There was a long silence, then Eloise said, “You don’t…talk about it much.”
Francesca shook her head gently. “No.”
“Do you want to?”
She thought about that for a moment. “I don’t know.” She turned to her sister. They had been at sixes and sevens for much of their childhood, but in so many ways Eloise was like the other half of her coin. They looked so alike, save for the color of their eyes, and they even shared the same birthday, just one year apart.
Eloise was watching her with a tender curiosity, a sympathy that, just a few weeks ago, would have been heartbreaking. But now it was simply comforting. Francesca didn’t feel pitied, she felt loved.
“I’m happy,” Francesca said. And she was. She really was. For once she didn’t feel that aching emptiness hiding underneath. She’d even forgotten to count. She didn’t know how many days it had been since her last menses, and it felt so bloody good.
“I hate numbers,” she muttered.
“I beg your pardon?”
She bit back a smile. “Nothing.”
The sun, which had been obscured behind a thin layer of cloud, suddenly popped into the open. Eloise shaded her eyes with her hand as she sat back. “Good heavens,” she remarked. “I think Oliver just sat on Miles.”
Francesca laughed, then, before she even knew what she was about, stood. “Do you think they’ll let me play?”
Eloise looked at her as if she’d gone mad, which, Francesca thought with a shrug, perhaps she had.
Eloise looked at Francesca, then at the boys, and finally back at Francesca. And then she stood. “If you do it, I’ll do it.”
“You can’t do it,” Francesca said. “You’re pregnant.”
“Barely,” Eloise said with a scoff. “Besides, Oliver wouldn’t dare sit on me.” She held out her arm. “Shall we?”
“I believe we shall.” Francesca linked her arm through her sister’s, and together they ran down the hill, shouting like banshees and loving every minute of it.
“I heard you made quite a scene this afternoon,” Michael said, perching on the edge of the bed.
Francesca did not move. Not even an eyelid. “I’m exhausted,” was all she said.
He took in the dusty hem of her dress. “And dirty, too.”
“Too tired to wash.”
“Anthony said that Miles said that he was quite impressed. Apparently you throw quite well for a girl.”
“It would have been brilliant,” she replied, “had I been informed that I wasn’t meant to use my hands.”
He chuckled. “What game, exactly, were you playing?”
“I have no idea.” She let out an exhausted little moan. “Would y
ou rub my feet?”
He pushed himself farther onto the bed and slid her dress up to midcalf. Her feet were filthy. “Good lord,” he exclaimed. “Did you go barefoot?”
“I couldn’t very well play in my slippers.”
“How did Eloise fare?”
“She, apparently, throws like a boy.”
“I thought you weren’t meant to use your hands.”