Chapter 18

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After spending a week avoiding each other, it was finally time to leave and go back to London, just in time for the beginning of Christmas preparations. Speaking of which, the first Christmas ball of many was on the journey home as mentioned in the letter and Kat had only just arrived at the manor before she was whisked away to her room to prepare for the ball. She had never gotten ready in that much time, and then she realised that she had in fact gotten ready that quickly, everyday for school for the past 12 years. A heavy weight pressed on her heart when she realized she had forgotten about her mother and she felt guilty about how much fun she was having, but her thoughts were interrupted by the maid nodding as she put the hot curling irons down on the table.
"You are ready miss."
Kat thanked her and left the room, heading towards the ballroom. As she met her husband at the ballroom doors she took his arm and looked him up and down, he definitely scrubbed up nice.
"Admiring me, are you?"
He quipped.

Kat scoffed and looked straight ahead.
"Just making sure that you don't look better than me."

Before Eric could say anything back, the doors swung open and they went down the stairs to the Christmas ball that was already in full swing. A plump man that seemed to be in his thirties walked up to Eric and Kat, a short and equally plump lady on his arm. He and Eric exchanged huge grins as they shook each others hands and hugged. Kat assumed him to be the cousin.

Eric turned to Kat.
"Katherine, this is my cousin, Mr Andrews and his wife."
They all curtseyed and bowed to each other in greeting.

"Well you certainly have done well in the marriage market, I do say Lord Hartford."
Said Mrs Andrews and she chuckled as if she had just said the funniest joke in the world, her husband laughed as well and Kat turned to Eric to see him blushing a deep red, she laughed along with the others.

"Oh Mrs Andrews you exaggerate."
Said Kat, bashfully.
Mrs Andrews took Kats free arm and smiled at the men.
"Let us leave the men to their boring talk."
She turned to Kat.
"Come, let me introduce you to my friends."

She was introduced to a group of women who's ages ranged from their early twenties to their fifties and they all smiled up at her expectantly.
She sat down with them on the sofas and a conversation struck up.

"So I hear you have just been married."
Said a Mrs Lucas.

Kat nodded.
"Nearly a month now."

A younger girl chipped in.
"Well you must be hoping for a baby soon."
Kats eyes widened and the girl laughed.
"Oh that must've sounded different to how I intended it. I was married but a year ago and we found out we were expecting just two months after."

Kat shook her head.
"I really don't think-"

The girl continued, not noticing how Kat began to get flustered.

"I mean you two clearly love each other and I can tell that you would at least have 5 children."

Kat shook her head.
"Oh no it's not like that I-"

"Look, even surrounded by friends he still gazes at you."
The girl said again.

Kat turned to find that she was indeed telling the truth and saw Eric notice her catching his gaze before turning red and snapping his head in the opposite direction. Kats face went as red as his and when the group of ladies saw her facial expression once she had turned back to them, they all giggled.

"So would you say that I am right, do you think a child shall be on the cards soon?"
The young lady from before asked with fervent exitement, she almost looked as if she would bounce right out of the seat.

"My dear Mrs Barry, your scaring the poor girl!"
Chuckled an older women.

Mrs Barry seemed to completely ignore her and kept going on.
"Oh I think motherhood would suit you very well, you definitely look like you-"

"It is not possible that I should be having any children any time soon thank you very much."
She snapped.

The group of women went silent.

"Oh dear, are you not able to conceive?"
Whispered Mrs Barry, her tone depressing as if giving news that someone had died.

The older women seemed to understand and placed a hand on Mrs Barry to stop her her from talking further when Kat glanced over at Eric than quickly back at her hands. Mrs Barry saw this interaction too when she saw what they had seen, but her mouth could not be shut for too long.

"Oh so you have not even... But you have... He has not..."

Kat swallowed uncomfortablyand stood up.
"I do not think I am feeling well, and I regret to take my leave."
She curtsied and walked briskly towards the doors that lead out of the room. She could feel tears choking up in her eyes and her throat catch, she felt as if she would choke if she didn't cry but she held it in until she was half way up the stairs and she couldn't hold it in anymore.

She felt envious of the other women and ashamed that she could not do her duty, but then she slapped herself.  She did not have a duty, she was a women of the 21st century and she did not follow these social constructs. She felt ashamed that she kept pushing away her feelings for Eric, but she did not want to embarrass herself. She placed her face in her hands and sobbed even more,  she must look pathetic as she was dramatically collapsed on the staircase.

"Katherine?"
A quiet voice whispered. She lifted her head to see Eric, his hand placed on the Bannister, looking up at her with deep concern in his eyes. Kats face turned even more red than it already was.
"Oh no no no no no"
She muttered.

Standing up, she wiped her eyes and began to climb up higher on the stairs before she stopped to see Eric the step below her, holding out his arms to her.
"Katherine?"

She collapsed into his arms and sobbed against his chest, as he pulled her into an embrace.

And that was where they stayed.

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