By Rachel Heffington
“I would like a great many things,” she said in her queenliest voice, so that he might know the limits of her imagination were nonexistent, “but what I’d like right now would be to slip out of these horrid, sweaty clothes, and to slip into a cool white frock. I would like one of these velvety lawns, and nothing better to do with my time than lay in hammock reading, or to traipse across the green grass and look lovely.” That was exactly what she wanted—all these secluded, cool, wide lawns wandering up to white porches and arched windows filled her heart with a dusty, musty ache that kept pace with her increasingly drab appearance. Yes—she longed with all the passionate longing of a weary soul to have the luxury of traipsing.
“You want to….traipse?” her companion asked, evidently bewildered.
“Traipse. We are always walking or going or running or trotting off to do this, that, and the other—I’d like to take a wander and have no one bother me about politics or religion or a thousand-and-one other things People tend to like to bother an innocent young lady with.”
She nodded; pleased with the way he’d taken his defeat. An “ah” meant he had resigned his verbal sword and would behave himself. It was a great relief that he had not said “aha” instead, which had much more of a challenge about it, and meant that she would be required to defend her point further. “Oh—and there’s one more thing, Beckett,” she said.
Beckett winced, and shook himself. “What is it, Arianna?”
“I have a headache, Beckett.”
“Well? Can I do anything about it?” Sarcasm, Arianna noted with contempt. Becket t always resorted to sarcasm first thing and wasted a situation in which wit ought to have played a decent part. He fought with a claymore of a tongue—she preferred a rapier; sharp, cutting, infinitely polite.
Arianna pressed her temples with her fingertips and tried not to think about how weary she was. “As a matter of fact, you can do something about it, Beckett,” she said at length. “You can take yourself off and leave me alone, and perhaps a massive portion of my headache would depart with you.”
“You’re a cruel woman, Arianna Maddox,” Beckett growled. But he lumbered off dutifully, and Arianna watched him with nothing greater than mild annoyance—he behaved exactly as a devoted lover ought: going away when bidden, and coming around when needed. He was just the sort of fellow Arianna liked, for though she was a woman and would faint before betraying her sex, she had never been overly companionable with any young ladies.
Beckett wandered off down the cool stone drive, and once Arianna was certain he would not come dawdling back, Arianna smoothed her shirt, fluffed her bangs, and re-folded the cuff of her capris. Dashing about campaigning through neighborhoods was all very well and good when the temperature was a balmy sixty-degrees, but the full summer heat had been beating upon them all day, and Arianna’s mood was souring. Beckett had done nothing but chatter all afternoon, and the hotter the day grew the faster his tongue wagged. It was almost as if Beckett had been a lumbering, bumbling, handsome sort of cicada intent on keeping pace with the advancing of the temperatures. “Which,” she thought to herself, “is exactly what he is.”