You’re really going to kick me out?”
“Yes, I really am.” Mrs. Wattlesbrook folded her arms.
Jane bit her lip and bent her head back to look at the sky. Funny that it looked so far away. It felt as if it were pressing down on her head, shoving her into the dirt. What a mean bully of a sky.
Much of the household was present now. Miss Heartwright was huddled with the main actors, whispering, like rubberneckers shocked at a roadside accident but unable to look away. A couple of gardeners strolled up as well, tools in hand. Martin wiped his brow, confusion (sadness?) heavy on his face. Jane was embarrassed to see him, remembering how she’d ended things, and feeling less than appealing at the moment. The whole scene was rather Hester Prynne, and Jane imagined herself on a scaffold with a scarlet C for “cell phone” on her chest.
She realized she was still holding her croquet mallet and wondered that no one felt threatened by her. She hefted it. Would it be fun to bash in a window? Nah. She handed it to Miss Charming.
“Go get ‘em, Charming.”
“Okay,” Miss Charming said uncertainly.
“If you would be so kind as to step into the carriage,” said Mrs. Wattlesbrook.
Curse the woman. Jane had just started to have such fun, too. Why didn’t one of the gentlemen come forward to defend her? Wasn’t that, like, their whole purpose of existence? She supposed they’d be fired if they did. The cowards.
She stood on the carriage’s little step and turned to face the others. She’d never left a relationship with the last word, something poetic and timeless, triumphant amid her downfall. Oh, for a perfect line! She opened her mouth, hoping something just right would come to her, but Miss Heartwright spoke first.
“Mrs. Wattlesbrook! Oh dear, I have only now realized what transpired.” She lifted the hem of her skirts and minced her way to the carriage. “Please wait, this is all my fault. Poor Miss Erstwhile was only doing me a favor. You see, the modern contraption was mine. I did not realize I had it until I arrived, and I was so distressed, Miss Erstwhile kindly offered to keep it for me among her own things where I would not have to look upon it.”
Jane stood very still. She thought to wonder what instinct made her body rigid when shocked. Was she prey by nature? A rabbit afraid to move when a hawk wheels overhead? Mrs. Wattlesbrook had not moved either, not even to blink. A silent minute limped forward as everyone waited.
“I see,” the proprietress said at last. She looked at Jane, at Miss Heartwright, then fumbled with the keys at her side. “Well, now, ahem, since it was an accident, I think we should forget it ever happened. I do hope, Miss Heartwright, that you will continue to honor us with your presence.”
Ah, you old witch, Jane thought.
“Yes, of course, thank you.” Miss Heartwright was in her best form, all proper feminine concern, artless and pleasant. Her eyes twinkled. They really did.
Everyone began to move off, nothing disturbing left to view. Jane caught a glimpse of Martin smiling, pleased, before he turned away.
“I’m so sorry, Jane. I do hope you will forgive me.”
“Please don’t mention it, Miss Heartwright.”
“Amelia.” She held Jane’s hand to help her descend from the carriage. “You must call me Amelia now.”
“Thank you, Amelia.”
It was such a sisterly moment, Jane thought they might actually embrace.