Guy Pender, an excerpt

Tuesday afternoon once again presented Tobias with an opportunity for lovemaking with Charlotte, and this time he was grateful for Amelie’s sense of charity. Theirs was a very different liaison from the one that unfolded in Guy’s apartment. 

Guy had nervously prepared for Amelie’s visit. He had no way of knowing if she would come, but he had a feeling she couldn’t keep away. He had tidied the apartment and had even gone so far as to buy some fine new glass goblets for their cordial. That morning he had been to see Leon de Fevre who winked at him knowingly and offered to put a selection of his finest petit fours into a box. “She will come, my friend,” he said, handing the box of tiny marzipan fruit-shaped delights to Guy.

With a great deal of care Guy placed the furniture where Amelie could sit comfortably in his presence, close enough that they could talk, but not so close as to be improper. As the clock approached the hour at which she had arrived last week, Guy nervously stood, then sat in one of the chairs, then moved to the other one. Briefly, he went to the door to see if he could see her coming along the passageway, but to no avail. Then he left the door ajar to save her knocking and took up residence in the chair nearest the window. Albert, sensing Guy’s restlessness, sat upright on guard duty on the landing, his tail twitching as he licked a paw in the warmth of the late afternoon sun.

The truth of it was that Amelie had been late setting out, having been held up in conversation with Sister Marthe, who had wanted to know how Amelie’s first visit had gone, and to tell her how pleased the sisters were to have found someone so kind and generous as to help them out in their charity work. Amelie shifted from one foot to the other, thinking of the time passing while she politely answered Sister Marthe’s questions. Behind her, Leon de Fevre was quietly smiling to himself. “So, she is going to visit him again,” he thought, though no further words had been spoken between them about the baker’s part in their liaison since her thanks last week.

It felt to Amelie like everyone wanted to talk today. The children slowed her progress along the street by gathering in a group around her. The mothers took her hand to say thank you for the welcome gift and even Leon de Fevre seemed to be dithering over his list of addresses. Amelie rather hoped she could continue this weekly delivery on her own in future.

Eventually, only one loaf remained in the basket, and they both knew who was to be the recipient of that. Leon had not even bothered to write the address down this time. He quietly handed her the bread, took the empty basket and nodded in the direction of the passage to Guy’s door. “Go on, then,” he said gently.

Guy heard her footsteps on the metal staircase at the same time that Albert saw her coming. The cat stood up, stretched and yawned before sauntering down the stairs as if to say, “Well, where have you been?”

“Hello, cat,” said Amelie, bending to stroke Albert’s head. “Is your master at home?”

“He is indeed,” laughed Guy as he reached the landing and held out a hand to indicate that she should go inside.

He followed her in and shut the door, leaving Albert mewing outside. “I am glad you came,” said Guy, as Amelie took one of the seats that Guy had so carefully arranged. Amelie noticed the open box of sweet treats, and though she could not face the idea of eating anything, she appreciated the thought. She was conscious of a certain irony in this, having grown heartily sick of Tobias’ regular gifts of chocolate. Somehow Guy’s gift was just so much more considerate. He didn’t ask if she wanted some cordial, he merely poured it into one of the new glasses and put it on the table in front of her. As he withdrew his arm, she took his hand and held it firmly. “I could not stay away,” she replied in a husky voice. Guy could tell she was nervous, but he sensed a certain resolve about her today. It occurred to him that they could feel each other’s emotions without the need for words, a kind of empathy that he had never experienced before.

Amelie had decided to tell Guy all about Tobias and Charlotte, as well as the latest news about her sister and Edward. It felt like there was so much secrecy in her life that she just wanted to be honest with Guy. So they just talked. Every once in a while, Guy would reach out and take her hand as she talked about her suspicions that Tobias was meeting with Charlotte. Guy kept quiet about the things Luigi told him he had overheard at the cafe table. 

His heart leapt when she explained that her sister’s betrothal to Edward Wingfield took the pressure off her sense of duty to her parents. He laughed out loud when she mentioned that Augusta would be a duchess one day. “Even Tobias Linburg can’t compete with that,” he replied.

And hearing that she felt no real loyalty to Tobias any more was wonderful news, but dreadfully sad at the same time. “I suppose I must still marry him,” said Amelie, with a huge and painful sigh. Guy wanted so much to reach out and take her in his arms to offer some comfort. “It is too soon,” he told himself. “Tread gently.”

Instead, he just put a hand on hers. In a whisper he said, “Amelie, you can do as you wish, you know.”

She looked at him in amazement, as if this was the first time she had ever considered the idea of doing what she pleased with her life. “But I can’t see a way out of it. If I don’t go through with it I am worried that Tobias will find out it is because of you. He may make plans to hurt you.”

Guy didn’t tell Amelie that Tobias had already attempted to do so, but that it didn’t matter at all. He merely answered, “Well, I suppose you had better make a decision about the marriage sooner, rather than later, my dear.”

“I know I must, and I certainly have no desire to spend the rest of my life with him, especially now my sister has taken on the mantle of marrying into wealth,” said Amelie.

Guy considered carefully what he was going to say next. It was important he chose the right words. He didn’t want Amelie to come to him merely as a way of escaping from Tobias. What he said next had to be about their long term future together. He began, “Amelie, I don’t know if this helps you to decide, but you know that I love you, don’t you?”

The pair of them sat facing each other, leaning forward almost close enough to kiss. Amelie took Guy’s hands before replying, “I love you too, Guy Pender. I love you very much indeed.”

Guy could feel her breath on his face as she said the words he had hoped to hear from her. He stood up, still holding her hands, so that she had little choice but to follow suit. The table between them was all that was stopping Guy from taking her into his arms. Now was the moment for him to continue, “Amelie von Truber, I hope that one day soon, when the time is right, you will do me the honour of becoming my wife.”

Amelie did not hesitate in her reply, “Oh Guy, it would be my great pleasure to accept. I can think of nothing I want more in life. But please, I need to work out what to say to Tobias. Let’s talk no more about such things for now. I really must go home before I am missed.”

“Come back next week, Amelie, please,” begged Guy. “In the meantime, we should both think about a way out of your situation.” Breaking away from her and heading to open the door, he added, “That is, if you really wish to be with me instead of Tobias.”

Guy went to take Amelie’s hands once more, but she felt brave enough to ignore it and to put her hands on his shoulders before reaching forward to place a kiss upon his cheek. “Oh, I do, Guy, I really do,” was all she could whisper before taking her leave. Guy was left standing, a hand to the exact spot on his cheek where she had planted her delicate kiss.

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