~ Chapter Five ~
The chauffeur arrived on time just as Henry had promised. Rosie was ready. In fact, she had been ready for hours. She wore a blue satin dress, accessorised with a diamond necklace and earrings.
“You look beautiful, my lady.” The driver said to her as he held the door open.
Rosie smiled and nodded. “Thank you” she said as she stepped carefully up into the carriage before sitting down onto the plush red velvet seats.
As they travelled to Henry’s house, Rosie became increasingly aware that she had never been to his house nor met his father before. Her mind swarmed with both pleasant and unpleasant plausible situations she thought that she may have to face and what the correct etiquette was for each one. The very last thing she wanted was to come across as uneducated and rude.
After a short journey, the carriage arrived at the front of a luxurious three storey mansion. The lights from inside the building casted a golden glow into the dimming night’s sky.
“Wow.” Rosie breathed as she stepped out.
“Wow, indeed ma’am” repeated the carriage driver, looking more at Rosie than he did look at the mansion.
An aged man in a plain black suit greeted Rosie politely and escorted her inside the house. “Right this way, my lady” he said as she stared around her in awe.
He led her through the house and into a comparatively smaller room towards the back which overlooked the many acres of garden. The garden was green and vast, surrounded with flowers which reminded her of her own garden- except Rosie’s garden was a lot smaller than theirs.
Henry and his father were standing together by the fire discussing something in raised whispers. Rosie was surprised at how similar Henry’s father looked to his son. The one difference between them was that his father was slightly taller and had grey strands streaked into his golden hair. He looked good for his age.
“Ah! There she is!” Henry approached Rosie with open arms and embraced her. “Father, meet Rosie. Isn’t she beautiful?”
His father bowed, took her hand and gently kissed it. “Incredibly. How do you do, my dear? Welcome to our home.”
"I am well, thank you Duke. You have a wonderful home.”
The Duke waved his hands dismissively. “Please, please. Call me William. ‘Duke’ is far too formal. Here, you are a guest of Henry’s. A guest of Henry’s is a guest of mine and I insist you call me William.” The Duke said kindly, his eyes twinkling in the firelight. “Have you heard the news?”
“News?” Rosie repeated questioningly.
Henry scowled. “Father, I was going to tell her-” He said through gritted teeth.
“Ah! Right, of course. Sorry. I shall leave you two to talk.” Henry’s father topped up his tumbler with scotch, raised his glass to them and then left the room wordlessly.
“What was the news?” Rosie asked, sitting down carefully on the couch.
Henry looked into the fire silently. “There’s a war coming. Soon. I’m not sure when.” He turned to face Rosie, his expression grave. “I wanted to let you know first. I didn’t want you to hear from someone else.”
Rosie’s eyes welled with tears. She had lost her father the previous war. It pained her to even think about losing Henry beyond words. Still, she understood his duties and his importance of joining- especially considering his father’s position as Duke. “When?” She choked.
He sat gently down on the space beside her, held her hand and looked longingly into her eyes. “A few months maybe. Rosie, I love you. You are beautiful. I don’t want to go to war because I fear that I mightn’t make it back to you but knowing that you will be here waiting for me to return gives me strength. I will fight for your safety in the name of our country.”
“I don’t want you to go…” Rosie whispered weakly.
Henry pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. “Me either” he admitted “but I want you to be safe.” There was a silence where they both said nothing but held each other in quiet reflection. “Rosie? Will you wait for me?”
Rosie pulled away from him. “Of course!” She exclaimed, shocked that he had asked. “Of course I will. Will you return to me? Will you even remember me?”
“If that is what your heart desires.”
“It is. And what does your heart desire?”
“You.” Henry said in barely more than a whisper without hesitation. He stood up and walked to the fire, turning on the radio to little more than a quiet hum. He drained the remaining contents of his tumbler and placed it gently onto the fireplace. He dug his hands into his trouser pockets and turned back to her. “More than anything else than this world could ever give me.”
“Rosie, I know that we haven’t known each other long, but in this war, you give me something worth fighting for. You are the one. I can’t promise that I’ll return home to you. Remember on the night we first met? I said that I’d never hurt you and you asked how I knew that. I told you didn’t. Remember?”
Rosie nodded her head gently. “And you said that ‘all I can do is everything I can to make you happy.’” She smiled as she remembered him saying this. It was the determination in his voice to please her that had truly won her heart.
“I can’t promise you I’ll make it back. The one thing I’d never do is break a promise and I’m not going to make a promise that I can’t entirely guarantee. I don’t want to upset or hurt you Rosie, but I have to account for all possible situations. I will do everything within my power and everything I can to come home to you. That is, only if you’d let me and want me to.”
Rosie’s eyes widened. “Of course I want you to come back! Why wouldn’t I?! Henry, I love you… But all this talk… It’s scaring me slightly. Where are you going with this?”
“There is one thing I can promise you.” He sunk down onto one knee, extracting a small diamond ring from his pocket. It had been his mothers and he treasured it dearly, just like he treasured Rosie. Rosie gasped in surprise. A proposal was the last thing that she had expected from this evening. “I promise to love you with all my heart; to fight until the very end to make it back to you. I promise I will never leave you for someone else or intentionally hurt you, emotionally or physically in any way. I want to spend my life with you Rosie. Will you marry me?”
“I-” Rosie’s voice trapped in her throat. “Yes. Yes. I do.” She laughed as he placed the ring onto her finger. The song that they had first danced to started playing on the radio as if it were on cue. Their song. Henry swiftly glided to the radio and turned up the volume. He spun back to Rosie, bowed before her and outstretched a hand.
“Excuse me. My lady? May I have this dance?” Henry repeated from the night when he had first met her. Rosie giggled and took his hand, accepting his invitation. And so they danced in front of the fire to their song, ready to tackle the world together.
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