Lips slipping free, sucked pink by her nervous mouth and glossed by saliva Marigold looked at the ceiling for inspiration. There was a very large water stain darkening the space above the doorway. It was shaped like half of a cartoon mouse she had seen at a show in the muggle cinema. ”I wasn’t expecting anyone!” She defended, worried he had a very wrong idea. Or was accusing her of something in that subtle way the English had. ”Though the knock brought to mind aurors… or at the very least an angry stepmother.”
She had seen one of those at the same show in the cinema too. A wicked stepmother that tried to poison the princess with an apple. The daughter had been a muggle, but Marigold bet that Ester knew a dozen ways to poison fruit. Other than with her sour personality.
Clinging to the cape for support she watched his shoes come into the room. An unpleasant humidity despite the chill air. Floor scratched and pitted. Void of anything save the two occupants and the radiator. Not even a kitchen sink to try and wash the clamminess from her palms with… No, only the wizard, his wife, and the heat source. Ah, and the small ball of light she had cast on the light fixture to save all the electricity for the heater. The meter counted every cent, and she had spent all the contents of Ester’s purse already.
Ester, who Mister Ballard had to think on, quite hard, after Marigold answered him with a short nod. Yes, she was the The She that she was speaking of. Who else was there, really? That was the only connection between them, besides a signed certificate and vows. They were aged too far apart to have attended school together. And not involved in careers that mingled. Nor friendships that shared circles, apparently. None of her friends could remark on him at all, though one had spoken very kindly of his eldest brother. Which might have been saying something when you took into account their blood status.
After a moment Mister Ballard made up his mind. A hint of a smirk teased the corners of Mary’s mouth. She liked, very much, his descriptive language. ”Histrionics indeed.” She whispered. Glancing furtively at his face she tried to read his expression but found it no more revealing. It was very impolite to sigh. Which was the only reason she did not. Taking a deep, slow breath instead she tucked her chin against her shoulder while she debated an answer. ”Missing purse?” She echoed innocently. Spine straight as a board though she molded the rest of her body language into docility. ”Surely my dear stepmother has not forgotten the substantial dowry afforded by occasion of my marriage.” Her lips went flat before she added, ”Though who can say, she certainly forgot my inheritance.”
‘Put into trust’ she had said. The money, Marigold had learned later, was indeed put into a trust account. One solely intended for her brother. But there was no undoing old injustices. Only the guilt of having stricken a fresh one of her own. Another furtive peek at her husband accidentally had their eyes meeting. Shifting her eyes away she clasped her hands around the cape and hugged it close. Drying not a drop in the dank room. She jumped at the unexpected racket beneath them, which startled a babe to tears next door.
”I should say so.” She told him stiffly. Drawing up to her full height. Which was still about a head shorter than Mister Ballard. ”Or. Rather, it is the best I could find on very short notice.” The inclination to mumble lengthy explanations hovered in her throat. Which clicked in desperation. She could not really explain her panic, however, or why it had turned to a hot ball of indignation in her stomach since. She wished that he could simply understand. But risking another glance at his eyes, which she noticed now were a warm shade of brown, Marigold was rather convinced he had not done much in the way of relating to others. ”Did you really come four city blocks just to give me this hideous cape?” Or had he known all along how to find her? She had not apparated for fear it would leave a direct trail for Ester’s friends with ministry contacts to follow. So unless he had placed a tracking spell on her person, he had done a fair bit of searching.
That, she decided, was probably commendable. It certainly made her keener to view him with more objectivity. A second of silence weighed in the heavy air, and on her conscience. Until the strain was like a thread pulled too tight and she couldn’t resist bridging the strain. ”I’m sure it was very inconvenient. You have my apologies.”