“I thought that you loved dancing, Mrs. Smyth.”
She glances over her shoulder at William, her friend since childhood, with a sigh. “I do, but I cannot tolerate this heat as of late.”
He stands next to her, looking in at the overstuffed ballroom.
“I can only assume what you are experiencing. Your husband seemed abnormally happy this morning.”
“It has actually happened, Will. The day that I’ve always feared. In less than six months, I will be a mother.”
The thick silence seems to widen the chasm between them.
“Say, do you recall the last time that we took a stroll along the shore?” William asks.
“Too long ago. But, really, now?”
“All that we have is now. One day we will be old, but today we are still young.”
Jill forgets her earlier discomfort and races him to the stables. They laugh as she clumsily mounts a bay mare in her overly fancy shoes. She kicks them off and doesn’t wait for him; she urges her horse to run. William’s gelding catches up to hers; they continue their racing game until they reach the rough sea.
“Are you not afraid, Will? Everything is changing so quickly.”
“We don’t have to change.”
“But we already have! You won’t even be living in England this time next year. I’ll be housebound with a newborn. Is this how things should be? Can we still stop things from changing?”
His only answer is a bewildered gaze. She looks to the dark ocean and loves how the gale loosens her hair from its restrictive chignon. She kicks her mare’s sides, urging the strong animal into a run straight for the water.
“Jill!” William calls after her.
Energized by the mists and cooling air, she only laughs. Her horse halts once she is knee deep in the waves. Jill jumps into the water. Frightened and mesmerized at once, she wades deeper. Waves lap at her shoulders.
Strong arms suddenly pull her back. William drags her back to land, as consciousness does when one awakens from a dream. Both of them fall on the damp sand, panting.
“What in the devil were you doing?” he cries over the growing wind.
“I was having an adventure,” Jill laughs.
The swollen water grasps for them, covering them in a shallow, wet blanket. William helps her stand and they run up the incline while the waves reach for them, slapping their ankles. Their horses wait loyally for them seemingly a mile away. Jill relishes in the feel of the soil beneath her bare feet and she runs faster.
“You seem to be growing more spontaneous with age,” William laughs tiredly.
Jill smiles at him. “I am very glad that we escaped for a night and did something crazy.”
“Correction. You did something crazy. What exactly did you hope to accomplish?”
His tone is concerned, but not harsh. He was what she has missed the most since being married.
Jill’s hand suddenly goes to her slightly swollen belly. A split second later, she and William look upon a towering, oncoming wave. Dread freezes her limbs.
“My dear, we shall never be old,” he says, caressing her cheek.
As the giant wave crashes down on them, William holds her. She kisses the racing pulse on his neck.