Phaedra sat curled up on the window seat she had haunted all her young life, watching the rain streak the window and turn the world into a watery, haunted place.
Wickentower Manor was never described as cheery or homey, but somehow, despite the gloom, today it was a comforting place: Fires burned in most of the fireplaces, the scent of a stew was wafting from the kitchen. Pip let himself in through the door carrying a large tray laden with cookies and tea made just how she liked it and then let himself out again with a small skip in his step. Somewhere in the house someone sang a few notes slightly off-key and fell silent again.
Leaving New Babbage had been the right choice, Phaedra realized. Pip was certainly happier here in Massachusetts where he had run of the expansive grounds. The distance was giving her a chance to put the past few months into perspective and shake her head in wonder at the mess she had made. It was not so unusual a choice, it had always been the agreement between her and her former husband that if either of them fell into deep trouble or if they found themselves separated, they’d make their way back to the manor.
She leaned her forehead against the cool glass of the window and stared down at the drive already turning muddy from the day’s rain. It was from this exact spot, all those years ago, that she had watched Mr. Underby’s carriage pull to a stop. She could picture him so clearly stepping out of the carriage in that ostentatious coat, the silk lining flashing red with his movement, his tophat angled on his head.
It had been raining then too, but still he had paused and looked straight up, almost as if he was expecting her to be sitting there and his strange eyes had frightened her. She had been a gawky, nervous, thing back then and had quickly scrambled away from the window and had not returned to the seat until she heard the door opened to admit him. When her father called her down to meet him she had fled the house.
Her memories of Mr. Underby were a confusion, but then, lately, everything was a confusion.
She had thought that Berithos loved her, but he had hardly looked at her after the Melniks had released her. She had thought she’d take her secret about Lo to the grave, but had confessed it to the girl sitting in a gutter for the Gods’ sake! She had also thought that with the divorce finalized and her freedom from Mr. Underby secured she’d feel a great deal of relief.
But instead she felt as unhappy as ever.
It was a curious thing to discover, after the final chances had been given and there was little hope of going back, that one was still in love with one’s husband.
Ah well, she thought with a sigh, unfolding herself and moving to the tea tray, I will just stay here until I’ve forgotten about him.
She carried her tea back to the window seat, thinking that that may take some time yet.