795. - Lucien
I've gotten another confirmation from Gretta, my father's first assistant, that he will be home around three. In true Du Castellon fashion, his Bentley rolls up at a minute to three. He must have been notified that we'd be here, but he still seems surprised to find me and Emma in the living area, which I can't blame him for because I've never made it a secret that I do my absolute best to avoid him. But we arrange dinner at half past seven, prepared by us, and also establish that Eschieve won't be joining us because she has "arrangements elsewhere". A lie, but we figured the dinner would be better held between Jacques, Emma and myself.
Eventually, after spending most of the afternoon escaping in preparing dinner, seven ticks around and I have no choice but to get ready. I join Emma in the bedroom, where she is almost ready to go in a gorgeous jumpsuit.
"You're so stunning you might just make me forget what we're about to do." I smile, happily taking her into my arms and going in for a kiss. She laughs, ruffling my hair. "Need I try harder?"
"No, you're perfect just the way you are."
I feel her eyes on me as I change into my suit, and eventually catch her blatantly staring. I smile. "What?"
"I know your father is a scary man with less emotions than Stonehenge, who has made no secret of rather seeing you with some high society princess than me, but... I think you might be making this bigger than it has to be. I know, I know!" She continues at my frown. "You have all the reason to fear what he's going to say, but if you truly think about it.. what's the worst that's going to happen? He's going to flip out on us in French I won't be able to understand, he's going to finally tell us just how badly he disapproves of me? Or maybe he's just going to sigh and leave us without saying a word. Or maybe, and this will just be proof that he actually hates you, he'll disown you and take away all of your money and kick you out of the house. Will that be the end of the world?"
She looks at me expectantly, and I shrug. "A little bit?"
"Exactly. But not entirely. And I've survived my world ending twice. Once when we broke up, and then again when we lost Claire. I can survive a third time. Even if we have to move in with my parents, even if we can do nothing but eat pasta for the rest of our days and give up our bagels and our far-too-plentiful take-aways, I don't care. All I care about is you. And if Jacques is arrogant enough to think he can change my mind about spending the rest of my life with you, then he's the stupidest man alive."
She leaves me stunned. There are no words in my mind or on my tongue, just overwhelming love for her. I can only pull her into my arms and hold her tight against me, chin atop her head, and her arms snake around me just the same.
"I love you." I mutter. "Thank you."
"Of course." She whispers against my chest. "Now... finish getting ready. We might get disowned tonight, but it won't hurt to look good as it happens."
With the help of Eschieve, everything is looking flawless for dinner - Emma included. Despite Emma's speech, my heart is back to hammering just about out of my chest. Eschieve makes us promise to come tell her all the details once dinner is over, and then happily takes her pizza out of the oven and dashes upstairs.
"I'm so jealous." I mutter miserably. Emma chuckles and kisses my cheek, then rubs it to remove accidental lipstick smudges.
"We'll be fine. Only a little bit of the world will end." She wiggles her fingers, now once again sparkling with the diamond ring instead of it being around her neck. It's then that my father joins us, looking surprised that the first course is already served. He offers a perfect ice breaker by asking: "Where's Henry?"
"I gave him the night off. We can serve our food just fine by ourselves. Wine?"
We make it through the first course without too much hiccups. Awkward small talk and even more awkward silences, but at least it's all civil. It's tempting to just entirely skip the point of this dinner, but surprisingly it's my father who makes sure I don't, halfway through the main course.
"What was the news you wanted to share with me?"
"Sorry?" I ask before I can stop myself.
"Gretta said you needed me home because you had news to share. I can only imagine that's why you wanted to have dinner, and not for... quality time."
My father is nothing if not honest to the point of being crude. It leaves me a little stunned, but I'm shaken back to reality by Emma putting her cutlery a little too loudly and clearing her throat as she takes a sip of wine.
"Right." I say, clearing my throat as well. "Yes, we have news." I take a deep breath, well aware of how my father hates speaking unclearly. "Well, I..." Emma takes my hand on the table, gently squeezing it. It cleverly shows off the ring, and it gives me the last little hit of courage I need. "A couple of weeks ago, I asked Emma to marry me. And more so, to my delight, she said yes."
There are many things that cross over Jacques' face, all appearing too briefly to be named, but it's clear to see that this was not the news he was expecting. He's silent, taking a thoughtful sip of his wine while my heart is on the edge of rupturing.
"You and miss Middleton... Engaged to be wed?"
I resist rolling my eyes. "Yes. That's what marrying means, or my English lessons must have horribly abandoned me."
There is a tenseness on his brow that I recognise as disapproving, and his mouth is just a thin line. Yet... another second later, his face softens just a little too much, to something I vaguely remember from before mother got sick, before quickly snapping back to his usual, unbetraying expression that we know and don't really love.
"Is this what you want?"
I'm about to answer when I realise the question is directed at Emma. Her smile is sweet, but her voice sharp. "I wouldn't have said yes if it wasn't."
"Well then..." Jacques' tiny, forced lawyer smile curls his lips. "Then nothing rests me but offer my congratulations to the both of you." For a moment, I believe this has gone far better than I could've have dreamed, but that kind of wishful thinking is immediately punished when my father continues without missing a breath. "Now, if you will excuse me... The travel has been exhausting and jetlag is getting the better of me. I will be retreating to my quarters."
He's gone before we even get a chance to respond. Most of his salmon has gone untouched, as well as the glass of expensive white wine. Even within family, my father obsessively sticks to etiquette. The fact that he has broken with it now, is a rather clear message. I feel defeated, despite having expected this. Emma takes my hand with a sigh.
"The world didn't end?" She offers, and I find myself smiling weakly. But... the clear disapproval still cuts me deeper than I'd like to admit. Emma sighs again, and lays her head against my shoulder. "Yeah. I know."
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