Raven slammed on the brake and sat there, breathless.
She turned her head and looked at him. The headlights shined straight through her.
His pupils widened.
It’s one or the other. I cannot hold onto them both.
“Raven?” Ambrose frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Raven didn’t answer. He unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car.
The scent of mulberries and vanilla enriched the outside air.
His heart pounded in his head, making his eardrums vibrate.
She smiled at him and held out her hand.
He grabbed the car’s outside mirror. It kept him from running to her. “Miss Farlington.”
His knees trembled at the sound of her voice.
“Miss Farlington.” His throat tightened. “Is it really you?”
She smiled. “What have I told you one thousand times? Do not call me Miss Farlington. My name is—”
“May Rose.” He half-laughed, half-cried.
She approached him. As she came closer, he took note of the finer details. Her dress was a simple white linen gown with lace trimmings, similar to one she had worn so many summers ago. Her hair was arranged in a soft pompadour. Fine curls touched her neck.
And all at once, she was no longer Mrs. Vansing nor Miss Farlington.
She was May Rose and he was just James.
“Can…Can I touch you?”
She looked up at him with those eyes that he knew. Those eyes that he had loved. “Touch me, James.”
Raven raised his hand and a bad case of shyness overcame him. Everywhere he considered putting it seemed so inappropriate.
His hand came to rest on her face.
It was like touching an exploding firework, but he didn’t move his hand away. “May Rose. May I kiss you?”
“I wish you would.”
Raven eagerly leaned forward.
Missy appeared in his mind. Her energetic personality. Her bright eyes. Her dense black hair. The way she touched him.
The way he loved her.
He pulled back. “But what is the point? You are gone, Miss Farlington. I might kiss you now, but it means nothing. I cannot have you.”
Her smile turned sad.
“I don’t want to, but I must. If I am to have any sort of relationship with Missy, I must do this. I must let you go.”
Tears fell down her face.
Raven removed his gloves, folded them together, and put them in his coat pocket. He took her bare hands into his bare hands. Their fingers interlocked perfectly.
Memories filled his mind.
She watched him put on his gloves ever so carefully. A deliriously strange feeling came over her. He looked back at her, puzzled. “May I help you, Miss Farlington?”
She dropped onto the couch with an overdramatic “Ugh!” He entered the room. “What seems to be the matter, Miss Farlington?” She raised her head. “Everything! Arranged marriages. Learning to dance. And—” She grabbed one of the pillows and threw it at him. “—you calling me Miss Farlington. I have a first name, James.”
She trapped him in a corner. “Tell me, James. Tell me you love me. Speak your heart to me.”
She looked up at Charles Vansing’s face. Up at his gold-colored eyes. She smiled wide and said, “I do.”
Her heart tore as Charles struggled to breathe. “If only I could give my breath to you, Charles. I would.” She laid her head on his chest and cried. “I would gladly do so.”
Charles stood before her. His body was outlined in golden light. Her heart leapt and went still. And she was in his arms again.
Raven’s body shook as he cried. “I loved you for so long. I love you. It broke my heart to see you marry him. To know that I could never have you as my own. Every time you looked at him, every time you smiled at him, every moment you spent with him, every laugh you shared with him, every smile, every touch, every time you left with him, I wanted to die. It killed me to be pleasant to him. I hated him. I hated that he was in a position where he could woo you without any class barriers. I hated that he proposed to you. I hated your parents for arranging the marriage. I hated the priest for performing the ceremony. I hated…I hated myself for lacking the courage to speak up. I hated myself for not taking up your offer and eloping with you. I hated myself for always seeing the barriers between us and never seeing just you. I loved you, May Rose Farlington, with all of my heart. But the time has come.”
He looked down at her hands. “I need to let you go.”
She kissed his head and whispered, “Thank you.”
Her hands lost substance and form and details.
He looked up at her as the woman he loved transformed into a pure spirit of white light and shining stars.
“Love Missy and be happy.”
She flickered like a candle and disappeared.
“Farewell, May Rose.”