The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Author:Katherine Reay
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: 2017-09-21T16:00:00+00:00

Chapter 17

I started the evening angry and anxious. I ended it as close to content as I’d felt in . . . I couldn’t cast back to a time. Even Fridays out with work friends never felt so relaxed. After dinner, Gertrude led us to the ballroom merely to show us what was in store for the next evening. Mrs. Jennings had wanted a mere dance; Gertrude was planning a ball.

Isabel’s eyes brightened when she spied the grand piano in the corner. “One song. Can you play us one song, Mary?”

I looked at her. After the incident in high school, we had never talked about the piano again. It was as if we both knew it was a line we didn’t dare cross—our friendship wouldn’t survive.

As I walked to the piano I wondered if Nathan was now another such a line. If we would survive, not him, but the lie of him. I glanced down at my watch. Fourteen hours.

I selected a piece and began, not as adeptly as I would have liked. My fingers felt stiff and clumsy on the keys. Isabel turned the pages for me.

“I shouldn’t be doing this. This isn’t what these people paid for.”

“Hush. No one who has the pleasure of listening to you could find anything wanting.”

I compressed a smile. I only recognized Mr. Darcy’s line because it had involved a piano and I could relate to Lizzy in that scene. She knew full well the deficiencies in her playing, but like me, she hadn’t taken the time to practice. I focused on the music in front of me and imagined that’s what this was—a practice session.

At the last note I glanced up. Everyone had gathered near. Helene began to clap.

“Play another and we shall dance.”

Isabel sprang into action and led an impromptu lesson in nineteenth-century country dances, and I warmed to the music.

During my third piece, Isabel determined her pupils were ready to step out on their own. They paired up and she found herself without a partner. With a sigh she lowered herself onto the bench beside me and resumed turning the pages.

I almost felt sorry for her. Until halfway through “Turner’s Waltz,” when Grant arrived. I heard her gasp before I caught sight of him. He was stunning. There was no other way to say it. He was dressed in Regency-style regimentals. At least, I assumed the British army didn’t still wear such tall hats and bright-blue coats. He removed his hat and shot me a wry glance as he led Isabel from the bench beside me to the floor.

I returned to the music and was soon swept away by Turner, Haydn, Mozart, and an Irish jig. Lost within music I hadn’t played in the two years since my mom had died and hadn’t felt for years before that.

I added a final flourish to the jig, sending Clara into giggling fits while Aaron and Grant stomped and swung the women around like Texans in a bar dance. The Muellers confined themselves


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