By Gev Sweeney
All was settled. Piers would marry Marguerite. He had no choice. He must. Georgiana smiled and said she was delighted and gave Marguerite a kiss on the cheek which was, in its solidness, the smack across the face she had so longed wished to give her.
While the music played and the guests drank and danced themselves into genteel stupidity, Georgiana fled to the library. Her mother, her family, her friends and all the peers would conspire about the gifts they would give the young couple, but only she, Georgiana, could give them something that nobody else had in their power or imagination to give them: the future.
She took out her set of pastel paints and executed with speed a portrait of Marguerite and Piers as they would appear twenty years from that moment. Marguerite had faded into a reminder of the aura around a woman standing in deep shade with her back to the sun. Look closely, and one could see the ashen hair and holes of eyes. Beside her Piers, still tall, was bald and fat and more grey and crinkled than a missive finally unfolded after years in storage.
“Foretell that for your sister, and you might as well foretell that for yourself.”
Georgiana squealed. She hadn’t been aware of Julian coming into the room. Nor had she heard anybody follow her. The fright of the surprise was almost as great as the shame at being caught in the midst of her deed, with the convicting pastels still in her hand.
Julian’s face betrayed no emotion. The assessment was enough. He really needn’t add, as he did indeed add,
“Perhaps you should consider yourself fortunate that a man you seek should never seek you. He would be disappointed to the point of despair, and you would wonder why and never have the strength of character to examine yourself.”
So stunned was Georgiana by his words that she did nothing to stop him from taking the portrait. She managed some tortured words as she followed him out the door and towards the staircase.
“Wait! What are you doing?”
“I’m going to show a man how lucky he is.”
She never knew she could run so quickly. She did, though, and she stopped Julian by grabbing his swallowtails.
“You can’t do this.”
“Yes, I can. I can do this, too.”
With one arm, he scooped her up and over his shoulder, and proceeded down the staircase, heedless to her cries and the bursts of laughter from the crowd on the floor below.