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elaine.louise

Canada

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
—E.L. Doctorow

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Habitué

March 13, 2016

GROUP: Flash Fiction

"Sir Willam waits in the parlour, m'lady." 

The woman seated at the desk smiled and dismissed her butler gratefully. She distinctly remembered Willam's first visit after she had taken up residence at the Canberry Estate. He had rung the bell halfway through the morning downpour, and showered the Lady Lilian Canberry in greetings and wet flowers. Since that unorthodox first meeting, Willam had returned each day with stories from the printing press, and each day Lilian laughed at his wild tales and good humour. 

"I see my habitué has returned," Lilian greeted Willam good-naturedly as she entered the parlour.

"I would never dream of staying away," he said, smiling brightly. Lilian laughed and sat on the sofa, Willam following suit. Rather than starting up conversation in his usual manner, he fumbled with his pockets and avoided Lilian's gaze.

"Is something the matter, Willam?" she inquired. He simply smiled at her, though much softer than before. 

"I never did ask why a fine woman such as yourself came to this little town in the middle of nowhere,"  he said. 

Lilian didn't miss a beat. "And I never asked why you first came to visit me." 

Willam sighed. "I suppose I was curious," he replied honestly. "This estate had been empty for years with no mention of the previous owner and no evidence as to why they had left. I wanted to know what brought you here." 

"I suspected as much," Lilian said. "The Canberry name is prone to gathering interest. I had hoped to leave the gossip behind and begin anew. But I do hope I am more than a name to you now, Willam." 

"Of course!" Willam exclaimed emphatically, shocked at the prospect Lilian had feared such a thing. "In fact, that is why I have called on you today." 

"You call on me every day," Lilian reminded him. "Whether you have reason to or not." 

Willam stood and paced the room, lost for words. Lilian watched with concerned interest. After several moments he turned and knelt before her, and her hands found a way into his as if they belonged there. 

"I want to be more than your habitué, Lilian," Willam said ardently. "I want to be your confidant, your companion, your....I apologize, I am coming about this from all the wrong directions...." Lilian's eyes were drawn to his, captivated by his mute desperation. 

"Lilian," he said, and the way his voice carried through the silent room was like a thousand bells ringing in a cathedral. "Lilian, will you fulfill a poor man's dream and be my bride?" 

When Lady Lilian Canberry arrived in the small, middle of nowhere town of Locknory, she expected her days to be filled with greedy businessmen, curious gossips, and endless letters to friends and family. What she did not expect was a spirited journalist filling her days with blithe conversation and irreplaceable companionship. Yet after all those days of endless chatter, she found that in this moment, only one word needed saying: 

"Yes." 

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