The birds circled each other in some vaguely matrimonial dance. With dread, I spread out the blanket and began laying out the food. Henry had offered to help set up the picnic before everyone got there. I am certainly no fool, and recognized his intent. He was a long time family friend, and it was no indecency for him to be alone with me. I could always count on the fact that he would not press too far. His connection to our family meant too much to him.

But it’s the pressing at all that concerned me.

“Sylvia,” Henry began. I bit my lip and focused my attention on getting all the folds out of the blanket. “Look at those birds, they’re mating.”

His lack of subtlety was only one of the many reasons why I dread his courtship. We had known each other for too long for me to falsify some excuse out of this situation – I couldn’t faint, feign illness, spill something on me and become distraught by the inconvenience… Which meant I had to suffer through it.

“Sylvia,” he continued, and I stayed silent. “We have known each other for a long time. You are almost as my sister. But I have always longed for us to be closer, and I feel that you must feel the –”

A lesser woman would have looked away. So would have a smarter one. I locked eyes with him, still saying nothing. My face was flat, my eyes lacking all hints of love, my mouth pursed tight. He needed to know what he was doing was wrong. His words caught in his throat and he coughed a few times to clear it. I almost wanted to laugh, but I needed to make sure the message was clear. I would not be his.

“Lovely weather this day, isn’t it?” Henry forced, his voice a bit hoarse.


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