Anne Elliot is taking matters into her own hands as her hope rises and her hesitation wanes! Here is Part 7 of her time loop story. I heavily used suggestions in comment from the last chapter, the consensus of which was, “Make them kiss!” Thanks for reading!
Anne avoided cabbages and carriages the following day, not desiring to be trampled, crushed, or otherwise discomposed by wheeled vehicles for at least a day or two.
How one’s standards could fall!
She also allowed Mr. Elliot to go on his way unmet that morning, for though he was an interesting man, he was somewhat inclined to take up all the attention of the family group. He tended to absorb Anne’s attention as well, to be honest, and she wanted to think about other things.
When the Musgrove and Harville party walked the Cobb, she walked by Benwick and ascertained that he was rather more cheerful than he had been before. That was uplifting. Her talks with him over the past weeks—months?—of repetitions, had apparently done him some good. Or perhaps, for she was not vain, merely being in company with a large party of carefree people had raised his spirits.
Anne was glad to see it, whatever the cause.
Captain Harville’s leg seemed to pain him a little less.
Mrs. Harville did not apologize profusely for the small size of her house. She seemed to instinctively know that no one would mind.
Henrietta was actually on her way to believing that all would be well for Charles Hayter. Anne was devoutly thankful for this, as Henrietta had spoken of little else since the wretched repeating day began.
And at the (tragically repetitious) fateful moment, she found that Louisa only half-heartedly asked to jump down the steps—while glancing over her shoulder nervously—and that Captain Wentworth nixed the impulse as decisively as the day before.
Anne took a moment to chock the wheel of the cabbage cart before she descended. The wooden triangle had been bumped away. Anne bent to retrieve it and put it back in place. The owner, a portly woman of iron gray hair and salt-weathered features, stared at her in surprise as Anne rose from her crouch. “Er, thank’ee, miss. Cabbages?”
“Not today, with any luck,” Anne said ruefully.
She had fallen a few moments behind the others, and Captain Wentworth was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Several bathing carriages were on the beach beyond, the horses clodding through the wet gravel as they pulled the wagons to deep water where the ladies could step down and swim away from the shore. The groaning wheels quieted as they went into the low waves.
“Making friends?” he asked. His arms were clasped across his chest, and she could perfectly picture him standing on the foredeck of his ship in such a position.
“Just preventing an accident.”
“Yes. I’d forgotten how slick the lower walk is. I’m rather amazed there are not more accidents.” He glanced around with a furrowed brow, and she could practically see him picturing a wave knocking her into the stones, a jostle sending someone off a step. Or a cart of cabbages sailing off the top. He shook his head. “I’m not usually anxious.”
Anne laughed despite his dour face, or perhaps because of it. “Are you talking to me, or to yourself?”
He smiled. “Not to you, if I shall only be laughed at.”
The began to walk, but he seemed in no hurry to catch up with the others; Anne was not in a hurry either. “If I promise not to laugh?” she offered. “I can even agree that you are not generally an anxious person. You’re quite sanguine. At least, you used to be.”
A slightly wry twist of his mouth acknowledged her reference to their history. “Yes, I’m still of a sanguine, hopeful temperament; though experience should probably have taught me otherwise.”
“I regret it,” Anne said. “For what it is worth, and though I have said it before, I regret my decision.”
A momentary wealth of emotion crossed his features before he shook his head, confused. “You’ve never said that before.”
“I suppose not—that you remember. I would’ve told you that I was sorry—”
“I know you’re sorry,” Captain Wentworth interrupted. “You’ve said that before. Or rather, I feel as if you’ve said it before.” A momentary wave of confusion overwhelmed him as he tried to place when that conversation could’ve happened, but he shook it off. The present was always more important than the past. “But sorry might mean that you merely disliked to have hurt me. It might mean you want to gloss over the awkwardness of our current situation.”
Anne frowned, rubbing her gloved hand up and down her arm as if she was cold. At least today she’d worn shawl and gloves and not run out hatless, barely more protected than those women out sea bathing…
Another wave of confusion caused a pain between his eyes. When had she run out like that?
As he winced, Anne half-reached for him, but let her hand fall. “Then let me be clear. What I meant—and what I think every night as I remember that day—was that I wish I had made a different decision. I wish I had chosen you, even if you had never gotten your own ship. Even if you had never captured so many prizes you could retire from the navy. I regret turning you away more than eyes regret tears.”
Before he could respond, though he could feel a very fool-hardy and love-drunk reply building up in him—truly, where was this coming from?—Anne turned half away with a laugh.
Toward the ocean, she yelled, “There, I said it! Is that what you wanted?” She laughed, though it sounded as if she might cry.
Captain Wentworth paused. “Are you alright, Anne? Haven’t been… accepting Harville’s brandy this morning, have you?”
Now she really laughed. “I’m not drunk, you completely—lovely idiot. I just know that today won’t matter.”
“What does that mean?” A sudden horrible thought, of her being ill or even dying, took his breath away. She had been so pale these past weeks, so thin and different. “You don’t mean—Is there something—”
The sound of a rope breaking and a horsey scream behind him wasn’t enough to arrest his attention, but it drew Anne’s eyes over his shoulder. “Oh—for heaven and saint’s sake—”
She rose up on her toes and kissed him. He instinctively bent down to her, remembering her smell and mouth and skin as a composite sense memory that simply said, home.
His hand slid behind her neck but he barely had a moment of joy before a horse from one of the bathing carriages, which had been stung by a relatively unusual tropical jellyfish, broke its tracings, and plunged up the shore, knocked him senseless to the ground.
Captain Wentworth woke up with his hands behind his head, a lingering ache in one shoulder, and a vague sense of dread.
The inn at Lyme was quiet at this hour, too quiet.
He was accustomed to the creak, swish, and call of his ship. It still felt odd at times to wake in a fixed, dead building, not a living, breathing ship.
In a ship, by the very feel of the air he’d know if it was to be a calm, humid morning, the boards creaking as they soaked in the moisture, or a blustery day good for quick time, or a bitter cold day when all the seamen would glower at him and one another as the wind bit into them during their shift of work.
In a hotel, the air was a bit stifled, and the walls were so stationary. They told one nothing. Perhaps that was the reason for his unaccustomed dread.
He opened the window a crack with the stiff crank, and breathed in the air of Lyme—the small amount that seeped in. A fine town Lyme. He wouldn’t mind settling down in this region of the country. He’d be near to Harville and his sister, and perhaps the wind would be good for Anne in her condition—
He startled while pouring water from his pitcher into the basin on the old dresser. It splashed on the wood and the floor.
For Anne’s condition.
Why was he picturing her unwell? Why was he picturing Anne in Lyme with himself?
Surely he meant Louisa.
Captain Wentworth set the pitcher down and used the blanket from the bed to wipe the water on the floor. One never left a spill on board, too much risk of slipping and falling.
He brought the blanket to his face, pressing the cold wet fabric over his eyes. Why was he picturing—no, not just picturing, but feeling—Anne’s lips on his own? It’d been twelve years!
Why did it feel like yesterday?
He could find not a jot of true affection for Louisa in himself this morning. To be honest, he had never felt a great deal, but she was lively, confident, and amusing. She would be an energetic and enthusiastic partner in life.
But this morning that seemed absurd. He couldn’t offer for Louisa when Anne was right there—possibly without much time left.
A sharp pain hit him behind his left eye.
Perhaps this was how old Thomas felt after he’d had his stroke. The man could still speak, but he’d been confused, mixing time and space, past and present.
Captain Wentworth did not believe he’d had a stroke—his hands and legs were as coordinated as ever—but it was intolerable not to know where his thoughts and questions were coming from.
He pulled on his shirt, waistcoat, and morning coat without delay. He heard the hotel man on the stairs and opened his door, peremptorily holding out his hand for his boots. He might be losing his mind, but he would do it fully dressed.
“Ah, good morning, Captain.” The servant passed Wentworth’s boots to him, and then reverently placed another, glossier set at the door several down from his, the one across the landing from Anne’s room.
That gentlemen also opened his door, and nodded thanks to the servant. Captain Wentworth would’ve retreated, but then Anne opened her door.
She took in both gentlemen in the hallway, though her eyes fixed on himself. She blushed—or was that just the morning light from the window in the hall?—and touched her mouth.
That was enough for Captain Wentworth, who forgot himself so far as to cross the hall on stockinged feet and take hold of her shoulder. He was gentle, for she had always been so much smaller than himself, but he was firm. “Are you sick? Are you—dying? I really must know.”
Her look, at first welcoming, changed to confusion. “Dying? No, of course not. That is, I don’t think so.”
There was enough uncertainty in her last statement to make his deep concern turn abruptly to anger. “You don’t think so? By the stars, Anne, what does that mean? What is wrong?”
He felt her slump. “I don’t know. Something is wrong, but I have no reason to think it affects my health at all.”
“Then—how did I know something was wrong? Did you tell me?” In his desperation, he may have given her a slight shake.
The other gentleman—whom Captain Wentworth had completely forgotten—chose this inopportune moment to interrupt.
“I say, sir, you’re being rough with this lady. You should at least allow her to dress.”
Anne blushed vividly this time, as both men took stock of her dressing gown.
She pressed a hand to her forehead. “Clearly this is not the day I’ve been waiting for. Why is there not a spare cabbage cart at hand when one needs it? Please excuse me for a moment, Captain, Mr. Elliot.”
Oh, how that feeling lingered!
What she did not want was Mr. Elliot’s sudden perked attention. “Are we acquainted, ma’am?”
“Elliot?” Captain Wentworth repeated.
“I need a moment,” Anne reiterated, as she shut her door in both their faces.
She could hear them working out the degree of relationship on the landing as she put on her dress. If she ever got out of this horrible day, she was going to burn this dress.
She tied her hair in a knot and did up her half-boots. If she was going to humiliate herself today, she was going to do it fully dressed.
It did not matter, however. Clearly this wasn’t going to be the (magical? theoretical?) day in which everything changed and her life moved on. This was clearly another day for learning.
Anne opened her door. Captain Wentworth looked even more unhappy than usual, but Mr. Elliot was his usual smiling self.
It was flattering that he was always so consistently happy to make her acquaintance. This time his pleasure was tinged with a bit of a protective edge, as he seemed uncertain of her relationship with the Captain.
Which, to be fair, she was also uncertain of. Oh, to kiss him one more time. He had fully kissed her back, holding her face as though they were both twenty again. Once more, then she would know.
But all Mr. Elliot had seen was a rather harsh confrontation.
Captain Wentworth was inclined to be pugnacious, and did not appreciate Mr. Elliot’s presence. He could not exactly order him out of the hotel, but it was clear he would like to.
Anne couldn’t help a small smile as the general introductions were begun in the private parlor.
Captain Wentworth must care about her, if he was so annoyed by Mr. Elliot’s attention. Was he, in fact, jealous of Mr. Elliot’s admiring attention? The thought was daring, self-centered, and a little bit vain…and possibly true. Anne would never have thought it before, but weeks of observing Captain Wentworth and Mr. Elliot were making some things clearer.
How she wished she could start the day over!
Her sister Mary was in fine form, gushing over Mr. Elliot and triumphing that she should meet him before their sister Elizabeth. (She somehow forgot that Elizabeth was already acquainted with him.) It was going to be a long day in which she would probably not have much excuse for private conversation with Captain Wentworth. She knew from experience that once Mr. Elliot was mixed into the party, he tended to interrupt her tete-a-tetes with the Captain.
Captain Wentworth seemed to have sensed this too. He made his way to her and sat next to her on the settee by the table. He rubbed his forehead as if it hurt and she winced sympathetically.
“Anne,” he spoke so as not to be overheard, “I know I have ignored you these last weeks, but I need to speak with you. Something is wrong, as you said, but I do not know what it is. I only know…” he trailed off with his eyes fixed, unless she was much mistaken, on her mouth.
Anne had never considered herself a person of overt physical affection, certainly not sensual, but she wanted very much to kiss him. She wanted that and everything that came with it—a feeling of home, an assurance of love, the promise of a future.
She’d thought that without the other things, she wouldn’t want to kiss someone, but now she found that even without those expectations, she still wanted to kiss him. Even if it was just for today—as it definitely would be on this wretched iteration of the day—she still wanted it.
Anne would probably not have acted on it—not in a parlor with her sister, in-laws, cousin, and a servant present—if she had not seen the bees.
She remembered vividly the day Captain Wentworth had been badly stung on the property of Kellynch Hall in the summer of ’6. He had been frightfully affected, with warmth and tingling, then numbness and swelling. He had had to be taken to his brother’s house and put up for the night. The doctor had been called, though he said merely that numerous bee stings could affect those of a choleric disposition and that blood-letting might help.
As one of the trio of foraging bees, before her outraged eyes, flew directly to Captain Wentworth and landed on his hand, she knew that was how this day would end.
It made her quite angry, more than a charging horse or a cabbage cart or a sudden blow to the head. It wasn’t fair that anyone should suffer to restart the day.
In defiance and frustration, as he shook his hand to dislodge the bee, Anne kissed him. This time her hand found his neck, and he slanted his head to reach her better.
“Anne,” he whispered, with such affection and longing it quite hurt her. “I missed you.”
She kissed him again, to silence him. Any moment the bees would sting and she would wake with her hands under the miserable pillow again.
And indeed, she felt it when Captain Wentworth was stung. He flinched, and his ow was formed against her lips.
Anne drew back, expecting it all to end, but instead…
Her sister Mary gasped. “Anne! What are you doing?”
Mary’s husband laughed, but also looked shocked. “Good heavens. Wentworth?”
Louisa’s eyebrows were so high as to make her look comical, though she did not look upset so much as surprised.
Mr. Elliot frowned between them.
Captain Wentworth’s pained chuckle drew her eyes back. He was shaking his hand in discomfort, though his face was red with embarrassment. He used his nail to scrape the stinger out of his skin.
He licked his lips and looked to her. For once his sangfroid seemed to have deserted him.
“Aren’t you—don’t bees affect you quite terribly?” Anne asked.
His brows drew together. “Yes, if many attack. One little bee won’t harm me.”
“Oh.” Anne groaned. “Well, that is useful to know. Now I still have to find a cabbage cart or runaway horse.”
“It’s clear my cousin is not feeling well,” Mr. Elliot put in. “Perhaps we should let her lie down.”
As Anne deep and shocking aberration from the rules of polite society only made sense to her family in terms of illness, this was at once seconded. And Anne, too mortified to argue, allowed herself to be led away.
She tucked her own hands under the pillow and for the first time in this dreadful situation, hoped to wake again on the same morning.
<End Part 7>
What do you think? Is Anne in the final day? What’s going to happen next? Thanks for reading!