then perhaps we should visit the physician later this week."

"Sorry, mother. I'm awake. Are we here?"

"Yes, tidy yourself up, Sir Thomas wants to talk to you about something important, and I don't want you looking dishevelled."

"Dishevelled is the least of my problems," Isabelle muttered as she pulled awkwardly at her dress. She felt like a walking tea cosy, and as she left the carriage it was as though everyone was watching her, a stranger in her own skin in a ridiculous pink dress.

They were seated in the dining area of the hotel, at Sir Thomas' personal table to await the presence of its owner. Isabelle stirred her iced tea with a straw and stared out of the window onto the promenade.

When Sir Thomas entered a room everyone had to revel in his glorious presence. His adonis-like physique and classical good looks usually stopped a room whilst the mere minions of the modern world marvelled in wonder.

"Isabelle!" Her mother virtually screeched. "He's here!"

"Oh," Isabelle turned to face the bronzed god that stood before her. "Hello Sir Thomas."

"Darling," he luxuriated over the word as though he owned it. "How are you?"

"I'm well, thank you, and yourself?"

"Glorious!" He enthused. "So, did your mother tell you the wonderful news?"

"No, she didn't?"

"We're getting married!"

"You're what?" Isabelle choked on her iced tea. "Mother! What would father say?"

"Not your mother and I, you and I!" Sir Thomas laughed light heartedly at the mistake.

"Oh, I see..." Isabelle measured her response carefully.

"Isn't it wonderful news, Isabelle?" Her mother pushed. "Sir Thomas asked us, and of course we said yes! You'll be married at last!"

"Um, yes, wonderful, um when?" Isabelle asked awkwardly.

"See, I knew she'd be thrilled, she can't wait!" Sir Thomas oozed. "I have some business out of town tomorrow, which will take about a week, then I'll be back and we can start planning."

"Wonderful..." Isabelle took a long draw of her iced tea finishing it.

"Can I get you another drink?" A smartly dressed waiter appeared. He had clearly been lurking, waiting for a drink to be finished so it could immediately be replenished.

"Yes, do you have any alcohol?" Isabelle was feeling a definite need not to be sober.

"Wonderful idea," Sir Thomas enthused. "Let's celebrate with Champagne. A bottle of your best, please. On my tab."

"Wonderful," her mother agreed.

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