Disclaimer: We all know that I don't own these characters. They were created by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, and I do believe she would turn over in her grave, if she read this.
A knock on the door.
I am late in leaving—two days late, for she’s begged me to stay with tears, and it’s taken two days to gain my footing against those tears, and if I do not find my other shoe soon, it will be three days, which will alter the balance of this rescue from last-minute to too late. And now she knocks on the door.
And no matter what I say to myself, I am not angry with her, for a part of me knows she is right. I did exchange vows with her, and I do abandon her here, to a life made up of a senseless string of parties. She doesn’t want the parties or the flirting; I know that, now. She wants me. The knowledge gives me a silent and unspeakable joy; her laughter fills the house and spins around me all day and all night. And it pains me—I will go, and leave her to an empty house, and an empty life. I know what this house feels like empty.
You are leaving? she’d demanded angrily. You cannot! Percy, I’ve only just gotten you back; do not leave me again! I wonder irrelevantly—is this the first fight of our marriage, or the second?
You will not even stay for your birthday? she’d asked. I had a party planned. Something small, with only our closest friends; nothing for which you’d have to keep the mask in place. Please wait until after that.
I could not even compromise that far. But she wore a hollow look in her eyes, and I stayed a day longer, to try and take it away.
The knock again. Where is that cursed shoe? “Come in, Marguerite.”
The door opens, then closes behind her. “I’m leaving in a quarter-hour,” I tell her regretfully, not daring to look up from my search.
“Tis under your chair,” she responds. She has an endearing way of pronouncing r’s at the end of words… I can hear it in my mind if I don’t try to do so, but when I attempt to recall particular instances, the sound of it slips from me. Then she speaks, and I think—of course. That is Marguerite. And my shoe is under my chair.
“Thank you,” I tell her, looking up. She carries a heavy box, purses her lips thin in resignation.
“I know you are leaving.” Her voice is soft, but steady. “Tis an early birthday present. Something for before you go. I— Thank you for staying until it was done. I did not have it commissioned until last week.”
Last week—after we fought. I move over to make room for her on the divan, and she sits next to me, not temptingly near, handing me a smaller package I hadn’t seen. “This one, first.”
A book—a play—a Shakespeare play—The Merchant of Venice. Does she know? She waits for my reaction. “Margot, when first I saw you in the theater, on my way to Constantinople—”
“I know. I had to think about it, but I came to the conclusion that
you must’ve seen this play.”
I can’t help but chuckle, grateful for the smile it brings to her lips. “We stopped over in Venice a few days later, and I could think of nothing but a certain golden-haired Portia, much to my chagrin. I’m afraid I haunted the Rialto, merely for the atmosphere.”
And that earns a delighted peal of laughter. “Here’s the other, now.” She deposits the box on my lap, and sink me, it is heavy!
“Sweet my heart, what is this?”
“Open it, and you shall see.” She is calm now, not eager.
“Gold?” I guess teasingly.
A small, mysterious smile hovers around her lips, unsuccessfully banished. “No. Nor silver, neither.”
It is something darker than silver; it is— Demme me if she did not actually go and have one made! The lead casket—with an inscription, no less. “Love and hazard all.” I spare a swift glance at her, and she’s searching my face, waiting to see how much I understand in this. Love and hazard all—that was the part I saw, and afterwards, Bassanio must go and rescue Antonio from a blade… “Darling, do you mean—?”
She nods. “I want you to go. You need to go. I think I would force you out of the door, if you did not leave of your own accord.” I wonder if she’s lying. “We mustn’t hoard our loves, n’est-ce pas?” I know she’s lying, but ‘tis a noble lie, and I love her for it. “There’s little of interest inside—letters and such, but the casket itself is the important part.”
That small, smug twist of the lips proves more irresistible that tears, and I am caught up in exploring it. “You must go,” she whispers moments later, hand on my chest in regret or defense or comfort.
I’ll kiss her again first, swiftly, and tuck the play into my waistcoat. “I will go so quickly you’ll not notice me gone.”
And I will take her in my arms one time more, and think of something to make her smile. “Then I shall hold your image always before me, my guardian angel. Whenever you look out the window, and I am not yet home, you can think of me, and know that my thoughts have come home to you.”
My effusiveness makes her fight for composure. She wins. One more kiss. One more cannot stay me for too long.
I must go now. I must. I am out the door.
I turn back, for once not fearing to see tears on her face.
She leans in the doorway of my room. “Have you ever seen the end of that play?”
“I confess I have not, my heart.”
An amused smile plays at her lips, as I would like to do. “See that you read it.” No—that smile is definitely a smirk. “Portia follows Bassanio.”
"Still we will go our separate ways..."