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She carries the tray of mince pies into the room. The firelight dances off her face and causes her hair to glow. She shakes it out of her eyes, offering the pies to those in the room. They smile, accept or politely decline and carry on with their conversations. She remains forgotten, left in the background, part of the wallpaper. Finding a seat, her eyes take their usual sweep of the room, always searching for the same person, often never finding him. Teddy never lingers anywhere longer than he has to. His presence is noted by all and he prefers to escape the constant requirement to entertain. The cousins love to hear his jokes, the uncles talk about work and the aunts insist he is too thin. Molly loves to watch him, to observe his movements and memorise every curve of his face. Her eyes have caressed it many a time, her gazing has become more familiar than exploratory. When he looks away, her eyes rest upon him; they feel comfortable there. She wanders in her imagination, brought back by the flicker of his eyes upon hers as she quickly averts her gaze. She knows he has seen her staring and a blush creeps up her neck.
Hurriedly, she takes the mince pies away and leaves the room. Her pulse is racing, for the tiny moment their eyes connected has caused her heart to tremor and quake, to flutter uncomfortably. Taking a deep breath, she calms herself, biting her lip to stop the tears. She feels pathetic, indecent and immoral. It is not her place to feel this way about her cousin’s lover, she is not to experience the lust and longing. She must smile sweetly, never letting her happiness falter, for she cannot be affected by him. And as he enters the kitchen, she cannot turn around. She cannot face him, for fear of undressing him with her eyes or crumbling under his gaze. It seems impossible he can’t read these emotions on her delicate features, that her eyes do not display the indecency as clear as water.
“Do you need a hand?” he asks casually, taking the tray gently out of her grip. Oh, how gently. She barely notices the change in weight, though that is possibly because she tries in vain to stem the hiccupping of her heart.
She wonders what is the adequate response to such a question; her usual incoherency will not suffice. Perhaps she shall quip that his hand is exactly what she needs. Perhaps that will not do either. For lack of something better, she politely refuses his help. She will not need to stand being near him much longer, she reasons, waiting for him to leave her in her isolation.
He does not disappoint, though she regrets her wish as soon as the news is revealed later; he will leave her in isolation, he will leave the country with her cousin for an uncountable amount of time. Stunned, she waits by the door as he approaches. His arm supports her cousin’s waist, his smile supporting Molly as she leans on the doorframe. She will mourn the absence of her cousin because it means he will not be there. She will count the days they spend apart until the tears refuse to fall, until they refuse to submit to her heartbreak. They refuse to fall as she murmurs goodbye, as he holds her close and she kisses his cheek. It is a perfunctory act, but one she has never had the courage to initiate. She wants to keep him this close forever, to never let him go again.
But the moment, only amoment, passes and in her memories it will last a lifetime.