The Major's Wife(8)

By: Lauri Robinson



 That was common. By nature, and due to his position, everyone at the fort was always watchful for his command. This was different, though. It had nothing to do with army business, and... A heavy sigh escaped, one he hadn’t known had built in his chest. He didn’t know what his next move would be, either.

 That was an oddity. For the first time in a very, very long time, he was at a loss.

 “Major?” A hand planted itself on the half-closed door.

 “Briggs,” he said, in answer to the man pushing the door open again.

 “I see your wife,” the Swede said in his deep and gruff voice. “I bring food. Here to your cabin, she eat after cleaning up. No?”

 It didn’t matter what the man said, question or statement usually ended with no. And right now, it fit. “No, Briggs. If she’s hungry she can eat at the hall like everyone else.”

 “But Major, a woman—”

 “She might as well get used to it.”

 The startled look on the cook’s face made something recoil inside Seth. He usually got along with his men, because of mutual respect, but the way he’d just snapped at the Swede, said he didn’t like it. Seth squared his shoulders, let his stance confirm who was in charge. “Is there anything else you needed, Sergeant?”

 “No, Major. Sir.”

 The man spun around, and this time Seth all but slammed the door. Exactly what he’d always suspected. A wife would interfere with his duties.

 * * *

 A reflection of the dented brass tub caught in the mirror. The accommodations were rough, but she’d never enjoyed a bath as much. Twisting, needing the mirror’s assistance in placing the combs, Millie coiled each braided length and pinned them in place at the back of her head. Drying it would take an hour, and curling it even longer, and she didn’t have that kind of time. Besides, just as she’d suspected, curled hair would not convince Seth she was Rosemary.

 Satisfied the combs were secure in hair that was once again brown and not dust gray, Millie tidied up the area before opening her bag to stuff her boots on top of the traveling suit that would never be pale green again. It had been new at the beginning of her journey, and clothes usually lasted her years. A miniature shiver had her lifting her head, gazing toward the mirror again.

 The reflection in the glass mocked her. Millie would be sad about the dress, Rosemary would not. An invisible weight pressed upon her shoulders, so heavily she sat down next to her bag. Being Rosemary was more difficult than she’d imagined. Back in the cabin, when Seth had voiced his suspicion, it had been easy to know what to say. People often confused the two of them, especially from a distance, but in reality, her sister was more attractive, and never failed to remind her of it.

 After she’d pulled Rosemary into her mind and said those words to Seth, her stomach had twisted inside out. His expression had turned hard; those piercing blue eyes had gone cold enough that she’d shivered. Seeing the tick in his cheek had made her afraid for the first time since she’d left Richmond.

 Millie let out another sigh. No matter how irritated Rosemary made Seth, that’s who she had to be—Rosemary. She had to remember that.

 It took several deep breaths, and a few minutes of concentration, but by the time she opened the door and stepped out onto the walkway, she was once again convinced she could do it. Could be her sister for the next three months—until the baby was born.

 People stared, mostly men dressed in their blue uniforms with brass buttons, wide yellow neck scarves and flat-brimmed hats, and though Millie would have smiled, nodded, Rosemary would not, so she kept her nose up and moved forward. She did ignore a few things that her sister wouldn’t have. There was nothing she could do about the wind and dirt, and she had to wave at Mr. Cutter. It would have been too rude not to. The man had to be twice her age, yet his cheeks shone crimson every time he spoke to her. She appreciated him, too, for all he’d done.

 Those things were inconsequential, of course. Seth was the only one who had to believe she was Rosemary. She could do that.

 Then she arrived at their cabin, where he stood in the doorway.

 Smiling.

 Oh, goodness.

 “Feel better?” he asked.

 Millie pressed the thin leather soles of her day slippers against the boards below her feet. Rosemary wouldn’t respond—she’d ignore him pointedly or start spouting demands. But he appeared to be making an effort, and whether her sister would appreciate that or not, Millie did, and couldn’t discount it.

 “Yes, thank you,” she said. “It’s amazing what a little water can do.”

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