At some point, Juliet fell asleep. She did not remember when or how, but she woke up in the early morning with the sheets tucked around her. She blinked and rubbed her eyes, relieved that she had not given in to tears the night before. The temptation to stay in her room for the next two days crossed her mind, but she knew it was not a real option.
Ain’t really my room anyway. She stopped the thought from growing before bitterness took root. She clambered out of bed, stiffer than she expected, and to the wardrobe. Donning a simple frock from her first days at Handover, she slipped out into the corridor. The household was awake and at work, but perturbingly silent. She crept down the stairs and to the kitchen, glad to find only Ginny there. The cook glanced over her shoulder when Juliet closed the door, but then turned her head sharply back.
“You missed breakfast,” she said gruffly.
Juliet’s heart sank. It was the reaction she had feared receiving from everyone but Ginny. From Ginny she had expected floury hugs and apple crumble. “I’m sorry,” Juliet whispered.
She watched Ginny’s shoulders hunch up then droop. “Well, pull up a stool and I’ll fix something up for you.”
The words were encouraging, but it bothered Jule that Ginny’s bright voice had gone husky and that she refused to look at her. She sat in silence until the sounds and smells of frying eggs filled the room and then tentatively began to ask, “Where is—” She was going to say Mrs. Glasgow, but Ginny interrupted.
“Master Peter left early to see Lord Kimball,” she said. “I don’t know when he’ll be back.” Juliet’s answer was a soft “oh” and she didn’t try to ask again. Ginny continued. “However, he gave everyone very strict instructions on how to handle you until Sunday.”
Nerves warred in her stomach. “What’s that?”
Ginny turned, and Juliet realized the woman had been holding back tears. “To do exactly what you ask.”
Juliet felt her face flush. “Oh,” she said again, but amidst the relief was a hard weight of disappointment.
“You understand what that means, don’t you?” Ginny pressed Juliet’s hands between hers. They were scarred and calloused, but still so warm and comforting. “You understand you’re always welcome here.”
Juliet managed the semblance of a smile. “I know,” she said, because she could not bear to tell her otherwise.