Miranda attempted to dodge her by scooting to the wardrobe.
"Since you know Winston- as I have already pointed out- that eliminates the need to make conversation with strangers, and besides"- Olivia's smiling face came into view- "it means we shall be sisters ."
Miranda went still, her fingers clutching the day dress she'd taken from the wardrobe. "That would be lovely, Olivia," she said, because really, what else could she say?
"Oh, I'm thrilled you agree!" Olivia exclaimed, and she threw her arms around her. "It shall be wonderful. Splendid. Beyond splendid. It shall be perfection."
Miranda stood still, wondering how on earth she had just managed to get herself into such a tangle.
Olivia pulled back, still beaming. "Winston will have no idea what has hit him."
"Is the purpose of this to make a match or simply to somehow best your brother?"
"Well, both, of course," Olivia freely admitted. She released Miranda and plopped herself down in a nearby chair. "Does it matter?"
Miranda opened her mouth, but Olivia was quicker. "Of course not," she said. "All that matters is the commonality of the goal, Miranda. Truly, I'm surprised we have not given this serious thought before."
As her back was to Olivia, Miranda allowed herself a wince. Of course she had not given it serious thought. She had been too busy dreaming of Turner.
"And I saw Winston looking at you last night."
"There were only five people in the room, Olivia. He couldn't very well not look at me."
"It was all in the how ," Olivia persisted. "It was as if he'd never seen you before."
Miranda started pulling on her clothes. "I'm quite certain you're mistaken."
"I'm not. Here, turn around, I'll do your buttons. I'm never wrong about things like these."
Miranda stood patiently as Olivia did up her frock. And then it occurred to her-
"When have you had the opportunity to be right? We're buried in the country. It's not as if we're witness to anyone falling in love."
"Of course we are. There was Billy Evans and- "
"They had to get married, Olivia. You know that."
Olivia finished the last button, moved her hands to Miranda's shoulders, and twisted her until they were facing. Her expression was arch, even for Olivia. "Yes, but why did they have to get married? Because they were in love."
"I don't recall your predicting the match."
"Nonsense. Of course I did. You were in Scotland. And I couldn't tell you in a letter- it makes it all seem so utterly sordid to put it into writing."
Miranda wasn't sure why that should be the case- an unplanned pregnancy was an unplanned pregnancy was an unplanned pregnancy. Putting it down in writing wasn't going to change anything. But regardless, Olivia did have a point. Miranda went to Scotland for six weeks every year to visit her maternal grandparents, and Billy Evans did get married while she was gone. Trust Olivia to come up with the one argument she couldn't refute.
"Shall we go to breakfast?" Miranda asked wearily. There was no way she was going to get out of making an appearance, and besides, Turner had been somewhat disguised the night before. If there was any justice in the world, he'd be plastered to his bed with a throbbing head all morning.
"Not until Maria does your hair," Olivia decided. "We must not leave anything to chance. It is your job to be beautiful now. Oh, don't stare at me like that. You're far prettier than you think you are."
"No, no, bad choice of words. You're not pretty. I'm pretty. Pretty and dull. You have something more."
"A long face."
"Not really. Not as much as when you were small, at least." Olivia tilted her head to the side. And said nothing.
"What is it?" Miranda asked suspiciously.
"I think you've grown into yourself."
It was what Turner had said, all those years ago. Someday you're going to grow into yourself , and you will be as beautiful as you already are smart . Miranda hated that she remembered it. And she really hated that it made her want to cry.
Olivia, seeing the emotion in her eyes, misted up as well. "Oh, Miranda," she said, embracing her tightly. "I love you, too. We shall be the best of sisters. I cannot wait."
* * *
By the time Miranda arrived at breakfast (a full thirty minutes later; she vowed she had never spent so long dressing her hair, and then she vowed she never would again), her stomach was roaring.
"Good morning, family," Olivia said cheerily as she took a plate from the sideboard. "Where is Turner?"
Miranda sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his absence.
"Still in bed, I imagine," Lady Rudland replied. "The poor man. He's had a shock. It's been a dreadful week."
No one said anything. None of them had liked Leticia.
Olivia picked up the silence. "Right," she said. "Well, I hope he does not grow too hungry. He did not dine with us last night, either."
"Olivia, his wife just died," Winston said. "Of a broken neck, no less. Pray give him a spot of leniency."
"It is because I love him that I am concerned for his welfare," Olivia said, with the testiness she reserved only for her twin brother. "The man is not eating."
"I had a tray sent up to his room," their mother said, putting an end to the squabble. "Good morning, Miranda."
Miranda started. She'd been busy watching Olivia and Winston. "Good morning, Lady Rudland," she said quickly. "I trust you slept well."
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