The Major's Wife - Page 80

Millie led the way into the kitchen, where Lola stopped, and stared at her. “You still want tea?” the woman asked.

“Yes, I do. Don’t you?”

“You’re not worried about her?” She pointed a thumb over her shoulder, toward the room they’d just left.

“No. What good would that do any of us?”

“You’ve changed, Millie,” Lola said. “I like it.”

“Yes, I’ve changed, but I don’t know what good it’s going to do me.”

“Anything you want it to, darling.”

The word darling sliced her heart. Millie closed her eyes and felt the pain. In an odd way she needed it. Needed to remember how Seth had called her that.

“Sit down, girl,” Lola said. “I’ll make the tea and then you can tell me how you fell in love with Major Parker.”

“It wasn’t hard,” Millie answered, taking a seat. “It wasn’t hard.”

Rosemary burst through the door just then.

Holding her breath, awaiting the wrath of her sister at having heard what had just been said, Millie wrapped her fingers around the bride’s necklace hanging at her neck.

“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Rosemary said. “Moving to England, and I want that dress.”

Millie glanced down at the velvet traveling suit. “No,” she said. “This dress was a gift. Why are you going to England?”

“Moving,” Rosemary corrected. “I’m moving to England.”

“Why?”

“She has to,” Lola said. “It was part of the deal she made with the people she sold her baby to.”

Millie shook her head. “You sold your baby?” She should have known there was more behind Rosemary’s insistence that she go to Fort Sill.

“Well, I couldn’t very well take him to England with me, could I?” Rosemary asked.

Millie bit her tongue, gave herself a moment to process an answer. For the first time ever, maybe Rosemary had thought of someone besides herself. The child was better off with the McPhalens. “Nadine will love him as her own,” Millie finally said.

Rosemary didn’t try to hide her surprise, but her lips quivered for a moment, and Millie wondered if giving up the baby had been harder than her sister had imagined it would be.

“Well, now that you seem to know everything,” Rosemary said a moment later, “I need you to give me some money.”

“What for?” Millie asked.

“For my move to England.” Squaring her shoulders, she continued, “Nadine and Louis have purchased my ticket, but they won’t give me the rest of the money until I’m on the steamer. I’ve ordered gowns and such that must be picked up today. My scheduled departure is tomorrow.”

Millie was amazed by her own new abilities, such as how she was clear-headed enough to ask, “What would you have done if I hadn’t returned today?”

Running a finger along the edge of the table, her sister said, “I’ve arranged to sell a few household items, but now that you’re here...”

“It won’t be so easy,” Millie finished, understanding where the leather couch from Papa’s office had gone. Another understanding, though, was the one that Millie focused on. “We aren’t so different, you know. You and I.”

Rosemary frowned. “How so?”

“All our lives,” she said, sadness growing inside her, “we’ve both wanted to be loved. But since neither of us knew what it was, we didn’t know what we were looking for.” A huge, invisible fist was squeezing the blood out of Millie’s heart and she had to know one thing. “You had no intention of ever divorcing Seth, did you?”

Her sister didn’t meet her gaze. “People respect a major’s wife.”

If either of them knew about being a major’s wife, it was she, not Rosemary, and that’s when Millie knew she could never give it up as easily as her sister was. Being Seth’s wife. “I’ll give you the money you need,” she said, “but I’d like you to promise me something.”

Skepticism glowed in Rosemary’s eyes.

Millie reached over and took her sister’s hand. “Our mother’s death was tragic. Father being gone all the time was hard, but we always had a place to live. Food. Clothes. Lola,” she added with a smile. Wind’s grubby peppermint stick flashed in her mind and she shook her head. “We were always looking for love to come from the outside, but that’s not where it’s at, Rosemary. It’s inside us, and neither you nor I knew how to let it out.” Now she was remembering how she felt standing next to Seth, the pride, and how she loved her body when he touched it. “Promise me you’ll learn to like yourself. Once you do that, the rest will come. You have to love in order to be loved.”

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