The Arrangement

By Amanda Scheifele


The butler’s white head poked through the door after a smart tap, “Your wife wishes an audience m’lord.”

The man put down his pen and moved in his chair, motioning for the butler to allow her in.  He had been meaning to see her since he came home from his trip and he felt a little guilty that it had been left to her to come to him.

As she entered, he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a little present.  When he looked back up, his eyes relaxed as he saw his beautiful wife, dressed and ready to go to the opera, verily dripping furs and pearls and her soft brown hair done back in puffs of waves.  Her appleblossom lips curved up delicately as she curtsied, glad to see his handsome face as well.

He stood and kissed her hand and she said sweetly in her hushed voice, “My lord.”

He suddenly remembered the present and he fumbled for a moment as he reached around and handed it to her, “I-I found while I was on exploration on the islands and thought of you.”and he handed her the large spiral sea shell.

She turned it in her small hands and felt its rough exterior and twisted frame, “It reminded you of me?”she asked, though her smile never changed.

The man grinned back brightly and was glad she liked it.  He stood straighter and she fingered the shell, the pause in conversation stretching.

It had been necessary, she reminded herself, necessary. And both were devoted to duty and thought the other lovely and sweet and noble and kind and… and kind…

“I was wondering if Your Grace would like to accompany me to the opera?”She asked as she always did, her eyes liquid and looking up.

He bit back his immediate decline this time.  He disliked opera and theatre and still she asked for his company faithfully every time she went.  It had almost become a game of sorts.  Every time she asked, he would decline with a kiss to her hand, which he did so now, but answered instead with “I would be honoured.”

Her eyes lit in surprise, but she just curtsied, “Then I shall see you there, my lord.”

From the balcony, the singers on the stage looked like light on water, as the audience glittered in glass and gemstone.

The singing was so fluid and magnificent, like the wind, and brought tears to her eyes.

He watched her from her side and smiled, realizing how the tears from her eyes hung on her lashes, glinting in the candlelight before they shone down her cheek in smooth lines.

Without thinking too much about it, he slipped his hands into hers. She almost started, looking down suddenly, causing tears to drop like diamonds on to his hands. Staring at the hands, she blinked slowly as if squeezing away the rest of the tears, and looked back to the stage, contently listening to the music as it grew to a crescendo.