Anne Neville threw the cloth back into the tub of greasy cold water with a bitter cry of rage. How dare he!
Richard or Dickon, so frail and angelic® that her heart had nearly broken to see him, had thrown himself at her feet. Not literally, for which she was glad, because there was a huge puddle of dirty water down there and if they thought she was going to clean it up, they had another think coming! And she’d spurned him. Again.
He’d been to see her brother-in-law, the Duke of Clarence, his brother, who’d got her this job, and that was something she was going to have to have words with him about! Hygeine and Hydration Officer, indeed! Bloody dishwasher, that’s what she was. And not a very happy one.
Her father was dead, she’d told Richard or Dickon. Her mother bogged off into sanctuary. Her sister wasn’t being very nice to her and the king kept looking at her belly whenever he saw her. What, she thought sourly, did he think was going on in there? It made her want to scream.
“But I want to marry you!” Richard or Dickon said plaintively and ardently, love, want and need adding flames to his voice and filling the air with electricity, smoke and – he hoped – irresistible chemistry. “I adore you, I always have and I always will! You are the sunrise every morning, the moon that peeps in through my windowshade. The very thought of you makes my heart beat faster. Anne, without you, I am nothing!”
“I wouldn’t marry you,” she quenched coldly, cutting off her nose to spite her face, because she really did love him, whatever angry words came spurting out of her mouth, “if you were the last man in London! My bruhusband is dead because of you and for that I can never forgive you!”
And he turned away, his face a blank mask of hurt and shock, and left the cookshop. Which was why she’d just thrown the cloth back into the tub of cold greasy water with a bitter cry of rage. Splashing her dress in the process.
“Letter for you, Mistress Anne,” old Fat Agatha said. She took a crumpled piece of parchment out of her bodice and handed it to Anne who wiped her hands on her skirts, took the parchment gingerly between her thumb and forefinger because she’d seen some of the other things that were kept in Fat Agatha’s bodice and crossed to the window to open it and read it.
Dear Anne, it read, I’m not dead. Neither is your brother. Thought I’d get that out of the way first. I couldn’t tell you before, but we had it all worked out. And it all worked out! I’m on the Trinity now even as I write these words to you, almost ready to set sail with the woman I love more than my life itself to be a pirate in a brand new sea they’ve just invented called the Caribbean. Apparently it’s just crawling with French and Spaniards! I love you, my darling daughter, and wish you all the best. I go to a brand new life and give you this one last piece of parting advice: Follow your heart. Don’t let anything stand in its way. Grasp your happiness with both hands…”
Anne let the parchment drop, untied her apron and let that drop as well. She ran out of the shop.
She could just see him in the distance, threading his way through the crowd.
“Richard or Dickon!” she called out.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Fat Agatha said. “These dishes aren’t going to wash themselves, you know.”
Anne turned around just long enough to give the startled woman a kiss.
“I’m going to follow my heart, Fat Agatha!” she said. “I’m going to follow my heart!”
If she ran quickly enough, if love put wings on her feet, and if he didn’t walk too fast, and if people didn’t get in her way, and if she didn’t slip on something disgusting and fall over, she might just catch him up.